One exciting thing about digital marketing is that it is always changing. There is always a new strategy to test or a new update that makes you question what you thought you knew. B2B marketers likely sense this pressure in a unique way, as they often find they can’t utilize all of the same channels that B2C marketers use (e.g., Snapchat might not be the best place to find a B2B lead), but they still want to be just as relevant and in front of their buyers.
As technology evolves, companies need to pay attention to how their industry is developing and should figure out how to best use the new and existing options they now have available. For example, if your company hasn’t been utilizing social media as a relevant customer service and acquisition channel, this year would be a great time to start. Here are a few areas where B2B marketing is flourishing and should continue to focus on in the next few years.
Leverage Opportunities for Social Listening
Social listening is sometimes called social monitoring and consists of making a concentrated effort to see what potential and current customers are saying about your brand, products, or industry, online. Social media is the focus, but many search tools, like SocialMention.com (which is free) also can incorporate results from discussion boards, like Quora and Reddit, as well as blog results.
Social listening is important to B2B marketers because:
- It allows them to see that brand sentiment that may not come across in official surveys or feedback forms
- It gives them an opportunity to fix issues and address customer frustrations
- It can supply valuable content ideas
- It allows brands to get into the online conversation
- Brands can track what listening strategy competitors are using online:
- Are they answering or engaging with customers?
- Do they track their own branded terms?
- Are they entering the conversation?
In addition, the data offers valuable target market feedback that can be used to inform campaigns, such as who your audience follows on social media and what topics they talk about most.
In addition to following branded terms, you should also pay attention to other terms that are still being used but may not be as popular. These could include:
- Mentions of your company name with a hashtag
- Product or name misspellings
- Mistaken usernames (e.g., if your brand’s username was @AcmeCA but people were using @Acme)
- Phrases a potential client might be using that are a good opener for your company to respond
Take this tweet from Steve Scott, an SEO consultant:
He uses the hashtag #semrush instead of tagging the username @semrush. The SEMrush team is very active on social media but hadn’t responded to this tweet at the time of this writing. This instance could be a missed opportunity to save this tweet as a testimonial and to thank Steve for his recommendation.
Similarly, look for phrases that could open up a conversation between you and potential buyers. For instance, if you had a business that offers bookkeeping software, you could create a saved search in a tool like SproutSocial that people might say when they aren’t happy with their current solution, such as “bookkeeping recommendations,” “I hate QuickBooks,” and “invoicing recommendations.”
Once you found such an opportunity, you could reply with a promo code to try your service free for three months or to explain how your tool offers something they want. Sign your social posts with employee initials or a first name to make it feel more personal.
In this tweet, QuickBooks does respond, but this is an excellent opportunity for one of their competitors to reply as well:
Think how your audience would use social media to talk about your products or speak about the industry and try to get involved in the situation without being too pushy or disingenuous.
Embrace New Forms of Content
Another way that B2B marketers can continue to stay relevant is to embrace the latest in technology and explore new channels and content formats to better engage with target audiences.
Live video is a great example of this—marketers can use Facebook Live or the Hangouts on Air feature on YouTube to conduct interviews, speak about industry topics, or talk about new product releases.
Going live doesn’t take much technology at all to try in the beginning, and it’s easy to scale once you determine to put more into your live streams. Your first live broadcast could be at a desk with a blank wall behind you, and often a lapel mic (this is the one I use, non-affiliate link) is all it takes to start streaming. Have a few talking points next to the phone, so you can remember what you want to cover. Comments will show up on your screen so you can answer them in real time, or work with a colleague who can monitor the chat box as you’re streaming.
Another example of utilizing new media technology is 360-degree video, which is something the Overland Park Convention Center rolled out here in the Kansas City Metro:
They have 3D virtual tours of all their main meeting spaces, which is perfect for potential clients to get a better feel for the space. If the client meets with the convention center staff in person, they have Samsung Gear devices that the potential client can use in the actual room to see a realistic view of how the exact room they are standing in can be configured.
The Overland Park Convention Center could also use this technology to create more 3D photos and videos of the events they have at the center throughout the year, to give people an even better idea of what it looks like filled with people. With permission, conferences, conventions, and large business gatherings would be a great place to take some videos to share on social media and their website.
Thought Leadership (in a New Format)
Video doesn’t have to be live or 3D to get your B2B customers interested. You can invest in creating more video content that is easily consumable and may be more engaging for your audience. It’s easy to take it up a notch and create better content when you or your competitors haven’t been.
