Take a look at any marketing publication or website and you’ll find no shortage of retrospectives on the past year, plus predictions for the 12 months that lie ahead. The year that just “rang out” brought a host of changes that are reshaping B2B communications: a shifting social media landscape, accelerated use of chatbots and voice-directed search, new technologies around personalization and localization, the growing importance of content marketing — the list goes on. Change is a fact of life for marketers, yet one principle remains constant: the need to earn the trust of the target audience.
Building trust with prospective customers is one of the most important tenets of our work as marketers, and the most effective way of building trust is through honest, effective communication. By communicating with targets in a way that resonates with their needs, pain points, and ambitions, you can establish a firm foundation for a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.
This sounds like a simple mission, yet given today’s crowded, noisy landscape (not to mention technologies like caller ID, spam filters, and email auto-sorting), it’s a bigger challenge than ever before. To cut through the noise and get the right messages to the right people at the right time, B2B marketers must be strategic, creative, and agile. As you plan your team’s strategies for the rest of this year, these five keys will help you leverage the technologies we have available while staying true to your mission of delivering effective communications to target contacts.
1. Learn About Their Interests
Remember, communication isn’t about what you want to say — it’s about what your targets want and need to hear. The more we know about their interests, the more we can incorporate this intelligence to deliver messages that make them sit up and take notice.
Take a fresh look at your personas and see how you can broaden them with what you know about issues that interest your audience. This information can come from a variety of sources, including your sales reps, customer service reps, current customer profiles, and survey and feedback information.
Also remember that filling out your targets’ interests enables you to identify “sweet spots” — characteristics that are shared by two or more audience personas — that allow you to be more efficient in your communications. Even though two audiences may appear to be very different, once you uncover common interest areas, you can create custom content that resonates with both groups.
2. Build Thought Leadership Around Common Issues
Once you have a clearer picture of your targets and the issues they care about, identify opportunities to build your thought leadership in those areas, which could cover common pain points as well as your targets’ aspirations for the future.
By building thought leadership, you establish your brand as a trusted source of the information and insights your targets need to do their jobs better and to achieve their goals. When you publish useful, engaging content, share advice from respected third parties, and answer commonly asked questions via your website and social media, you put the pieces in place for a presence your audience can respect. Then, when they do recognize a need for your products or services, your brand will be the first one that comes to mind.
3. Make a Plan
Have you ever heard the expression “failing to plan is planning to fail?” Nowhere is this adage truer than in the B2B marketing world. If you don’t yet have a plan for communicating with your target audiences over the next 12 months, now is the time to put one in place.
- Remember, an effective marketing and communications plan includes:
- Descriptions of your audience personas
- List of subjects to cover in your content
- Designated methods and media for reaching your targets (websites, social media, email, webinars, etc.)
- Scheduling strategies for all your communications
By creating and following a detailed plan, you’ll ensure that your messaging stays on point and that you establish consistency — a vital factor in building trust with your target audience.
4. Leverage the Power of Content Marketing
Over the past few years, content marketing has evolved from a niche practice into a vital component of any B2B marketing plan, and with good reason. Marketers can’t just blast targets with marketing messages and expect them to respond anymore; they need to offer something of value first, and content fits the bill by speaking directly to their needs and interests.
If you add intent monitoring to the mix, you can find out exactly what those needs and interests are, based on actual data. As target contacts engage with the web — reading blog posts, registering for webinars, downloading resources, etc. — an intent signal monitoring platform can track their actions to give us an insight into what they’re thinking. So instead of guessing which topics and formats will be most likely to elicit a response, you can look at what they’re actually responding to in their day-to-day online activities.
As you plan and execute your content marketing strategy, keep the following best practices in mind:
- Be creative, both in your content creation and your delivery, to increase your chances of cutting through the noise and gaining attention.
- Become an influencer in your field. Look for opportunities to grow your thought leadership that extend beyond your owned media — think guest blogging, articles in industry publications, and presentations at industry conferences. When prospects begin to see you as the go-to experts, you’ll start earning the trust that forms the foundation of long-lasting relationships.
- If you’re presented with a question for which you don’t have an answer, be honest about it, then go out and find the information. Audiences will respect not only your candor, but also your willingness to follow through in helping them solve their problems.
- Your content should accomplish two goals: educating your audience and making yourself necessary. Aim for striking a balance between providing valuable information and highlighting your expertise on the topics that matter to your targets.
5. Customize, Customize, Customize
The old “one size fits all” approach to communications may have worked perfectly a few years ago, but today prospects expect a customized experience. They don’t want to read a generic message and figure out how it relates to their needs — they want information that is relevant to their organization, their pain points, and their needs, presented in a format that speaks to their preferences.
Fortunately, we have the technology to deliver the customized content audiences crave. Through sophisticated email marketing and marketing automation platforms, you can segment audiences according to specific criteria and deliver custom messaging for each. And if you’re using intent monitoring, you’ll have insights to let you know when a prospect might be approaching a decision, enabling you to deliver special content to help them through the buying journey.
As we roll into a new year, opportunities abound for attracting new targets and engaging those you already have. While the means and methods of reaching people may change from year to year, the basic mission of earning trust always stays the same. By leveraging these five keys to successful communication, you can build on past successes and not only grow your audience, but also increase the likelihood that those you engage will take the next step. The result? A vibrant community where targets become followers, followers become customers, and customers become evangelists.