Partner Benchmarking Tool: maximising marketing output for the MPN

  • The Partner Benchmarking Tool helps you to audit digital channels
  • Get actionable advice on how to improve your marketing
  • Test your channels for free today

Do you want to audit your digital channels and receive actionable advice on how to improve them? The Partner Benchmarking Tool does exactly that. The free tool helps you to stay competitive and ahead of the curve by highlighting your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to track your marketing progress.

What is the Partner Benchmarking Tool?

The Partner Benchmarking Tool is a free tool that lets you quickly test, score and improve your online marketing channels. The tool was designed to evaluate the three core components of your digital presence:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social media

The tool analyses your biggest strengths and weaknesses to give you a snapshot of your current overall performance. It’ll then generate useful tips and advice on how you can create stronger content and improve your marketing performance overall.

Where has it been used?

Notably, the Partner Benchmarking Tool was used in the production of our independent report – Digital Marketing Excellence Top 50 2019/20. Here, we used the tool to compare the very best digital marketing efforts from high-profile partners across the Microsoft Partner Network.

In the four years since the report was first published, it’s become a staple of the industry – delivering crucial knowledge that helps companies improve their own inbound marketing strategies. This proven success rate demonstrates how you can leverage the power of the tool for your own business and find out how you can surge past your competitors.

How does it work?

Using the tool is super easy. All you need to do is enter your website URL to get started. You can optionally add your blog RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn details to gain a more comprehensive score.

microsoft partner benchmarking tool

From there, the Partner Benchmarking Tool will get to work. Using sophisticated algorithms, the tool runs over 40 individual tests across all the data that you provide. In just a few minutes, the tool produces an easy to read scorecard – with a rating between 1-100 for each metric.

 

microsoft partner benchmarking tool

The Partner Benchmarking Tool makes it simple to understand the performance of your channels. Alongside a clear scoring system, you’ll also have access to embedded tutorial videos and blogs – which provide tailored guidance and advice on boosting your future results.

Become a better marketer through benchmarking

The Partner Benchmarking Tool will help you to become a better marketer. Not only does it shine a light on your current marketing scores – it teaches new skills and helps you to keep up to date with the latest marketing trends.

You can also create a free account on the platform to save your scores and track your progress over time. This means you can compare your old website with your new one – or assess the impact of putting more resources behind your social media output. These kinds of insights are vital as an effective marketer.

The Partner Benchmarking Tool works to help you better understand all of your marketing decisions.

Benefits to the Microsoft partner community

Back when inbound marketing was still a new concept, Microsoft partners found it fairly easy to reach out and make an impact on new audiences with valuable, interesting content. These days, as more partners are engaging in sophisticated digital marketing practices – it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out amongst the competition.

Looking ahead to next year, we think that partners will be capitalising on data, developing IP, and providing integrated cloud and infrastructure offerings that utilise the full capabilities of the cloud. Keeping your finger on the pulse of these services while remaining customer-obsessed will keep your business ahead of the pack and at the forefront of digital transformation.

Gavriella Schuster, Corporate VP at Microsoft

These insights demonstrate that it’s now more necessary than ever before to strategically plan your marketing output and stay ahead of marketing trends. The Partner Benchmarking Tool makes it easy to do this, by providing clear insights, valuable tips for improvement and direct comparisons with other partners in your field.

Partner Benchmarking Tool: endorsed by Microsoft

Here at Fifty Five and Five, we are beyond proud that our Partner Benchmarking Tool is verified and endorsed by Microsoft as the primary method to help partners measure, understand and improve their digital marketing.

In using a single Microsoft-backed tool to conduct the ranking, we are confident that the results are more accurate, reliable and informative than ever before. If you’re keen to put it to the test and see how your marketing efforts measure up, head on over to the Partner Benchmarking Tool now to get your free test and score.


Should I outsource my marketing?

