For B2Bs operating in today’s global marketplace, staying on top of the game and one step ahead of the competition is a necessity.
According to the latest research, 83% of B2B buyers will head online to research before making a purchasing decision. If you don’t show up during that research period, then you’ll already be trailing behind.
The B2B purchasing process is a complex one. Far more so than selling to consumers.
Nowadays, to get a competitive advantage, B2B marketers need to put digital at the core of their marketing mix. Just as B2C marketers have already done.
B2B marketing has and always will be about the relationship that is built between a client and a vendor. From before a sale is made, to during the sales process and beyond. Digital tools can help here, in building, maintaining and enhancing those relationships, in ways that were never previously possible.
The pool of people who you could potentially do business with is likely to be far smaller than in B2C. Stretching to the hundreds, or even less. However, you may just need one or two good sales per year. Unlike B2C, where you’ll most likely need thousands.
Our blog is full of ideas about how to put together a solid B2B marketing plan that will enable you to take advantage of all things digital. Our clients are all in the business of generating leads and nurturing them over time, till they turn into paying customers.
Sometimes the most difficult task is figuring out all the practical elements of a marketing plan, so in this post we shed some light on the most important actions and how to achieve them.
Who – what – how
Putting the right message to the right person at the right time in the buying circle is the success critical factor
It sounds fabulously easy, right? Yet in reality, behind that one sentence lies a lot of hard work. Here are the key pieces of the puzzle:
1. Buyer personas
You’ve got to be crystal clear about your target audience. Who do you need to talk to and convince?
In B2B circles, often a buyer persona will go hand-in-hand with a job description (such as purchaser, IT manager, financial controller). Just be careful not to just fall into the trap of relying on job title segmentation. Another persona may prove far more important. For example, potential buyers may fall under a persona that is independent of their actual role within the company.
Asana, a company which provides team management software, has used this sales model very well for its SaaS product. It works by getting individuals to start using the product for free. These individuals then get hooked and started inviting other team members to use it too. Eventually, it becomes interesting for entire teams and then the companies where they are based are encouraged to go on and invest in the full, paid for, service.
In such a scenario, the buyer personas would look very different to strictly job-title based ones.
Take your time to put some proper thought into your personas. You need them to help guide the decisions you are making, including what content you need to produce.
- Bonus tip: Develop a couple of negative personas too
There will be certain segments of your market that you definitely don’t want to market to, but who you might attract despite this. Students often fall into this category. They may be attracted to your content for research purposes but will never buy your product.
Why then, should you even include them? Well at some point they will finish their studies and start working for a company who could perhaps become a client. If you treat them well now, you may reap the rewards later.
Everyone consumes content and information on a daily basis. Both in relation to work and our private lives. So, how do B2B buyers consume this information?
You may be surprised how many use RSS feeds to stay on top of things. They may also subscribe to blogs (our own blog, as an example, attracts new subscribers all the time). Watching work related videos is also common practice.
As a B2B marketer, you have no hope of reaching and connecting with your target audiences, without producing high quality content. The kind of content you produce and how it is distributed, all needs to form part of the strategy you put together.
Start by asking yourself the question: why would anyone want to invest their time in consuming this content? If there’s a strong enough reason, then go ahead and create it.
Content for marketing shouldn’t be about your company. It should be about the person who you want to consume it. That’s why it’s so important to produce content for specific, well thought through buyer personas and not to guess what may work.
A simple example is the corporate newsletter. Who is genuinely going to be interested in it? A newsletter can be important for a multitude of different audiences (employees, investors, industry, journalists, etc.) but when we’re talking about generating new business, it has little use. Especially in the early stages of relationship building.
In most cases, your content will be digital and distributed digitally. That means it can be shared it in a variety of different formats.
If you’re planning to create an eBook, you may find the contents also works well as a video series. In fact, it may even have greater impact in that format. Of course, you won’t know for sure until you try it, so produce both versions and put them out there. See which one generates the best results.
It’s a mistake to pigeon hole your content and think of it simply in one form, for one channel. Digital has opened the doors for innovation and creativity, like never before. Go multichannel and multi-everything!
You could even successfully bring your digital content into the offline world too, by printing out your eBook and taking it along to networking events or sales meetings as a leave behind.
When you’re considering an advertising campaign, think hard about the content. In B2B marketing the success of your content relies on filling a need for information. The people who consume it want information, or to educate themselves on a particular topic. Leave out the fluff and unnecessary words, just focus on the message.
3. Map out the buying circle
The answer to ‘what kind of content should you produce?’ will depend a great deal on what your buying circle looks like.
There are 3 main stages to the journey a buyer will take when making a purchasing decision: Awareness – Consideration – Decision.
You need to map out your content along this path.
Understanding how, when and why your clients buy from you is key and should lie at the heart of any marketing strategy you put together. This will help you bring in even more of the same type of clients.
Don’t be shy to talk to your existing customers for help here. The chances are you will have a good relationship with them, so why not ask for their side of the story on why they became your client.
