There are a lot of reasons why your business may not be giving much thought to inbound marketing. In all likelihood, your business model is built more on B2B sales than broad consumer sales. If this is the case, then you could be selling yourself short. Many of the inbound marketing techniques that have made consumer branding efforts into sales juggernauts are also applicable to B2B sales.
If you're ready to explore what it takes to create the best possible B2B marketing plan, you've come to the right place. Let's review some B2B basics and get down to creating business growth.
B2B marketing is shorthand for "business-to-business" marketing. As such, this strategy refers to marketing products or services to other businesses instead of retail consumers (B2C). In most cases, B2B marketing is more straightforward than B2C marketing. This is largely because business purchase decisions are based more heavily on bottom-line revenue impacts. The average consumer might not think twice about ROI, but a business owner certainly will.
As a B2B company, it's your responsibility to cultivate a marketing strategy that caters to your audience. In this case, that's other business owners. Competition in the B2B market is intense, which means that creating a great B2B marketing strategy requires careful planning, precise execution, and excellent management. Let's delve into some benefits of good B2B marketing and a few innovative B2B marketing strategies.
You may have many promotional outlets going, from publishing ads in the trades to cold calling old leads. While this may pull in a respectable amount of business from other companies that are interested in your high-tech products, it is a far cry from your full potential. The two techniques that will open the door to limitless sales leads are blogging and social media. While many contend that these methods are more suited to marketing to consumers, they can be a very powerful way to connect with decision-makers at the companies you would like to do business with. Channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn are used on a regular basis to begin the process of forming productive business partnerships. Although you may increase brand awareness in consumers as a beneficial side effect, your efforts will also put you first in the mind of potential sales leads.
Once you've built a significant social media following, it's time to get those sales leads. You can do this using many of the effective techniques that content providers use to monetize their content. Instead of selling paid ads on your blog, for example, your attractive links will go directly to your landing page. Your goal of converting visitors into sales leads will be easier than you think. While getting a decision maker's email address or phone number is not a huge coup, there is a lot to be said for the power of opting in. Getting your B2B sales team enough information to turn what would have been a cold call into an informed sales call to an interested party puts them ahead of the game.
This is always the most difficult part of your B2B sales process, but here is where your inbound marketing techniques can also help your sales team. By using information that leads voluntarily submitted, you can provide each lead with a score or rank in order to help your staff know how ready they are to purchase. For those that are less motivated, you can provide additional content marketing to your leads so they feel more at ease before talking with your sales department. White papers, videos, and other downloadable content can provide a personalized solution to put your salespeople ahead of the curve before they ever contact leads directly. At this point, you'll have a wealth of analytic information ranging from what particular content attracted the lead in the first place to how they are responding to your promotional mailings. From there, you can tailor future mailings to fit their interest and nurture the relationship that your company wishes to establish.
This is where inbound marketing success can help you to build lasting relationships. Your customer database is more than the dollars and cents you made from your sales. It is an ongoing opportunity to upsell and extend the life cycles of contracts. Smart content marketing that delivers ongoing calls-to-action for established customers can turn each B2B sale into a potent sales engine for your business. Your social media can consistently let your customers know how much you value them with monthly appeals or an anniversary video that expresses your gratitude without adding any sales expectation.
We've covered the basics, which means it's time to get into strategy. Something to consider as we move forward is that the volume of mobile internet searches now exceeds searches on desktop computers for many businesses. So while internet marketing is essential to your B2B success, a strong mobile strategy is also necessary for optimized performance.
Here are some great mobile and internet marketing strategies to help you carve out a take-no-prisoners B2B marketing plan.
Know Your Audience’s Behaviors - One of the most important things to realize in considering your mobile strategy is that B2B buyers increasingly use mobile in the purchasing process. In a recent study, 70% of B2B buyers increased mobile usage significantly over the past two to three years. B2B users are among the crowd using mobile much more often for Google searches than desktops. What might surprise you is that about 60% expect to continue to increase their mobile usage for B2B purchases.
Deliver a Strong User Experience - Mobile users have high expectations. This point is especially true when your audience consists of busy professionals and company decision-makers. You need to deliver a website or application experience that stands above the competition. A journey map is a standard tool used to identify the typical path through which your prospects become customers. The starting point in a mobile Web strategy is deciding how to present your website. The best approach here is to build a responsive site that conforms to the screen size of whatever device it's being viewed on. This strategy requires less development and maintenance. It also works better for search engine optimization. In addition to quality content, mobile users expect a site that is easy to navigate and interact with. Newer templates used on Hubspot, WordPress, and other content management systems are designed with responsive functionality, simplifying responsive website development.
