CEO of Directive Consulting and founder of Freshly Salted
While many B2B marketing strategies have changed over the years, marketing goals have stayed the same: more leads, more sales, and more ROI.
Some of those strategies still work toward the same end goal. Email and events are still ranked as some of the highest lead generation practices for B2B brands.
But the changing demographics of B2B customers, as well as the increasingly digital landscape, have affected how customers buy, where they go to buy, and how brands interact with them when selling.
This creates a number of unique challenges for brands. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that B2B businesses can still achieve their marketing goals in today’s marketplace.
Here are ten of the best strategies for B2B marketing in 2018.
1. Personalize content for B2B audiences
Data-driven algorithms rule the Internet. Consumers can tailor almost every experience they have online from the ads they see on Facebook to the movies they watch on Netflix.
The increasing need for personalization also affects B2B businesses. In one report, nearly two-thirds of business buyers said that they’d “likely switch brands if a company didn’t make an effort to personalize communications.”
More businesses seem to be taking the hint, as 60% of B2B brands in one survey also indicated that a personalized approach to communication was “resoundingly high” when compared to an unpersonalized approach.
While some brands reported that they still struggled with personalization, especially when there was a lack of technology or available data, many noted that the use of personalization was still more effective when implemented, even in smaller ways.
Since algorithms won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, it will be important for B2B brands to focus on personalization, especially in key areas like email marketing and content marketing.
2. Take advantage of intent signals
One of the many advantages of doing business in a data-driven marketplace is the access to more consumer data. More consumer data, when properly analyzed, can create better and higher-qualified leads.
For B2B, data analysis can be essential for Intent Signal Monitoring — the ability to “see” every page your customer has visited in order to predict their intent to buy.
For example, data from Google shows that B2B buyers conduct an average of 12 searches before they visit a company’s website. Is your site number 13 or number 2 on their journey?
Without using predictive data to identify intent signals, it can be difficult for B2B brands to personalize or target leads. According to research from Forrester, 74% of firms say they want to become more “data-driven,” but only 29% say they’re good at connecting analytics to action.
Getting a leg up on analytics will enable brands to meet buyers through any point in the customer journey. This data can also be used to identify relevant topics or learn more about competitors to better personalize the buyer experience.
3. Post more blog content
The more businesses learn about their customers, the better content they can produce to help solve problems, peak interests, and entice sales. But it will be important for B2B brands to get that content out there more often.
According to research conducted by HubSpot, B2B companies that blogged 11 or more times per month had nearly three times more traffic than those who only blogged zero or one time per month.
More importantly, they also found that increased blog traffic had a direct correlation to the number of leads generated each month. Companies that regularly published 16 or more blog posts each month received over four times more leads than companies that published less than four posts.
Interestingly, an increase in posting frequency also impacted the type of qualified leads the company received. Brands that blogged more than 11 times per month tended to generate leads from businesses with under 200 employees, while brands that blogged at least six times per month saw the most return from companies with over 200 employees.
So not only does the number of blog posts published per month impact leads (the higher the posts, the more traffic and leads generated on average), but it also impacts the types of leads generated.
It will be important for B2B brands to identify which posting strategy will generate the right type (and amount) of leads they want. But for most, it will certainly mean publishing more content each month.
4. Add more researchable information
B2B buyers don’t solely rely on blogs to perform pre-purchase research, however.
Content on a company’s website can also impact buying decisions. In fact, research from the Acquity Group found that 94% of B2B buyers in the U.S. conduct research online at some point in the purchase process.
One of the ways that B2B companies can use this to their advantage is by adding more information on their websites for users and making it easier for them to find that information.
Adding live chat pop-ups, for example, allow buyers to ask a question if they are confused or want to learn more about a product.
When surveyed, 42% of consumers said that they preferred live chat functions over a call with a sales rep because they didn’t have have to wait on hold.
5. Send high-yield cold emails
Known for its positive results for the lowest costs, email marketing is one of the most popular B2B lead generation strategies. It can be especially effective for answering customer questions and promoting content and products.
One type of email that is often overlooked today (but was once a staple of the B2B world) is the cold email.
Because many of the top lead generating strategies already involve some level of brand awareness, it’s rare that an email being sent from a B2B company to a lead is totally “cold” or unexpected.