  • What marketing activity can be outsourced?
  • Know when to outsource marketing to external agencies
  • Four benefits of outsourced marketing

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Whether you’re a large enterprise, a startup or a small business, having an established and effective marketing process is pivotal to your growth and success. Of course, there are many elements to marketing – from SEO to lead generation to social media and content creation – which can be difficult to juggle, particularly if your team is small. For this reason, many organisations look to outsource their marketing to external agencies.

What is outsourced marketing?

Outsourced marketing is exactly as it sounds: it is the process of handing your marketing activity over to a third-party. Outsourced marketing can be used in conjunction with your in-house marketing efforts, or it can completely replace the need for an in-house marketing team.

Depending on the services provided by the company that you outsource to, you can elect to outsource some or all your marketing activity. This may include:

  • Content strategy
  • Marketing strategy
  • Social media marketing
  • Website design and development
  • Content creation
  • Email marketing
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Graphic design and branding
  • Google Ads and Pay Per Click

A good marketing agency will generally compile a strategy before they start any marketing activity on your behalf. They will work to understand your business goals and assess your current marketing activity, before creating a strategy that will help you meet said goals.

Outsourced marketing agencies will then implement the planned activity and measure and report on the results – adapting the strategy as and when needed.

Who is outsourced marketing for?

Outsourced marketing is useful for any business that needs help in shaping and/or executing strategic marketing tactics that help them connect with their target audience in a meaningful way. This process takes time, skill and experience – which may well be lacking in your company, particularly if you’re new. In this case, outsourcing to marketing experts could be exactly what your business needs.

Outsourcing could also be beneficial for your business if:

  • You’re planning for growth

Outsourced marketing is super useful for any businesses looking to grow, because it offers more flexibility and scalability than is sometimes possible with an internal marketing team.

  • You’re lacking the marketing expertise

Many companies don’t have the data-driven expertise in-house that is needed for effective marketing. If your business doesn’t have internal staff with the time or experience to manage your marketing efforts, then outsourcing could be a cost-effective alternative to recruiting.

  • You want measurable ROI

When marketing is run on an ad-hoc basis, it can be hard to keep track of spend and return on investment (ROI). Outsourcing makes it much easier to manage costs and the return on your marketing investment.

  • You need help with specific aspects of marketing

Outsourcing doesn’t need to be all or nothing. You may already have some internal resources but believe that there are other elements – such as design – that it would be more effective to outsource.

  • You’re not getting the results

Perhaps you’re not getting the results you want from your current marketing campaigns? With a marketing agency, you’ll get a full team of marketing professionals at your disposal – which means you’ll have access to a broader skillset. Not only will this give you a fresh perspective, it’ll also provide you with a clear strategy that should get the desired results. If you’re already losing ground with your current marketing efforts, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying out an agency.

Four key benefits of outsourced marketing

Alongside addressing the various pain points listed above, outsourced marketing brings a multitude of additional business benefits.

Let’s look at some of them now:

1. Save time and resources

When deadlines are tight or workloads are full, it can be tempting to neglect or rush your marketing efforts. And, if you’re falling behind on deadlines, you won’t have time to stay ahead of the curve – which is vital because marketing is always changing, and the most successful marketing campaigns are those that stay ahead of major trends.

What’s more, if you’re launching a brand new marketing strategy, it can take a long time for your entire team to be comfortable and familiar with processes and expectations. Time spent training staff could lead to missed opportunities in securing sales or leads.

Through outsourcing your marketing, your business can re-allocate internal resources where they are most needed and effective, whilst leaving your agency to take care of your marketing needs. A marketing agency will do all the leg work and ensure that you are up-to-date with the best strategies of the moment.

2. Gain a fresh perspective

If the same team of people have been doing the same things the same way for some time, it can be hard to make a change. Whilst new hires regularly bring fresh perspectives with them, it can be all too easy for them to adopt the habits or mindsets of the existing team.

By outsourcing your marketing, you will avoid these issues entirely. Your marketing agency will be unaffected by stagnant methods, office politics or bad habits. Your marketing agency will see things differently, so that your company can do things differently.

