Want to get the most out of your B2B campaigns? Let’s talk about your inbound plan.
Choosing effective strategies is key. What’s hot today may soon be yesterday’s news. Fortunately, there is some valuable data out there to show what’s doing well right now. Check out our top ten B2B marketing strategies for 2016, complete with actionable tips on how to make it happen:
1. Content marketing
The Why: Content marketing is easily the hottest trend in B2B marketing, and is the one that is showing the best ROI by a long shot. A recent study from PulsePoint projects that content marketing budgets will double by 2017. For lead generation, it’s invaluable. Even better, content marketing actually costs less than traditional marketing at 62% less per lead overall.
The How: Blogs, white papers and webinars are all great ways to establish authority. Blogs drive traffic to your website, while white papers and webinars attract prospects.
The Hard Part: where some companies have difficulty with content marketing is in creating a consistent flow of quality content to a targeted audience. The most successful efforts use a strategic approach that includes using a detailed and collaborative content calendar, buyer personas and allocating some investment into copywriting, distribution, automation to keep the flow going. For even more impact, add in some data-based intelligence to know what to write and who to target.
2. Search Engine Optimization
The Why: SEO is as important today as it ever has been. Being found by the people and businesses who are looking for you, your product or the service you provide is what it’s all about.
The How: achieving top ranking in the search engines is a bit of a moving target. It pays to stay on top of Google SEO recommendations, as they seem to change on almost a daily basis. The biggest difference is that these days there is less emphasis on the back end code and more on the front end. Meta tags and backlinks continue to be an element, but the one single thing that drives high ranking sites is good content: fresh, relevant, original, engaging content, and lots of it. Good content and the links and authority those garner boosts your overall site rank. Social media also figures highly, and keeping your profiles active is key.
The Hard Part: Longer posts are now ranking pages higher, and keyword stuffing can do just the opposite of what you’ve intended. It’s mostly about the necessity of spending the time and making the effort to fulfill these standards. Quality reigns supreme.
3. Marketing Automation
The Why: Marketing automation allows you to directly connect your investment to the leads it generates. It can activate automated messages to prospects at different points in the sales funnel, and notify your sales force when the lead is in buying mode.
The How: Technologies such as Marketo, Pardot, and Hubspot are leading the charge with simple, insightful and smart processes that take your B2B marketing efforts to a whole new level. Business Intelligence services can add even more value to your marketing automation efforts, applying intent data to your messaging to reach precisely the right people at the right time.
The Hard Part: Marketing automation can represent a significant investment, so more than most B2B marketing strategies, it needs to show an appreciable ROI. Don’t waste money on marketing automation unless you can commit the time and the training resources to get the most out of it.
The Why: Okay, it’s not so much a trend as a reminder that this is still one of the only marketing channels where you have your prospect’s full and undivided attention. Use it wisely. The trend back towards recognizing the importance of email is driven by some interesting statistics: 67% of all email in the United States is opened on a mobile device: smartphones, tablets and wearables are the ‘new inbox’. Compelling news.
In our own study of top marketers, we found email is still ranking highest as an inbound strategy.
The How: Email ties in with your content marketing strategy. Boom. You’re probably already doing it.
The Hard Part: Ensure your email marketing messages are reaching the right people, with the right message, at the right time.
The Why: YouTube is officially the second largest search engine after Google. If you’re not taking advantage of this little tidbit, you’re missing an entire demographic – specifically the 18-35-year-old age bracket. While many start-ups are being launched by millennials, this is a sector you might not want to ignore in your content marketing strategy.
The How: Interviews with authorities in your field, insightful demonstrations of your product or service or how-to videos that make your prospect’s life easier.
The Hard Part: If you don’t feel comfortable on camera, this can be difficult. Canvas your workforce for topics of interest, and it’s possible you may find a passionate individual or two that will be happy to step into the role.
6. Buyer Personas
The Why: understanding your ideal – and not-so-ideal – customers is the key to effective communication. Segment your audience in a way that addresses their specific needs, behaviors and concerns.
The How: Interview or survey your current, past and prospective customers. Create one, two or a dozen buyer personas to help your marketing message and salesforce better connect with their prospects. Hubspot offers a valuable (and free!) template for creating effective buyer personas.
The Hard Part: You will need to allocate some time to this, as it’s something that adds value to the bigger picture, but not necessarily in the short term.
7. Create Value in your Communications
The Why: Traditionally speaking, you connect with your prospect and then proceed to follow up with more information. Even if your product or service is something they are interested in, how do you stay on top of their minds without being a pest?
The How: Instead of bombardment with a constant sales pitch, send valuable information, white papers and possibly invitations to upcoming events that might be of interest. You are building trust and establishing your authority.
The Hard Part: Reading the ‘digital body language’ may be a challenge. Gain more insight into your prospects with intent data to get the most out of your marketing strategy.
8. User Experience
The Why: Does your website deliver what your average customer is looking for? Is information easy to find? Is the site clean, simple and easy to navigate? How easy is it for them to get in touch? Is it responsive? All of these elements are important to the user experience, and have a direct effect on how people respond to your brand.
The How: If your website is outdated, busy or vague, you are not meeting your customer’s expectations. Ensure that every possible entry to your site is visible from all your social platforms.
The Hard Part: Realize that your digital presence is just as important as what you are selling, and that a negative online experience may impact your sales in ways that are at cross-purposes with your mission.
9. Lead Nurturing
The Why: Your average prospect isn’t ready to buy out of the gate. They may be a day, a week or a year away from making that decision. Nurtured leads represent an average of 20% increase in opportunities over non-nurtured leads. All that at a lower cost per lead overall.
The How: Personalized emails, timely follow-ups and a focused alignment of sales and marketing efforts generate the highest conversion rates. Think multi-channel. Follow up within five minutes of conversion as opposed to thirty.
The Hard Part: Nurturing leads is a delicate task that often requires some form of marketing automation, which often requires significant investment in both time and resources. When you don’t see results right away, this can be difficult to maintain. However, the biggest payoffs come with patience and consistency. Keep the big picture in your sights.
10. Social Media
The Why: Social media marketing is one of the most important content marketing channels there is. Cool stats: 60% of buyers research new service providers on social media before they buy, while 17% of B2B referrals are made based on social media interactions.
The How: LinkedIn leads the charge for B2B, with Twitter coming in close second. Keep your profiles active and up to date, and in the case of LinkedIn, join B2B groups that align with your company’s vision and ideals. Benchmark, network and engage.
The Hard Part: You may not be putting enough stock in social media. It should receive at least as much love and attention as any of your online marketing efforts.
What has worked for you?
While these B2B marketing trends may be foremost for the moment, the playing field is constantly in motion and we all do well with a little benchmarking now and then. It’s simple. Find what works, and do more of it. Check out our related posts below for more on these subjects.