There is an apocryphal Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” If you are a modern B2B marketer, it’s hard not to feel that way.
Thanks to the Internet, the way people buy has changed dramatically in these interesting times. Based on a Corporate Executive Board study, B2B buyers are at least 57% through their buyer journey before they first contact the seller. Other studies estimate that percentage even higher.
And with changes in the way people buy, that changes how products must be marketed.
Fading fast are the days of powerful, interruptive, outbound marketing tactics like advertising, cold calling and direct mail. With every passing month, your prospects can tune out more and more unsolicited, uninterested marketing messages. Even yours.
Now, companies are trying to insert themselves into that first 57% of the buyer journey that takes place without direct contact.
There is a jumble of new marketing tactics that are available and many companies are not sure how to get started. Some companies are flummoxed and in a state of marketing paralysis about how to get started.
It’s as if companies feel like they are pinned down in a marketing firefight, mindful of the need to move forward and take ground but not sure where to go.
Don’t worry. To borrow the U.S. Army Infantry slogan, “Follow me!” and focus on these five areas of B2B marketing for fast results:
1. Develop Buyer Personas. Before investing any more money in your marketing, step back and do a bit of research into who your buyer personas really are.
In Adele Revella’s “The Buyer Persona Manifesto,” she offers this definition of a buyer persona:
"It’s an archetype, a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you sell."
Buyer personas are like an avatar crafted from direct interviews with as many buyers as possible. And from their behavior observed at conferences, social media, etc.
Other characters who influence the buyer’s decision-making process will emerge from this research: procurement people, bosses, rivals, etc.
It’s important to remember that this buyer persona is not necessarily your customer. The development of the persona helps you discern the difference between who you THINK your customer is versus who you real customer is. Flowing from that is a wealth of strategic insights about not only who your customer is, but also how to talk to them.
2. Create Remarkable Content. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “… a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
One of the few things your prospects might find of interest about you while they are researching a purchase is your content. But there’s a catch. Your content needs to be remarkable, educational, entertaining or otherwise useful. (Hint: don’t write about your company, write about how to solve your prospects’ problems.)
Blogging is the one of the most powerful B2B marketing tactics that a company can adopt. Each blog post is one more ticket in the search engine lottery for getting found by your prospective customers when they are researching a solution to their problem.
According to HubSpot, companies that blog get…
Companies that blog get 55% more website traffic than those that don't blog.
Companies that blog get 70% more leads than those that don't blog.
57% of companies have acquired a customer through their blog.
And, blogs affect purchasing decisions:
71% of companies said blogs affect their purchase decisions
In addition to blogging, your content marketing efforts should include some premium content that is mapped to the buyer’s journey.
Examples of premium content include eBooks, whitepapers, tip sheets, recorded webinars, etc. The content should answer questions related to the buyer’s journey to help educate them on the nature of the problem you solve and how to make a smart purchase in your category.
This content should be placed on your site behind a landing page with a form so that you can capture their email address, name and any other information that you need (but don’t ask for too much more information).
Congratulations, you now have a lead! But don’t toss the lead to sales just yet – most people who become a lead on your site are looking to buy, but not right now. That leads us to the next step.
3. Use Email Marketing. Social media gets a lot of attention these days, but email marketing is still the tactic with greater firepower. It is just about the best way to develop a relationship with your prospects as they get to know, like and trust your company.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to communicate with your prospects because they will have agreed to receive emails from you and every one of them should receive the message (as opposed to social media posts, which a lot fewer will see).
4. Use Marketing Automation Software. Marketing automation software can help B2B companies close the gap between marketing and sales by seamlessly and consistently nurturing prospects with relevant information at every stage of the sales cycle.
In addition, this software helps to automate repetitive marketing tasks, create and maintain a database of potential and current customers, integrates with a customer relationship management (CRM) program and more.
5. Measure Your Marketing. That which can be measured can be improved! Sadly, many B2B marketers are still not using readily available data to make informed decisions. You might be good at gut decisions, but these days you can base your decisions more on data than instinct.
With Internet marketing, there are a number of key metrics to monitor to help you quickly determine which lead generation tactics are working and which are not. Armed with that information, you can do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working.
And most importantly, with marketing automation software, you can tie sales back to specific marketing activities to calculate your ROI.
Your turn: What do you think are the fastest ways to improve B2B marketing?