3. Access latest technology

A common issue amongst marketing departments is a lack of resources – particularly with the latest technology. Alternatively, your marketing team may be working with a combination of incompatible marketing technology tools – which comes with its own set of problems.

Not only is it expensive to invest in new technology for your employees, it’s also a minefield. With so many options to choose from, it’s difficult to know which would be the most effective for your specific needs. Having a specialised marketing partner means you can automatically benefit from their tools and guidance.

4. Guaranteed return on investment

Whatever marketing strategy you go with, the ROI needs to be worthwhile and measurable. Even the most competent internal team can lead to an ROI that doesn’t quite justify the hours spent.

In hiring a marketing agency, however, you can rest-assured that you’re investing your funds properly. Marketing agencies tend to define success with ROI and are often held to very high standards when it comes to proving that they are delivering. As the cost of outsourced marketing is largely linked to results, projects won‘t go unfinished if an employee is absent.

Working with an outsourced marketing agency will also provide your business with measurable results that can be tracked through ongoing campaigns. This level of insight is vital in continuing to improve your marketing efforts.

Choose Fifty Five and Five for your outsourced marketing needs

At Fifty Five and Five, we know that it takes a lot of work to plan and execute a successful marketing campaign. We also know that businesses thrive and grow by focusing on what they do best.

If your business can deliver, you will win customer loyalty – which is a key driver in profitability. As digital transformation continues to spread across all industries, it’s becoming easier than ever to measure results and see the positive impact of outsourced services that are carried out efficiently and cost-effectively.

In this competitive climate, outsourced marketing provides businesses with the opportunity to tap into a variety of marketing tools, talent and strategies when internal resources are limited.

As a leading B2B technology marketing agency, the team here at Fifty Five and Five offer the full range of digital and traditional marketing services. As specialists in the field, we deliver services that seamlessly blend our unbeatable marketing experience with our expert knowledge.

From building your website to driving leads or helping you reach new audiences, we know exactly what it takes to help you communicate more effectively, strategise, plan and launch hugely successful marketing campaigns.

To find out more about the awesome stuff we do at Fifty Five and Five, or to see some of the recent work we’ve done for our clients, check out our case studies here.


content marketing personalisation

The 3 steps to a killer content marketing personalisation strategy

  • Personalised marketing will dominate in 2020
  • Learn how to create the right strategy for your business

Content is key, king, and queen

Do you have a content marketing personalisation strategy? Sending the right message to the right person at the right time would have been impossible only a couple of years ago. The rise of big data and better data analysis, however, has made it possible to deliver personalised ads, product offerings and correspondence to a specific audience at the appropriate time. And this is also true for the content they are shown as they encounter your brand.

Our blog this week will show you why a content marketing personalisation strategy is more important than ever and the steps to implement one.

The new normal

Content marketing has risen dramatically over the last few years. Twenty, thirty years ago traditional marketing consisted of big brands controlling what we received through the traditional avenues of TV and print media. The internet and technology has disrupted this old model and made it possible for consumers to take more agency over what they want to see and hear. With the array of choice at our disposal and technology like adblockers, marketers have had to find new ways of getting their message to their target audience. One of the answers has been the rise of content marketing. In theory, this kind of marketing is perfect: marketers get their message to customers who want to hear it.

In reality, this rise has led to an awful lot of content marketing. Some good, and some not so good. All in all, there is a lot of noise out there. Getting your message to the audience who wants to hear it can be difficult. When it comes to content marketing, anyone and everyone can do it. Today it’s easier than ever to create a video, publish a blog, build a website, create a social media profile, etc.

Want our best tips on how to improve your content marketing?
Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

To rise above the noise, brands must:

  • Offer value with their marketing
  • Target the right audience
  • Deliver their message at the right time

This is where personalised content comes in.

Personalisation is a natural part of content marketing

Content marketing is more successful at reaching your customers than traditional advertising because it’s targeted at them specifically without trying to explicitly sell them anything. Content marketing is cut and sewn to their size, providing them value rather than simply trying to get them to buy something. It’s a way of increasing your audience and, at the same time, increasing their trust in your brand.

