16 Tips to Master B2B Digital Marketing
B2B digital marketing has been always harder than marketing to the end-consumer. It’s trickier. You have a smaller audience, with longer buying cycle, and more analytical decision-making process.
The objectives, of course, may differ between one B2B brand to another, but usually, the main two objectives in any B2B digital marketing strategy would revolve around:
- Generate enough demand that will ultimately drive your qualified leads to go to your website, social media accounts, or app and request this product or at least inquire about it.
- Raise awareness and build a familiar and authoritative brand, so that when the sales representatives contact the prospects or meet them at an event, their job would be half-way done and the sales cycle will get shorter.
Yet, this seems easier said than done for many B2B businesses. So why are some brands failing in B2B digital marketing?
There are as many reasons for that as there are different industries, markets, and company sizes. That being said, there are four main reasons that I noticed keep coming up frequently from my experience in B2B digital marketing management and consultancy with clients from different industries and sizes:
- Believing that B2B is a business development and sales game and that marketing is not as crucial. So they neglect the marketing aspect of business or don’t give it the attention and budget it needs.
- Copying tactics and strategies that work in B2C only then feeling disappointed and discouraged to continue when they don’t achieve the results expected.
- Copying other’s B2B strategies.
- Thinking that digital marketing is about brand awareness only.
To overcome these challenges and get better results from your B2B digital marketing strategy, here are the few points that you need to keep in mind while creating your marketing plan:
1) Understand the B2B Buying Cycle
Plan strategically on how to generate demand by targeting the prospects across the B2B marketing funnel. One of the tactical mistakes that keep repeating itself is when businesses try to generate leads in new markets immediately without spending proper time on brand awareness and generating demand, which ends up on low CTR or lead generation results.
2) Understand the B2B Decision Making Process
One of the main differences between B2B and B2C marketing is that B2B has a longer decision-making journey that usually involves several stakeholders — even if we compared the same product. Let’s imagine you want to buy a printer for your house. The processes involved is easy and straightforward; you search for the product you want, you may discuss it with one other person (e.g. your spouse), and then you buy it (given you have the budget for it). In businesses, for the exact same product, the HR may inform the procurements department that the team needs a new printer, procurements ask the IT for recommendations, then it goes to the management for official approval, then, depending on how big your organization is, goes to finance to issue the payment. This long and complex journey will have a profound effect on your content marketing strategy.
This also means that the people who might be making the final purchasing decision might not be the technical people that you’re trying so hard to convince with your technical jargons and very detailed content.
3) Understand the Market Differences
Some tactics might work perfectly well in certain markets, yet when they are repeated in other markets and cultures, people start to wonder why it didn’t work, which makes them wonder what they do wrong for this successful tactic not to work as expected! The simple answer in most cases is that they’ve done nothing wrong other than assuming that whatever works for business X should, and will, work with them. Different markets, cultures, industries, company size will affect how your targeted audience react to certain types of content or marketing tactics.
One example is webinars and white papers. This might get amazing results for lead generation, yet perform poorly in other markets. The best way not to fall into the trap of copying tactics is to:
A) Perform competitor analysis to get an idea what is performing well and what is not in your market.
B) Testing, testing, testing. Always test and optimize to figure out for yourself what are the best-performing tactics and strategies for your type of business and in your targeted market.
4) Understand the Differences in Objectives Between B2B and B2C
This survey done in 2015 in North America by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs shows what many B2B businesses objectives are from their content marketing activities.
You can easily notice that engagement, while still important, is less of a priority in B2B than it is in B2C. The reason behind that is simple; business people engage differently with business-targeted content than end-consumers engage with consumer-related brands. Business decision makers focus more on logic which requires time to think and digest than the “bling bling” type of content that would move people to engage in B2C marketing. The same goes for the rest of the objectives. Without understanding the different marketing objectives and KPIs between B2B and B2C, you’ll end up with failed strategy motivated by the wrong goals.
5) Don’t Be Afraid of Creativity
We talked in the last point on how the business decision makers are more logically driven than his equivalent in the B2C market. That, however, shouldn’t hold marketers in B2B businesses back from trying new creative ideas (or as some people like to say; “Out-of-the-box”!). B2B marketing doesn’t have to be boring and predictable. Allow yourself and your marketing team to experiment and try new approaches, which can also be a good way to humanizing your brand and make it more approachable.
Invest in well-produced videos and integrate them into your PR strategy. Explore how can you make the best of what’s trending, and don’t be afraid to be a little bit “silly” sometimes without coming off as cheap and low quality.
Speaking of which..
6) Quality Over Quantity
This happens more often than it should be happening! With an effort of some people to “be there” everywhere all the time, they jeopardize their brand’s authority and reliability. In B2B, considering you have a smaller audience, you need to focus your energy and resources on creating quality content in well-measured frequency and timing. It is not important that people see you everywhere all the time, it is the effect you have on people when they see you.
7) Provide Value Before You Sell
The internet is a great lead nurturing tool. But unfortunately, sometimes it gets abused with over-selling.
From my experience working with many B2B businesses from different sizes, this usually happens for one of the following reasons:
A) Lack of understanding of how marketing can help sales.
B) When managers feel the pressure to make a certain monthly (or quarterly) sales quote, so they start pushing more sales content in people’s faces to speed up the sales cycle.
