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Getting B2B online marketing right is an art and a science, a combination of multiple factors which involve people, process and technology. The analogy we like to use is that of an orchestra. The B2B online marketer is the conductor and the orchestra are the instruments (i.e. people, content, process and technology).
We have been approached by many companies, asking how they should engage, interact and influence clients and potential clients online in order to generate new business opportunities. Based on the experience and insights we have gained with our business-to-business (B2B) online marketing activities to date, here are five areas where you should focus your B2B online marketing efforts.
1. DO NOT SELL
The biggest mistake businesses make is they talk about their products, services and solutions. Focus on building trust and confidence first. How do you do this? Equate your initial engagement and interaction with a new prospect or client with that of a first date. Your first date will fail miserably if you spend all the time talking about yourself (i.e. your products, services and solutions).
If you talk knowledgably and competently about a subject that resonates with the prospect, and continue to do so over time, you will earn trust will be seen as a thought leader. Thought leaders are approached by people who need help or assistance. They say a good salesman does not sell but rather encourages the purchaser to make a buying decision.
2. Content is the most important ingredient
Without the regular production of good content, your B2B online marketing efforts will fail dismally. Online content comes in many guises. This could be web copy, a thought piece, an article or opinion piece, the results of a survey, a blog post, a Facebook or LinkedIn update, tweet or the content of an email. Each one of these serves a different purpose and needs to be worded, structured and formatted differently.
Images in the form of photos and video also fall within this category and must be used appropriately on the relevant online platforms. Your content will serve many purposes such as educating, informing and influencing but also “humanising” your business in order to create an emotional connection with your target audience.
3. Find out where your target market is online and their preferences
The big difference between business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing and business-to-business (B2B) marketing is that with B2B marketing, you know your target market. If you are operating within a specific territory you will be able to identify a finite number of businesses you would like to sell your products, services, solutions (and people) to. You will also know who the typical decision makers are within the organisation.
Armed with this information and insight, it is a simple case of reaching out to these individuals and asking them how they prefer to consume content online. Once you have this information, you can then develop a strategy to engage and interact with these individuals on their preferred platforms. While you conduct this exercise, you may want to ask which online publications they read because you ell then know which editors and journalists to interact with. Once you know where your target market is online, focus all your B2B online marketing efforts on these platforms.
4. Educate your staff
Gone are the days when all marketing was done by one department. Nowadays everyone has access to websites, blogs, mobile apps, email and social media. It has been proven statistically that if only 20% of your staff members actively engage and share your business content online, the will be a significant positive impact on your bottom line. Many marketing specialists now use the P2P or Person-to-Person marketing phrase.
As with any change in an organisation, this behaviour won’t just happen. Your executive management must own this and cascade it down to operational level within your organisation. This will require a formal education and change management programme. If need be, motivate staff members to connect and share your business content by building it into their key performance indicators.
5. Measure, measure, measure
There are a plethora of tools available which you must use to enhance and fine tune your B2B online marketing, which must be used throughout your B2B online marketing process. Some example I can cite are listening tools which enable to identify what your clients, prospects, media and competitors are talking about online (e.g. conversations relating to your products, services, solution, your company and industry).
Depending on the online platforms you decide to use, there are analytics provided with all of these platforms which enable you to measure the success of your campaigns and online interaction. Before you embark on your B2B marketing process, obtain agreement from your management in terms of critical success factors and ensure that the analytics you extract can be used to measure your success against the CSFs.
To conclude, the top five things you must focus on when it comes to B2B online marketing is to build trust and confidence (i.e. DO NOT SELL), develop a sound content strategy, find out where your target market and the media are and go to them, educate your staff and become a “social business” and use all the measurement tools that are at your disposal.
Please note that these are the most important areas to focus however there are many other factors that you need to take cognisance of which we can discuss at your request.