The idea then of personalisation in content marketing shouldn’t be much of a jump in concept. It centres around using the data you collect from visitors to your website, blog, and social media platforms to provide customised content for them. For example, you could have it planned so that when a CIO lands on your homepage they get directed to an eBook about implementing a new piece of IT to boost Office 365 adoption. Whereas if a HR professional arrives at the same homepage they are shown a popup for a blog post about the benefits of automation.

It could mean a specific call to action for a specific audience or even a customized landing page based on demographics or location. We can target the right audience successfully through the data we collect and analyse all with the help of automation technology. When we talk about content marketing personalisation, we’re going way beyond including first names in a marketing email.

The importance of content marketing personalisation

Personalised marketing is a hot marketing trend for lots of reasons.

  • Improves the customer experience
  • Provides consistency across your CX channels
  • Helps keep regular customers and attract new leads
  • Boosts the bottom line

How to create the right strategy for your business

You can include personalisation across your marketing channels on your:

  • Social media posts
  • Web copy
  • Webinars
  • Automated emails
  • Newsletters
  • Direct mail

Get on the right content marketing personalisation path

1. Create a vision

What is it you want to achieve? More leads, greater brand loyalty? The first step is to think about what you want to achieve, and then what message to put across to achieve it. How will this change the message you send out, and what audience are you targeting? Answering these questions takes time but is worth it.

2. Get busy collecting information

So, you have a vision and the means to achieve it. Now it’s time to fill the coffers with precious data. There are plenty of ways to gather information on your preferred audience. These include:

  • Surveys
  • Questionnaires
  • Social media data harvesting
  • Focus groups
  • Remarketing/internet cookies

Audience personas

This is part of understanding your target audience, using personas is a great way of getting into the specifics of what business problems your customers and potential customers have and how you can offer value to them by delivering them content that will help solve their issue.

Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona? Download here.

SEO is still key

A vital part of any marketing strategy, your SEO reach and knowing the right keywords to optimise will attract the users you want to target – having a big impact on lead generation. Look at your past keyword research and analyse the data on what works. This will help you create the right content that provides the right value.

3. Reap what you sow

You’ve gathered a lot of data and information about your audience. Now it’s time to harvest the data and put your personalisation strategy into practice to achieve your vision.

Create the right content

Make your content compelling, easy to read and drenched in value. Once you know your audience this becomes a much easier task. Let the data you have collected and your audience’s needs inspire the content you produce.

Put content in the right format

Some of us prefer to read articles while others prefer to watch a video. Some want their information in an infographic, so they get a big wallop of data all in one go. Some prefer a ‘how to’ blog post rather than a ‘best practices guide’ eBook. There is plenty of data out there already about how different generations consume data. As part of your research and data collection you can understand more specifically how your target audience like to take their content.

By fitting your content into the right format based on what your audience wants you will notice an uptick in readership, traffic, leads and sales. And you can feel good about all this hard work.

Follow these three steps to create the perfect content marketing personalisation strategy. For other great tips on how to market your IT, explore our site or contact us today.


Uncovered: The link between social selling and ROI

Once upon a time, digital marketing was still a fledgling field – and many were sceptical of the effects it can have and the leads it can produce. Today, however, that has changed – and the majority of modern businesses accept the benefits that a fully inbound approach to marketing, including social selling, can provide. In short – most businesses know that social media marketing works.

Despite this, however, the details of exactly how it works remain unclear to many businesses. Companies struggle to predict the size of leads and the return on investment that a social campaign will generate.

  • How much ROI can a social campaign be expected to produce?
  • What types of social media are most effective?
  • Which platforms provide the highest ROI.

In our latest Insights report, ‘Social Selling and Return on Investment’, we researched and quantified these precise links, using research from the social strategies of over 90 Microsoft Partner Companies. In fact, this research is the first of its kind to measure social selling outcomes specifically within B2B Microsoft Partner Businesses.

What did we measure – and how?

