How to Get Started in B2B Marketing

How to Get Started in B2B Marketing
August 8, 2018
Michael Burns, founder of the PR and marketing firm Burns360, talks with us about B2B marketing strategies. Topics include what analyses to start with, why the ‘media relations support’ part of PR is important, and how earned, owned, and paid media are merging. Tune in to hear his insights.
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Michael S I’m Michael Stevens.
Renato I’m Renato Beninatto.
Michael S And today on Globally Speaking, we have a guest that is near and dear to our hearts.
Renato Michael has been working with us for almost two years on this podcast. He is one of the people who had the idea of putting a podcast together as being one of the new means of communication, and I can’t say that it was a bad idea. What do you think, Michael?
Michael S I think it was one of Mike’s better ideas, and that’s to say a lot, because he has a number of very, very good ideas. His expertise comes primarily from the PR industry, he has experience in marketing, and today we’re going to talk about both of those items as they relate to the localization industry.
Renato So, why don’t we let Michael introduce himself?
Michael B My name is Michael Burns. I’m the President of Burns360. We are a marketing and PR firm that specializes in B2B companies, and the reason why I’m really here is because about 15 years ago or so, I got involved in the language industry, in working for an LSP semi by chance, and ever since then I fell in love with it and I’ve stayed in the industry for 15 years or so. I don’t know how many agencies are actually in this space, but I’m one of them, so that’s why I’m here today.
Michael S And Michael, you have a background in language, is that correct?
Michael B Yes, I do. It’s interesting because you always ask on this segment, “How did you find yourself in the localization business?” And 100% of the answers are always “By chance; you know, I was doing something else and then I fell into it.”

Mine is sort of half way between that. I actually wanted to be a linguist when I was in school. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in linguistics, and I love language and always loved language. And it wasn’t until I got my degrees that I didn’t realize I couldn’t get a job in it at that time. I didn’t know what to do with it; I didn’t know where I was going.

So, then I went back and got an MBA in marketing, and so I sort of fell into the localization industry, but part of it was also by design because of my background in language.
Renato I’ve been part of that journey with you for a period of your experience, and one of the things that I think was an interesting transformation for you was that you got to understand in this process the difference between the language part of the business and the business part of the business, and that how your marketing skills are important. And, for all the LSPs that are listening to us, how important it is to understand what you need to communicate as the business part, not so much the language part. So, how does that play from a marketing perspective?
Michael B Well, that is the $64,000 question, Renato, because when I first got in, I thought, “Wow, I have such an advantage over all these other firms because I understand language.” And it took me about a year and a half before I realized my knowledge of language is almost a liability, because I find language just fascinating and I can’t get enough of it, and I didn’t understand that outside of that, people really didn’t understand language very well.

And it wasn’t until I started switching from focusing conversation on languages, on language, per se, to business, that things started getting traction. That was a major turning point for me in my career in the language segment.
Michael S Mike, when you say business, what part of the business?
Michael B What I find is that typically in language, when you’re writing about language or reporting about it, it’s one of two things: they either report some extraordinary thing where somebody mistranslated something and someone died and someone’s sued for $50 million, or something hyper cutesy, like someone wanted to say “happy holidays” and instead they said something like “I want to kill your mother,” or whatever it was, in the language.

There was no good recognition that language has a role in business. I didn’t hear anything about the amount of money that’s lost by new products not making it to the market because their language isn’t ready, or the cost of a brand, what the ROI is with an agile approach. There was no legitimate business coverage about language.

And my argument is, yeah, it’s terrible to have a $50 million lawsuit, but millions and probably even billions of dollars people are losing by not understanding how to incorporate language into their thinking. And I think people talk about it, but they really don’t act on it as a rule, Michael. That’s what I think.
Renato It’s interesting that you’re making that comment, Michael, because we recently published a Nimdzi study that estimated that retail companies in the United States are losing $63 billion a year in sales just by not providing service in-language to shoppers, and this is retail in stores. It’s an amazing opportunity. And today with video remote interpreting and remote technologies, you can have an interpreter of any language on demand, anywhere you go. And these are the things that you, over these 15 years that you’ve been in this space, you have identified the missed opportunities and the development in technology. How do you help a company in Croatia or a company in Brazil to promote their services in this space? How can marketing help companies sell more?
Michael B I’m a specialist in the B2B space, and what’s happening now is that in the B2B space, marketing is actually replacing sales as the primary driver of revenue; and that’s probably going to upset a lot of people, but it’s a fact: 58% of people right now make their buying decision before they make the initial contact with the potential B2B company.

And secondly, the amount of people that are making decisions has grown. Typically, about seven people are involved in a committee to decide whether or not they want to actually buy language services. So, you’ve got this committee where, even if you’re a good company or a big company, like maybe Caterpillar, that has a very outstanding localization department, you may have people on that decision-making committee who know absolutely nothing about language.

So, the way that we help people is to make them understand they have to have an online presence in some form, and what’s different now than it was even 15 years ago when I got started is it was historically not feasible economically for a smaller player to have a real presence online. But now you can do it. If you’re able to communicate your value-added offering, how you differ from somebody else is how you can actually move the marker.

