Account-based marketing (ABM) is a powerful B2B strategy for reaching and engaging specific, named targets in order to grow your sales pipeline. For B2B firms with high-value, low-volume deals, ABM can help align the efforts of marketing and business development, while providing more intentional support during a long and complex sales cycle.

B2B firms have greatly invested in content marketing and demand generation to generate awareness and interest, and they are reaping the rewards, which include raised profiles, thought leadership and new streams of leads. However, ABM has emerged as a complimentary strategy to assist business development teams with accelerating the sales cycle, close more deals and penetrate new markets.

Among B2B marketers who are leveraging ABM, 97% say that it results in a higher return on investment (ROI) compared to all other marketing activities.

According to research from Alterra Group, among business-to-business marketers who are leveraging ABM, 97% say that it results in a higher return on investment (ROI) compared to all other marketing activities. By allowing the marketing team to focus on the companies a firm is most interested in doing business with, ABM can make a measurable impact on business development and the bottom line.

As with any marketing strategy, an account-based marketing program requires the right approach in order to be effective. Here are 7 steps to help your firm get started with ABM.

1. Get buy-in and set goals

Every marketing initiative should start here, and ABM is no exception. Obtaining buy-in from both the C-suite and sales team is critical to the success of the program. It’s important to make the distinct connection between the objectives of the firm and the objectives of the ABM program. You’ll also want to make the case for how ABM will benefit the firm’s sales and business development efforts. An ABM program will require close alignment of marketing and sales, and necessitate ongoing collaboration and proactive support. Once buy-in has been obtained, and prior to putting a plan in place, goals and specific key performance indicators (KPIs) should be put in place.

2. Identify high-priority target accounts

An essential question to ask at the onset of an ABM strategy is who does your firm want to work with? Who are the companies (accounts) that your firm would love to land as a client? You’ll certainly want to talk to the sales team who already has some specific, known accounts that they would like to pursue. But there are others who aren’t on their radar that should be. One great way to identify new target accounts is to profile what makes up an ideal, best-fit client. Take a look at your best accounts, the ones that firm leadership would love to duplicate over and over again, and identify the characteristics that are common in an ideal client. These characteristics might include the following:

  • Organization type
  • Organization size
  • Annual revenue
  • Geographic location
  • Project volume
  • Method of procurement
  • Projected CLV
  • Strategic importance
  • Leadership/cultural fit

This becomes a checklist of sorts that will help your team better identify new target accounts that your firm should pursue with an ABM strategy.

3. Profile decision makers and influencers

Once you’ve identified specific, named accounts, you’ll then want to identify the right contacts at those organizations. But in addition to knowing who to target, it’s important to profile decision makers and key influencers through the development of buyer personas. In order to create content and campaigns that are going to help you engage these accounts, you have to have a deep understanding of their context and perspective. This is where personas can provide insight into your audience’s:

  • Goals and objectives
  • Issues and challenges
  • Questions and interests
  • Selection and purchasing triggers
  • Sources for information and research
  • How your content can help

Buyer personas are best developed through qualitative research (one-on-one interviews, ideally 3rd party) that provides a real-world basis for the personas, as opposed to assumptions made internally.

4. Create content around personas and the client journey

The right kind of content is at the heart of any effective ABM program. And buyer personas should form the foundation for your ABM content strategy. Building off these buyer insights, you’ll want to create content that speaks directly to decision makers and influencers at each stage of the client journey. At the awareness stage, you need to understand what non-sales content you can provide to a target account that will both grab their attention and introduce your firm. At the interest and consideration stage, you’ll need content that starts to offer specific solutions and/or approaches to a problem or need that your prospect has identified. Finally, as the account moves into the evaluation and selection stage, you’ll need content that assists with the vetting process and positions you as the firm of choice for that account’s needs.

5. Choose the proper channels and tools

Based on each individual account, you need to determine which channels will be best suited for reaching and engaging those contacts. Likely it will be a combination of channels, as an integrated approach is more likely to make an impact. In addition to the channels, you’ll also want to identify which tools will be leveraged for your ABM efforts. Marketing automation and CRM software are price-of-entry tools to leverage, but can be combined with other tools for things like predictive lead scoring, ad technology, real-time personalization or ABM-specific platforms such as Engagio.

6. Plan and execute targeted campaigns

Once you’ve identified target accounts, profiled the influencers and decision makers, created the right content and selected the proper channels and tools, it’s time to plan and execute specific targeted campaigns. While campaigns may share similarities, each campaign should be targeted and tailored to that specific account. In other words, the content and messages that each account receives should come across as though you have created it specifically for them. You’ll want to gather the content assets, tailor them for the target account and plan out your plan of attack for each stage of the client journey.
The content you create can and should be used for both offline and online distribution, and repurposed for a myriad of channels and circumstances. While much of the process will be done digitally, in-person, offline interactions should be included as well. Look for ways and times to arm the sales team with account-specific content to assist in their relationship building. As the relationship matures, your sales team will gain more insight into their specific interests and needs, so your content should become even more hyper-focused based on those insights.

7. Measure, analyze and optimize

Understanding how your firm’s ABM efforts are performing is critical to the long-term success of the program. To understand performance, you’ll want to measure and analyze engagement related to website visits (individual and multiple visitors), email opens and clicks, lead scores, downloads, opportunities and wins. You’ll want to create a scorecard of analytics and KPIs that will keep the sales and executive team aware of all activities by account. In addition to reporting your activities and success, you should also leverage the analytics for insights into how you should optimize your efforts moving forward.
Build on success, learn from shortcomings
With any new marketing initiative there’s going to be wins and losses. So it’s important to build on success, but also learn from what didn’t work and change your approach midstream. ABM done right can provide your sales team with the proactive sales enablement and support to help your firm close more deals and grow your business.

Webinars are a powerful and effective tool for content marketing. In a recent study from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, B2B marketers ranked webinars as the second-most effective content marketing tactic, following closely behind in-person events.

The very nature of webinars makes them an ideal tactic for content marketing.  Taking the seminar format to the web (thus the name webinar), webinars are conducive to presenting educational content to a targeted audience.  If your firm is not currently incorporating webinars in your content marketing program, you probably should be. Here are six reasons to contemplate.

1. Reach a broader audience

In-person events are incredibly effective; in fact, B2B marketers consistently rate them as their most effective content marketing tactic. However, in-person events and seminars are naturally limiting when it comes to audience reach. Webinars, however, have no geographic boundaries and can be promoted via social media, email and the Internet to reach an extremely broad audience. Leveraging webinars will allow your firm to reach an audience that would probably be unable to attend a local event. So if your firm desires to expand its geographic footprint, webinars can be a great way to get in front of a much broader audience.