The main objective of our study was to discover the financial link between social selling and ROI. The report conclusively and definitively found that this correlation exists. But as well as this, we looked into a range of other relationships and correlations that allowed us to uncover unprecedented insights into the effect of contemporary social selling strategies.

Using data from over 90 Microsoft Partner Companies, we compared metrics on:

  • Frequency of social posts
  • The platform they were posted on
  • The success of different content types
  • Financial investment in social selling

To unlock our exclusive insights, each of these variables were compared against the average number of leads that Partner businesses achieved.

Our investigation determines the proportion of marketing and social budgets that partners spent in order to achieve a specific quantity of monthly leads. With this information, contemporary digital marketing departments are armed with an exclusive range of insights that will allow them to plan and execute an effective digital marketing campaign.

What we discovered

The main objective of our research was to find a correlation between the amount of money that companies invested into their social campaigns, and the subsequent leads they generated. Without giving away the full findings, here’s a brief look at some of what we discovered.

  • Companies that used social media more frequently achieved the largest size of deals
  • Videos and animations were most often posted by companies with the highest quantity of leads.
  • There was little to no difference in size and amount of leads generated between companies with minimal social presence and those with none whatsoever.

As well as these statistics, the report also features more detailed, quantified insights into the following questions

  • The precise dollar value that high social scorers achieve on average
  • The average number and size of leads generated by companies who posted weekly, monthly, and less than monthly
  • Which types of social content are most effective
  • Which platforms generated most leads
  • The correlation between social selling budget and quantity of leads generated

Armed with this information, marketers have a wealth of valuable information that will allow them to identify every element of an effective social selling campaign.

Insights from the experts

As well as these exclusive insights, the report also features exclusive insights from expert Microsoft Partner marketers right across the ecosystem. In one of these examples, David Lavenda from harmon.ie perfectly encapsulates the gap in research that this report fills:

There’s a gap between the buying and selling cycle. So, while most companies use social media, not everybody sees it as a direct sales tool of its own merit.

-David Lavenda
harmon.ie

As well as this, we discuss a range of independent insights into the types of marketing strategies that work for individual businesses – and how they’ve found success.

For us, it’s about visibility. It’s not necessarily about direct sales, but rather that social selling acts as an influencer.

-Matthias Seidel
Rencore

These practical insights and opinions provide real-world proof to the research, correlations, and statistics that this report uncovers.

Get the report

With ‘Social Selling and Return on Investment’, Microsoft Partner marketers will have access to the most specific and exclusive range of insights into the success of their marketing strategies available.

If you want to find out more, or buy a copy of the report for yourself today, head on over to the Insights Website today. Alternatively, get in touch with the Insights team today to find out more.


Your top 3 social selling best practices

  • How to do social selling successfully
  • Tips on how to maximise your social media presence and conversions

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Social media has evolved to become a key channel for communications in the enterprise. There are now 3.4 billion active social media users – 3.2 billion of which are socially active on mobile, too.

Thanks to these rather staggering numbers, social selling holds huge potential for businesses looking to grow. A quick definition, for those who aren’t familiar with the term:

Social selling is when marketers use social media to interact directly with existing and potential customers, providing value by answering questions and offering thoughtful content to aid individuals and/or businesses through the buying journey.

 – Hubspot

From in-built analytics tools in Twitter and LinkedIn to an array of third-party tools, there are increasingly more ways to track results and measure the value of social selling. But while the tools for internal analysis are there, identifying which metrics are the most important and relevant to your business remains the real challenge.

You may have a large Twitter following, and see good engagement on posts, but is this translating into website traffic or sales enquiries? And should you even expect as much from a platform like Twitter? It’s nuances like these that make it difficult to identify the return on investment of social selling. And that’s what our upcoming insights paper looks to uncover.

Visit our Insights page to get our social selling report

In this post, we provide three social selling best practices you can follow to net real return on investment with social media.

3 social selling best practices

Every year Fifty Five and Five attend Microsoft Inspire to help Microsoft partners improve their marketing efforts. While at the event in 2018, we interviewed some of our clients and other Microsoft partners to better understand the importance of social selling and how each partner approaches it in their organization.

