B2B marketing is no cake walk – and picking which recipe you start with isn’t any easier. There is an endless array of different strategies, tactics, and ideas for B2B search marketers to choose from these days. But, the best ideas and strategies are built on hard data, not blind optimization or chasing vanity metrics.
As you can see from the infographic above, courtesy of Pardot, the modern B2B marketer is a combination of artist and scientist. Which means he or she is bound to come up with some incredible ideas. But at Directive Consulting, we like to remind ourselves “don’t even let good ideas get in our way.”
In the B2B space, cost-efficiency and time-efficiency are everything. With that in mind, here are the three big ideas we believe will dominate B2B marketing in 2017 – and 9 tactics to go along with them!
Big Idea #1: Help Don’t Sell
B2B marketing normally requires a longer sales cycle than normal search marketing or other quick-win eCommerce campaigns. To account for this elongated sales cycle, B2B marketers often have to engage in some slow-played lead nurturing. You aren’t going to close the deal on the first interaction – so don’t even bother.
Instead, focus on providing as much value to your different users as possible. The more transparent and authoritative you are with your expertise, the more comfortable your potential leads will be. And the more likely they will be to convert when the time is ready for them to pick an agency.
This “Help Don’t Sell” Mantra will require you reworking how you target your content, somewhat. Below are three tactics to Make sure your content helps, and doesn’t sell.
Tactic 1: Answer Your Users Questions
To reach B2B leads, you have to start on Google, because 71% of B2B researchers will begin their research with a generic search, according to HubSpot. Unless you’ve invested in paid ads and third-party directory sites (Capterra, Software Advice, etc), it’s going to be difficult to break onto the first page of the SERP (search engine results page). It’s important to know when ranking for high-volume, primary keywords is realistic and when it’s a pipe dream.
However, just because you can’t rank for the primary keyword doesn’t mean you can’t rank for its long-tail variant. These long-tail variations of your primary keyword may not generate as much search volume, but they usually carry more qualified searchers looking to convert.
All it takes is a little research. Start with Answer the Public, which allows you to type in topics and then see which questions are being asked about said topics. You should also do Keyword Research through a platform like Moz, and then incorporate those keywords in your content. If you do this correctly, you’re content will be geared to rank for more long-tail queries that bring searchers further down the funnel.
Tactic 2: Content for Users, About Users, Promoted To Users
Ranking your blog posts on long-tail keyword SERPs is a great way to build an audience of loyal readers to nurture. However, in the B2B space which is known for steep competition, it can sometimes take a bit more to cut through the noise.
To make sure that your end-customer is not only finding your content but engaging with it, Directive Consulting developed the Account Based Content (ABC) Approach.
It is often the case in B2B marketing that we our campaigns are built to target specific accounts. So, if your sales team is focusing all of its outreach and efforts on a set 20 target accounts, why are you wasting time promoting content to all of Twitter?
Instead of creating broad-spanning promotion campaigns built on reaching your target demographic. Start customizing personalized content about your target accounts and promoting it directly to those accounts.
For example, we created a data report psycho-analyzing the CTAs of the top 100 SaaS landing pages. But we didn’t just publish the post and dust our hands clean. While our VA data-scientist was scraping the different data for the report, he was also prospecting different contacts for each of the companies. This way, we not only had a high quality gated asset available for download and a blog post analyzing it, but we also had the emails we needed to directly promote the piece to those accounts.
Tactic 3: Take Your Time with Drip Cadences
Too many search marketers these days try to get straight to the win with their conversions. But the truth is that your first click or conversions is rarely going to close the deal in B2B. Instead of trying to schedule a demo on the initial conversion, try just getting some contact information.
This is where the “Help Don’t Sell” Mantra comes into play. If you can get their email, you now have the chance to transparently nurture these leads with consistent, helpful content.
Sometimes you start communicating with a potential lead while they are still in the end-days of their current agency contract. This means that you need to keep yourself in the conversation until they are ready to switch agencies. And a drip cadence is the perfect way for you to do that.
