While business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing has embraced the power of data, business-to-business (B2B) marketing has been surprisingly slow to catch on. Companies that want to compete in the B2B marketplace need to be as sophisticated as their B2C cousins by using data to accurately target and market to potential customers.
Believe it or not, an online shoe retailer uses far more advanced data-based marketing tools to sell a $50 pair of shoes than a major SaaS provider selling software that costs thousands of dollars per month. Using sophisticated data sources and data management platforms (DMPs), a shoe seller can track the last pair of shoes you looked at on your desktop and show you an ad for the same shoes on your mobile Facebook feed.
Unlike the automated B2C sales approach, B2B sellers often rely on simple and generic workflows like sending an email followed by a cold call from a sales rep. Of course, you can argue that there’s something to be said for the human touch, even if it is a cold call, but this tactic is expensive, time-consuming and doesn’t produce results.
Business-to-business (B2B) companies face unique challenges when it comes to sales and marketing, and it can be even more difficult for industries that have long lead times. For example, take the architecture, engineering and construction industry: The sales cycle can be anywhere from six months to a year (or more) and deals are worth millions of dollars. A lot is at stake and time is of the essence.
What role does a marketing department have in closing these high-value deals? How do you target those niche prospects? How can you set yourself apart in an industry where purchasing decisions are so often based upon the bottom line?
At my company, the key has been producing helpful, educational content tailored to our prospective clients’ needs, questions and pain points. But what exactly can quality content do to grow your business?
After last week’s Cannes Lions festival, you can bet that the next big thing is on every forward-thinking marketer’s mind. In the era of big data, artificial intelligence and rapid innovation, change is the only constant. While marketing has without a doubt gone digital, we are simultaneously seeing a revival in human-centric thinking — a shift toward catering to individuals with deeper empathy and care, though now at scale.
This evolution is especially pronounced in the business-to-business (B2B) industry. B2B technology has a reputation for being hard to use, and B2B branding efforts haven’t helped in changing this perception. However, in the past few years, a movement to democratize enterprise technology — and enterprise brands themselves — for the day-to-day consumer has emerged. In other words, consumer-grade enterprise tech is quickly becoming the norm.
Did you know that 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others?
Not long ago, businesses would focus on newspapers and advertising through print. They still do, but clearly, digital media has taken over a major share of the branding budget in 2018. Now with smartphones and social media technology, businesses prefer to surf the tide of customer service using new-age marketing technologies. Social Media Marketing clearly demonstrates how technology amplifies brand messaging and meets new benchmarks in customer service benchmarks.
B2B marketing insights incorporated in social media are effective methods for traffic generation, interactive engagement and brand association.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a trending topic in B2B marketing, building in popularity over the past few years. In 2016, more than 70 percent of B2B companies had staff dedicated to ABM programs, compared to just 20 percent the previous year, according to a study by SiriusDecisions. In 2017, B2B marketers are looking to refine their approach, leverage new tools, and better focus their investment on critical key accounts.
The concept of ABM hinges on the convergence of Sales and Marketing — two historically divided sectors — working together to define key accounts and develop campaigns designed to engage target prospects. A successful ABM program involves building brand awareness, engaging target prospects and growing customer accounts, all in a highly targeted fashion.
Sales & marketing success metrics
With ABM programs, Sales and Marketing share goals, create cross-departmental assets, and execute against a unified strategy. Companies that already have a strong alignment between Sales and Marketing have an advantage when implementing successful ABM programs.
ABM programs often instigate a shift in B2B marketing KPIs, away from traditional lead generation metrics (such as lead volume, marketing qualified leads and cost) toward engagement-focused metrics (such as content engagement, contact with target prospects, meetings, sales opportunities and closed deals), which align closely with Sales success measurements.
List segmentation and content alignment
An essential element of ABM campaigns is list segmentation and content alignment. Once a target account list has been determined, it should be segmented to strategically deliver the most appropriate content and messaging to the right person at the right time. Common ways that B2B lists are segmented include:
The top B2B marketing trends for 2017 reflect much of what B2C marketers are experiencing: B2B buyers deserve the same individual, humanized attention consumers desire from retailer or CPG brand.
But with a lack of time and resources to give all industry buyers this attention, getting smart about who you focus on will be more important than ever. Here’s three of the top B2B marketing trends you need to watch this year:
True ABM adoption will skyrocket.
Account-based marketing (ABM) was touted as an effective marketing approach for B2B companies throughout 2016, so everyone must already be doing it, right?
Not quite, but the momentum is there. According to the 2016 State of Account Based Marketing Study from SiriusDecisions, 42% of survey respondents said they had been using ABM for less than six months.