From that, we've been able to collate some best practice advice and techniques when it comes to social selling, so that you can follow and look to implement in your own marketing now and in the future.

1. Know your audience. Know your content. Make a plan

Like all facets of marketing, the best results come from planning your approach. When it comes to social selling, best practice is adapting your company message, brand image, and content distribution to the world of social media.

When it comes to the content you publish on social media, brevity is key. Among the crowds of individuals on social media platforms, everyone is fighting for attention. As people have less and less time to read content and engage with it, those who can capture people’s attention—be it through written words, video, images, animation, etc.—stand the best chance.

Alongside the content itself is the way you broadcast it. We spoke to Kristin Treat, Head of Corporate Communications at Nintex, about the company’s content approach on social media. She explained how they set out an editorial calendar, the same way they do for blog content, for the content they’ll publish on social media channels. This calendar is set for each quarter of the fiscal year, divided out week-by-week. To break it down:

  • Monday: left intentionally open, when news breaks
  • Tuesday: product focus – new tech, new capabilities, features, functions
  • Wednesday: thought leadership, position ourselves as a leader in process automation
  • Thursday: customer-focus, highlight the success companies are having with our tech
  • Friday: just launched, Q&A series. Interview internally, in the industry, partners, customers. People like that easily-digestible content.

This kind of structure is vital to broadcasting content routinely and to a high standard on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Although Kristin notes not keeping it so rigid that you can’t adapt to things like topical news stories or new product releases.

We also asked Kristin how they measure marketing success at Nintex: 

We measure everything! We have quarterly targets for unique page views of our blog and our website, and we’ve got a set number of leads we need to meet on a quarterly basis on our social channels. And when we run paid campaigns they obviously have their own metrics we track.

2. Lead with LinkedIn

Social platforms and their audiences are always changing. Twitter was the first social platform to be adopted by businesses, but LinkedIn has made considerable ground in recent years. Twitter remains the perfect platform for publicising company events, webinars, and the more personable side of your business and its employees. LinkedIn, however, was designed with enterprise in mind, which makes it a much more effective platform for starting conversations with potential buyers.

We spoke with Sarah Pavlik, Vice President of Marketing at pavliks.com, on the differences between LinkedIn and Twitter in terms of social selling success:

We get a lot more valuable engagement out of LinkedIn. We base that on a variety of different metrics. We’ve found that unbranded content performs better than branded – as soon as we put ‘pavliks.com’ in the visuals, it doesn’t perform as well as standard content information. I think when people see a brand’s on content it feels advertising, rather than educational, which is what we’re aiming for.

On Twitter, we deem success as whenever people will share information to their own followers. That’s showing they think it’s interesting and are helping us boost our own reach. We track our followers, but they can be fickle. It’s something we keep aware of, but we know that it will fluctuate. That’s fine because we know that conversions into actual website traffic is more important.

We also asked Matthias Seidel, Head of Marketing at Rencore, on his thoughts about paid advertising on LinkedIn:

I would recommend directing paid marketing campaigns towards LinkedIn, particularly with lead-generation forms. We used auto-generation lead forms through LinkedIn so if someone sees our content and wants to investigate, the form is already filled out with their information. This works 100% better than any campaign we’ve tried.

3. Integrate your social selling

Your blog, website, or social media channels… which is the most effective lead generation tool? Rather than picking a favourite, you use all three in combination with each other. Your blog is a great tool for introducing customers to your company, its offerings, and value to them. And your social channels are the best tool for sending your blog content out to as wide and dedicated an audience as possible. If you find success in these two areas, you’ll see an increase in site traffic, which is the best place to convert leads into customers.

Of course, this is the ideal. The reality is more convoluted.

We spoke to David Lavenda, Vice President of Products and Marketing at harmon.ie, on the difficulties of the end-to-end buying process:

There are several avenues along the modern-day buying cycle. We’re taught to always be selling, but people aren’t always buying – they’re investigating. They’re finding out more so when they get to the buying process, they’re already poised to make a decision.

