What if I told you that you can get a 52 percent open rate on your emails, and be in your customers’ (and future customers’) ears, hearts and minds every day? And what if this could all happen organically?
You would think that’s impossible and call me crazy. Right? And that’s largely because of the misconception that everyone today has a ‘fraction of a second’ attention span. But I don’t think that’s entirely true. After all, as a society, we go and watch two-hour movies, binge-watch Netflix shows, or practice one skill for hours at a time when we’re intent on honing a specific craft.
So let’s stop blaming the lack of engagement we’re seeing on our audiences and their allegedly short attention spans, and start looking instead at where we might be going wrong. One of these areas is tired, overused forms of content. The old hacks of white papers and ebooks are just that: old. No one likes to download an ebook anymore (actually, they never did).
The question is, then, how can we better grab – and keep – their attention? And how do you do so and yield the kinds of open rates and results I mentioned before?
Sometimes, you have to be willing to try a tactic that not many others are embracing, or dive into a category that isn’t even fully formed as of yet. For me most recently, this was podcasting. And for my account team, it’s been videos. These two mediums are fairly prevalent, yes, but still not anywhere near as widely tapped across B2B businesses as they could and should be.
Through these formats, we’ve seen engagement that would make your head spin, which is why I want to give you some of our ‘how’ so you can get some similar results.
Creativity can Save B2B Marketing
In the ABM marketing world, we have to meet people on their own terms. This is where podcasts and videos become indispensable. Most people these days won’t take the time to sit down and pore over a white paper, no matter how compelling. But listen to a podcast when they’re stuck in traffic on their commute? Or watch a quick and helpful video at the moment they need to learn a new technique? Much more likely to happen.
The problem with content (or any marketing tactic actually) is that there’s so much hype about one trend or one format that everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Then before you know it, everyone is stuck in the same rut and few are standing out from the crowd because it all looks and sounds the same.
Blogs and white papers, even quality ones, are expected now. That doesn’t make them irrelevant, but it does mean you might need to switch things up to get on your audience’s radar. This is why I believe we’ve seen such dramatic results from my podcast and our team’s videos. They’re consumable when they’re needed/wanted most, they’re unexpected and they don’t blend in with all the other content floating around.
Engagement is what Matters
I’ll be the first to admit that I love my podcast, and I love that thousands of people listen to it. But it’s not the passive listening that I’m after. I want the attitudes and conversations and connections that the podcast episodes spawn. For example, Westley Baer, listener of mine on LinkedIn, recently posted his own video and commentary that was inspired by one of my podcast episodes. Here’s some of what he said:
“I have heard some great things about this podcast and was attracted to it… I made it a priority to listen to the most recent episode which was with James Carbary. The message was on the difference between giving up and letting go (Episode 88). So I used this opportunity to share with everyone my thoughts. As you can see, I have created a chart of sorts and wanted to include key terms from the podcast and also add a little twist to it as well. Would love for you guys to give it a listen and let me know what you think! Thanks so much Sangram Vajre for creating a content based sales platform for others to listen.”
If that’s not engagement, I don’t know what is! And as I said before, marketing and sales really are all about engagement. When someone takes the time and energy to do something like this listener did and truly engage with you, they’re giving you time and energy they could spend elsewhere (a lot of elsewheres). So in order to make it worth their while, variety is everything.
To maintain variety in my podcast, I intersperse different content angles so listeners are constantly on their toes. One episode I’ll uplift the community and feature someone making traction in a certain area, the next I’ll interview someone inspiring in the space and the next you could find me giving a review of a marketing and sales book or musing about a particular marketing tactic. No two episodes are the same, and each provides a fresh look at something I believe my listeners will find of interest.
Here’s the kicker: not all of my listeners are customers, nor will they likely ever be. However, for those future customers out there, I’m engaging them to build trust that we are experts in the industry. If we created every piece of content like lead magnets for prospects, our message would get pretty cold pretty fast. Instead, we are creating content for future customers, building trust and enjoying the connection to the community. Trust me, it works.
Engagement looks different in terms of video, and one of our account leaders has nailed her approach to this strategy. She uses short, simple videos, around a minute in length, to send to future customers. She writes “hi” and their name on a whiteboard, along with a drawing of something she’s discovered they’re interested in or their company logo alongside our company logo. Then she greets them and invites them to a phone conversation to talk about their ABM needs.
This level of personalization, along with the human touch, has increased engagement by leaps and bounds. And it all bubbles up to the new ways of engagement:
- Time spent on our website
- Video that can be used for outreach and follow-up
- A podcast that can be used to inspire, engage and position you as a trusted partner.
These three prongs of engagement have proven to be highly valuable for us.
The Proof in the Pudding
Okay, so now you might be thinking the podcast idea sounds cool but how much more effective than white papers can it really be? And how much more sway can videos have over blogs? One word: plenty.
We don’t get analytics from the podcast itself, since it shows downloads for a particular episode. But we’ve had close to 300 five star reviews on iTunes, telling us that listeners believe in the quality of what we’re sharing. And we’ve found some stunning engagement numbers around the podcast through LinkedIn. We’ve had over 2.5 million views on the platform, for starters, which happens to be where most of our target audience hangs out. We’ve also see more than 3,500 comments, many of which were part of lively discussions that our podcast topics had spurred.
As far as video is concerned, one of our AEs has driven this strategy and produced over 3,000 videos herself in the last year that she’s used in customer outreach. Of those 3,000, she’s had a 52 percent open rate, 28 percent click-through rate (CTR) and 14-16 percent reply rate. This has far exceeded the results we’ve seen through simple emails or calls, even those that also point to useful blog posts.
Final Words of Advice
So, by now I hope you’re inspired to consider podcasts and videos in your repertoire of B2B marketing tactics. If so, I have a few tips to get your started…
- With a podcast, you’ve got to lay the right foundation from the start. I was a little haphazard when I started my podcast, but I’ve since gotten really strategic and intentional. Take the time to map out your content, line up your guests many episodes out (if you plan to interview other leaders) and figure out the flow of how the episodes will go.
- With videos, just get started. You don’t have to have quite as much finesse. In fact, my team says that some of the videos customers have loved most are those in which someone rides by on a scooter in the background or she flubs a line. Videos make you relatable, and if you’re putting together a simple, short welcome video, just work on getting 10 done. See what kind of response you get, and then do more if the response is as great as it’s been for us.
- Stay the course. Both of these content formats take time and work. Don’t let this scare you. Determine a time frame in which you’ll stick it out, and commit to seeing it through until then. At that point, you can review your results and decide if it makes sense to continue. But if you abandon ship too early, you’ll never get to see the real magic happen.
Content best practices and marketing tactics seem to change with every tick of the clock. We don’t have to master every single approach or jump on every bandwagon (in fact, we shouldn’t), but we do need to be zealous about infusing our marketing with creativity and doing whatever it takes to make real engagement happen.
So on that note, I’ll leave you with this wise, closing piece of advice by Soon Yu, author of Iconic Advantage: “Don’t chase the new. Innovate the old.”