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The top 5 B2B marketing channels, and how to ace them

There are a host of B2B marketing channels available to us. But with limited time and resources, where should we be concentrating our efforts to get the biggest rewards? The top channel for B2B leads is actually referrals, but past a certain point, they’re neither scalable nor under marketers’ control.

So, while waiting for the referrals to flood in, what can you, as a marketer, proactively do to make an impact on the bottom line? Which channels do you focus on? Are there any tools that help you streamline the process or make things simpler?

1. Email

Email has been top of the online marketing tree for literally decades. It’s second only to referrals as an effective B2B lead generation tool, even though only a small proportion of B2B email contacts are active. And it’s becoming more powerful as segmented automation makes it possible to accurately target business contacts with exactly the right content at the right time.

Ace it:

  • Segment your B2B email audience and personalize email content and delivery for best results.
  • Send B2B emails on a Tuesday.
  • Build an automated email system that feeds data from your email flows back to you so you can further optimize them. Make sure you’re not just thinking “click rate good, no clicks bad.”

Instead, look at where prospects or customers go after they click, what they do on your website what they look at while they’re there. And for best results, integrate email with social and your wider content marketing efforts.

2. Content

Content marketing = blogging. OK, that’s part of the truth. But in reality, content marketing = blogging, white papers, videos, social, email, microsites… it’s all content. And it all works. Blogs drive traffic: we’ve all seen those ubiquitous stats that say blogging 16 times a month will get you 350% more traffic.

What about microsites? As esoteric as this one sounds, it’s incredibly effective. When Xerox built a microsite in 2012, offering tips to business owners, the result was more than 20 000 new contacts, over 1 000 new appointments and over US$1.3-billion in pipeline revenue.

A library of multimedia, multiform content on your website is an important resource for onsite marketing in conjunction with search.

Ace it:

  • Target a segmented audience. Know what each piece of content is doing for your business. Otherwise, it’s not content marketing, just content production.
  • Map your content onto your purchase funnel. What route through your content do you want your prospects to take? Build your content marketing so that’s the easiest route, using triggered emails to direct prospects along the funnel.
  • Remember that a core of substantive content is important for convincing business contacts. Ebooks and whitepapers can be repurposed and cannibalized into blog posts, but they also provide the facts and figures that back up the trust and vision of a successful B2B sale. Plus you’ll get good inbound links from people quoting your authority content and that helps search.
  • Learn from B2C businesses here and find ways to use tools built for them. Buzzsumo is one that can help you discover trending content which resonates with your niche, formats that might work for you, and platforms where your competitors have an upper hand. You can also target new audiences by reaching out to powerful influencers in your industry.


3. Organic Search

Seventy two percent of research for a future business purchase starts on Google. SEO is vital.

Search is different for B2B marketers than for B2C. B2C marketers often look to search to deliver a sale in one website visit. Few B2B customers are going to do that. For us, the purpose of search is happening further up the funnel: we want good search rank so we can be included in the “consideration set” – the group of brands that come under study and comparison when a customer is thinking of buying our product.

Getting customers to the website, then selling to them right then isn’t what we’re about; instead we have to sell them on an idea, encourage them to explore our content and go deeper into the understanding we’re offering of their pain points.

Ace it:

  • Search excellence comes with excellence. There aren’t many shortcuts. Google like brands. Build yours.
  • Make sure your website loads within two seconds.
  • Ensure that excellent content offsite leads on to excellent content onsite. Landing page optimization is the way to go.
  • B2B search terms are more complex, varied and technical than B2C equivalents. Figure that into your keyword research and strategy. You could use a data-intensive keyword research tool such as Long Tail Pro, which helps discover niche keywords that Google’s Keyword Planner doesn’t, mines the top results for these keywords, and analyses their on-page SEO metrics.


4. Social Media

Social media isn’t seen as a key B2B channel, but it can be. When a recent study ranked channels by lead-to-deal conversion rate, social media came in third, after referrals and the company website. For opportunity-to-sales conversion, social came in second – and unsurprisingly, LinkedIn ranked above marketing, website, trade shows and events.

Ace it:

  • Use social for engagement. Don’t harp on ROI.
  • While Facebook and Twitter are the big deals, see if you can build a Google+ community or a YouTube channel to gain social benefits and improve search ranking.
  • Don’t get stuck in LinkedIn – companies like General Electric and Maersk are killing it on Pinterest and Instagram. Also check out some of the newer platforms like Snapchat.
  • Use social to educate. In a world where B2B buyers are impatient with content length and relevance, social content marketing is taking off and a majority of buyers in many industries are looking to social media first. A social media management suite such as Oktopost can help you stay on top of customer conversations and insights on their pain points, aspirations and misunderstandings. You can then respond to them in real-time with answers and solutions.


5. Video

B2B buyers are notorious for wanting a lot of accurate, in-depth content. And now we know they prefer it in the form of videos, podcasts and webinars. Ninety-one percent of B2B buyers prefer these forms of content over the written word. And 92% of B2B buyers watch video online.

Video is an incredible opportunity to provide engaging content. Streaming video for B2B marketing (read: webinars) offer interactivity and in-depth discussion. The next best thing to being present with an adviser, they’re an ideal opportunity to both demonstrate value and elicit feedback which can be used to make other marketing more effective.

Two thirds of B2B marketers find webinars an effective marketing tactic, and while whitepapers are slightly more commonly used, marketers consider them less likely to be effective. So that’s what marketers say. What do buyers say? Thirty-four percent of B2B buyers have used webinars as part of their purchase decision process in 2014 – up from 29% in 2013.

Ace it:

  • Make sure you at least have a video that tells the story of your brand and outlines your vision. Encourage viewers to share your videos on social media.
  • Decide on video length based on funnel position: top of funnel? Thirty to 90 seconds; mid-funnel? 2 to 10 minutes; final stages, maybe 10+ minutes, according to VidYard.
  • Use a web conferencing platform such as ClickMeeting to record your internal processes, meetings with focus groups and customer testimonials. Send these to your leads in the form of exclusive “video case studies” to better address their concerns.



In Conclusion

While these are the channels that the data says are most effective, they can’t be used in isolation. Just as the most useful data is your data, so the most effective method is the one that you’ve road tested and know for sure works for you. A strategy that cuts across channels but takes into account their efficacy will be the one that delivers best results.

Author | Rohan Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar
Rohan is the Regional Marketing Manager for India at SEMrush. He is an experienced digital marketer who has worked both agency and in-house, developing data-driven strategies for SEO, PPC, social media and content marketing. Rohan is also an avid business and tech blogger; his insights are frequently published on... More

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