2. Generate new leads and prospects

Webinars are extremely helpful for generating new leads when they are focused on a particular topic that interests your target audience. As part of the registration process, attendees are required to give basic personal information in exchange for the registration.  Obviously, this is useful for building lists that can be further nurtured with automated campaigns and future offers. Registering for and attending a webinar requires minimal effort, so webinars can be a solid source of new leads for firms that consistently host them.

3. Nurture existing relationships

Webinars aren’t just for generating new leads either; they’re also useful for nurturing existing relationships as well. It’s very likely that a topic that appeals to a new audience will also appeal to existing leads and even clients. Webinars can also be used for ongoing client development by selecting a topic that appeals to clients and extending the invitation to existing clients only. Whether prospects, leads or clients, webinars are useful for contributing to content marketing goals at all stages of the client lifecycle.

4. Demonstrate your firm’s subject-matter expertise

It’s one thing to say you’re an expert, it’s another thing to prove it. Just like speaking at conferences and seminars provides a platform for your firm’s subject-matter experts to showcase their knowledge and expertise—webinars do the same. As mentioned earlier, the very nature of webinars provides an environment that is conducive to presenting educational and informative content that attendees will find helpful and beneficial—all the while demonstrating the subject–matter expertise of your people and firm.

5. Value that extends beyond the live webinar

One of the bonus benefits of webinars is that they can be easily recorded and used for ongoing lead generation and nurturing. Other than the inability to ask questions during Q&A, on-demand webinars offer virtually the same value to viewers as the live webinar. Landing pages and offers for previously recorded “on-demand” webinars can be used on your website, blog, social media and lead nurturing campaigns to continuously engage your target audience.

To get even more mileage from your efforts, webinar slides can be uploaded to SlideShare or repurposed as an eBook, guide or series of blog posts. The point is—webinars offer a tremendous amount of ongoing value that extends well beyond the actual live webinar.

6. Relatively easy and affordable to produce

In-person events can be challenging to host, requiring a great deal of planning, time and perhaps most importantly—budget. So another appealing benefit of webinars is they involve relatively little upfront investment (headset microphones, cables, etc.), marginal ongoing cost (monthly fees for webinar software) and typically involve very few staff and resources (presenter(s) prep time, moderator, graphic designer, etc).

Webinar platforms such as GoToWebinar, WebEx and Adobe Connect are affordable and easy to use. Initially, it will take (and should take!) a fair amount of time planning for and setting up your webinar program, but once the first couple are behind you, producing webinars on an ongoing basis is manageable—regardless of the size of your marketing team.

/ / /

The purpose of webinars aligns seamlessly with the goals of content marketing, making them an ideal tactic for reaching your target audience and achieving your firm’s marketing goals. If you’re not currently leveraging webinars as part of your content marketing mix, these are some of the key reasons to considering incorporating them into your program.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of the latest terms picking up steam in the B2B marketing community. While not an entirely new concept, ABM is both a complimentary and more targeted strategy than traditional demand generation.

ABM—when executed properly—is effective at helping firms create and sustain growth and profitability with both new and existing clients. Research from ITSMA found that over 80% of marketers who measure ROI say that ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investments.

Account-based marketing defined

Like most marketing concepts, the definition varies depending on who you ask. However, the underlying principals are consistent—ABM is a strategy focused on fewer, specific targets, as opposed to marketing to the masses.

Here’s a textbook definition of ABM provided by SiriusDecisions:

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach marketers use to support a defined universe of accounts, including strategic accounts and named accounts. It also includes support for the post-sale customer lifecycle using marketing’s toolkit to contribute to the overall customer experience. ABM provides guidance on how to deliver the insights, goal setting, strategy and planning, integrated marketing execution, and sales alignment required to support growth, retention, and loyalty objectives. It also provides guidance on how to measure marketing’s impact beyond demand creation within defined groups of prospect and customer accounts. ABM helps to evolve the role of marketing to reflect a stronger alignment with sales objectives and customer needs to deliver better execution and revenue outcomes.

Engagio, an account-based marketing and sales software company offers up this succinct definition of ABM:

Account Based Marketing is a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.

While demand generation focuses on targeting specific personas or client types, ABM is hyper-focused on targeting specific personas at specific companies with which a firm wants to do business or is already engaged. It’s been described as fishing with a spear, as opposed to fishing with a net.

What B2B firms should consider ABM?

ABM is not a strategy that’s appropriate for all B2B firms. Those whose deals tend to be high-volume and lower-value in nature are better suited to a more traditional inbound approach. ABM, on the other hand, is ideally suited for B2B firms with long, complex sales cycles that often involve many stakeholders, and are typically high-value. These B2B firms are significantly less interested in appealing to the masses and tend to be much more laser-focused in their sales efforts.

Not just about marketing

At the heart of an ABM strategy is a close collaboration and alignment with a firm’s sales and business development efforts. Business development reps typically have their eye on landing specific clients and work to nurture relationships with those prospective companies through a number of activities. ABM works alongside of the sales team to assist in the nurturing of relationships. It’s a much more strategic and proactive response and creates a culture of alignment, breaking down traditional silos and ensuring that the marketing team is focused on the same priorities as the sales team.

Marketing to accounts, not leads

For the more complex B2B sale, it’s rarely ever one person making the ultimate decision. There are primary decision makers, of course, but there are also key influencers, end users, procurement departments and other stakeholders involved in the selection process as well. With that in mind, ABM focuses on the account or specific target client, instead of focusing solely on an individual lead.

“Salespeople talk about accounts, they talk about customers…they don’t talk about leads. Salespeople think about how they’re going to win accounts in the first place, then how they’re going to keep and grow those accounts.”
– Megan Heuer, SiriusDecisions

Aim small, miss small

ABM tends to be a more outbound exercise, as opposed to inbound. With ABM, you’re not waiting for target clients to land on your website, download an eBook and end up in your lead nurturing system. Instead, you put together a highly-personalized strategy (that leverages a myriad of demand generation tactics including content marketing, marketing automation, etc.) to reach out to your target clients directly. In a high-value, low-volume, complex sales environment, attracting masses of “top-of-funnel” contacts that may or may not be ideal prospects (or perhaps not a potential client at all) can often lead to wasted time and resources and low hit-rates.

Close more B2B deals with ABM

Because ABM focuses on specific target clients with high potential, marketing’s efforts are much more efficient and lead to better results. Research from Demandbase found that when firms leveraged ABM, it resulted in a 285% higher close rate for targeted enterprise accounts, and a 166% higher close rate for mid-market accounts.

Focusing on the entire client lifecycle

Retaining and growing existing client accounts is a top priority for most B2B firms, as repeat business is often the more desirable source of revenue. In fact, many B2B firms are increasingly taking a hard look at their Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost metrics and are looking for effective ways to boost those numbers. ABM works to deploy marketing’s resources to assist. Instead of focusing solely on new clients as most traditional marketing efforts do, ABM focuses on leveraging marketing to grow existing clients as well.

