The best, and also the good enough, B2B websites of 2017

Websites matter, and in B2B they matter more than ever.

If a potential customer cannot within seconds understand what your business does, why it matters and why they should partner with you, from visiting your website, then there's something seriously wrong. 

Your sales team should feel confident being able to make a sales pitch with the marketing copy on your website - a pitch which clearly outlines your customer’s business problem and the benefits of your business solution.

So I’ve compiled a list of the best B2B websites I saw in 2017. Take a look at why I think they’re  working smartly to generate business and what your business can learn from them.

These B2B websites are impressive because they do the following 9 things well:

  1. Says what it does on the tin

  2. Have useful and interesting resources business decision makers can download

  3. Have a clear sitemap and taxonomy

  4. Use fresh images. Death to stale stock images which have been recycled over and over again - also, let the bearded, tatted up hipster man go please

  5. Strong messaging and position - this ties to strategy. These websites are on the list because I can see what the business wants customers to think of them, how they want their customers to feel, and what they want their customers to do at any given time on the site

  6. Know their target audience

  7. The benefits of hiring them are all over the site, like everywhere

  8. Curate a targeted newsletter that offers value and a clearly articulated benefit from signing up

  9. Run a very helpful and genuinely interesting blog

So, here they are, the best of and the good enough of 2017, in my humble opinion. Don't @ me. 

Lever - powerful recruiting software for strategic organizations - The positioning tagline alone is effective - don’t you want to be part of this club of strategic organisations? Well thought out blog posts like “Startup Recruiting: Scaling a people function for explosive growth” make Lever's website a pleasure to browse. And many a tech company could do better by reading their 5 steps to launch an effective diversity and inclusion council. If I needed hiring software I’d use Lever - it feels like they genuinely care about solving recruitment problems and helping businesses grow. Why do I feel this way? Because their great content and website convinces and converts me. I also really love their own Work for Lever content.

Onfido - the world’s best identity verification engine for enterprises - very strong targeting, very clear business benefits. Their content hub could do with a bit of work on positioning, tone of voice and focus as well as structure. However they’re publishing regularly and the posts are interesting. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

Qubit - Get closer to your customers  Everyone might want to be inspired by their CMS for the great search, segmentation, taxonomy, filtering and structure on their resources page.

BlueYonder - the leading provider of AI solutions for retail

Autopilot - automate customer journeys as simply as drawing on a whiteboard  for its clever demo feature. Sometimes you want to see what the product is, a clear demo of benefits and features, and for some reason some software solution providers make this extremely difficult - not Autopilot. Be like Autopilot.

Chartmogul - build a better subscription business - I really liked their data literacy cheat sheet and their curated approach to newsletters. You can also view past content to get a sense of the good things coming to your inbox when you subscribe. Smart people love a good newsletter and they read them too. Your customers want to become smarter, be smart about communicating to them. Incidentally, their newsletter is driven by Drift whose content is also definitely worth checking out and Mailchimp (Mailchimp’s marketing - needless to say - we’re not worthy)

Egencia - better business travel - cliched stock images unfortunately let down this website. I’m also not sure what Position Papers are - feels like a very "jabber at your customers" style of communicating.  

Lifeworks - make your employees feel loved


Many more didn’t make this list (like Paddle - the better way to sell software and their awesome Black Friday resource hub). I tend to squirrel websites away in my Notes app as I read and research on B2B tech marketing. I do spontaneously and impulsively (but not compulsively) share what’s caught my eye, so do connect with me on LinkedIn.

I’m a B2B tech marketer, why should I care about GDPR?

You might be getting a bit GDPR-d out and that’s understandable. For tech marketers and content strategists the question of what the General Data Protection Regulation means to us, feels a bit like my attitude to Brexit as an EU citizen living in Britain - I’ll deal with that situation when I absolutely have to.

So here’s the thing, that won’t work. Like it or not, anyone in possession of customer data will need to be compliant by next May.

What does GDPR mean to B2B tech marketers?

In a nutshell, GDPR will require marketers and advertisers to obtain active consent for any data collecting activities. GDPR also contains strict new rules around individual data, including customer consent and their “right to be forgotten.” GDPR will be unforgiving to those who fail to comply; organisations will face astronomical fines of 20 million euros ($24 million) or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

How does it impact tech marketers?

Opt in - The first is regarding opt-ins, opt-outs, and consent regarding communications. If you run newsletter campaigns, marketing automation, any data tracking on your website, you might want to read on.

