B2B Marketing: Guide to Success in the Digital Era
Marketing has changed significantly in the past years. If you think about it, Google didn’t even exist until 1998. Yet, to this day it is one of the most common places we default to when we need to make a purchase, evaluate a company, or answer a question.
Business to Business (B2B) companies have not escaped from the shift in marketing trends. You probably have had a company discussion at one point about the impact digital transformation has had on your company. From reaching your target audience to achieving your marketing goals there is a lot to consider in the rapidly evolving B2B digital marketing segment. It begs the question, “What are the key tactics to guiding marketing success in this digital era?”
While pondering this concept myself, I realized that my answer to this question has changed throughout my professional career. This is not only due to the space changing but also due to the evolution of my role. As I have progressed in my career, I began to see different avenues in which I can reach my yearly goals.
My fellow digital marketers and I, work with B2B clients from all verticals and sizes. We help them to achieve a wide range of marketing goals. This prompted me to interview many of my colleagues and ultimately allowed me to compile this B2B marketing guide to success in the digital era:
It All Starts With Your Audience
Online Marketing Manager, Kristen Danckert set us up with:
“Having a fundamental understanding of who your key buyers are will help you target the right publications for lead generation, build a comprehensive keyword strategy, and create relevant content. Making sure you are targeting the right people is an important first step in any marketing plan. This will lower the price of your SQLs and help improve visibility in relevant searches.”
Then Anastasia Warren (Senior Social Media Manager) complemented the importance of audience definition and creation by expressing:
“The most important piece of B2B digital marketing is reaching the correct target audience. In the social media space specifically, it is important for me to keep up with what targeting capabilities I have on different platforms in order to make correct recommendations for paid campaigns specifically. In addition to reading about the changes in social media, going into the platforms themselves to see potential new features for targeting consistently helps me to stay up-to-date.”
Audience creation and identification is by far one of the largest key factors of success in deciding the structure of your marketing plan. In fact, I wrote a blog post that includes how to define your audience and some tools that can help you in the process. Director of Online Marketing, Kristen Vaughn emphasizes that “Understanding how and where your audience(s) are consuming content” is pivotal for success as well.
Before moving the next point, Serene Lu (Digital Marketing Strategist) noted that it is imperative to:
“Understand cultural differences/consumer behavior. Some regions are more likely to use specific ways to communicate.”
I could not agree more with Serene. This tactic can even be applied on a national level. In just one country, you may find they speak many different languages, have varying levels of education, or simply behave differently. This is something you will want to address during your audience creation and planning phase.
After you have identified your target persona, it is time to sit down with your team and plan what your goals are going to be and how to reach your audience. My colleague and cubicle neighbor Kristen Danckert says:
“It’s easy to focus on one aspect of marketing and not consider the entire marketing funnel. PR teams, SEO experts, and those responsible for lead generation may not be in communication regarding tactics or strategies. Work together with your colleagues to create a plan that leads buyers down the funnel. Involve stakeholders (including agencies) to discuss high-level strategies and priorities. A compressive plan needs to focus on the whole funnel and not just one aspect of marketing.”
As I mentioned, marketing is evolving very rapidly, therefore it is important to have a plan that addresses not only what the strategies are going to be but also includes prioritization, potential scenarios and SMART goals, just like Gilesa Thomas, one of our Content Marketing Analysts highlighted:
“Concrete goals and results are always more reliable than abstract goals. Having data that can be measured helps to track progress. With these numbers you will be able to demonstrate improvements and declinations and ultimately be able to correlate your efforts with these results.”
Building a comprehensive B2B marketing plan in this rapidly-paced world is not an easy task and as Casie Gillette (Senior Director of Online Marketing) expressed, flexibility is key:
“It’s not necessarily a tactic but it’s certainly a trait that is required to be successful in digital. With changes consistently happening, you have to be able to adapt and move quickly.”
This is especially true in digital marketing when an alternation from companies, like Google or Facebook, is made causing everyone to adapt. In addition, with the latest privacy concerns expressed by users and many governments, you want to be able to shift strategies through the protocol you created during the planning stage.
