An ever-evolving marketing landscape - where more content is being produced than ever before and more brands are selling their products and services than they ever have, has forced marketers - B2B and B2C alike, to change their approach and overall strategy to connecting with customers online.
Marketing to businesses online however, has become a little challenging. With B2B products and services - the element of trust needs to be far higher. Consumers are more willing to take a personal risk and try out new brands and services for themselves, but when it comes to making a business purchase, buyers are far more cautious. A bad business purchase can put people into a very precarious position in the eyes of their company and those that they report to.
How do you inspire trust with these users and how do you connect with them? A lot of what you should be doing in the B2B space has to be defined by what the others are doing - so that you know what's working for them, and what you should avoid. As more businesses advertise via social and digital, the cost of advertising on these channels will go higher. So how do you break through?
1. B2B Marketers Are All About the Sales, and the Quality
B2B marketers aren't looking for brand awareness / uplift in social community size, or bothered with metrics like social engagement. Their single-minded approach to generating a high amount of website traffic (coming from the right quality of leads) - that leads to a high rate of conversion is their primary goal.
Generating inbound links, growing their subscriber base and focusing on ranking well for the right keywords - is how they're planning on achieving these objectives.
Have you aligned your objectives from marketing to be the same? Perhaps it's time to look beyond social reach, impressions and clicks - and think a little bit more about the quality of people you're marketing to.
- If you're investing in LinkedIn ads - focus on targeting the right business sizes, and the right titles of the people that would try your product
- Use FB custom audiences to target people that are part of your subscriber base, or people that have previously visited your website
- Don't target people based on their interests - it's far too wide and very hit and miss
2. Content, Social and E-Mail Spend on the Rise
I have to say - they're doing all the right things. By focusing on ensuring that they rank well for keywords, spreading their presence on social and taking e-mail marketing seriously - B2B marketers are touching the right focus points on the digital spectrum.
Display advertising isn't one of the major focus points for B2B marketers - which could potentially mean a dip in the cost of advertising and buying banners on ad-networks like GDN, so keep a close look on the CPCs and CPMs that these networks charge you. While the CTRs from these platforms isn't very high, they can be very useful for retargeting.
- Ensure that you're tracking your SEO efforts using tools like Moz and Raven Tools, and not relying on running random keyword search tests from time to time
- Split your e-mail marketing list into segments that make sense to you, and ensure that you continue to send e-mails to people who have converted in order to retain them
- Use social platforms as a way of driving traffic to your owned platforms, and try not to focus on building a community too much. That should happen organically.
3. LinkedIn, SlideShare and Blogs the Most Effective
In the above data set from Salesforce - don't be fooled by the immense effectiveness of Mobage, KakaoTalk, Line and SnapChat - because not a lot of businesses use these, and the ones that do are of a very specific niche.
From the more popular networks, LinkedIn, SlideShare and blogs are proving to be highly effective for B2B marketers. While SlideShare is represented by only 27% of respondents - my personal experience with B2B marketing on SlideShare has given me great results for businesses in different industries.
- Create a content strategy and calendar for SlideShare. Regular content on SlideShare is the only way to measure the effectiveness of the platform, one-off executions won't give you a solid picture.
- Experiment with the smaller platforms if you'd like to, perhaps they could be effective for you, but ensure that the majority of your ad-spend is focused on the larger networks which have shown ROI.
- With Facebook getting extremely crowded, perhaps use it only as a re-targeting channel, and focus on LinkedIn and SEO (blogs) being the initial touchpoint.
4. B2B Marketers Create a Massive Spread of Content
It would seem that B2B marketers create a massive spread of content - social, newsletters, blogs, events, case studies, videos, white papers, presentations, infographics, webinars, reports, microsites - the whole nine yards.
While some would argue that this approach means that a business is taking an all-encompassing approach to marketing - I'd highly advise on focusing on 2-3 types of content, and focusing on those to see which work for you. If you're known for creating exemplary content of a specific type (SlideShares, infographics, or webinars) - people will talk about you a lot more, rather than if you diversify your content and spread it across so thin.
- Diversification of content costs time and money. Unless you have a large marketing team that can create a lot of different types of content without much of a hassle - focus on specific types of content.
- Start small, then grow. If people start enjoying your webinars, the next thing you should focus on is podcasts. If they like your blog posts, perhaps focus on infographics next.
- Use successful content to decide which type you should be focusing on next. Don't jump from social content to webinars.
5. A Lack of Budgets and Measuring ROI are the Biggest Obstacles for B2B Marketing
The biggest problem in running successful B2B digital campaigns seems to be (as expected) - a lack of budgets. Followed by the ability to measure ROI. To me - these two are very closely tied in to each other. In the event that you're able to prove ROI from your digital efforts - your C-Suite should be more than happy to allocate higher budgets to your digital campaigns.
The third point however, is a little troubling. Businesses are unable to find marketers that have the right skills and the ability to run these B2B campaigns, and execute the right social and digital strategy for businesses. The fourth point - being able to convince top management about the potential of digital marketing, ties back to the conversation about ROI.
- Nail down your business objectives, and measure your ROI against them. By proving ROI via these digital executions, you shall have the ability to convince your C-Suite and top execs, as well as get higher budgets.
- Hire a specialized agency to execute your campaigns for you, or invest money in an experienced marketer who can lead a team to execute your campaigns for you.
- Engage local trainers and institutes to provide seminars and workshops to train the rest of your marketing force. In the event the right trainers aren't available, plenty of online courses can train your in-house team.
B2B marketers are getting smarter, measuring the right metrics, using the right tools and have the right goals in mind. With the digital space becoming so congested and hard to operate in, businesses that have B2B products and services need to invest time in their teams, in training, and in ensuring that they have enough wiggle room to test, measure and analyze what works specifically for the business they are operating within.
2015 is going to be a year of increased learning and creativity for B2B, but you can expect a saturated market to cause a lot of trouble for those just starting out next year - as the cost of testing, analyzing and measuring your effort next year and beyond will be incredibly expensive.