GDPR mandates that consent must be ‘freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous’, and articulated by a ‘clear affirmative action’. That means you can’t assume consent based on ‘inactivity’, and a pre-ticked box isn’t going to cut it. Prospects and customers must agree that their data can be used and that they can be contacted.

A caveat - The situation with B2B marketing is less clear. Within the UK we are ‘protected’ by the Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulation, which is this country’s implementation of the EU-wide E-Privacy Directive. In essence this means that in the B2B arena we have opt-out legislation rather than the opt-in path GDPR takes us down.

There has been a fair bit of discussion about whether the E-Privacy Directive would be amended to bring it in line with GDPR. Until as recently as last December it looked like this might be the case. However, the first draft of the E-Privacy Directive was published in January and has stayed with the opt-out position for B2B rather than the more draconian opt-in consent position.

It might be best to be better safe than sorry as drafts do change and nothing’s iron clad yet.

Right to be forgotten - GDPR is designed to confer more control to individuals over how their data is collected and used – and this means giving them some means of accessing and removing their data. They can do this when there’s no legitimate reason to process their information, when they withdraw consent for it to be used on the original terms, and when it’s been unlawfully processed.

Legal justification for collecting personal data - Practically speaking, this will require better housekeeping on the parts of marketers – and less collecting data for unnecessary, or frivolous reasons. You’ll also need to keep a clean database of the legal consent given for data collection and what communications your audience has agreed to receive or not receive.

Programmatic - GDPR could have a huge impact on programmatic advertising because it will require advertisers to obtain active consent from customers, which will involve them specifically opting in to, rather than out of, a deal. Read more about that here

Purchasing data lists - you can but new data lists will be much smaller and probably more expensive. Also, as a buyer you must make sure you know the data you’re buying is double-opted in. Make sure you buy from reputable sources and insist on receiving the provable audit trail, too.

So what’s a sensible GDPR checklist for marketers?

1. Determine if and how you will be affected by the GDPR – this is easy to assess. If you are sending emails to anybody in the EU you will affected by the GDPR. Your location doesn’t matter.

2. Make sure you understand the penalties. They are significant.

3. Plan according to the timeline. You have about 6-8 months left to get as much data double opted in as possible.

4. Establish which controls you will need in place such as an opt-in service. Chat with your email providers to understand what they have in place.

5. Get the specifics of your opt-in statement right. Talk about the catch-all, but remind them to get it approved by their legal team. Get the balance of the wording right. Be clear and unambiguous.

6. Check that your privacy and cookie consent policies are transparent in compliance. 7. Get explicit double opt-in consent from those with implied consent… in other words, from your customers and engaged data contacts. Email them and explain why you need them to double opt-in.

8. Get as much of your data as possible to opt-in to your future communications as soon as you have the above all set up. If you host events ask attendees to opt for the slides, have a pop-up on your website and run double opt-in campaigns.

9. Buy as many targeted data lists as you can now and get as many of them as possible to opt in to your communications.

If you haven’t already done so, tech marketers need to analyse their data processes, in particular:

• How you collect it (the double opt-in process)

• How data is recorded (the provable part)

• The storing system (safety and privacy paramount here)

• The retrieval process (you need to be able provide data if requested)

• The disclosure process (who you share details with – you need to be crystal clear on this and you share responsibility with other parties that hold the data)

• The erasing process (the right to be forgotten)

Also, hire someone to help with all this. 

That's it. Hope this helps. 

 

6 things B2B tech marketers can learn from Marmite

Yes, you read that right.

Late last week Marmite rolled out its latest PR campaign “The Marmite Gene project” driven by advertising agency Adam&Eve. The premise of the campaign is simple: Do we have a genetic predisposition to loving or hating Marmite? How can you know for sure if you’ve never tested it out? It’s a pretty simple and brilliantly fresh way of reviving a classic brand, and so I decided to take a look under the digital execution of the campaign to see what B2B can learn from consumer marketing.

1. It really does start with your website, sorry: Right from the beginning, taking a deliberate and well thought out approach to the CMS platform you use, its long term development strategy and the content formats it can support, its taxonomy and its room for growth will pay dividends in your marketing campaigns.  

My first thought when I clicked on the Marmite Gene project campaign page was, “Nice, but where does this sit in relation with the main site?” There's nothing worse than a campaign solution which lives in its own universe on a completely different CMS from the main marketing site either because the main marketing site doesn't have the capability to host creative work or the campaign page isn't actually expected to form a long standing identity with the brand beyond its first 5 minutes of attention and click through.

I know B2B companies hate a website redesign but your marketing and content campaigns will remain stuck in the dark ages without one. Partner with a solid development agency, have a smart in-house content strategist who understands the anatomy, science and structure of a website. I took a look at the backend source code of the Marmite Gene Project page and it's a fairly simply Wordpress site with a very neatly done CSS and Javascript coding - it's quite beautiful in its simplicity and it works. The site map alone is a thing of compact beauty.

2. Have a consistent message: The core message of the Marmite campaign is just try it. Give it a go. How do you really know you hate Marmite if you've never tried it? It's pure conversion marketing and I love it. 

3. Invest in scientific research: It gives your campaigns validity, it makes sense and it’s what’s likely to be picked up by the press. The great thing about the B2B world is that we are often trying to solve real business problems, so why not put in the research to back this up?  Where we often fall short unfortunately is the creative execution of the research question. With this campaign the whitepaper is introduced with a video of the researchers and the TV ad, clear copy stating the research question and a click through if you'd like to read more. For B2B this would easily be where your data capture will happen. And there's lots of data capture opportunities in the Marmite campaign. Here and here - in exchange for something tangible.

4. It can be ok to create for two audiences: The Marmite campaign is supported by a well researched genetics whitepaper carried out by genetics company DNA Fit, a research video showcasing the science behind the campaign, fun gene tests and a hilarious TV ad - these content pieces are all for different audiences.

This approach is highly debatable in B2B marketing. However, I feel personally that most purchasing decisions are driven by the pain needs of business decision makers and not necessarily those of the technical experts. Undoubtedly you need the type of content your technical audience should see to wow them with your expertise. But those experts often have to go back to the business and communicate your solution in easy speak to those who clear the budgets, and that audience requires a different language.

I genuinely believe your main messaging in B2B, the emotive communication should be to the business audience who doesn't necessarily understand the jargon of your product or industry - they just want to know if this solution will make their lives easier and more profitable. Leave the technical communication to fact sheets which your technical audience can easily find or be sent when communicating with your sales and product  teams.

5. Think the customer journey through to your commercial goal: the entire campaign is to encourage indifferent nay sayers to give Marmite a go. Clicking through to Take the Test takes you to the commercial goal - no one's actually going to spend £90 on the DNA test kit (not to shame anyone who does) but what you might be motivated to do is buy the Gene jar, which is just another jar of Marmite with your name on it for less than a fiver. Opt in for Marmite's marketing content and it's a double win. The B2B sales path is a lot more intricate than this but look for opportunities and conversion points to put your audience in touch with your sales team without having to go all the way to the Contact Us a page.

6. Always partner strategy with creative: Enough said. Great ideas are only worth their salt if they meet the goals and objectives and speak to the right audiences in the right way. 

The great ad man David Ogilvy once said, "My philosphy of advertising is rather simple. I believe in giving the consumer the facts about the product and making those facts fascinating.” I genuinely feel this is the key to unlocking B2B marketing.

 

Lack of inclusion in creative rooms and a refusal to listen to assertive black voices led to the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad

I have read with fascination the smug opinions blaming the creation of the now infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad on it being made in-house as opposed to a creative agency.

Fair or not, in-house agencies take heat for Pepsi gaffe

Pepsi showed the ultimate downside of in-house creative: A lack of perspective

The spectacular implosion of Pepsi’s in-house Kendall Jenner ad can mark a win for agencies

Opportunism knocks: Agencies use Pepsi debacle to blast in-house studios

None of these pieces name the elephant in the room which, in my experience as a minority woman of colour who has worked both agency and client-side, is the fact that agencies suffer from creative myopia brought on by a lack of diversity and inclusion.

I’ve worked in creative and editorial spaces for the last 15 years and I’m always very much an outsider in the room - black, female, Nigerian, Norwegian - name your unconscious bias, I represent it.

272 digital agencies contributed to a study by BIMA and SapientNitro with key findings showing that 18% of agencies have a workforce that is 100% white and 82% of agencies employ a minimum of 5% black or minority employees. What I often experience in creative agency meetings is an echo chamber of a self-perpetuating whiteness and a re-creation of a world which reflects the people in the room, rather than the actual real world out there as seen and experienced by people who aren’t represented in the room due to systematic barriers to entry.