It shouldn’t be either/or for B2B marketers

While some may see ABM as a replacement or alternative for demand generation marketing, ideally ABM is a complimentary marketing strategy that runs in conjunction with other broad-based marketing initiatives aimed at raising awareness and attracting unknown prospects. So there’s no need for firms to feel pressure to “pick a side;” rather your marketing strategy should be inclusive of divergent approaches. The truth is, demand generation and account-based marketing (or inbound and outbound to put it more simply) both have a place and serve different, yet important marketing needs.

Smart marketing is always en vogue

The fundamentals of modern marketing center around smarter marketing. This means relentlessly pursuing the right audience, with the right message and at the right time, all while adding value and seeking to influence the selection decision. ABM represents a potentially game-changing opportunity for B2B firms with high-value, lower volume and complex sales cycles to make a bigger impact in this pursuit by better aligning marketing and business development efforts and being more laser focused in their approach.

Blogging is a cornerstone of content marketing and can be highly effective at attracting prospects and building relationships with them. But not every company is seeing success from their blogging efforts and there are some common issues that are likely to blame.

Many companies have a blog but are not seeing the results they had hoped for or expected. And while there are many reasons why business blogs fail, there are a handful that seem to be the most prominent. Here’s a list of 6 common reasons your business blog could be failing and some steps you can take to remedy the issues.

1. It’s not focused on prospects and customers.

One of the most common reasons for a failing blog is that it doesn’t focus on the very people companies are trying to reach. A blog should be a platform for educating, informing and engaging prospects and customers with content that is focused on their wants, needs and interests.  Many blogs feature little more than repurposed press releases, company news or posts that discuss topics that are irrelevant to prospects and customers. A business blog is not the place to talk about your company or accolades, nor should it be a platform for glorified advertising copy. The purpose of your blog should be to educate and inform buyers through every stage of the customer lifecycle, not to sell your services or products.

Remedy this issue by:

• Developing buyer personas to better understand your audience
• Focusing on the issues, questions, concerns and pain points of prospects
• Demonstrating your company’s expertise and building thought leadership

2. It lacks strategy and goals.

Many companies make the mistake of launching a blog without the proper strategic considerations. Without a roadmap that dictates who you’re writing for, what messages you’re trying to convey and what you’re trying to accomplish, your blog is much less likely to achieve success. Understanding how your blog fits into a larger content marketing strategy is crucial and will greatly impact everything you do on your blog.  Additionally, without setting goals, objective and metrics, you’ll never know how well you’re doing and what you can do to improve.

Remedy this issue by:

• Tying your blog to a documented content marketing strategy
• Setting specific goals and objectives for your blog
• Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs)

3.  It lacks substance and quality.

One of the aspirations of content marketing is to create remarkable content that people find valuable and helpful and are willing to spend time reading and sharing. However, many business blogs simply lack substance. While the topics and titles might drive interest, the actual blog posts fall short of delivering tangible knowledge and benefit to the readers. And lackluster writing, spelling errors and keyword abuse also plague many blogs, and therefore erode the credibility of the blog (and your company) and keep visitors from returning.

Remedy this issue by:

• Focusing on writing quality, share-worthy blog posts
• Not just teasing a topic, but giving substantial insight
• Having your blog articles edited and proofread by a solid writer

4. It’s not updated regularly.

We’ve all seen blogs that haven’t been updated in weeks, months or even years. But one of the keys to successful blogging (and content marketing, SEO and online marketing) is consistent and regular content creation. When a blog is rarely updated, or goes through phases of frequency and infrequency, it’s simply not going to attract and build an audience, nor help you achieve any of the goals you’ve outlined for your content marketing program. In fact, an outdated blog will prevent you from gaining loyal readers and turn away any new visitors as well.

Remedy this issue by:

• Prioritizing the creation of fresh, regular content on your blog
• Aiming to post at least once per week; ideally 2-3 times per week
• Maintaining consistency in publishing even during the holidays, vacation season, etc.

5. It’s doesn’t drive website traffic or generate leads.

If any of the other issues we’ve previously discussed are present, it’s highly unlikely that your blog is going to drive substantial website traffic or generate leads. With the evolution of SEO and search algorithms, it’s not about stuffing your posts with keywords, but rather posting regular, high-quality content that answers questions and provides the information your target audience is looking for. But in addition to getting the content right, many companies do not adequately promote their blogs on social media channels or make it easy for readers to share posts on their social networks. Lastly, while generating leads is the end goal of content marketing, many blogs fail to include calls-to-action or provide readers a way to subscribe to the blog to receive ongoing updates and communication.

Remedy this issue by:

• Focusing less on keywords and more on overall content and context
• Adding share buttons to each blog post and promote on social media
• Including calls-to-action and linking to other pages of your website
• Offering a subscription sign-up for readers to opt-in

6. It lacks corporate buy-in.

At the end of the day, blogging (and content marketing in general) absolutely requires top-down support in order to be successful. While the concept of blogging for business is quite simple, the execution isn’t. Blogging at a high level takes a lot of time, resources and energy, in addition to subject-matter expertise, good writing and strong visuals. So everyone from the CEO down to the marketing department needs to buy into not just the benefits of blogging, but the understanding that it’s going to demand persistence and patience to do it successfully.

Remedy this issue by:

• Viewing your blog as an ongoing program, not a short-term campaign
• Devoting the necessary resources (internal and external)
• Helping everyone in the company understand the goals and objectives

/ / /

When executed properly, blogging can be a powerful tool for companies to use as a cornerstone of their content marketing program. By avoiding these common issues and being both persistent and patient, you’ll have a solid foundation on which to grow your audience and start building relationships online.

As we near the end of 2015, it’s time to take a look at what’s in store for B2B marketing trends in the coming year. Continuing a pattern from previous years, 2016 will see the ongoing evolution of existing trends and usher in new concepts, as well.

Content marketing, marketing automation, paid amplification and mobile optimization will all continue to be popular in the upcoming year. However, 2016 will also see the acceleration of some other B2B marketing trends that need to be on the radar. Here are nine to watch:

1. The Death of “Digital Marketing”

On the surface, this trend might sound preposterous; but this is less about the practices of digital marketing and more about the treatment and the term. The truth is, digital has become so mainstream and central to marketing, it no longer requires niche treatment. Mark Ritson, academic brand consultant and Marketing Week columnist frames it this way: “The phrase ‘digital marketing’ has gone the same way as ‘international marketing’ – into obsolescence. Digital has changed the world so much that it has become the world.”

Findings from the just released Gartner 2015-2016 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Spend Survey clearly show that digital marketing is no longer a niche channel. ”There is little doubt that digital marketing is now mainstream,” said Yvonne Genovese, group vice president at Gartner.  “Marketers no longer make a clear distinction between offline and online marketing disciplines. As customers opt for digitally led experiences, digital marketing stops being a discrete discipline and instead becomes the context for all marketing. Digital marketing is now marketing in a digital world.”