For more tips on how to create an integrated lead nurturing drip campaign you can read the blog post below.
Big Idea #2: Create Diverse, Easily Consumed Content
Not every search engine user consumes content the same way. More importantly, not every one of your end-customers consumes content the same way – which is far more important.
If you’re focus is B2B marketing, keep in mind that your target audience consists of VPs, Marketing Directors, and C-Suite level executives. These aren’t fellow marketing managers looking to improve their own skill set with fancy optimization tactics.
These are the top level decision makers looking to improve business functions, ROI, and growth. These different psychographics will help you determine which pain points you need to be addressing in your content.
Keep in mind that the format of your content also matters. These days, VPs don’t spend all day behind a desk and a monitor. Blog posts may not be the only type of content you’re publishing in 2017.
Tactic 4: Build Authority with Industry-Trusted Thought Leaders
At least one of the tactics had to include blogging. That’s because, according to HubSpot, companies that put out more than 16 blog posts per month received about 4.5x more leads than companies that released only 0 to 4 monthly posts.
Specifically, in terms of B2B marketing, 96% of buyers would like to see more content with input from their industries’ thought leaders. Search marketing is all about conveying and leveraging the authority of your brand. Make sure you are citing and collaborating with thought leaders to boost your own brand’s authority with theirs.
In your own campaigns, you can:
- Create a blog post written by your company president, CEO or another executive who has deep insight on a relevant industry topic.
- Write a blog post that features an interview with an influential industry leader.
- Have one of your executives make a whiteboard video explaining a certain concept within your niche.
Tactic 5: Feature Thought Leaders in Webinars & PodCasts
You don’t have to stop at blogging. Creating diverse types of content like videos, webinars and podcasts can help you take up more market share in the minds of users. If it comes down to two companies with similar pricing and services and blogs, which one do you think the VP will go with? The company whose podcast he listens to every Friday on the way to work, or the one he doesn’t?
Marketers have rated webinars as one of the most 12 frequently used marketing tactics, as well as one of the top five most effective tactics, according to Content Marketing Institute. Webinars are not just for gathering leads; they are also useful further down the sales funnel when you’re convincing your leads to convert.
Webinars can be held live or be pre-recorded and then posted on your website. Whichever way you choose to showcase your webinar, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Figure out your exact reason for doing the webinar. For example, if you want to find leads, you should hold a webinar featuring a talk with a thought leader on an industry topic or pain point. If you want to target users further down in the sales funnel, you may show them how to use one of your products.
- Determine which platform you’re going to use. While Facebook Live may be great for B2C, you may want to use a more professional platform, like GoToWebinar or iMeetLive.
- Ask users to sign up with their email addresses ahead of time so you can send them reminders about it beforehand, as well as market to them afterward.
- Advertise your webinar on your website, email newsletter list, social media platforms and through SMS.
- Decide how long it will be. According to Pardot and BrightTalk, most webinars are 42-minutes long.
- Determine the best time for your users to tune in. For example, if you have many leads and customers on the East Coast, you would want to schedule it during their lunch hour when they have some downtime.
- If you’re featuring a slideshow presentation, make sure your graphics are dynamic and easy to look at.
- Take your webinar and write a blog post or create a SlideShare about it. Then, you’ll get more views and be able to repurpose some of your valuable content for people who didn’t have time to tune in.
Tactic 6: Build White Papers Around Industry Pain Points
White papers are one of the most effective forms of content marketing for B2B companies. That’s why it should be at the top of your B2B marketing ideas list.
According to Curata statistics from May of 2016, in the past 12 months, white papers were the most widely used type of content for making B2B purchasing decisions. Plus, it’s also the form of content that’s most likely to be shared with colleagues.
White papers are excellent for the beginning stages of the sales funnel. They convince potential customers that your company is worth looking into, and can push them from being marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads.