Since translation and localization and, to some degree, even internationalization are not C-level decisions, it takes a very focused effort to get your point across to make somebody say, yes, I want to work with this firm.

So, Say for example, you’re an expert in Igbo. Well, you need to communicate that online—that’s what we advise to people. Ninety percent of Americans, for example, don’t know that Brazilian Portuguese is different than Portuguese Portuguese. I had a Croatian client, we did their national launch in the United States. How do you go to somebody in Croatia and tell them, “I hate to break your heart, but 90% of Americans don’t even know where Croatia is.”

The typical person who’s not from America might not know that Minneapolis is a different city than Indianapolis. So, you have to be very specific and strategic in telling them, “Communicate what you can do that somebody else can’t do.” It’s a classic Michael Porter—if you’ve been to business school—‘how to get a competitive advantage’ scenario, and that’s how we deal with it.
Michael S That’s such great advice, Michael. I was talking to someone yesterday who runs a non-profit, and they were talking about how wonderful their growth story is, and “Boy, if I could just get people behind me to understand how good we’re doing because we’re growing.” And I said, “Well, truth be told, if you weren’t growing, you would close.” So, it’s not a distinguishing feature; growth is not a unique attribute of a business. You have to find out what it is that you do special and help gather people around that. And you help companies do that, which is great.
Michael B Yeah, the days when you could go to an annual trade show and you would meet everybody and everybody knows everybody, that’s still very important, but in the interim, people are vetting you all the time. And if you don’t pass that test, you don’t go to the next stage.

And eventually, with this new artificial intelligence and these new kinds of things that are coming out, you’ll be able to trace online and analytics, where your leads are coming from, what’s working, what’s not working, and that’s all brand new. I would say that the same thing that’s happening in the language industry is the same thing that’s happening in the marketing industry. Things are changing very, very fast, but that doesn’t mean there’s not value for you; it means you have to change your approach.
Renato One of the areas that you describe as being part of your services is the PR approach, or people like to say today, media relations approach. What is the role that media and public relations plays in a service like language services?
Michael S Yeah, and is it just for big companies?
Michael B Absolutely not. The most important thing that it does for you is, number one, it gives you third-party credibility. The second thing is that Google ranks backlinks to reputable sites as the number one most important thing in raising your SEO.

They have rankings of the validity of a site. Say for example, you get a mention on Michael Burns’s blog, or you get a mention in the New York Times. That gives you a backlink to your site, and Google rates the validity of where that backlink is.

The most important thing that media relations does is earned media, and unless you earn that media, you don’t have the credibility. Anybody can say anything anymore, and all you need to do is push a button and send out a blog.

It’s very important from a backlink standpoint and from a credibility standpoint.
Renato Let’s talk a little bit about the earned media. What is that? How do you earn the attention of media to promote you? Because, at the end of the day, the reason why I want to be in the media is to be able to share that content, and then promote and have an exponential growth effect. How do you do that?

You just need to have authority and consistency to be able to earn that media. So, it’s not just, “Oh, I want to hire a media relations company; I want to hire Michael to put me on Time magazine.” He will try, but unless you have something really, really relevant and really, really credible… talk about that a little bit, Michael.
Michael B The number one best thing you can do is to send out good news, Renato. Don’t hype anything; don’t put in stuff about how wonderful you are. You have to send out good news, and if you follow journalism style, they will publish it. If you understand the media and if you follow their rules, and you don’t try to overtly promote yourself, you’re likely to have that happen.

That said, the paradigm has shifted. There’s three ways, now, that you get media. You get earned media, which is very important. You also have owned media like Facebook and LinkedIn and those kinds of things. I would argue, as a PR professional, that all owned media is also earned media.

If you’re just sending out stuff about, “I went to go see the new Star Wars movie this weekend,” who cares? That’s not valid information to your target audience. So, you have to always earn the media.

And the third thing you have is paid media. You can do very, very cost effectively search engine marketing where you can actually get your message out on the website without it being picked up by a medium, per se.
Renato So you have earned media, owned media, and paid media.
Michael B That’s right, and they’re all merging. I hate the term social media, because I really don’t care what movie you went to see last weekend, and neither does anybody else. They only care about what’s going to help them in their job. So, you have to combine all of it in a uniform way and then be able to see how that’s impacting your audience.

I have a client that I’ve had for about 15 years and one of the people said, “You know, Michael, you keep bringing us all these analytics we never asked you for.” Well, those analytics weren’t available five years ago. That’s the equivalent of saying, “You know, my accountant keeps bringing me all these P&L statements that I never ask him for.” No one in finance would ever think of saying such a thing, but what’s happening in marketing now is the subjectivity is going out of it.

You can actually read what’s happening and what the impact is of what you’re doing, what’s working and what’s not, and that’s the change in what’s going on right now. So, whether you own it, whether you earn it, or whether you buy it, it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re getting the conversions you want and the ROI you want. So where marketing is going, where it’s shifting right now, is in terms of measuring what your input is and what your output is. Are you getting ROI or aren’t you?