While we’re already seeing the breaking down of digital versus non-digital silos, in 2016 the integration of the two will accelerate. B2B firms, like their B2C counterparts, have begun to realize that they have only one overarching strategy and one budget but now have a myriad of tools, tactics and channels in order to reach and engage their target audience. The digital transformation that’s underway will continue to push firms to focus more on the overall strategy, brand messaging, customer experience and other marketing elements regardless of channel.

2. Customer Experience

Customer experience (or CX as it’s commonly referred to), has been receiving a lot of attention over the last few years, primarily among B2C companies and retailers.  It involves the combination of people, process and technology to understand, anticipate and consistently deliver exceptional personalized experiences across all touch points. In a recent white paper, Forrester Research predicted that “In 2016, leaders will understand and anticipate individual needs to deliver personalized experiences, sharply increasing their lead in the market.”

As today’s B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their consumer experiences and have begun to demand similar experiences in their professional lives, firms are recognizing how customer experience can be a driver of both business differentiation and profitability. For marketers this will mean a much more systematic and intentional focus on the entire experience for a customer, delivering a seamless and consistent experience, regardless of channel or device and in a way that is consistent with your brand promise.

3. Advocate Marketing

B2B marketers tend to focus a lot of time and effort on the pre-purchase end of the customer journey. But increasingly, firms are realizing success by also concentrating their efforts on providing value beyond the sale, with the aim of turning a client into a promoter — an advocate who is willing to refer people to and provide references for your business. Referrals have long been considered one of the most valuable forms of marketing, delivering qualified leads that tend to become clients and remain loyal over a long period of time. While loyalty programs have been a staple in the retail world for quite some time, we’re starting to see B2B firms leverage their own version.

Advocate marketing software platforms such as Influitive and CustomerAdvocacy help marketers build advocate relationships with clients at scale by increasing social media engagement, generating more reviews and capturing referrals. These platforms use customized portals where firms invite their best customers to participate in challenges and provide feedback to earn rewards for things like badges, special event invitations, gift cards and award ceremonies at conferences. Docu-Sign has used Influitive’s platform to grow over 1,000 advocates and influence over $3 million in their sales pipeline.

4. Sales Enablement

Oracle Marketing Cloud describes sales enablement as “Providing sales with insights into buyer motivations, behavior, and activity to help boost their results.” For many B2B firms, especially those that are services-oriented, marketing is a support role for business development and sales activities. Ultimately, the goal of sales enablement is to ensure that every seller (or business developer depending upon your industry vernacular) has the required knowledge, insights, content and processes to optimize every interaction with prospects and clients.

Today’s complex buyer’s journey and the evolving role of the sales function demands that marketing does more than simply help their firms generate new leads. They also need to be focused on helping to convert those leads into opportunities and opportunities into revenue. Sales enablement includes demand generation, lead nurturing and related activities, but it primarily focuses on leveraging technology (such as marketing automation) to provide better buyer insights, predictive analytics and proactive content support. Sales enablement forces marketing to get into the minds of sales people and think about their sales process and approach, in addition to the decision process of the buyer.

5. Marketing Apps

Whether mobile apps or on-site web apps, in 2016 more B2B firms will find ways to incorporate apps as part of their marketing strategy. Web apps are applications built into a website, as opposed to something you have to download and install on your computer or mobile phone. They can turn a static web page into something more functional and interactive that better engages users and can help to convert users into leads. Apps may include calculators, assessments, estimate builders, interactive white papers or some other utility that turns content into something users will interact with because it’s helpful and interesting.

In addition to web apps, mobile apps are also going to pick up steam in B2B marketing as well. If your firm invests heavily in content marketing, produces content frequently, and has a loyal audience, a mobile app can be a great way to deliver content into the hands of your audience. Other B2B firms are creating apps for tradeshows, events and networking. For more product-oriented B2B firms, apps can be used for sales as well. Atlas Copco Construction is an example of a B2B firm that uses a mobile app to showcase their products and services and make it easy for customers to request quotes, access contact information or find the nearest location.

6. Podcasting, Live Streaming and Video Shows

Podcasting has been steadily growing in popularity over the last several years, with Edison Research finding that 33% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast this year. Relatively easy and cost-effective to produce, podcasting involves the recording of a series of episodes provided to users in the form of an audio MP3 that can be downloaded from your website or syndicated through a service like iTunes. Much like audio books and talk radio, some people prefer to consume content via audio as opposed to the written word.  And for users on-the-go, podcasts offer a convenient experience that can both educate and entertain them, while helping to establish authority and thought leadership for your brand.

We’ve seen video blogging become more prominent in the B2B space, but now with tools such as Twitter-owned Periscope or Meerkat, among others, marketers have the ability to easily produce live streaming video as well. Both of these apps use Twitter to notify and link users to the live streams as well as manage the comments and chats within the streams.  Live streaming can be used for events, giving demonstrations, Q&A sessions, “behind the scenes” videos and other things that might be interesting to your audience.

Similar to podcasting, video shows create an ongoing series of episodes with a set topic or focus, as opposed to a more one-off approach. Video shows can be used to create a series of how-tos, tutorials and other educational themes. Intel has chosen to take more of a storytelling approach by showcasing the stories of some of their customers through their “Expert Mode” and “Meet the Makers” series. With video shows, brands need to think about video more like a TV network, rather than a movie studio.

7. Email Marketing Resurgence

Many have long predicted the death of email marketing, but the data shows quite the contrary. According to Gigaom Research, marketers consistently rank email as the single most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention. But while many B2B firms (e.g. technology, services, products, etc.) already depend on email marketing as a primary communications channel, others have not leveraged email marketing to its potential. In 2016 we’re going to see a trend towards a more effective use of email marketing from B2B companies.

Why? While there are many reasons (such as ROI, effectiveness and measurability), one stands above them all—mobile. As B2B marketers have been struggling to figure out how best to capitalize on mobile, the answer perhaps has been right under their noses all along. A study from Moveable Ink found that in the first quarter of 2015, 67% of all U.S. email opens occurred on a mobile device — and 75% of those were smartphones. While the data varies from study to study, the growth in mobile opens is staggering and the shift is undeniable. Which is why many are calling mobile the “new inbox” because it’s an inbox that’s always on.

But while the convenience of mobile means audiences are more captive than ever before, the window of opportunity is much narrower. Meaning this resurgence is not just about more B2B firms using email marketing, it’s also about how they use it.  Focusing on improving the mobile experience will include being “mobile friendly” from a technical standpoint but also means thinking about content and email design from a mobile first perspective as well. And, whether desktop or mobile, this resurgence will also see more firms move away from the “batch and blast” approach of yesteryear and take a much more targeted and personalized approach.