Digital assets used by B2B marketing and sales
There are two main assets that any kind of B2B marketing and sales organization needs – content and a database of contacts.
When combined, these two assets can generate new clients for you, again and again. Importantly, this will continue long after you created the assets and got your sales machine up and running.
Investing in creating top class content and high-level distribution, is in reality not an expense. They are assets. Your content will live on and impact on a target audience, until you take it down.
Data-driven marketing in real time
Today’s marketers can (and should) react to changing consumer behavior in real time.
Any research you do can be instant, so take advantage of that. If you put out a digital advert and not many people react to it, then you have the power to quickly adjust. Tinker and see what effect the changes make.
No marketing department today can live without at least one person who understands data and how to analyze and use it. It’s best if everyone on the team has at least a basic understanding and you should be testing your assumptions again and again, against the new data sets.
Just don’t be tempted to change too much in one go. If you have a landing page and find your conversions never go above 20% on that page, then there are many possible reasons for that. From the wrong targeting, to poorly performing copy, or problems with the design, many factors could be hindering its impact.
If you change the copy and the targeting at the same time and achieve a 30% conversion rate, how will you know what caused the improvement? This is information that will be vital to know for your next campaigns.
You’ll be in a strong position if you can learn to interpret data and use it to improve your campaigns.
B2B digital advertising
Successful B2B advertising is about two things – content and storytelling. If you find your potential clients use search engines a lot, then it’s important to get a great (aka informative) company blog up and running. You can then boost your content with ads that target the specific keywords they are searching for.
Social ads can work really well for businesses too, as long as they’re interesting and/or work related. In these types of ads, you’re not selling your product or service directly. In fact, it’s not necessary to even talk about your company being a solution provider. Instead, focus on providing helpful content that the target audience really needs right now.
Your aim should be to encourage them to exchange their contact details for a helpful content offer. And voila, your relationship will have started.
B2B advertising of this kind can be successful on Facebook, so don’t instantly rule it out. There are also many other forms of advertising and different platforms to consider. The key to your success will always be to ask ‘why’. Why would anyone consume that content? Will it make their life easier?
Leads, leads, leads
As well as raising awareness for a company, B2B marketers will usually be focused on lead generation. The aim being to get hold of the contact details of people who may be interested in what they have to offer.
Business lead generation is the name of the game and it can take many forms. If generating leads is your main goal, then you need to understand the tactics and approaches that are available to you for your digital marketing campaigns.
Your website should be your main lead generation machine. It’s the hub, where all your offers and conversion tools will be present.
Spend time improving and enhancing it. If it’s all about you and not the person visiting it, then you will lose out on a lot of potential leads. Forget about putting your awards on the home page. Instead put an interesting offer there.
What is interesting to a visitor? They will only care about you once they are in the decision making phase of the buyer journey. By that point, they will want to know if you can do the job and deliver on your promises. This type of content should also be on your website, but not on the home page.
If you don’t have any kind of lead generation functionality on your website, then this should be your first step. Follow our quick start guide to get going.
If lead generation is your main focus, you’ll want to quickly increase what you’re doing in this area. Aim for multiple campaigns, for multiple buyer personas at different stages of the buyer journey.
Once you have loads of leads pouring in, the next question is what should you do with them? You also need to have a plan.
If you produce an eBook and it generates leads but you do nothing to nurture them, then it’s been a wasted effort. And the last thing you want to do is drop the ball! Now is the time to nurture them and pass them over to sales at just the right moment.
What are you doing about all those visitors who come to your website but who don’t convert on any offers you have? (Hint: we got you covered for that scenario. Check out how our software can help you identify exactly those visitors).
Lead nurturing simply means you are staying in touch with the contacts in your database. Segmentation and qualification are the key ingredients here. Sending everyone on your contacts list the same email is a total waste of effort. Instead, segment your database and send out highly targeted emails. That is what will produce the warmest leads for your sales team.
Which brings us on to converting leads and finally landing the deal. Sales and marketing should be working together here, and on the whole lead generation and conversion process.
To make the process as strong as it can be, the sales team should be feeding back information to marketing (such as what questions they are being asked, which may help highlight any gap in the content offering). Marketing can then use these insights to create even more targeted and segmented campaigns, designed to find the best, hottest and most qualified leads.
Key digital marketing strategies for B2B marketers
There are several strategies you can use to bring in new sales. You could focus on doing one, or even all of them. How many you choose is up to you and the resources you have available.
Most importantly, you should focus on the strategy which is going to find you the most potential buyers. For more great advice and ideas, check out:
ABM – account based marketing
Social Media marketing
B2B marketing is a two-way street
Finally, remember that lead magnet and awareness strategies work hand-in-hand. On one side, you are aiming to pull an audience towards your content. On the other, you are pushing content towards them.
Depending on the stage your business is at and the industry you are in, you may want to focus more on one than the other. But in reality, both are equally important.
We hope you’ve found this interesting and will continue to read our blog for more expert advice on building your own B2B marketing campaigns. If you haven’t already, then you can subscribe here: