Earlier last year I published an eBook that pulled apart some of the preconceptions around B2B Marketing strategy. You can read the full copy here. Meanwhile, I’ve summarised some of the key considerations that will be pertinent next year.
Marketing a product or service from one business to another, in a competitive commercial climate, inevitably involves a certain degree of formality and a more structured approach than B2C marketing.
Buying cycles can be lengthy and convoluted, involving a myriad of different influences and decision makers. Business development teams carefully consider how to engage the prospective business at each stage of the sales cycle.
And yet, all too often, one fundamental principal is overlooked, or at least not fully understood: a business to business marketing strategy still involves marketing and selling to humans.
B2B marketing is, fundamentally, still a process of marketing ‘B2H’ - business to humans. You could even take this one step further and argue that B2B marketing’s now evolved to a ‘human to human dialogue’.
Let’s face it, a ‘business’ is a subjective concept, it’s an inanimate construct that isn’t capable of engaging with another person on a one to one basis and therefore can’t make an emotional connection.
This may sound a little too ‘warm and fuzzy’ for the commercial cut and thrust of business marketing, but be assured, our brain is hard-wired to react a certain way, and marketers need to recognise that human beings don’t always make rational decisions.
If marketing and messaging should always strive to be more personalised and segmented and it is easy to see why commentators argue that drawing too many hard distinctions between business marketing and consumer-driven strategy can be unhelpful.
If you’re marketing to a business, recognise that you are still seeking to engage with an individual person who has their own problems to solve, as well as personal concerns and emotions which will influence their decision making. This should be the guiding principle for all aspects of marketing strategy. It forms the blueprint to frame every touch point a prospect has with your business across digital and traditional channels, right through to the commercial conversations they have with sales personnel.
We are bombarded with information and attention spans are diminishing and so opportunities to win mindshare with your audience are at a premium.
To cut through the noise, a business needs to be able to clearly articulate what it does in terms of the value and outcomes it brings to the individuals it seeks to influence.
It is time to evolve beyond ‘unique value propositions’ and the rhetoric of ‘features and benefits’. Opaque business jargon is one sure way to alienate the very people that may need your product or service but do not yet care about you, let alone how you can help them.
Audit your entire digital ecosystem: does your website communicate your brand’s true value or is it really a liability holding you back?
Buying decisions involve varying levels of research, and business buyers turn to Google to ask questions and solve problems. SEO is alive and well – and still enables a marketer to position their business in the minds of buyers during those critical early stages, at a time when they are arguably more malleable and open to influence.
Paid search continues to be an impactful and predictable lever to generate quality leads. As the cost per click for high intent terms rises, B2B marketers are using paid search to attract top and middle of the funnel enquiries. This is supported by high value ‘lead magnets’ and offers that provide valuable information and insight in return for small commitments from the prospect.
Content is the glue that binds all of this together, be it SEO strategy, gated content to support paid search or a concerted effort to demonstrate expertise to garner awareness and consideration in a new audience.
Content strategy takes time, commitment, and rigid discipline to never stray from what your prospects are likely to find useful. Having a strategy to support content means giving thought to target channels for distribution and the desired outcomes in moving prospects through the buyer journey. It therefore always needs to have some intent tied to it, even if it doesn’t always contain a specific call to action.
Structuring content strategy into smaller, more manageable steps over shorter periods of time and maintaining consistency is a more pragmatic approach for smaller marketing teams and will always outperform the ad hoc alternative that sees new content pieces released randomly with little regard to how they can be manipulated to support lead generation.
High quality, relevant content can be re-purposed and dissected into smaller pieces that lend themselves to all of the digital lead generation channels we have discussed in this article.
We produced a checklist in the B2B eBook to ensure you can say on the right track. I hope you can use this to reappraise your current B2B marketing strategy in order to better reach and convert the perfect customers for your business leading into the new year.
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