8. Search Budgets Shift to Content

A new report released by PulsePoint and Digiday found that by 2017, content marketing budgets are projected to grow 59 percent, far outpacing search and social budgets. Search algorithms are rewarding producers of high-quality and relevant content much more so than companies that have merely invested in technical SEO.

Today, getting ranked is much less a technical exercise (although there are best practices and technical considerations), and more about creating content that people are searching for in order to earn rankings. And it’s also much less about focusing on singular keywords and the masses, but rather being the best answer for long-tail searches that now contribute to 70% of search traffic. So while SEO and SEM will still have a role in a B2B marketer’s budget, the trend is certainly moving toward firms creating custom content that speaks to the needs and interests of a target audience.

9. Online Advertising Disruption

Google’s testing of a new platform for displaying video ads in search engine results pages shows that online advertising isn’t going away anytime soon. However the year ahead should make for some major disruption to say the least. A recent report from Pagefair and Adobefound that ad blocking in the U.S. grew by 48% in the past year and there are now 198 million active ad block users around the world.  And we’re likely to see that number continue to increase in 2016 as well.  Dr. Johnny Ryan, PageFair’s head of ecosystem, remarked to Business Insider “ad blocking is a viral phenomenon that will continue.”

Doubleclick’s interactive Display Benchmarking tool found the click through-rate across all ad formats and placements is only 0.06%.  So the rise in ad blocking software usage only reinforces what those reading the analytical tea leaves have known for quite some time: users are annoyed with content that isn’t relevant to the content they’re trying to consume.

Bot-fraud is also causing pretty substantial issues for advertisers who are projected to lose $6.3 billion globally to bots in 2015. Bot-fraud detection company White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers recently analyzed over 3 million websites and found that bot visitors were rampant across the websites of major publishers and brands, inflating the monetized audiences of those sites by 5 to 50 percent. The research also found that bots accounted for 23 percent of all video impressions observed, 11 percent of all display impressions, and 19 percent of all retargeted ads.

Online advertising isn’t going to disappear, but the rise of ad blocking software usage, bot-fraud and historically low click through-rates will likely cause B2B marketers to take a hard look at their use of online advertising in 2016.

/ / /

While there are certainly others trends likely to appear in the B2B marketing landscape in 2016, these nine stand out to us as those to keep an eye on. Did we omit any trends you think are important? Feel free to add to the conversation and share your additions in the comments.

Marketing automation software provides marketers with a virtual playground of helpful tools for more targeted and effective digital marketing. But the ability to achieve better alignment between marketing and sales is a benefit that can’t be overlooked or underestimated.

One of the hottest buzzwords flying around the B2B marketing community in the past few years is marketing automation. But as popular as marketing automation software is becoming (thelatest analysis from Frost & Sullivan predicts global software revenue will reach $1.9 billion by 2020), the term is admittedly nebulous, somewhat misleading, usually defined differently depending on who is asked and is often viewed through a marketing-centric lens.

Interestingly, Forrester Research prefers to use the term “lead-to-revenue management” and points out that marketing automation software was initially developed solely to “bridge a gap between lead generation activities and selling activities that are managed by a CRM system.” So one of the primary purposes of marketing automation, and no doubt one of its compelling benefits, has always been that it helps to connect what marketing is doing with what sales is doing.

Marketing automation bridges a gap between marketing and sales

As buyer behaviors have changed, the relationship between marketing and sales (or business development depending on your industry lingo) is changing as well, making the need for increased alignment and closed-loop communication absolutely critical. A successful marketing automation implementation can help align marketing and sales through increased communication and transparency, leading to better productivity and ultimately higher revenues. According to research from SiriusDecisions, B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing departments achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period.

Alignment is a big win for many companies, especially those with larger and more sophisticated sales and marketing teams.  Because let’s face it, marketing and sales have historically had an interesting relationship to say the least. Most organizations have experienced at least some level of dysfunction between marketing and sales, with them often operating in silos. Sales always wants to know what marketing is doing to contribute to the bottom line, and marketing has always had a desire to show that what they do actually does contribute to the bottom line. And marketing automation provides an infrastructure for better, closed-loop communication and can help bring down silos and help marketing and sales to actually work together.

Marketing automation provides sales teams real-time and actionable intelligence

One of the primary ways that marketing automation helps to align what marketing and sales are doing is by providing internal sales and business development teams with real-time, actionable intelligence on what prospects and leads are up to. Instead of being a black box, marketing automation brings sales up to speed on who is visiting your website, when they are visiting, pages they are viewing, content they’re downloading, emails they’re opening and clicking on and what social media posts are driving them to your website and landing pages. This real-time intelligence lets your sales rep have a much more targeted and relevant conversation with prospects and it can also help to shorten the sales cycle.

Marketing automation and CRM integration closes the communication loop

Most marketing automation software platforms have the ability to integrate with popular CRM systems, such as Salesforce, Sugar and Microsoft Dynamics. This is where the communication loop is closed and sales and marketing can achieve alignment. Integration provides sales and business development reps all that amazing sales intelligence­—every single digital action and touch point with both leads and customers—all inside their CRM console.

Handoff sales-qualified leads

Perhaps nothing annoys the sales team more than when marketing “leads” are passed over to the sales team before they’re qualified. So the ability to implement lead nurturing and lead scoring programs means that unqualified leads that might have been interested in your whitepaper, but are not ready to talk to sales (or even interested at all), are no longer automatically pushed over to your sales teams to waste their time on emails and phone calls. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) can be nurtured until they cross a company-defined scoring threshold and demonstrate sales-ready behavior.

And one of the great things about integrating marketing automation and CRM, is once marketing and sales have come to an agreement on what defines a sales qualified lead (SQL), the entire process can be fully automated. And with tweaks to the lead scoring criteria, marketing can adjust both the quantity and quality of leads being pushed into the CRM and over to sales.

/ / /

Marketing automation can be more than just hype, more than just a shiny new tool for marketing and not just another line-item expense. Companies that have successfully implemented marketing automation are seeing the value it brings, the least of which is much tighter alignment between their marketing and sales teams.

A well-executed website redesign can have an amazing impact on a company’s online brand and bottom line. But redesigning a website takes a lot more time and energy than many anticipate, especially to do it right and get the results you want.

If you’ve already determined that your company needs a new website, it’s important for you to thoroughly evaluate, plan and execute your website redesign project to avoid wasting valuable time and money. To help you with the planning process, we have compiled a list of 13 costly mistakes to avoid when redesigning your website.

Mistake #1: Failing to identify the goals and priorities of the redesign

A website redesign process should start with identifying the reason for the redesign, the problems you are trying to solve, the challenges you want to overcome and the ways in which you want your new website to be different from the one you have now. You should also identify the overarching goals of the redesign that will drive the process, as well as specific objectives that you’re trying to accomplish. At the end of the day, you should understand what success looks like and be able to convey that succinctly to your web design partner.