Take this example from Sappi, which is a global company that produces chemical cellulose, paper pulp, and other paper products in over 100 countries. They have several different videos on their YouTube channel with millions of views. This one is an overview of how paper is made:
While this video also is interesting for consumers, it’s useful from a B2B standpoint because it shows thought leadership. Think about it—would a potential prospect decide to work with a company who has a useful YouTube channel like Sappi, or a company with barely any online presence at all? Of course, a lot goes into a decision maker’s choice to pick one company over another, but for many, a creative online presence goes a long way.
If video is something you’re already doing or you want to focus on other areas first, there are still other types of content you can create that not everyone is doing in B2B marketing.
One such instance is infographics, which have been around for years, but mainly are used to explain topics to buyers or to give a primer on a high-level topic, such as a social media or weather patterns. However, infographics can be used to explain almost any B2B concept.
If you have an annual survey that comes out, an infographic could help you summarize the results more visually. This form of content complements a text-based summary elegantly and lets users choose which way they want to consume the information.
For example, here’s one on email segmentation that was shared by podcast host Brandon Gaille on his blog. EmailonAcid.com, an email automation platform, created it to promote their free trial. At the end of the infographic, you’ll see EmailonAcid’s logo as well as their free trial offer for businesses. Brandon summarized the image with a brief text write-up in case someone didn’t want to review the entire infographic.
Improve Buyer Targeting
As mentioned in the introduction, digital marketing has come a long way. We can better personalize our marketing messaging, both through mass personalization and better segmentation based on purchasing behavior and interest. While this has been extremely useful with email campaigns, B2B marketers can continue to better cater to their ideal customer through other pathways.
New Advertising Avenues
Take advertising, for instance. Some B2B companies are finding that ad campaigns on discussion sites like Quora and Reddit are doing extremely well, mostly because their ads are shown at the exact place where a conversation is taking place. Paid advertising on these platforms and social media has allowed for much more personal targeting that can ensure B2B brands are going after the right users.
For instance, Facebook offers retargeting campaigns with its pixel code, so if a lead visits your website indicating interest in your offerings, an ad will be delivered to them on social media to keep your brand top of mind. Before, B2B marketing shied away from being active on social media, as it was thought to be more for personal connections and conversations. But now that 69 percent of adults in the United States are using social media, it’s time for B2B marketers to focus more on social targeting.
More advanced technology and sales methods have also improved the buying experience for the average B2B buyer. No longer do B2B decision makers have to spend hours on the phone setting up appointments or trying to pull prices to compare quotes.
A lot of the initial buyer decision process can be done online:
- Need recognition: A B2B customer may see what competitors are doing and realize that their company may need a solution. Or, they read an online article about industry advances and need some supplies to stay current.
- Information search: All consumers often start their product search on search engines, trying to find what they need specifically.
- Evaluation: Once they have found a few options, they can compare product specifications, videos, and even chat with customer service reps, entirely online (without having to pick up the phone).
- Purchase decision: Many B2B companies now offer an e-commerce or online checkout experience, so it’s easy for orders to finish that day. Even if there can’t be a checkout process, they can still submit an online contact form to get the process started.
- Post-purchase behavior: The B2B decision maker can leave a review of their experience on a B2B review site such as G2crowd, or even a more generic platform like Yelp and Facebook. These online reviews are seen by new prospects going through the first three steps in the buying process, so the cycle repeats itself.
Think about what you could take online to make your ideal customer’s purchasing decision and experience a lot easier.
Incorporate New Ways to Engage at Industry Shows
Another way to make your target audiences’ buying or consideration experience a lot easier is thinking through how your prospects engage with you at industry events. B2B trade shows, expos, and conferences, still bring big business. Statista reports that events and trade shows bring in almost $13 billion in revenue for B2B businesses annually and the Content Marketing Institute reports that 75 percent of marketers still say in-person events are still effective.
When your business is doing the same events year after year, it’s easy to get into the routine of doing the same booth and messaging style, especially if it still brings in leads. However, with new digital marketing initiatives, it’s easy to try new things that can bring even more new or qualified leads at your live events.
This initiatives could include:
- Using an exclusive hashtag, like #AcmeatCMS, to track all tweets and social posts of what’s going on at the event.
- Get customers involved online with a giveaway at the event, such as a scavenger hunt where they have to post the answers or take photos at the company’s booth to be eligible to win.
- Something interactive at the booth itself where people will want to post photos. For example, The Hoth had celebrity wrestler Ric Flair at their booth at Pubcon in 2015 and did a money booth in 2016 and 2017 that people posted photos of on social media.
Even if your existing booth is generating great leads and a lot of foot traffic, consider thinking about how you can combine your online and event marketing approach to create a longer lasting experience.
A big part of digital marketing is trying new things to see what works, and with technology like personalization and virtual reality, it’s easy to step up your B2B marketing efforts this year to continue growth and a more significant impact in your target market.