Consider the Addition of an App - A common misnomer is that you need an app to compete in the mobile market. Apps do provide convenient access and opportunities for relatively strong user engagement. However, while an app is often useful in your B2B marketing strategy, you don't need one just because everyone else has one. The general rule of thumb is that if an app solves a problem for your market in a way that a site can't, you might need one. Additionally, an app is only an added benefit to your strategy when it offers features, tools, and benefits beyond those provided in a responsive website.
Leverage Social Media and Video Content - It is likely that you already use social media tools and video content in your B2B marketing strategy. However, you should consider how to integrate these tools into your mobile strategy. A recent article by Single Grain highlighted statistics suggesting that social media app and video engagement levels are much higher on mobile than on desktop computers. On some mobile devices, for instance, time spent viewing videos is often 50% to 100% higher than the average time invested in a video on a desktop. Based on the research, it is important to ensure that you are producing social content and high-quality videos for your B2B audience to view on mobile.
Manage CRM and Engagement - According to recent data from Hubspot, over 80% of email users access their inboxes on their phones. Where mobile marketing is concerned, it's critical to manage your CRM and engagement properly. With a great CRM system, you can make sure that your emails are getting opened and read by your target audience. Tracking these metrics is crucial to fine-tuning your B2B marketing plan.
Invest in Advertising - Investing in highly targeted and economical mobile advertising can significantly impact your lead generation. Google's ad platform is built with effective ads in mind. Lead ads that enable the company to highly target companies, industries, and interests are highly effective. Advertising in other mobile apps through banner or interstitial ads is also common. Interstitial ads pop over a user's screen in the middle of content or app screens. These ads are highly engaging and can garner attention from the decision-makers you need.
Take a Truly Integrated Approach - To market at all is to market across all possible technologies simultaneously. This means you must build a B2B marketing plan in which print collateral and digital content are two sides of the same coin, and in which outbound calls and drip email campaigns follow up on leads in a concerted effort. Don't separate the different marketing tools or channels at your command into their own little silos. Your social, content, web, and SEO efforts should all work together. All these channels and resources must work together with congruency, each supporting and reinforcing your overall corporate message and brand image. Build this kind of thematic integrity into your B2B marketing business plan, and you'll make a more vivid and consistent impression.
Smooth Out Your Sales Funnel - If you've been thinking of lead generation, lead nurturing and customer follow-up as different functions, it's probably wise to put those distinctions aside as well. Drawing more visitors to your social media channels, and from there to your B2B website, is only worth the money and effort if those visitors are guided smoothly through the sales funnel. But it's easy for noise to interfere with your instructions along these lines. To keep your message coming in loud and clear, consider investing in content marketing and the creation of downloadable or on-site content that answers user questions within your own sphere of influence. Your B2B marketing plan should also include an audit of the entire sales funnel as it currently stands, ideally by a third-party inbound marketing agency. Any weak links, underperforming landing pages, or ineffective calls to action need to be dealt with immediately.
Count on Content - There simply is no marketing without marketing content -- it's the engine that drives the car. With that in mind, you'll need to make content a central part of your B2B marketing plan. Entertaining, engaging, genuinely useful content is critical for grabbing and holding prospective leads at every step along the sales funnel, not to mention boosting your search rankings by impressing the major search engines. It's a good idea to enlist an entire B2B marketing firm to ensure that your marketing always has the right content in the right quantities. If you need a recipe for high-quality content that will attract your ideal buyer, consider creating a content strategy that is tuned to your sales process. Above all, put quality before quantity. Put your money behind better content, not just more content.
Invest in Marketing Automation - According to Smart Insights, marketing automation is predicted to make a greater commercial impact than any other single digital marketing activity. If your company specializes in costly, large-scale (or high-volume) technology sales, typically pursued on a multi-month sales cycle, marketing automation could be well worth adding to your B2B marketing plan. Of course, you'll first want to make sure that your existing sales process and CRM system is logically laid out and well understood before you add any new levels of automation. But the right suite of marketing automation software can help your team make better use of real-time data aggregation and sharing across multiple channels. This allows you to customize better the customer experience and make use of predictive marketing strategies for a more profitable sales year.