So, the question becomes: how can you adapt your social techniques to match this? Thought leadership can provide knowledge and expertise, rather than constantly pushing the sale. And this builds up both the individual’s personality and the greater brand.


For more on social selling best practices, and to see the numbers behind social selling’s relation to return on investment, be sure to grab your copy of our social selling Insights report!
social selling report

B2B conversational selling

Understand the value of B2B conversational selling and build a B2B chatbot

  • Is face-to-face conversational selling a dead practice?
  • Conversational selling in the modern marketing world
  • How to use chatbots in conversational selling
  • Build a B2B chatbot

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“Whatever happened to real, face-to-face conversation?” This might be a phrase reserved for older generations that fear the technological revolution will leave the children of the future incapable of face-to-face conversation. Indeed, there is plenty of content (yet little proven evidence) that reinforces this dystopian idea.

While we shouldn’t forget the importance of ‘real’, face-to-face conversation, most of us will agree that technology improves our conversational skills, rather than limits them.

Conversational selling, for example, is the process of retaining your customers and attracting new ones through one-to-one conversations. It’s therefore typically been performed face-to-face, but thanks to technology, conversational selling no longer requires physically meeting with someone. The internet and mobile devices allow us to have real-time conversations with potential leads from practically anywhere in the world.

This isn’t to say that B2B companies should neglect physical meetings with leads or potential clients when possible, as this is still arguably the most effective form of driving engagement. No matter how closely online communication can mimic real conversation, it will never fully replicate it.

So, how can technology enable and enhance conversational selling for B2B companies today?

Conversational selling in the modern marketing world

Cold calling has been a go-to method for conversational selling. But when only 28% of people who are cold-called engage in conversations and just 1% of calls ultimately convert into leads (and even less for attaining actual customers), we’re not sure if there’s really much ‘conversation’ going on.

Currently, email, arranged calls and physical meetings are the main sources of conversational selling. But these methods are also far from ideal. For online marketing, open rates hover around the 18% range, while click-through rates sit on average at just 3.16%. Face-to-face meetings still reign supreme—95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships while the conversion rate for in-person meetings is 40%. Of course, arranging physical meetings takes up considerably more time, effort and money than sending an email or making a call, meaning you simply can’t arrange as many as you might like.

On landing pages, resources like case studies, eBooks, and whitepapers are often locked behind lead capture forms. Modern lead capture forms have, on average, 11 mandatory form fields. If that seems like too many to you, you’re not alone - the average landing page form conversion rate is just 2.35%, leading 84% of businesses to think their lead generation strategies are inefficient. These inbound leads are left to wait until a sales team member responds to them, which can take hours, days, weeks or potentially forever if they’re waiting on a response to a query that never gets solved.

Customers want information provided to them in a way that feels natural. They don’t want to feel obliged to hand over personal information or wait around for an email response to get that information. That's why real-time online conversation, having enveloped the consumer world, is taking hold of the enterprise. Instant messaging platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack are revolutionising office communications, while live chat services make it much easier to answer customer support queries. And now, chatbots are facilitating a brand-new interface for conversational selling.

Instant messaging and chatbots

As the name implies, instant messaging platforms better facilitate real-time conversation,  making it far more conversational than a platform like email. The first instant messaging platforms were AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) in 1997 and MSN Messenger in 1999. But it has now evolved to a point where any number of people can communicate in real time from anywhere in the world on free platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s understandable that instant messaging has become so popular; online conversations have a more natural flow, enabling quicker information sharing and more personable interactions.

Chatbot technology combines the essence of instant messaging with artificial intelligence. Chatbots use natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language generation (NLG), which, combined, allow chatbots to derive the meaning and intent of the written text. There is already a huge range of chatbots, from a companion for insomnia sufferers (created by a mattress company, no less) to a medical diagnoses practitioner. In the marketing sphere, chatbots are also booming, and for good reason. Chatbots can:

  • Put your company on the biggest platforms 

The top four messaging apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Viber) have surpassed the top four social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) for global monthly active users. 65% of smartphone users don’t download any new apps in a month, but the apps they do download and keep are the ‘core’ apps like Facebook, Messenger and Twitter. So, a chatbot on Messenger or LinkedIn will give you access to as wide an audience as possible.