Couple this situation with the covert silencing of the maybe one, two (if we’re lucky) black and brown voices in the creative room. Self-preservation is a driving reality for minorities operating in mostly white spaces, and once we spot that a creative space isn’t open to feedback, many minorities will take the smart road, and choose to continue being able to pay their bills rather than suffer the blowback of critically speaking out.

I’ve sat through audience persona sessions where black and brown people are either non-existent in the persona tool-kit or presented as consenting juniors in the corporate pecking order. On a personal level, in many agencies, I’ve experienced a barrage of intrusive questions about my hair and heritage, and been called out and policed for not being happy and smiling about this.

This in supposedly liberal, modern creative agencies. It’s hard then for me, in the face of this ignorance, to buy the argument that an agency would have spotted the racial nuances and stereotypes which made the Pepsi ad an epic fail.

Hand on heart - Would your agency with its current make-up and culture have seen what was wrong:

  1. When Kendall Jenner, a white woman took off her blonde wig and handed it to the only black woman in the ad who seemed to be an assistant
  2. Or pointed out the surprising lack of black women and other women of colour from a protest march (particularly when these women sit at the intersection of both misogyny and racism, and ergo have a lot to protest about)
  3. The Asian man stereotypically playing the cello
  4. Or called out the pointed and forced jovial colluding use of black men in upholding this ad’s silly fantasy
  5. The ludicrousness of putting a hijabi in a passive observer mode as a photographer rather than actively protesting in the front line
  6. How tone deaf it is to have one of the richest models on the planet peacefully get close enough to a policeman, when black activists have only recently been tear gassed and arrested in Black Lives Matter protests
  7. Randomly using trans people as props - happy props as well, when we know the dangers transgender people face and would face in a protest with armed police, but hey a Pepsi can fix that, right?

Hand on heart - Would your agency not more likely have said to the lone person of colour in the creative room who might have spoken up, and that’s a strong might, that they were just being sensitive and reading too much into things?

So this idea that creative agencies with their current makeup and culture would have stopped the ad in its tracks before the ink had dried on the storyboard, is very very hard for me to swallow.

Until creative agencies actively support inclusion, not just paying it lip service, do the hard work to create a culture where employees of colour feel comfortable to be who they are without negative repercussions, place a value and appreciation to the difference they do bring to the table in experience and awareness and not reject this difference nor seek to police it, work like this and this will continue to be made - in-house or agency side.

 

This post was initially published on my LinkedIn page.

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5 ways to refresh your B2B brand

 It's Christmas and a new year is just round the corner, so you and your business might be looking to shake things up in 2017. You've got the cash to spend, and you want to do so wisely. Here's how: 

Positioning

Go through a thorough positioning exercise. Without knowing what your brand is, what it stands for, who you are targeting and why you are different from your competitors, none of your content marketing or brand identity efforts will actually have any impact. Get hold of good B2B content strategist who can breathe some new life into your positioning and messaging. Nail the messaging and everything else will flow. Ideally, involve your lead content editor in this process. Never underestimate the words.

Visual refresh

Now you can begin to take a look at your visual marketing collaterel. This process will involve your lead content strategist, lead senior designer and lead content editor - yes the person responsible for the words. They'll need to understand the visual vision in order to craft the right words to describe your brand identity. 

Website update

With the visual refresh done, you can begin looking at your website. Do take a look at my Content inventory for Drake fans for some initial ways of structuring this process. A huge team is needed to achieve this: strategist, copywriter, designer, developer, content analyst and a project manager to keep it all on track. 

Content plan

Great you have a new website, you love its look and feel, you're happy with how it works, and the copy reads great. What about content? A website is a ravenous never dying oven which needs to be kept warm and its kindling is a content plan that covers everything from lead gen, to SEO to reputation nurturing. Your content strategist and content editor should be able to help with this, and you might want to pull in an ops team to help with the analytics.

Content operations

Tracking and measuring content is still a gnarly science which means it's an exciting time to be a marketer. If you're using platforms like Marketo and Pardot that's a step in the right direction. A content analyst can help define how to set these platforms up on your website and what you can achieve. They can also recommend ways to optimise your website and what analytics can be run in the background. 

That's it - Merry Christmas everyone. Don't worry about work for now. It will all be waiting for us when we get back to work in the new year. Focus on what matters - friends, family and yourself.