According to the State of B2B Marketing 2016 report from the B2B digital marketing company Regalix, the biggest goal the majority of B2B marketers have had for the year is boosting company revenue.
It makes sense, of course, because who doesn’t want to make more money?
But for those companies that are actually meeting that goal, digital strategies are leading the way, especially so for the top performers in the B2B market.
By using big data to determine the habits of your key prospects, businesses can analyze data to identify and target prospects with more personalized content, which can have a major impact on a business’s bottom line.
By getting the right message to the right person at exactly the right time, which is the backbone of fact- based account marketing, your business stands a better chance of making a sale.
Digital can significantly improve financial performance – according to estimates, businesses going digital can boost sales by as much as 15 percent more than those not taking advantage of the available strategies – so it seems a surprise that many B2Bs aren’t embracing digital in its entirety.
It’s not as if B2B companies are ignoring digital marketing, or that they even could. Society is evolving along with technology, and as the latest tech development is overtaken by a new kid on the block seemingly within minutes, businesses have to be on board in order to stay competitive.
But according to research, B2C businesses are taking advantage of digital at a faster pace – both Starbucks and Columbia Sportswear have seen their revenues skyrocket thanks to well-established digital presences on social media and other platforms – than their B2B cousins, and B2Bs are paying a hefty price.
What’s the holdup?
Some of the digital delays on the B2B side come from the vast differences between B2B and B2C businesses. B2Bs have a much more targeted group of prospects and are not selling to the masses, so the same type of digital messaging won’t have the same impact.
A B2C can sell a cup of coffee with one enticing pic with perfectly placed foam on Facebook, for example, while a similar photo or video of a marketing automation platform may spark interest that leads to months of research, but certainly not a craving for an immediate trip to watch a sales presentation.
On the B2B side, it takes longer to close a deal, especially given the sheer numbers of people involved in making a B2B purchase, so marketers have to do their homework, read the data and know their prospects perfectly before targeting them with any type of digital marketing, because the wrong material can send the wrong message.
If the product or service is a big ticket item that could have a significant impact on the company’s success, a mistake like that can be a costly one, because your prospect is not likely to forget that you weren’t on the ball during that initial contact.
But that’s no reason to tiptoe around the opportunities digital marketing offers.
Instead, it’s best to leap into the deep end of the pool rather than just getting your feet wet.
Marketing expert Joe Pulizzi said that content marketing is most effective when marketers invest time and energy on creating a diverse array of content, going “all in” on the concept rather than offering tidbits of information here and there.
Focusing intently on content marketing as a strategy positions you as a clear expert, and that will make you stand out among your peers.
“It’s just like being a parent or a driver: You can’t be ‘kind of’ in and expect positive results. It simply doesn’t work that way. Make content marketing a priority or focus your efforts elsewhere,” he said in a blog post on the Content Marketing Institute website.
The same holds true for digital marketing.
If you don’t focus your attention wholly on your digital marketing campaigns – making sure they include plenty of expert assets reaching a wide variety of markets and prospects through a variety of channels – then there’s no point in making the investment.
B2B Digital Marketing that matters
Creating quality digital content – videos showing your product at work, interviews with customers turned brand advocate, infographics that show how your product can benefit a company financial or other visuals that help create a vibrant personality for your brand – is vital to the success of a digital marketing campaign.
But keeping the content cohesive – which means staying on brand throughout all aspects of your marketing efforts – will make it easier for prospects to get to know your company. And the more digital content you produce and release, the more aware of your company your target audience will be. Great content will help generate warm leads, and that’s the goal of any B2B marketing campaign.
Still, using data to track results can help you determine which digital avenues are working best, allowing you to focus your attention on those.
When C&I Engineering, which offers solutions to highly technical industry problems, turned to Brand Extract to help their customers get to know them better by conveying their brand messaging in a more innovative way, they turned to digital video to help make that happen.
“We recognized that we needed to communicate this concept of the ‘big picture’ solution brand,” strategist Leslie Rainwater said. “Based on our research, we knew this was the right message for C & I, so we explored how to establish this story with their customers.”
While content marketing was an option, video gave them the chance to sell their company’s creative spirit in a more innovative way, which allowed them to convey their message of providing design and safety solutions to customers in a vibrant style that matched the company itself.