  • Improve the customer experience

Whether it’s providing information, content or support, chatbots put the customer first. In any and all these situations, chatbots provide real-time assistance the same way a salesperson would in a physical store, except chatbots can serve hundreds of customers at once, 24 hours a day! Chatbots can be programmed to give automated answers to repetitive questions immediately, and forward more specific questions on to real employees when actions that require human intervention must be taken. This transition creates a seamless experience for the customer – and one they’re much more likely to remember.

  • Improve lead generation

Chatbots can also initiate the conversation, rather than just answering customer queries. With cookies, consumer information is linked to almost every web visit and transaction. Chatbots can use this information to personalise their conversations with customers, assisting them along the buying journey in a conversational manner. This adds up to create more engaging conversations, improving your company’s brand image and overall lead generation.

Build a B2B chatbot

In 2016, Facebook introduced chatbots to Messenger, opening the doors for developers around the world to create their own bots within the app. In the six months following their announcement, more than 30,000 bots were created. Another tech giant, Microsoft, has some of the best NLP technology around and allows developers to leverage that technology through the Microsoft Bot Framework.

In 2018, you don’t need to be a developer to build a chatbot. You can do so without any coding proficiency and in as little as 10 minutes. Companies like ManyChat make it easy to build a chatbot to function on Facebook Messenger. They have their own helpful how-to guide, but let’s break down how a small B2B business owner might use a Messenger bot.

1.   Identify the purpose

Arguably the most important step—you need to decide what you’re going to use your chatbot for. There’s no point jumping on the chatbot bandwagon for the sake of it—you need to know what it’s going to provide visitors to your Facebook company page. This could be:

  • Help and advice on technical topics
  • Links to your website pages (blog/services/solutions)
  • Additional content for further reading/learning
  • Information on the company – its history, upcoming events, webinars, etc.
  • E-commerce if your company sells product copies (or product demos)

It could be a combination of all of these—your chatbot can be as simple or as complex as you design it to be. Remember, though, that this is for Facebook users. As such, they may have different wants and needs to regular visitors to your website.

2.   Write your welcome message

Once you’ve identified your chatbot’s purpose, the first step is to create your welcome message. This is the first thing that website visitors will ‘hear’ from your chatbot when they visit your Facebook business page. You might use your welcoming message to try and direct traffic to your main website, your blog or services page. Just make sure it feels like a conversation… don’t simply list what your company does. Suggest questions they can ask the bot to try and elicit a response and get the conversation started.

ManyChat lets you add buttons the same way you would add calls to action to the end of your blog, prompting the user to take further action. You can also add media like images, videos and audio to your welcoming message in the hopes of boosting interest and engagement.

3.   Automate your replies

Finally, you’ll want to create set responses that trigger when certain phrases (or keywords) are typed in. If you’re a company that serves multiple industries, you might want to suggest blog content around ‘Construction’ or ‘IT’ when these phrases are mentioned, for example.

Automated replies are essential (and highly effective) in getting a conversation going between you and the customer. The more you add, the more you can craft a realistic conversation.

Modern conversational selling with meaning

Like many other elements in the marketing and business spheres, conversational selling is changing to fit in with the modern world. Depending on your platform, your chatbots can use the latest AI technologies to push the boundaries of what’s possible for conversational selling. If you don’t have the developer firepower, you might just want to build a simple chatbot that sits on your company website or social media page to give visitors a warm welcome and suggest ways to interact with your business.

Those that are able to embrace chatbots and conversational selling can put their business at an advantage today and prepare themselves for the future.

Fifty Five and Five offer a full suite of marketing services for B2B technology companies. Whether you need a chatbot to engage customers or some compelling content to drive traffic to your site, we can help. View our full range of services and get in touch with us to find out more.