In your white papers, you should strive to solve issues that exist within your industry and provide value for your readers that can be useful in their own business activities. Also, make sure you collect email addresses when giving out your free white papers so you can stay in touch with your leads.
Big Idea #3: Know How to Best Reach Your Audience
Whether it is ABC promotion or it’s generating social engagements like shares and likes, it’s vital that you know where to reach your target audience and where to place your brand and content for max visibility.
And yes, this is the part of the blog post that I inevitably tell you that social media is a must for B2B demand generation.
Especially in B2B marketing where you have to employ the help-don’t-sell style outreach, social media is perfect for brief but value-focused conversations. Keep in quick, keep it casual, and keep it helpful – silence that inner salesman of yours.
Tactic 7: Leverage LinkedIn for Content & Connections
LinkedIn is the social media platform for B2B marketing. According to Hootsuite, 94% of B2B marketers use the site to distribute their content, and seven out of 10 professionals say that LinkedIn is a trustworthy source for professional content.
The professional social media platform is where you go to cultivate relationships as well as post your relevant content. To fulfill these B2B marketing ideas you should:
- Post updates daily from your LinkedIn company page to raise your brand awareness and stay active on the site.
- Post original content exclusively for LinkedIn such as blog posts.
- Repurpose blog posts by pasting the first paragraph of them and then linking to the rest of the posts.
- Join LinkedIn Groups and be active in these communities by asking and answering questions and posting your valuable content.
- Reach out to anyone relevant who has viewed your company page.
- Connect with your leads through InMail.
- Check out your leads’ personal and business pages to see what they’re up to and the kind of content they post. Then, you can target them with similar content that would help them out.
Tactic 8: Make Sure Your Offers are Mobile Friendly
These days, 42% of B2B researchers will use their mobile phones throughout the B2B purchasing process, and 49% of B2B researchers will conduct research on their phones while at work. If you want to draw in these leads, you have to ensure that all of your websites and content offerings are mobile-friendly.
In practice, this means that you have a website that is responsive to mobile devices or you create separate, simpler pages for mobile users to access. You should also avoid Flash or large images that will take forever to load on a phone, autoplaying videos on your webpage, or having too many pop ups. Your text content, like blog posts and white papers, should be broken down into smaller paragraphs so that it’s easier to read on mobile devices.
We like to use the Hemingway Editor to make sure our content marketers are creating content that everyone can read.
If you want to see how mobile friendly your site is, you can run the Mobile-Friendly Test from Google.
Tactic 9: Don’t Forget About SMS & Email
SMS messaging is popular with people everywhere. Every month, people around the globe send 350 billion text messages per month and more than 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received.
According to Tatango, the average click-through rate on SMS links is 36%, which is way higher than the 3% click-through rate for email marketing. Perhaps this is because SMS marketing is always opt-in. People are choosing to receive the content, whereas they may be unaware that they’re handing their email over for marketing purposes.
In terms of B2B marketing ideas for SMS, you can:
- Send links to your content to your leads.
- Send them automated marketing messages that encourage them to take some sort of action.
- Communicate with them personally to follow up after they tried out a product or downloaded a piece of content.
To build awareness of your SMS marketing program, you can display an opt-in keyword and phone number to text to get on the list on your website, social media platforms and email newsletters.
On top of all of these new-age communication platforms, make sure you don’t forget about good ol’ email marketing. When you are working in a business-to-business relationship, email is going to be involved – guaranteed. You should be investing in diverse and engaging social media campaigns, yes. But don’t neglect your email campaigns or let your email response rates suffer.
To make sure your email outreach is still generating the replies you are looking for, check out this Moz post we published on How We Increase Our Email Response Rate from 8%-34% (and it’s still sitting pretty up there!).
Getting Started With Your B2B Marketing Ideas
Now that you have some B2B marketing ideas, it’s time to go out there and execute them. For innovative tactics and new B2B marketing ideas every week – be sure to subscribe to our blog for our Friday newsletters where we share our best and most recent content!
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