“Video is not the cost-prohibitive beast that it once was, which makes it easier to produce. The beautiful thing about C & I’s video is that it is so true to the brand,” said creative director Greg Giles. “It is an accurate reflection of the company — a group of engineers trying to break out of a stereotypical mode.”
It was effective, according to the creatives at Brand Extract, because “videos are a smart, concise way to tell a brand story and explore the benefits of what a company can offer in a way that makes sense to both potential consumers and employees.”
Social media is also an excellent B2B digital expenditure, in part because social media crosses all generations, reaching a wider market that not only includes your company’s smaller niche, but also markets you may not yet be aware of, expanding your business opportunities.
Through social media, companies can target ads and other content specifically geared toward their prime prospects, while still reaching a larger audience.
Digital channels help us marketers create the opportunity to find more prospects exactly like our best customers, creating a roster that rivals any fantasy league football team.
Going mobile and other reasons for cohesion
In as much as it is important to have a cohesive marketing message, your company experience has to be harmonious no matter how a client or prospect makes contact with you.
Digital experiences should match in-person contact, and there should be an ease of transferring from one to another.
One of easiest ways a business can fail is to make the experience difficult for customers.
Ensuring that your marketing messages move seamlessly from platform to platform – a website should be designed to be used via mobile products, for example – will make not only simplify your prospect’s ability to research your product or service, but will also make the purchasing process easier.
Stats show that at least 90 percent of B2B buyers use mobile during at least some part of the process, but only 10 percent of B2B marketers have a mobile marketing plan in place.
Investing here now will put your company ahead of your competitors, and more on target for future spending.
Ensuring that your company has invested in cross-channel integration will make each experience with your company seamless, because the more difficult it is for customers to do business, the more quickly you will lose them.
Digital should be the basis of your marketing plan
While you’re looking at ways to use digital platforms to help expand your advertising beyond the old-school methods of direct mail, industry vendor halls and cold calls, don’t forget that big data is one of the most important ways digital technology can help B2B businesses boost revenue.
The internet is awash with information about your prospects, each of whom leaves digital breadcrumbs every time they search, download and click.
By analyzing that data – following the breadcrumbs, if you will – marketers can learn more about their target companies, and the people in those companies. Data is giving marketers the opportunity to create campaigns that are more intimately aimed at each prospect, which is the best way to develop long-lasting, meaningful relationships based on mutual respect.
Because even niche markets are highly competitive, maybe even more so because the differences between each product can be subtle, understanding the differences between each prospect’s needs through intent signaling data makes the difference. It helps the marketing department work smarter, so there is less wasted effort, and less overhead. Digital ultimately saves money, even when taking the initial investment in big data software into account.
The top performers in the B2B marketplace are the ones that really know their customers, and they do that through analytics.
Your company can gather all the big data it wants, but the successful companies are the ones that learn how to properly analyze that data, creating a storyboard about each potential client so that when the sales team makes the pitch, it goes in completely prepared, with all the right information in hand to wow the room, no matter how many decision makers are involved in the sale, each bringing with him or her a different set of expectations.
Analytics show that CEOs – the decision makers who are usually the ones who ultimately wield the purchasing power – are more likely to respond to sales pitches that are based on their own specific needs.
Knowing your prospect is invaluable when making a sale, and big data gives you real-time information about them, such as alerts when a target company is searching specific keywords, for example. Knowing key details about your prospects harkens back to the days of the Don Drapers of Madison Avenue (and the Fuller Brush salesmen), when asking questions about the kids – and remembering their names – made all the difference.
We may live in a data-driven world, but data along with analysis – essential artificial intelligence teamed with human intelligence – can still allow for those intimate, personal business relationships that grow stronger over time.
Marketing may be more state-of-the-art precise and timely than ever, but using digital automation tools and strategies can give you a clearer picture of not only your own company – by ensuring that all of your marketing campaigns are in total alignment – but also of the companies you want to work with, so you can not only meet, but surpass your goals.
Staying innovative keeps things fresh
When it comes to digital marketing, the tortoise definitely doesn’t beat the hare.
It’s important to stay on top of the latest opportunities, collaborating from department to department to make sure the best ideas for marketing and other sales ventures make it to the table.
The days of departments working on their own are over. The same seamlessness that exists from one platform to another should be the basis of your company, as well.
Sales and marketing should know all aspects of the business, so they can sell and market it in a way that accelerates the funnel. Working together as a unit is the only way that can effectively happen.