Additionally, Alicia Mello, one of our Content Marketing Strategists, brought up a business skill that is mandatory in the digital era:
“Organization is key in the digital era. As agency marketers, we constantly have clients reaching out about different projects, requests, and to-do items. Without an organizational tool (like Basecamp) it can be easy to lose track of these items – which could lead to some very undesirable consequences. So, it’s important for marketers to have an easy-to-follow organizational routine complete with tools and strategies to help guarantee an orderly work schedule and meet deadlines.”
Content is More Than Just Words
Our Director of Content Marketing, Ryan Young brought up a critical area of B2B marketing that we tend to forget is the company website. Considering how quickly people have moved from brick and mortar experiences, its digital counterpart should not be ignored:
“B2B vendor websites are the storefront for the organization in today’s digital age. According to Demand Gen Report’s annual B2B Buyers Survey, 97% of senior-level B2B executives say it’s important for vendor websites to have easily-accessible content that speaks directly to their company. For B2B marketers, it’s critical to create content that catches the eye of the buyer and starts them down the funnel as soon as they land on your website.”
Another interesting point to keep in mind when thinking about content is that it must fulfill a purpose outlined during the planning stage. Emily Fearey (Content Marketing Analyst) explains this very important tactic:
“Bucket your content around each stage of the sales funnel (and tag it accordingly for tracking purposes). Make sure you are producing a dynamic mixture of content for every stage of the pipeline, from initial awareness to the final selection stage. “
To stay organized, I recommend creating a table or using a spreadsheet. This will be incredibly helpful for keeping track of who your target audience is, buyer journey targeting tactics and the content piece you plan to deliver. By doing this, it will be easy to identify if there are gaps in your content strategy, which brings me to Emily’s second point:
“Build your written content around a visual element whenever possible. Video as a medium is growing rapidly (and not just in B2C industries). Using a video or a rich, captivating image as the basis for your written content is a great way to increase traffic and keep visitors on your site longer. Then, make sure the video itself is optimized for search engine visibility by implementing the right title structure, tags, and interactive elements (especially if the video is hosted on YouTube).”
Just as the sub-header says, content is more than words on the page. If done correctly it will answer a need, evoke a feeling, and empower decisions. Amanda McGuinness (Content Marketing Strategist) observation about readability is as follows:
“A key identifier of the digital era is a shrinking attention span. This trend is especially pertinent to marketers relying on organic search and content marketing to reach consumers.
With this in mind, marketers should make sure that they emphasize readability in their posts and pages by keeping paragraphs short, including sub-headings that clearly define the information conveyed in the section, breaking the post up with helpful images (graphs, diagrams, etc.) and by being concise.”
Four essential reminders that are important to have at the top of your mind when thinking about content came from three wonderful marketers:
“Building a consistent content strategy across all touchpoints: By maintaining consistency, you allow your brand to grow and strengthen. Whether it be a longer piece of content meant for a blog post, or a short post for twitter (under 280 characters), the information should still be clear and have the same general points. Without this, customers / users may view your brand as untrustworthy.” By Deven O’Gryzek (SEO Content Marketing Analyst).
“Facts and statistics will make a blog more compelling: People are drawn to numbers; it will make your blog more compelling because it helps tell a story while providing concrete evidence. In addition, this will also increase the chances of your content being referenced.” By Gilesa Thomas.
“When researching statistics to fuel your content, ALWAYS verify the source material. I have found a lot of webpages and blogs are guilty of misrepresenting data. This can be as benign as a typo in a statistic, all the way to not mentioning their data is several decades old. Or, sometimes data has been sourced through a third-party too many times, creating the same effect as a game of telephone. Always, always look for a primary source to avoid being led astray.” By Liz Krupa (Content Marketing Analyst).