It’s the most exciting time in my career. I wish I had another 30 years to go through this now because it’s something that I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time.
Renato Let’s say that I want to start a strategic marketing program. What is the first step?
Michael B I would take three of your closest competitors, take three people that you compete against. I would then do an analysis. There are software programs now that show you what they’re doing, what’s working, where it’s not working, where their referrals are coming, how many downloads they’re getting a month, how many things they’re doing, and take a look at what they’re doing that’s succeeding and see where you rank against them.

Then you analyze where can you shine that they can’t, where are their weak points, where are their keyword phrases—the official term in SEO is long-term keyword phrases. I don’t care how many people come to my site; I care how many people want to hire me.

I would start out by first getting a very clear picture of where you stand in the market; and these numbers don’t lie, they’ll tell you. And sometimes, we’ve even been in a situation where we’ve presented them with clients and they get angry, but that’s the reality of what it is.
Michael S They get angry because they think they’re performing better? Why do they get angry?
Michael B They get angry because they think they already know what they’re doing, and so if you don’t really reach out and talk to your clients, and you don’t do an analysis of what’s going on in the web, you don’t know what’s going on. You think you know what’s going on, but you really don’t.
Renato Michael, before we close here, I want to ask you 2 questions.

The first question is, any industry has its magic tool box. If you’re in sales, you use Salesforce.com. When you are in strategic marketing and PR, what is the secret weapon? What is that platform that only a professional like you can use?
Michael B There are two of them. In the PR end of it, there’s a service called Cision and Cision is fantastic. If you say, for example, you want to find out who’s writing about machine translation, you can type that into Cision and it will print out the reporters that cover it; it will print out magazines that have it scheduled coming up. It’s amazing, Renato. Without it you’re just shooting bullets in the wind.

The second thing that I would advise everyone to get is a service called SEM Rush, which isn’t that expensive.
Renato When I talk to PR people, the first question that I ask is, “Do you have Cision? If you don’t have Cision, I don’t work with you.”
Michael B If you don’t have Cision, you shouldn’t be working with that PR firm. That means they don’t have access to the databases that they need to get national coverage.
Renato The other question that I wanted to ask you is: inbound marketing, which is the direction that everybody is going…it was a buzzword five years ago; it became bigger and bigger and bigger. Today, it’s not a differentiator anymore. I’m talking more about the content marketing side of the inbound. You gave some very good tips at the beginning of our conversation about how to create relevant content, but how can you use any PR support / marketing strategy supplier, in an optimal way to have a good content strategy?
Michael B Inbound marketing requires a content strategy. What most people do is they’ll buy an automated platform like Hubspot or Marketo or Eloqua or whatever, and it just sits there because they don’t know what they’re doing.

You have to have a strategy, number one. And then, number two is you have to keep it with content that’s relevant. There’s a rule that you’re allowed to promote yourself about one out of every seven times. The most important part to do in inbound marketing, to start out with, is blogging, because blogging is inexpensive.

There are actually plug-ins that show you are you optimizing your blog along the way? Are you optimizing it in a way that it’s going to show? Like, at one particular time, we were ranked number one in the world. If you looked up localization PR, we were number one. That’s inbound marketing.

And you have to be able to constantly keep it going out and you have to make sure that the content that you’re sending out has three levels. There’s awareness building, there’s nurturing, and then there’s conversion, and you have to send out a combination of those three things.

If you send out something saying, “Hi, I have this, contact me today and see my demo,” that’s usually a turn-off. That’s like saying, “Hi, I’m really glad to meet you; why don’t we just get married?”

In inbound marketing, you have to keep constant stuff going out that meets your potential buyer and demonstrates your capabilities before you actually get to the stage where they’re actually ready to contact you and buy you. That’s how inbound marketing works.
Michael S Mike, why is your company called Burns 360?
Michael B Number one is marketing historically has always been a silo. We’re always pushed off on our own; we work on our own. The finance people work on their own, the operations people do, and we’re just a silo. I don’t think that’s possible anymore. The average tenure now of a CMO is two years. And unless that’s integrated with everything else, you’re not going to make it in marketing. Your marketing’s not going to be able to be successful over time.

The second reason why I picked it is, the truth is, no one marketer can know it all. I spent about five years going back to school online; I got certified in digital marketing.

You have to put together a team of people who all work together and know their own particular area of expertise or you’re not going to make it. If someone comes in to you and says, “All you need to do is hire us and we’ll get you on the first page of Google,” then you just turn and run, because unless you really have a team that knows what they’re doing and you’re working together as a team, I don’t think it’s possible anymore to be effective in marketing.
Renato Michael, this has been a fantastic conversation. As usual, very insightful, and I hope our listeners take advantage of the great advice that you have shared with us today.
Michael B Thank you guys very much. I appreciate it.

End of conversation

Michael Burns

Michael founded Burns360 nearly three decades ago. He is a specialist in strategic marketing and corporate communications, specifically managing integrated communication campaigns for B2B companies. He loves keeping Burns360 at the forefront of new (and constantly changing) marketing innovations. He holds BA and MA degrees from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Houston.

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