ABM is the practice of growing business by tailoring your marketing and sales efforts to specific accounts that are going to make the biggest impact. This requires marketing and sales team alignment to get more personalized with their marketing efforts and nurture long-term, high-value relationships with their clients or prospect clients. This can be difficult to achieve in practice. Sales teams are traditionally focused on bringing a high quantity of leads to the table, which leaves little room for creating quality engagement.
But once alignment is achieved, ABM can prove to be extremely fruitful. There is just no substitution for knowing your target client inside and out and providing personalized answers to the needs you know they have.
In the B2B space, spreading the world broadly simply isn’t going to move the needle, especially when content is growing at an exponential rate and the war for attention is more challenging than ever
More B2B marketers will turn to consumer marketing for inspiration.
B2B marketers have long had the tendency to market to entire departments, forgetting that their target buyer is no different than a consumer in that he or she is, well, human.
But some B2B companies are bucking the trend. For example, Tetra Pak, the maker of food packaging and cartons, recently took a page out of the consumer marketing book to show off their new packaging. They sent mailers to brand managers with details on how their customers will appreciate the new carton designs. The mailers were not about sharing specs or efficiencies of the new packaging—they offered an experience that put the brand managers in the consumer seat, which in turn demonstrated Tetra Pak’s broad expertise in marketing and product formulation.
As Tetra Pak did with these mailers, I expect more B2B marketers to focus on creating experiences that address specific challenges of their buyers in recognition that they are human and that those experiences can drive better engagement
It’s 2017, and every CMO is promising their CEO mountains of Glengarry leads for their sales organization to close. We’re not talking about normal, old Glengarry leads, we’re talking crème de la crème leads … the elusive C-suite leads that every marketer this side of Mars is longing for. Sound about right? Anything wrong with this picture? I see you nodding your head yes (well done). Everything is wrong with this picture.
The complexity of the b-to-b sale and its continued fragmentation has been documented ad nauseam over the past decade. Yet one thing continues: a complete and utter disregard from senior corporate and senior marketing leadership to accept the harsh reality that a marketing strategy solely focused on reaching into the C-suite will not yield success.
The marketing prophets are wrong
I get it! I’ve been on the calls, I’ve read the emails, and I’ve been in the meetings. So-called marketing ninja’s, strategic consultants, multi-exit pedigreed CMO’s, self-described visionaries, or, wait for it, a marketing prophet enters the fray and belts out the following gem:
“I’ve peeled back the layers of the onion and would like to empower you all with a recommendation I’ve been noodling on. When push comes to shove, I think we need to isolate one throat to choke in our key accounts and move the needle — yesterday. So let’s just cut the crap and sell directly to the final decision maker! It’s a slam-dunk right?! We can’t boil the ocean. Let’s collectively recognize what I’m presenting is a massive paradigm shift, but I’m thinking outside the box people. I have limited bandwidth over the coming quarter but let’s circle back and admire our success. You’re welcome.”
Everyone in the room is pale, silent, knows better, but doesn’t dare challenge the almighty one who just threw-up a massive pile of nonsense onto the conference room table with such basic and disconnected thinking. It’s destined to fail. And this is why:
It’s no small feat to be a successful B2B digital marketer in today’s complex, ever-changing environment. In this article, I offer several proven recommendations related to the domination of search engine results pages (SERPs), testing, attribution and ROI.
Utilize these tips to jump-start your search results in the new year and start 2017 with a bang.
New year, new opportunities
2016 was a year of incredible change. Google changed the SERP game by shifting visibility to paid advertising, while also changing the core organic algorithm to natively include Panda and RankBrain.
Search engine marketing isn’t getting any easier. Top it off with the rapid expansion of marketing technologies, system integrations, and now account-based marketing, and we’ve got an uphill battle.
As you look for opportunities to improve your 2017 results, these five tips offer big wins:
1. Ensure SERP domination.
2. Maximize conversions via testing.
3. Capitalize on attribution insights.
4. Integrate with the sales funnel.
5.Understand total ROI with call tracking.
1. Ensure SERP domination.
Owning the SERP for high-priority search queries (keywords) builds brand recognition, credibility and trust with your target audience. Aligning paid and organic search provides insights into customer behavior you wouldn’t have in a siloed approach. Develop a cross-channel strategy that educates, builds trust and moves prospects through the funnel faster.
Test different messaging in your paid ads for target keywords, and start to understand the visitor intent behind the query. When writing your organic listings, make sure you follow the new rules for how your listings will display in the Google SERP to ensure your message doesn’t get cut off.