“The mantra quality over quantity is particularly important for B2B content marketers. Fluffy content, off-brand content, and outdated content isn’t doing you any favors to get visitors to your site and into the lead funnel.” By Jenna Bessemer (Senior Online Marketing Manager) who has a full blog post covering the importance of refreshing legacy content.
One the advantages digital marketing has over traditional marketing is the ability to track the user behavior while they are browsing your site (or the internet in general). You can pinpoint a specific keyword, target a person for a specific ad or send them to a landing page that generated a form submission/sale. This proves Casie Gillette’s next point about the importance data analysis has on success:
“Understanding what the data is telling you is imperative. A great (and terrible) thing about data is you can often make it tell whatever story you want so it’s important you actually know what is happening. That allows you to make the right decisions for your programs.”
From a positive perspective since there are so many places to find data, there are many platforms that have you covered and Alexa Gahan (Digital Marketing Strategist) listed some of them for your convenience:
“Consider all factors when you’re looking at data. If something seems off, you shouldn’t blindly trust the one source you got that information from. Look at Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMRush, Data Studio, and more to cross-examine the issue and try to find out the root of the problem.”
Alexa’s point about looking at multiple sources of data will allow you perform what Stephanie Mahan (Digital Marketing Manager) outlined as a next step after obtaining the data:
“Having different sources of information will give you the ability to analyze data correctly and notice trends. Figure out why trends are happening. Going off of that, tracking modifications made to marketing campaigns and making sure to run tests after such changes.”
Data analysis is what fuels great digital marketing decisions and strategies, such as identifying what is actually working for your program. Theresa McKallen (Digital Marketing Strategist) presents an easy to follow example:
“Keyword research is vital for not just organic but paid campaigns as well. It is important to include high intent keywords and longer tail keywords in your campaigns. If you have keywords that are specific and relatable to users, you will get a higher return on ad spend.”
Stay Updated with Industry Trends
If you have ever spoken to me, I can guarantee that I have mentioned the importance of reading industry news. So naturally, I jumped with joy when so many of my colleagues spoke about how this has helped them in their careers and why it is key to stay up-to-date with the marketing community. Here are their responses:
“I use Feedly, as well as google alerts for certain industry news in order to keep up with what is going on in my clients’ industries. While keeping up with the digital marketing space is critical, keeping up with client news is often just as important.” By Anastasia Warren.
“Talk with other digital marketers to see what they know and if they can offer any insight into new updates or issues. This is an obvious tactic but I’ve found this to be most helpful throughout my time at KoMarketing.” By Allyson Heavens.
“The digital world is constantly changing, so it’s important that marketers keep themselves informed as to not miss any big updates, best practices, or shifts. It’s easy to stay up-to-date when you leverage the right tools. Blogs like MarTech Advisor, Search Engine Journal, and Search Engine Land do a pretty good job of providing new info. Chatting with in-the-know colleagues, peers, and keeping an eye on thought leaders in the space can also help you stay informed.” By Alicia Mello.
“Always be learning – with so much innovation and change in the digital marketing landscape, there is always something – a new platform or new development in an existing resource perhaps – to learn or improve upon.” By Derek Edmond (Managing Partner at KoMarketing)
Recent studies show that in B2B relationships, people still want to engage and know about the people behind the scenes. From a digital marketing agency perspective, Gilesa Thomas stated what we strive for at KoMarketing every single day:
“Being a part of your client’s team shows them that your goal aligns with their goals. Operating as and proving that you are a part of their team will improve your relationship with your client and help you to better understand the company. If you separate yourself from your client’s company, it will become apparent in your deliverables. “
The important thing is to remember it doesn’t matter if you are in-house or with a marketing agency you must always focus on the customer. Derek Edmond summarizes this point well:
“Focus on the customer – specifically from the business perspective, it’s important to prioritize what to learn in coordination with how customer experience for one’s target audiences can be improved.”
We went over seven distinct areas needed to succeed in any B2B Marketing program across any region or vertical with the help of the awesome marketers of the KoMarketing team.
Does your team have tactics of finding success that we didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments section or reach out to me directly on Twitter.