5 Essentials of online B2B marketing
B2B marketing has a completely different set of challenges in comparison to B2C marketing. Unlike B2C marketing, the role of B2B marketing often involves creating a strong brand and generating awareness about it, rather than doing the actual selling. Hence, often B2B companies focus more on sales than marketing which seems to yield short term results but doesn’t create a fast-growing sustainable business.
Why should you spend time and money on B2B marketing?
Most businesses that sell to other businesses operate in a finite market i.e. there is a limited number of clients you can sell to and as the offering gets more niche, the market size decreases. It is also unlikely that they wouldn’t have any competition and most clients tend to evaluate multiple vendors before making a purchasing decision. Given these marketing factors, effective online marketing becomes critical in improving conversion rates.
When building a B2B brand, it’s important to first introspect and understand where you stand in comparison to the other solutions present in the market. With this in place, you now need to:
- Be present online wherever there is a question or discussion regarding your category
- Get influencers to speak positively about your brand
- Generate thought leadership content
- Promote low effort content through content ads, linkedin ads, sponsored articles and other non one-one channels
- Promote high effort content through sales automation using list generation platforms like Data.com, Elusify, LeadIQ as well as Linkedin Inmails.
Let’s look at these in detail:
1. Be present online wherever there is a question or discussion regarding your category
B2B purchase decisions are usually high involvement purchase decisions that involve a number of people from the organization. Usually this decision starts with an online search and research. The best way to create awareness is to be part of the conversation online regarding the categories your product is part of.
A systematic way to do this would be to use google keyword search tool to find various keywords related to your product category that have a large number of search results. For each keyword, perform an online search and list all the websites that come up. Now for each website, go through the content and figure out how to be part of the discussion through your brand. Some of the first page results might require paid mentions.
In forums like quora, you can directly post yourself and in product review sites, it might make sense to request your existing customers who are happy with your product to review it. Each website should have its own strategy and the first page results should get 80% of the budget and time. However do not ignore the next two pages either. People go through more pages in an average B2B product search than they do for personal searches.
2. Get influencers to speak positively about your brand
Most industries have influencers who write about the space and have a significant readership among decision makers. These folks could be bloggers, journalists, analysts from companies like Forrester, Gartner, IDC or business leaders who have been in that space for a while.
Getting them to speak positively about your brand gives you borrowed credibility since their reputation gets attached to your credibility now. Establishing a relationship with influencers is an ongoing process and requires dedicated effort. You have to keep them updated about new developments and understand their opinion about the space to really have an informed conversation.
When you’re getting an influencer to write about your brand, you not only have to do it on your website and social media channels but you should also get them to talk about it on their channels. Mentions on their channels give you qualified traffic and on your channels give you credibility.
3. Generate thought leadership content
B2B vendors often create a maze of content. We’ve seen social media updates wishing viewers on festivals and talking about issues not related to their sector. In the B2B space, content needs to be as targeted as possible. A good way to approach this is to look at the content headline and ask yourself if it builds your brand as a thought leader. If it does not, junk it.
Content that creates a thought leadership perception is usually in the form of concise articles, infographics, case studies, research reports, whitepapers and webinars. Before doing any of this, do a cursory check online to make sure others haven’t said the exact same thing before you. Include personal examples with business benefits and highlight anything that would entice a reader to get back to you for an enquiry. Remember, the purpose of this content is not to generate sales but just to get the reader to enquire about your offering.
4. Promote content through content ads, linkedin ads, sponsored articles and other non personalized channels
Before you start promoting your content, you need to be crystal clear on who your target consumer is i.e. which companies, departments, designations, geographies and so on. Ideally you would want to know what they are reading and watching. This forms the starting point of your content promotion strategy.
Using channels like content ad networks like Taboola, Outbrain, Linkedin sponsored content, google ads on targeted news sites and sponsored articles on targeted news sites you can then reach out to these influencers. However, advertising is not cheap, especially in B2B and you need to ensure that your CTAs are strong enough to get people to click and drop their information on your website.’
5. Promote high effort content through sales automation using list generation platforms like Data.com, Elusify, LeadIQ as well as Linkedin Inmails
There’s some content you create every year that is expensive and extremely informative. This is generally in the form of whitepapers, webinars, research reports and industry outlook reports. For example, one of the companies I worked for as a consultant was in outsourcing advisory and they had a yearly report called “Top 100 outsourcing destinations around the world”. This publication was read by a majority of CIOs and CTOs across the world.
This report required 3 months of time from a research director, 2 consultants and 3 analysts which essentially was easily an expense of over $20,000 but because this positioned them as a global thought leader in the outsourcing advisory space, they would get several millions in new contracts after each report was published every year.
Once you generate this content, build lists of your target audience through lead exchange/purchase sites like Data.com, Elusidy and LeadIQ and reach out to them via personalized sales automation mails through a tool like Replyapp. Because these emails look like they’ve gone through the inbox of a sales agent, they have a high deliverability and conversion rate. Linkedin Inmails can be used to but they can be a little expensive.