Look to your paid search queries for insight into what terms are driving real business results, including phone calls, content engagement and conversions. Identify search terms that are bringing top-of-funnel visitors to your website, and write organic content that aligns with the intent behind the query. To maximize results from organic search, you simply must incorporate the data and insights from a well-managed paid search campaign.
In the screen shot below, QuickBooks is demonstrating SERP domination and integrated messaging across their organic listing, paid ad and product listing ad.
In 2017, B2B marketers will continue to deal with tangible growth and marketing ROI pressures. Below are 13 primary B2B marketing trends that deserve your time and attention and will help you address the challenges, opportunities, and complexities you’ll undoubtedly be presented with this year.
#1: Customer Experience Balance
Probably the most impactful B2B marketing trend in 2017 will be a tighter focus on improving the customer experience while driving growth. Strive to use a balanced approach to building customer loyalty. Instead of focusing solely on “customer-centric” methods based on your customers’ lifetime value, offset it with “customer-focused” techniques that enable you to provide relevant experiences across all touch points and concentrate on what your customers value most. Symmetry between those two approaches will result in higher revenue combined with stronger customer loyalty.
#2: Executive Branding
Over the past decade, the Internet, mobility, and social media have upended traditional “command and control” marketing. The pendulum has shifted dramatically to individuals—individuals as buyers and individuals as the voices of their companies. As a result, traditional company branding and digital marketing efforts are no longer sufficient. Especially in B2B environments, executive branding is now considered a necessity.
Grant Wickes, an executive branding specialist, says, “Senior executives must create and develop their personal brand. Buyers want to know the ‘why’ and trust the leaders behind the companies they do business with. Some companies have adapted to this evolution, but many have not. And executives are most guilty of not embracing this new paradigm. Some feel there is no need, but 2017 will mark a watershed year for executive branding.”
As a senior marketing executive, you likely spend your day juggling an ever-changing list of priorities. When it is time to create your annual budget, you may view the task as an annoyance rather than an opportunity. However, the act of creating your budget gives you the chance to review what you have done, consider what you want to accomplish during the coming months and create a map that can help you achieve your goals. Unless you avoid the most common marketing budget pitfalls, though, you could find that your budgeted funds fail to generate the results that you want. Here is a list of the 10 most common errors that occur when planning a marketing budget.
Not Having A Solid Marketing Plan
Successful marketing requires money, but it also requires a great deal of preparation. Without a solid marketing plan, you are not prepared to make decisions that ensure that you are spending your budgeted funds appropriately, wisely and effectively. A strong plan will include at least the following:
In-depth knowledge of your target market
Your competitive position within your target market
Your strategies and tactics
Your plan to differentiate yourself from competitors
Your KPIs to measure success
Once you have a solid marketing plan, your budget is easier to prepare, becoming something of a supporting document for the execution of your plan.
Not Engaging Business Partners
Marketing teams sometimes forget that they exist for a purpose: to help the company achieve its business goals. Achieving the marketing goals can be meaningless if they are not aligned with the company’s goals. Every marketing budget should be designed to support the company’s business goals. Otherwise, marketers can find themselves scrambling to shift priorities and objectives without having sufficient funds remaining in the budget. This means that marketing executives must communicate with other executives and leaders to gain a thorough understanding of the overall objectives and strategy. Engaging with business partners also gives marketers the opportunity to enlist support for marketing efforts. For example, marketing automation relies heavily on database quality, but marketers typically have little control over collecting, maintaining and scrubbing the data.
Relying Too Much On Historical Budgets
Last year’s budget can be an excellent starting point for creating the marketing budget for next year, but it is only a starting point. Even if all goals were met and the allocation of funds proved accurate, there is no guarantee that the same formula will work next year. Technology is evolving rapidly, your competitors are making changes and your customers are expecting more from you. You have to base your new budget on what you want to accomplish rather than what you accomplished in previous years.
Getting Too Detailed
Marketers sometimes “paint themselves into a corner” by being too specific when preparing a budget. To illustrate, suppose you learn in December that a new software called DuzItAll is scheduled to be released in six months. The product sounds as if it would be perfect for automating all of your marketing efforts, but it carries a substantial price tag. You create a line item in your budget devoted to the purchase of DuzItAll. However, the software is never released because the company folds. You now have to reallocate the funds, which may require obtaining approval from the CEO or CFO. Avoid complications by ensuring that your budget categories are vague enough to give you a little room to maneuver.
With over 20 years of business, sales, and consulting experience SMS is capable of serving many market sectors. We provide the field level support needed to generate results and grow your business. Other companies may provide appointment setting services; whereas SMS will partner with you to grow revenue.
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