C) Or they’re on a tight budget and desperate to get the cash flow going, so they go straight to the sales pitch.
This will usually cost them the chance to build a trusted brand and generate demand that would lead to actual sales from the qualified leads.
A similar mistake that usually happens, especially in the more traditional markets, is over-PR-ing! Yes, that’s a thing. Do not use your social media platforms and newsletters merely as a PR publishing platforms. Think of what your audience might be interested in and how relevant it is to your brand. Make them feel the value of being in your online communities. Talk to your audience, not at them.
8) When In Doubt; 80/20
Sometimes it takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s normal. This is why we do testing and optimization. This doesn’t mean, in any way, to start blindly without any sort of strategy in mind. This is, however, easier said than done sometimes. Especially if you’re starting a new business. So, as a rule of thumb, when you’re in doubt of what strategic direction you should follow in your B2B content marketing, follow the 80/20 rule. The simplest application of this rule is to focus 80 percent of your content in adding a value to your audience and building a brand using branded content, and 20 percent for sales and generating leads. From there, you can test what works best with your specific audience and optimize your strategy as you analyze the results.
9) Make the Best of Each Channel
Each channel, either it’s a social, email, or a blog needs to be understood, and thus used, uniquely. Sharing the same content strategy on each platform will definitely not get you the results you were hoping for. The best way to optimize your content strategy per channel is to test and analyze until you figure out what works best with what.
10) Be Found
In the Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive annual global study, 89% of consumers surveyed said they use search engines to make purchasing decisions. Although this study was done in 2012, we can only assume that the numbers went up from there. Think about it, search engines are a convenient way for people working on a computer most of the day to get the information they want. Are you a business looking for a video production houses in a certain area? What easier way to find them other than Google what you want and search through the results! The question is, what are you, as a service or product provider, doing about it? Are you making it easier for them to find you while they’re in the early stages of the buying decision-making journey? This is where SEO and SEM come to add value to your marketing strategy. Invest in good SEO people who know what they are doing and don’t fall for the cheap over-promising SEO scams. Also, allocate a certain budget for monthly SEM campaigns; it is proven that they perform better for lead generation than the social media ads considering that the people who will find you through search engines are already motivated to buy a product similar to yours, which leads to a shorter sales cycle.
11) Be Friendly
User experience (UX) is more than just a way of designing websites. People on the internet usually have a short attention span. Make it easier for them to see the options, especially that customers can reach a decision before your sales team can reach them. Make it easier for each one to find the product or service he needs, suggest recommendations based on their search, make the product easier to browse, install advanced search engine on your site, use comparison tables, and always test and optimize (and listen to feedback!) to make the experience better with time.
12) Be Approachable
Make it easier for your prospects to get in contact with you as they may need a lot of information before making a decision for a business purchase.
Consider having online chat, user-friendly and mobile-friendly contact forms, and of course, prompt response on emails and social media since, as you know, time is money.
Of course, this wouldn’t be as useful if there was no..
13) Coordination with the Sales Team
For most B2B marketers, especially those who don’t sell directly online, the ultimate goal of their online efforts is to get the prospect to inquire about your service or even request an offer. So when a company spends a considerable sum of money on advertising and other marketing activities, but when you contact them they just don’t respond in a timely fashion, which makes you second guess their ability to handle your business demands or question their level of professionalism.
That can even be worse! One of the biggest mistakes I noticed is when a company launches a campaign promoting an offer or a new product, and then when someone calls to ask for details, you get a sales person who is not prepared handle the lead, or even worse, acts like he have no idea what you are talking about!
All of this is a result of the lack of coordination between the marketing and sales teams that I see in a lot of companies. Don’t exclude other teams, mainly sales and customer service, from your marketing planning and make sure to brief them well enough before launching these campaigns and hear their feedback as part of your marketing auditing.
Which leads us to..
14) Measure and Analyze Your Activities
Online marketing is more than just about pushing things into people faces. One of the greatest things about the internet is that you can get instant feedback about each product or offer, which should help you optimize it better. It’s not just about marketing a certain product; analysis is also a great tool to build and optimize a better product before it’s launched and after it goes live to the public.
15) Build a Relationship
Before social media, I probably talked to some of my relatives only once or twice a year. Now, I know what they had for dinner!
Regardless of some people complaints that technology is keeping people distant from others, the truth is, social media has made it much easier for people to connect and enter each other’s daily lives like never before. The same can be said about building business relations.
There are basically two ways that the internet, think social media and email, can bring you closer to your customers and prospects:
A) Build a community around your brand: up your game from simple brand awareness to building enthusiasm about your products.
B) Connect on a personal level with the decision makers: you are still marketing to people in B2B. It is other people like you who will be making the decision to do business with you or not. LinkedIn and Twitter are one of the great ways to connect with other business people. For a more “personal” type of social media (like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat), I would recommend to evaluate it on a case by case basis. How much do you know that person, how relaxed is your relationship with him/her, understanding the culture that this person came from and his way of thinking; then you can decide if it’s appropriate to add them on personal social media accounts.
16) Build Trust
People do more business with brands they trust. Building trust can help your sales team close more deals and shorten the sales cycle. This can be done with case studies, online product demos, and good customer service.
Copyright © 2018 Gus Younis