Mistake #2: Failing to clearly define the scope and technical requirements of your new website BEFORE getting started

Many companies make the mistake of jumping into a website redesign without defining the specifics that will drive everything else in the process.  However, it’s critical to the ultimate success of your website redesign to nail down the scope before getting started. Halfway through a redesign project is not the time to dramatically change course or adjust the scope. And in order to obtain an accurate proposal estimate from an agency, they’ll have to know what they’re building before they can tell you what it’s going to cost. Think through what you want your new website to look like, how you want it to function, what features and functionality it should have and how/if it will interact with other systems.

Mistake #3: Not spending enough time in upfront planning and strategy

It’s tempting to rush through the redesign process rather than committing the time and resources needed to make sure the website is strategically and meticulously planned. So avoid this mistake by committing upfront time and resources for planning and strategy including:

  • Evaluating your current website analytics
  • Understanding your target audience
  • Assessing the competition
  • Auditing your website content
  • Taking inventory of your website assets (images, files, videos, pages, etc.)
  • Identifying tactics for achieving your website goals
  • Focusing on content strategy and content creation
  • Developing an effective website redesign RFP

A website redesign can be a long and tedious process, but jumping in without a plan could make your redesign efforts futile.

Mistake #4: Setting an insufficient budget

If it’s been 5 or more years since your last website redesign, don’t expect to budget what you did last time—especially since you’re likely expecting more from your redesign. Where an online brochure was once sufficient, today many clients are looking to build much more sophisticated websites and web applications that feature advanced and custom functionality.

With the advent of things like responsive design (see #9) and content management systems (see #5), coupled with the growing expectations of user experience and overall website functionality, websites cost more than they used to—at least custom websites.  And often, inspiration for features and functionality are drawn from websites of big brands with massive design and development budgets. The point is you can’t expect to build the Taj Mahal on a budget better suited for a starter home.

Mistake #5: Not investing in custom design and development

Along the lines of setting a sufficient budget, unless you are a very small business or non-profit with little to no resources, you should be investing in custom design and development. As tempting as it may be to go with the cheapest route (e.g. SquareSpace, prebuilt WordPress premium themes, etc.), these products are built for the masses and are incredibly limiting to what your able to do, both on the front-end and the back-end. Aside from the fact that there may be thousands of other, similar companies using the same exact theme, these template options are not designed around your specific content (see #7) and often lack the uniqueness and functionality that you desire. And while the cheapest option might temporarily solve an immediate need, they are rarely a sufficient long-term solution.

Mistake #6: Selecting the wrong redesign partner

The truth is, your new website is only going to be as good as the firm you hire to design and build it.  Websites are arguably the greatest marketing asset that a company possesses, so selecting a partner that lacks the proper design and technical abilities, industry knowledge andmarketing prowess can be a costly mistake. Developing the right kind of website redesign RFP(or at least identifying project scope and agency selection criteria upfront) plays a big role in a successful selection. And once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s important when interviewing potential partners to ask the right questions to help you identify what agency to partner with.

Mistake #7: Setting an unrealistic timeline and launch date

To design and build a custom website the right way takes time. And one of the biggest mistakes you can make with your redesign is to try to force an unrealistic timeline on the project. When thinking about a launch date, clients often don’t take into account everything that will be required on their part to cross the finish line.

In addition to developing and delivering content on schedule (see #9), design can often be an iterative process, with multiple rounds of edits and delays in approvals.  While this is all a normal part of the redesign process, it’s important for your redesign partner to know the approval process ahead of time so they can give you a realistic schedule. The desire for a new website shouldn’t trump the necessity of getting it right. While launch dates do matter, be sure to set a timeline that is realistic and allows room for flexibility.

Mistake #8: Having too many cooks in the kitchen

Website redesign by committee is likely to be a recipe for disaster, not only for your agency partner, but also for the end product.  The committee approach, which is intended to give the process proper input from a cross-section of stakeholders, often leads to a website design that is a mash-up of many different ideas and personal preferences.

Stakeholder’s input is critical to the planning process and in determining strategic goals for the website. However, the design and development phases should be limited to as few people as necessary. By having a smaller number of people involved during these phases, it helps ensure that the website will be built strategically with industry best practices and the end-user in mind—not the personal preferences of internal stakeholders.

Mistake #9: Focusing on design before content

Designing a website before determining what content is essential is a mistake that can offset strategy and waste time and money. As tempting as it may be to start with design first and figure out the content later, you should adopt a content-first approach to redesigning your website. This approach underscores the importance of content strategy, site architecture and developing persona-focused content at the beginning of the redesign process, not the end. Content is after all the reason visitors come to your website, and the purpose of web design is to present content in a meaningful and user-friendly way (while setting your brand apart and looking good in the process). So design around content, don’t create content for the design.

Mistake #10: Not building a platform for lead generation and business development

In the past, websites that weren’t ecommerce oriented (especially B2B services companies) functioned primarily as online brochures, not revenue generators. But today, a website should be a platform for business development and thought leadership. Because the goal of your new website isn’t to simply attract visitors; the goal should be to establish credibility, build thought leadership, convert unknown visitors into identified leads and nurture identified leads throughout the entire buyer’s journey. This requires using the right website building blocksand a shift in thinking—not just in design and development, but also in strategy and content. Regardless of your business or industry, content marketing and lead generation should be considerations in your redesign.

Mistake #11: Not designing a fully-responsive website

Building a website that works well on nearly every device is critical in our multi-screen world. Responsive design provides a viable solution and has become price-of-entry for new websites. Effective responsive design requires careful planning, testing and adapting throughout both design and development. And while responsive design is a wise investment, it does require a larger budget (see #3) due to the additional planning, design, development and testing that is needed to ensure a consistent and optimized user experience on every device. A responsive website will help your company meet the growing demands of mobile visitors and provide a good user experience for all of your prospects and clients.

Mistake #12:  Failing to rigorously test and complete critical last-minute tasks before launch

While the bulk of the work has been completed, failing to complete critical testing and last-minute tasks before launch can leave a stain on an otherwise flawless redesign project. Before your new website launches, it needs to be tested extensively and many last-minute things need to be completed and double-checked. Some of these include (but are not limited to):

  • Cross browser testing on multiple devices
  • Testing of forms and third-party integrations
  • Setting up 301 redirects
  • Optimizing for on-page SEO best practices
  • Installing website analytics and/or marketing automation tracking code
  • Proofreading extensively

Mistake #13: Thinking your work is done once the website goes live

You can’t have a “launch it and forget it” attitude when it comes to your new website. As with any marketing strategy, your website should be constantly measured and refined for optimal performance. Even the best websites that seemed perfect upon launch need to be improved along the way. Technology, web standards, search algorithms, best practices and even your company are constantly changing over time. This requires ongoing improvements to your website on a regular basis, so be sure to allocate some of your annual budget to your website every year. Your website should be viewed as an investment, not a line item expense.

/ / /

A website redesign is a big investment of both your company’s time and dollars, so it’s important to approach it in the right way and avoid costly mistakes along the way. While there are other mistakes to avoid in a redesign project, these seem to rise to the top of the list.

Selecting the right web design partner for your firm’s website redesign can be a challenging task. While proposals play a role in the process, interviewing and asking the right questions can provide you with the insight needed to better inform your selection decision.

In no particular order, we’ve come up with a list of 15 questions to ask a potential web design and development partner before choosing who will handle your firm’s next website redesign:

1. What is the full breadth of your capabilities?

Websites are arguably the greatest marketing asset that a company possesses.  Therefore, selecting a redesign partner that understands marketing at a high level is critical.  Also, website redesign projects often involve much more than just web design and web development. In fact, you’ll likely need the services of marketing strategists, content strategists, copywriters, photographers, videographers, etc. It’s essential to hire a firm that has most, if not all, of these capabilities in house and can provide them on an as-needed basis.

2. Do you have any experience in my industry and with similar websites?

While this may not seem overly important, if your firm operates in a unique or complex industry, the learning curve required for a redesign partner to get up to speed might be too steep (or costly). Just like hiring an employee who has previously worked in your industry is a benefit, choosing a redesign partner with industry experience is advantageous as well.  But at the same time, look for a partner that has experience in other industries, too. While a partner that exclusively works in your industry may provide great insight, they may not be able to bring best practices and ideas gleaned from working in other industries.

3. How can you help me drive website traffic and generate leads?

Demand and lead generation are critical components of a website redesign.  Whether B2B or B2C in nature, you want (and need) your website to drive traffic and help generate new business leads. Understanding how web design firms take this into account throughout the process—from strategy, planning, content, design, development and launch—is going to be helpful.

4. How will you optimize my website for search engines?

Search engine optimization (SEO) has changed dramatically over the last several years. What was once a highly technical exercise is now much more about creating the content that your audience is searching for online. But there are technical best practices that should be implemented and can make or break your SEO.  So be sure to ask for each firm’s approach to SEO and seek to understand how they’ll ensure your website has both the right content AND the right technical optimizations.

5. Do you practice responsive web design to ensure a consistent and usable experience on all devices?

With few exceptions, responsive web design is the Google-recommended (and industry-recommended) best practice for building a website that is not just mobile friendly, but “friendly” and optimized to create a consistent and ideal user experience for all devices. Understanding how each firm approaches responsive design throughout the entire process will be insightful and perhaps eye opening.

6. Will my website be fully custom or a “customized” theme?

There are a lot of websites out there masquerading as custom websites but they’re merely pre-built themes that have been customized for a particular client. Budget limitations may require using such themes; however, if you are paying for and expecting to receive a fully custom “stick-built” website, it’s critical that you ask this question. A fully custom website means that every pixel of design and layout has been performed by the firm and the website has been “hand coded” by a qualified developer.

7. What aspects of my project will be performed in-house vs. outsourced?

Understanding what portions of your website redesign will be or won’t be performed in-house is another important consideration. While certainly not a deal-breaker, having to leverage third-party vendors for pieces (or the entirety) of a website redesign project can add complexity, cost and scheduling challenges.  If a potential partner plans to use outside support, it’s important to know who they’ll be using and what portions they’ll be working on.

8. What content management system(s) do you recommend and why? Can you show us a demonstration?

Most web development companies have their personal preferences for particular content management systems (CMS).  But it’s beneficial to understand why a web design firm recommends a particular CMS platform and what the pros and cons are of that platform. Be sure that the strengths of the platform you choose align with the needs and functionality requirements of your website.

Many clients assume that a CMS website will function the same on the back end, regardless of who you partner with to develop the website. However, the back-end design of the CMS interface and the administrative functionality often varies greatly. So it’s helpful to request a website demonstration to better understand how customized and intuitive the CMS of their websites are. After all, your company will be using this feature the most, so it’s imperative that it is easy to use for your team.

9. What kind of testing and quality control checks do you perform prior to the launch of a new website?

Testing is a critical process that should be completed prior to launching your new website.  It’s absolutely essential for your website to render smoothly on various browsers and devices, so your web design partner should conduct cross-browser testing on the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer, as well as cross-platform testing on the latest versions of iOS and Android for tablets and smartphones.  It’s also important that your partner follows a checklist of internal quality assurance measures to ensure that all bases are covered before launch.

10. How long will the project (realistically) take?

The length of a website project varies greatly depending on scope, complexity, schedule and both the client and web design partner’s ability to hit deadlines. Based on an understanding of your project needs, a potential web partner should be able to give you an estimate of how long a project like yours typically takes and provide a basic schedule for key project milestones. They should also help you understand what factors can affect the schedule and where issues typically arise.

11. What is your web design and development process? 

Process plays a major role in the design and development of a website and process can vary greatly from company to company. Every web design company has developed their own internal process that guides their projects and some are better than others.  Knowing what the process is, how it gets implemented and how it will ultimately impact you and your project is helpful to understand. It’s also important to know who will be involved in the project and what each person’s role will be. 

12. What will be required of our company throughout the project?

Successful websites are not built independent of the client.  And while you are clearly hiring an outside agency to design and build the site, understandably there will be work required on your part to get the project completed.  Going in, it’s beneficial to know what will be required of you and your company, from a resources, time commitment and deliverables aspect.

13. Can you work within our budget parameters?

While many firms are hesitant to share budget information with a potential web development partner, it’s useful for them to know for several reasons. Think of it like sharing your budget with a realtor. If they don’t know your budget, they won’t know what kind of house to show you. It’s important to understand whether or not a potential web partner can work with the budget you have and include as many or all of your wish list items within those parameters.

14. What’s included in your price?

Every company prices websites differently, so understanding what the pricing includes AND doesn’t include is vital. At the end of the day, you want to understand what you’re getting for your money, what additional costs may come up along the way that are accounted for in the proposal and how they’ll handle estimating and billing for things that fall outside of the scope.  When it comes to billing, no one likes surprises, so be sure to gain a clear understand of the pricing before signing a contract.

15. Can you provide client references?

Last but not least, it’s always a good idea to talk with a potential partner’s previous website redesign clients to get a better understanding of the company. What was it like to work with them? How did the final product turn out? How successful has the website been? What (if any) pitfalls should you be aware of? Speaking directly with previous clients is a great way to round out your due diligence and gain a more complete picture of your potential redesign partner.

