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Catching the Next Big Wave: What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Surfing

Before attending the Marketo Marketing Nation Summit last week in Vegas, I spent 2 weeks’ vacation surfing in Nicaragua. Needless to say, I returned to the office with marketing and surfing on my mind. As a surfer and marketer, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what surfing has taught me about B2B marketing, and some tips to get you surfing like a pro for your next marketing program or initiative.

Waves Are Like Trends in Marketing
As a surfer paddles out into the unknown, there are many things happening. You might not know the currents and waters. Is there a reef at the bottom, or is it nice and sandy? Have the other surfers been doing this a while? Are they willing to share their wave with you? Oh, and let’s not even think about sharks…let’s just say, it can be scary and intimidating.

But you keep doing it because you love it. Because there are always new things to learn and practice. You fail, you get back up and you try it again – maybe a bit differently the next time. You understand how the waves are made. You work to paddle faster and harder. Maybe you become a little more aggressive in the lineup as you improve.

Sound Familiar?
If you’ve been a B2B marketer for any length of time, you know the wild world of marketing is always shifting quickly. With those unpredictable waves breaking over your head, it can be intimating and frightening. It’s ok to start small and close to home. You’ll eventually get to the big waves. Starting small with something that you can manage will give you confidence. The wave might toss you a bit, but it won’t break you. You’ll build your confidence early, so you’re ready for those bigger waves later on. I often tell my clients that they don’t need a lot of content to start integrating LookBookHQ content experiences into their marketing initiatives. Starting small is better than not starting at all. Incorporating third-party resources can help you to beef up your content mix and reinforce your messaging.

I’ve been employed in the B2B marketing space for 8 years (I know, I still have a lot to learn!), but, in working for and learning from the best, I have seen that to be successful takes patience, perseverance, intuition and hard work – plus a little luck never hurts. I know that it’s ok to fail. As long as you learn, take a deep breath, stay calm, and try again. We can’t always get it right the first time. Because the LookBookHQ platform allows you to track how users are interacting with your content after they click, we can analyze what’s working and what’s not.

I’ve been surfing almost twice as long as I’ve been a B2B marketer. In my 15 years of learning and teaching the sport, I’ve learned that becoming a great surfer requires dedication, persistence, practice and humility. if I didn’t have these things, I’d still be a novice on a long board surfing the white wash close to shore.

Learning to Read the Swells
Surfers will undoubtedly talk about the ‘swell’ at some point. Among other things, a wave is produced by a swell. Surfers love swells. There’s always a storm somewhere that will create some great waves down the coast.

Understanding these swells is important. Which direction is the swell coming from? Where will it be breaking? How long will it last? Good decisions come from this knowledge: when to paddle out, which type of board to use, where to surf, and which days and conditions will best suit your skill and comfort levels.

Like understanding the swells and currents to be better surfers, we need to understand the environment and audience we are marketing to. Ask questions to ensure the success of a marketing campaign: who are you speaking to and what are their pain points? Where in the funnel will this campaign be? Are you segmenting based on buyer personas? From here, you can build a program that makes sense and will get you up on your board and riding the wave to reach your goals. Here are 4 things to remember to help you use LookBookHQ like a pro:

1. Make the most of every click you generate – As a B2B Marketing specialist, I know how extremely hard it is to get a prospect’s attention. Just like our clients, our own marketing team works to create engaging content, strong copy and CTAs to generate those clicks. We get it! Once you get that click, make the most of it by sending your prospects on a persuasive journey that they won’t want to leave! Someone that ONLY reads your white paper is certainly not going to be as qualified as if you allow them to further engage with your eBook, data sheet and explainer video. Remember, the more educated a prospect is, the more qualified they will be when you pass them to sales. Plan the flow of your content experience, including the number of assets and types of assets you will use. You can map the assets to specific parts of the buyer’s journey, whether all of your content is in one stage or spans multiple stages. It’s all about keeping prospects engaged while you have their time and attention.

2. Know your audience and speak their language – Speak directly to your prospect’s unique challenges, pain points and opportunities. Tell them a story with your content and influence their behavior by gaining their trust that you understand their business. Include strong messaging and speak to your audience in a way that will get them to engage with your content. Deliver a compelling journey that captures and holds their attention. Remember to include a variety of content – there is no one silver bullet piece of content and no one-off content offer that will convert all on its own.

3. Track and iterate – After you have done all this, measure the engagement with your content. What’s working, and what’s not? Sometimes we tend to feel deflated if something isn’t performing as we expected. But even identifying this is a win. Maybe next time you’ll want to try starting with something lighter – an infographic or a video. Or play with your messaging. Often times, shortening it helps. LookBookHQ has many great templates. Sometimes changing the template generates higher engagement with your content.

4. Data-driven decisions – Use this data to align your content with your audience’s personas and behavior. Think about what you should be doing with the visitors that are bingeing on your content (consuming multiple assets in a single session) and capitalize on those that are most engaged by accelerating them to sales. (For example, here are some creative ways our own marketing team is using content engagement to qualify demand.)

You Have to Pay Your Dues
Going from laying on your board to riding the wave doesn’t just happen; there’s no magic involved, just hard work and practice. Paddling out beyond the swells takes persistence and courage. The mind can play tricks on you while you’re out there sitting on your board, waiting for that next wave to come in (did I mention sharks?). Currents and big waves will test your patience. Prepare to be humbled. Enjoy the ride. We can’t anticipate everything. Be nimble in an ever-changing environment. And take some risks! Keep your strong stable foundation and use it the best way you know how to answer whatever comes your way. Even if you fall, you’ll likely learn something new and stimulating.

Photo - author surfing