B2B and B2C marketing are worlds apart. As opposed to B2C, B2B sales cycles are typically long and complex, requiring multiple decision makers, aimed at narrow audiences of specific industries, have a high life time value (LTV) per customer, and are long lasting engagements.
Many bold and brave CMOs who tried to make the shift from traditional marketing to online, were disappointed by the results of their efforts, quickly crawling back under the traditional marketing rock. The assumption was that due to the B2B complex nature, online marketing methods are great for B2C but are irrelevant for B2B. While some online methods are indeed irrelevant for B2B, some are actually the holy grail of B2B marketing. This post will layout traditional and online B2B marketing plan and help you decide which to pursue and which to forget.
First things first - know your audience
You probably already know your target market, but how much do you know about the people you're trying to sell to? On the other end of the businesses you are trying to sell to, are actual human beings. What do the people within the businesses you are targeting have in common? Map out your buyer personas (fictional representations of your ideal customers) and make sure you are tailoring every bit of your marketing strategy to fit their needs and challenges.
Attend industry conferences and other networking events
Relationships are the name of the game in B2B sales. Attending networking events has been a winning B2B lead generating strategy since..well, forever. Some pro tips:
- Make sure you have a clear brand story and that your messaging reflects your narrative.
- Do your homework – prior to the event check the RSVP list and prepare conversation topics for people who you identify as relevant connections (don't forget your business card).
- Add the people who you meet on LinkedIn and send them a follow up email
Make sure to stay up-to-date on networking events in your target industry and strive to attend at least one event per quarter.
Television, newspapers and radio ads
Advertising on each of these traditional platforms is nothing more than "nice to have". Relaying on them for anything other than branding purposes won't get you very far. Brand awareness and authority is super important for B2B, but it's 2017 – there are much better ways to build trust and generate relationships online. Generally speaking, be wary of any marketing strategy that's not entirely measurable. If you have an old-fashioned board/ CEO, and you decide to choose your battles and find yourself forced to allocate some of your budget to these ATL mass market methods, try to make the most of them. Things to consider:
- Make sure you aren't advertising to "everyone". Focus on your buyer personas, and tailor your messaging to them
- set measurable goals to each campaign
- try to measure the performance of each unique campaign using discount codes/coupons, campaign specific phone numbers and other metrics that will help you attribute performance
- Try to only have one ATL campaign live at a time. That way you will be able to get an idea of the impact the campaign had, even on occasions where the performance isn't measurable down to the cent.
If "politically" possible, unless your budget is limitless (don't you wish) I recommend ditching these platforms and allocating your budget to best-practice measurable platforms.
The "good old" method of cold calling, cold emailing and PPC advertising with hardsales messages - please stop it. Cold outreach is marketer centric and interruptive, your low conversion rates aren’t a coincidence. You are trying to sell to people who are not ready to buy from you. Buyers go through a typical journey before making a purchasing decision, it's called the buyer's journey and I strongly recommend learning it and living by it.
In a nutshell, there are three stages to a buyer's journey:
When you're trying to sell to people who don't know who you are, don't trust you, and don't know why they should even consider buying from you, you're wasting time and money. Cold outreach is as good as spam. Though it works to some extent, it's short sighted and at the end of the day, you're doing the opposite of relationship building. Instead of interrupting, focus on adding value and being there when and where your prospects need you. That way you'll be creating long term valuable relationships and even turning your customers to ambassadors.
Inbound Marketing is a holistic strategy. There are four stages to the Inbound methodology:
1. Attract - turn strangers to visitors on your blog/website
2. Convert - turn visitors to leads
3. Close - turn the leads to customes
4. Delight - turn the customers to promoters
Inbound Marketing is best applied when combining content marketing and marketing automation. Let's look into both:
1. Content marketing
Content marketing is a strategic approach focusing on communicating with your prospects without selling to them. It's done by distributing valuable content, building trust, creating lasting relationships and turning them into customers when they're ready.
Generating results using content marketing takes time but it's worth the investment. Content marketing is about publishing the right content at the right place and the right time.
It's customer focused and as such, it's marketing that people actually like. It doesn't interrupt them, it helps them. The way to go about it is to:
- publish constantly to your company blog (consider the buyer's journey, don't interrupt, write content that helps and educates)
- optimize the content so that it shows up in search engines when your prospects are looking for solutions
- amplify the content using social media and email marketing
- set up landing pages and lead capture forms and turn strangers into leads by exchanging their details in return for your content
- nurture the leads and build trust
35% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy - that number is bound to grow as more and more businesses realize the long-term potential of adding value instead of interrupting.
2. Marketing automation
Marketing automation goes hand in hand with content marketing. Marketing automation softwares enable you to help your leads find their own path down the buyer's journey leading to a purchase. The way to do it is to interact with your prospects and send them relevant content using:
- email drips
- lead scoring
- smart content
Note that implementing an Inbound Marketing strategy without marketing automation is a valid option. Start off by doing things manualy and perfect your strategy as you go.
B2B is about creating long lasting relationships with both prospective and current clients. By putting your customer in the center and ditching a marketer centric approach, you can dramatically improve your performance and help your company grow. It's worth spending time researching and understanding how to implement an entire Inbound Marketing strategy. It's a long term investment and for most B2B business, a worthwhile one.