In the early 2000s, if someone told you to get in the back of a stranger’s car rather than hailing a taxi to arrive at your destination, you might have been horrified at the idea. Better yet, what if they told you to sleep in a stranger’s home, rather than booking a hotel room? Preposterous, right?
As luck would have it, both scenarios are attached to two of the most wildly successful business concepts to emerge over the last decade: Uber and Airbnb. Only, it wasn’t merely a matter of luck. These companies knew their disruptive ideas were worth bringing to life on a global scale — but it was how they brought them to market solidified their widespread adoption. Why? Because great ideas are only one half of the equation. When all the bases are loaded, it’s a great marketing campaign that allows a company to score the home run. If sports analogies aren’t your thing, let’s put it this way — if the product or the service is the main course, the marketing and lead generation strategies used to leverage that offering make up the coveted secret sauce.
And, we have a secret to share: B2B marketing is no exception to this rule. Businesses are still customers and, much like any consumer, they come to the table with a unique set of expectations and needs. The problem, though, is that B2B marketing is far too often misunderstood. B2B marketing (or any marketing, for that matter) should not be crammed within a one-size-fits-all model, and B2B buyers should not be treated like B2C buyers. Moreover, what once worked, or what you think has “always worked”, simply doesn’t work anymore.
The B2B buyer landscape is changing, and it’s time your marketing efforts followed suit.
Getting to know the purchase behavior of B2B buyers
Before we even think about the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, let’s consider the ‘why’. Why are B2B buyers purchasing a product or service? Moreover, why would they (or should they) consider yours?
While B2C customers are often driven by emotion and values, B2B customers are typically driven by logic, and a desire to increase ROI. In the realm of marketing, that ROI could be represented by a number of metrics including, but not limited to:
– Brand reputation
B2B customers want answers and solutions (and they want them now). Moreover, they want proof of concept. In fact, Global Web Index reports that 51% of professionals state value as a very important factor in the decision to purchase (above the consideration of price).
As a result, B2B customers are more likely to prioritize brands that offer a wealth of thought leadership content, testimonials, case studies, white papers, guides, and more. With this in mind, it’s important to understand the buying journey of a B2B customer, from awareness to consideration, to purchase. During the awareness stage, social media represents an important tool, as it helps to increase brand awareness and is a commonly utilized tool for word-of-mouth recommendations. Consider the following statistics:
– Over 60% of buyers check out new service providers on social media
– 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-Suite executives use social media when making a purchase
– A recent study on referral marketing found that 17% of expertise-based referrals are made on the basis of interactions on social media
However, as they progress through the sales funnel to the consideration stage, these customers will likely demonstrate a preference for mediums that are popularized for the distribution of high-level information, such as emails, your company website, LinkedIn, and sought-after industry outlets.
Can we get your… email?
The positive ROI of email marketing efforts is no secret; however, it’s especially important in the realm of B2B marketing. Consider the following statistics:
– 93% of B2B marketers use email
– 83% of B2B companies use email newsletters as part of their content marketing program
– 40% of B2B marketers say these newsletters are most critical to their content marketing success
Emails are, oftentimes, the perfect conduit to share value-driven information to current and prospective clients, which helps to drive engagement. Engagement drives leads and, well, you know the rest — leads translate to sales. The trick? Remember who you’re talking to. B2B buyers aren’t interested in wasting any time; rather, they want to know precisely what problem you can solve for them, how you can solve it, and what ROI your product or service can offer. With this in mind, your communications should offer:
– Educational insights
– Data-backed content
– Personalized messaging based on email segments/target markets
– Clear CTAs
You might also be wondering, how do you get the emails of prospective clients in the first place? This is where downloadable, evergreen content comes into play. Leveraging online properties (website, LinkedIn, etc.), companies should offer value-driven content in exchange for the emails of prospective buyers. This content can come in many forms, including:
– Market reports
A team effort
You may be surprised to learn that, according to Hubspot, content shared by employee advocates receives over eight times more engagement than content shared by brands. What does this mean? Well, it’s quite simple. Get your employees involved in your marketing strategy, using their shares and engagement to generate momentum organically across platforms. This can be especially effective across professional platforms like LinkedIn, which offer brands’ a favorable algorithm for achieving organic reach.
There’s marketing… and then there’s data-backed marketing
A B2B marketing and lead generation campaign should never feel like a ‘shot in the dark’ and, fortunately for vendors, it doesn’t have to be. With the right data (whether obtained directly or through a third party, or market research agency), companies can seamlessly strengthen their B2B marketing efforts by clearly defining their target audience, understanding how they think (and when they purchase), and tracking relevant trends over time. With this approach, companies should be able to readily identify the following:
– Who will benefit most from the offering?
– Who within the company of a prospective B2B customer will make the ultimate purchase decision?
– What demographics are involved?
– What solution(s) could the industry benefit from? What problem(s) need to be solved?
– How is the target audience measuring ROI? What metrics matter most to them?
– When considering the target audience, what are their preferred methods of communication?
Armed with this information, companies can segment and personalize their marketing initiatives and establish stronger relationships with their clients. This helps not only to solidify existing partnerships but can also attract new leads via positive customer feedback and testimonials. Leveraging data, companies can grow their business with better insights into their customers, prospects, trends, and emerging market demands while establishing their industry niche.
After all, market research shows that the fastest-growing firms tend to be specialists in a carefully targeted niche.
Market research should be the primary focus point for the delivery of a unified marketing strategy. Companies that surround themselves in knowledge have a better chance of being extremely successful.