But according to GMass, cold emails are still effective for things like finding influencers and landing phone calls with prospective leads.
They point out that cold emailing is still only a touchpoint in the entire sales process. You should use it in addition to other things like building brand awareness on sites like LinkedIn or emailing prospects from your prospective data analytics.
They also have several recommendations for not coming across as creepy or too intense when you’re identifying the emails of prospects who you don’t know or who haven’t signed up for email marketing.
6. Offer incentive for word-of-mouth referrals
Word-of-mouth referrals are another tactic that is still alive and well even in the age of data. In fact, 92% of B2B buyers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of marketing, and 69% of companies with referral programs report closing business faster.
Even with companies that don’t have an official referral process, 69% report closing business faster when they asked for referrals from existing customers.
But there are two keys to making a referral work:
- Researching prospects — Look for intent signals and other data that would point to their place on the buyer’s journey. Use personas to identify and illustrate your target audience.
- Creating incentive — A referral program that incentivizes the referral can create more opportunities for successful lead generation.
If you don’t already have a referral program or process in place, consider how other B2B companies incentivize and set up their program.
Here’s a great example of the referral program from Google Apps in action.
You also want to create incentives that are worthwhile. Keep in mind that a good referral relationship will develop over the long term, so you don’t want to shortchange them in the process of getting them onboard.
7. Use webinars to supplement live events
Aside from cold emails and word-of-mouth, the original bread and butter of B2B marketing was live events. To some degree, it still is.
Live events offer a great opportunity for B2B sales. But in the digital age, many prospective customers will never attend. And why should they when they can attend an online event like a webinar instead?
One survey of more than 750 industry professionals found that 92% of B2B webinar attendees downloaded documents or presentations, 81% asked the presenter a question about the company, and 60% participated in further research.
More than half of the respondents in this survey said that webinars generated lead counts that exceeded their expectations and that they spent only $22 per webinar registrant on average.
Webinars are great for networking and scoring quality, face-to-face time with prospects. Plus, brands can present their knowledge in a way that converts interest into action.
8. Branch out to new social channels
Considering that over half of all B2B buyers search for products or vendor information on social media, it’s a smart move to use the channels that they’re using.
While LinkedIn is still the number one lead generation channel for B2B, it’s not necessarily the biggest channel for buyers. Instagram — a predominantly B2C channel until now — has actually become one of the best places for B2B brands to advertise.
That’s because Instagram often has a higher sales interaction rate than other platforms, including Twitter and Facebook.
Yet many B2B brands still haven’t jumped on the proverbial wagon when it comes to using Instagram to generate leads, and some don’t consider it a top contender for sales.
In 2018, brands looking to expand their marketing efforts should at least consider Instagram as an option, especially those that want to improve their content marketing outreach and ROI.
Instagram and other visual channels like YouTube or even Snapchat are now (and will continue to be) in contention as profitable lead generating channels for many larger B2B brands. For those that want new ways of generating leads, branching out is the key.
9. Answer questions on Q&A services
Another unusual social media channel that can be great for creating qualified leads is Quora, the popular question and answer forum.
Quora is a user-based site that can act as a hub for B2B brands to find out what users think of their business, answer relevant questions, and plug relevant content.
Businesses can also find prospects who are already further along in the buying decision and who are looking for products or services that are relevant to your business.
Your prospects are already using Quora to solve problems that your service solves. Answering their questions will create brand awareness with those who may have never heard of you otherwise.
10. Optimize your site for mobile speed
When creating opportunities for prospects to interact with you online, it’s important for those interactions to be positive.
While optimizing your website for speed doesn’t necessarily sound like a lead generating strategy, there are several ways that a slow website can hurt your sales.
For one, as of July 2018, Google’s algorithm will change to focus purely on sites with better mobile loading speeds. It’s being called the “Speed Update.”
Google will also reduce search engine result page (SERP) rankings for slower mobile sites to help mobile searchers find sites that deliver a better mobile experience.
So companies with slower websites will have a harder time showing up Google’s first page SERPs and helping customers find their content.
It may also impact the way prospects interact with your site. Most B2B buyers use web search as a first stop in the decision-making process, and slow loading sites can reduce sales. That means that it will be increasingly important for brands to make sure that their sites load quickly.
Image credit: iStock