/ / /

Determining who is best equipped to build your website, as well as choosing who you want to partner with on the project goes far beyond their mere capabilities and expertise. That’s where asking great questions and listening for great answers is key to the selection process.

While a firm’s brand is made up of more than just the visual identity—logo, color palette, fonts—aesthetics do play a huge role overall in the process of branding. Simply put, your brand’s visual identity should positively distinguish your firm from the competition.

The origins of branding are all about distinguishing one cattle from the next. And in marketing, it’s not just about differentiation. It’s about setting your brand apart and standing out—positively—from the crowded sea of competition. So is your brand an asset or a liability in that endeavor? Here are a few thoughts on knowing when your brand needs a visual update.

A dated or tired look and feel

Just because you can still wear clothes from high school or college doesn’t mean you should. Fashion styles are often representative of their “era” and as time passes, those styles change. Likewise, some brands just look visually dated and are in need of an update. With few exceptions, failing to convey a progressive “with the times” message visually can be a detriment to your brand.


ODEC was challenged by a dated brand and an unsophisticated logo that didn’t reflect the company’s mission.

Remember, the point of branding is to stand out from the competition, but you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. This doesn’t have to be a wholesale change, just a modernizing of the overall brand look. Obviously, you’ll want to leverage the equity that you already have in your existing brand, but bring that brand into the modern era.

Acknowledgement of the digital age

Many brands have a timeless look (think Coca-Cola) and are not subject to the previous point. However, many brands were developed before the digital age, when we lived in a predominantly print world. As you know, digital has had an enormous impact on marketing and firms have had to expand their brand identity to acknowledge the digital space. Corporate websites, social media profiles, email signatures, email marketing, video and other digital media have added complexity to the traditional brand standards guide.


AMA-Richmond wanted to expand their color palette and create a logo better suited for the web and social media.

On top of that, the traditional primary/secondary color palette can and should be expanded for the web. Some firms have not strategically addressed digital, rather adjusting and adapting on an “as needed” basis. So if your firm has not considered all the various digital applications of your brand and addressed those in a strategic manner, it might be time for an update.

Changes internally need to be reflected externally

Some firms experience fairly significant changes internally that warrants a refresh of the existing brand identity. Whether changes to the business model, addition or subtraction of key services or markets, cultural transformations, etc., these internal changes should be communicated to the external audience. This is where a communications plan comes into play. And part of the communications plan should include a brand refresh or update, because significant internal changes also need to be reflected in a brand’s visual identity and key messaging. If your firm now looks different on the inside, it also needs to look different on the outside. 

Changes in mission and offerings prompted DAS to refresh their brand identity to better reflect their firm.

Changes in mission and offerings prompted DAS to refresh their brand identity to better reflect their firm.

An underdeveloped brand identity in the first place

Some firms never fully established a solid brand identity from the beginning. And so for one reason or another, the existing identity doesn’t adequately represent the firm and needs to be refreshed. As stated earlier, you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. So if the quality of the visual brand doesn’t accurately reflect the quality and essence of the firm itself, strategic design considerations should be given to the brand.

Refresh vs. rebrand

It’s important to distinguish a brand refresh from a full-fledged rebrand. You don’t always need to start from scratch—developing an entirely new name and new logo. Think of a brand refresh as more of a facelift, leveraging existing brand equity while expanding the look, feel and messaging with fresh treatments and positioning.  While sometimes a brand update impacts the logo, other times it doesn’t; it may just involve looking for ways to explore new type treatments, color palette expansion, photography styles, messaging and other brand elements.

The visual identity of a brand is foundational to conveying the attributes, characteristics and messaging that differentiates your firm from everyone else. If any of these circumstances resonate with your firm, it might be time to consider a refresh.

The success a company enjoys—while certainly a result of the hard work and talent of its employees—is also directly attributable to its clients. Clients are after all the reason we’re in business in the first place and so their support and relationship deserve gratitude.

While it’s easy to become consumed with winning and then performing the work, it’s important to not lose sight of the relationship at the center of it. Needless to say, they shouldn’t be taken for granted. So what are some practical ways that a firm can show clients an attitude of gratitude? Here are a few thoughts.

Let them know regularly how much you value the relationship

As with any relationship, words of affirmation play a critical role in letting the other person know that you value the relationship. And in business, it can never hurt to leave no doubt in the client’s mind that their relationship is valuable to your firm. And it should start before you get the job, by simply expressing how much your firm would like the business in the first place. But once you’ve landed the client, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their business. While there are many different ways to show gratitude, verbal expression should be at the top of your list.

Work as hard to keep the client as you did to win the client

In the hustle and bustle of business development, it’s not uncommon for existing clients to get pushed aside for the latest chase and newest “client of the moment.” But as we’ve said before, clients need nurturing too, and one of the best forms of business development is providing existing clients outstanding customer service and delivering on your promises. And in addition to saying how much you value the business, nothing speaks louder than hard work and an exceptional product. By consistently delivering, you demonstrate your gratitude for the business and desire to keep it.

Own mistakes and do the right thing

There are no perfect people and there are certainly no perfect companies either. Every firm is going to make mistakes, fail to meet expectations or miss the mark in some way. Unfortunately that is unavoidable. But when that time comes, its important to take ownership of the mistake and do whatever is necessary to make the situation right. A client feels valued when their partner is transparent, admits fault and does what it needs to do (even at their physical and monetary expense) to maintain the relationship. Humility, while a somewhat rare trait in business, is a desirable characteristic of a true partner and certainly conveys an attitude of gratefulness.

Give them plenty of face time

Another often overlooked (and important) way to show clients gratitude is face time. We live in a day when so much business is conducted via email, conference calls and web conferences. And while that can be a great thing, clients still deserve face time with the person most responsible for the account. Even for clients out of the area, scheduled meetings or the occasional “drop-in” should be an ongoing part of managing the relationship. And not just face time with the account manager, but face time with the CEO or some other senior level person. While this may not always be possible with larger firms, for small and mid-market firms, a CEO that is visible to a client, shows that they’re valued and appreciated.

Practice random acts of gratitude

Most clients probably expect to receive something from you around the holidays, as is fairly customary in business. But what about the rest of the year? It’s one thing to receive a show of gratitude when it’s all but expected, it’s another thing when it’s not. There are a slew of ideas showing random acts of gratitude. Here are just a few:

  • Randomly deliver cookies, donuts or other food to their office
  • Remember birthdays and do more than just send an email
  • Send flowers and cards with the lost of a loved one
  • Host a client appreciation dinner or event
  • Take them out to lunch on a semi-regular basis
  • Send them the occasional event tickets or movie passes

It’s less about the what and more about the when. By showing gratitude “just because,” you send a message that you value the relationship, even when you’re not required to.

/ / /

Clients are truly the lifeblood of business­ and they are owed a continuing show of thankfulness. And not just for their business, but also for the confidence that they place in your firm’s ability to deliver.