Account for Ad Blocking - If you'd planned to make online advertising a major part of your B2B marketing plan, be advised that you ought to go into it with your eyes open. Make no mistake, online ads can work -- but only when you know your target audience is seeing them. The increasing adoption of AdBlocker and other such programs can easily turn your online advertising investment into a bust. But this is another instance where smart planning can save the day. Consider shifting your marketing plan away from traditional static ads toward dynamic, content-driven native advertising such as hosted articles. Invest in advertising that your business prospects actually want to consume, and you'll get the attention you need to make your impact.
Optimize Mobile and Email Marketing Simultaneously - Which tool will your B2B marketing plan be placing an emphasis on -- mobile marketing, or email marketing? The correct answer to this question is: "Yes." Both of these tools are enormously powerful for boosting brand awareness, generating leads, and making sales. But today's online marketing behaviors and trends have made them somewhat co-dependent on each other. That's because 74% of smartphone users prefer to view email via their device of choice, with more than half of all email opens occurring on such devices. Keep in mind, however, that pushing email marketing in your B2B marketing plan won't make any sense if you haven't also planned for a responsive, mobile-friendly website. So put both of these items on your to-do list.
If your B2B marketing efforts have been faltering lately, ask yourself whether your marketing content has grown a bit thin, anemic, irrelevant, or scarce. But pinpointing all the areas in need of improvement, and then actually making those improvements, can prove an onerous task -- especially if you have no firm plan in place. For the final piece of our guide to effective B2B marketing strategies, let's look at how engaging a B2B marketing agency can breathe new life into your content.
The finely-tuned eye of a good B2B marketing agency can spot thin content that your team might never have recognized as such, if only because you've been staring at it for so long that it's stopped registering on you one way or the other. An agency can then implement tactics to replace weak writing while also simplifying cluttered page formats, getting rid of 404 errors, and removing "doorway" pages that do nothing more than connecting one internal web page to another. Once the bad stuff is gone, of course, you'll need to repopulate your site with better alternatives. Here again, a dedicated B2B marketing agency can prove invaluable by assigning skilled copywriters and designers to the task of making your site as relevant, engaging, and user-friendly as possible.
Of course, high-quality content only matters when placed in front of the right target audience. Even the most brilliantly compelling article about speedboat accessories, for example, will be wasted on a visitor seeking wholesale jewelry resources. Relevant content positioned in the wrong part of the sales funnel can fail to make its full effect or even backfire disastrously; for instance, a document that requests contact information too early in the conversion process may push your visitor off your site altogether.
High-quality content isn't enough -- you also need a high-quality content strategy, and that's where your B2B marketing agency can step in to forge a powerfully effective battle plan for your business. The agency will first identify the specific objectives you're trying to achieve in your content marketing, from revenue increases to the number of new customers. It will then create a clear, logical, practical roadmap, complete with the necessary content requirements and time-bound goals and milestones for getting you where you want to go. Once you have a bullet-proof marketing plan in place, your agency can get to work on generating the content and implementing whatever other changes are necessary to turn your blueprint for action into a working sales opportunity generating machine.
Measuring and interpreting the results of your content is a vital part of your content marketing strategy. Unless you know what's working and what isn't, and why, you can't make the necessary course corrections to respond to the ever-changing needs and demands of your target market in particular and the marketing world in general. Unfortunately, measuring the effectiveness of content is also cited as one of the most difficult challenges for 57% of B2B marketers. Without knowing how much revenue your content is generating, how can you budget for it intelligently?
Marketing analytics is an area best left to the experienced hands and sophisticated tools of a B2B marketing agency. The ideal agency will have a set of analytic tools and resources that can collect and interpret such critical data as how much time visitors are spending on each of your web pages, where they're dropping off, with detail all of the ways down to how individual contacts are engaging with your website and content.
Those adjustments will almost certainly include a steady stream of high-quality content, tweaked to match better the fine points of your content strategy and your audience's responses to it. But this need is yet another top challenge for B2B marketers. As noted by the MarketingProfs study, 57 percent of them have trouble producing content on a consistent basis; another 35 percent found providing a variety of content a major challenge. Both tasks, however, are critical ones. By producing regular, relevant content, your company stands a much better chance of ranking highly against your competitors in terms of online authority and trust. Adding variety to your content helps maintain the interest of your current clients while attracting the eyes of new ones.
From initial content strategies to ongoing implementation, the right B2B strategy can work wonders for your business. Don't wait to invest in cultivating an effective strategy. A marketing agency can help your business overcome many of the most vexing challenges faced by B2B marketers today. Bristol Strategy is a full-funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of Inbound Marketing services that enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyers online. Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow.