On a weekly basis, I speak to many B2B sales and marketing professionals. The most frequent topic is demand generation. How do I get more leads to sales? Or, why isn't the marketing team delivering leads?
However, a week also doesn't go by without hearing the mistaken claim 'our customer do not search online'. Its most commonly heard from senior business leaders and I'm afraid I'm calling bullshit.
Every industry has been disrupted by the digital revolution of the last decade. But, even the tech businesses with which we speak still think that their customers are the exception to the rule. Many old-school B2B companies seem to believe that their customers aren't using social media and search engines for solutions to their business challenges or turning to their iPhone or Android device during the decision making process. If you're one of those business leaders, don't be fooled into thinking that your competitors are using effective digital marketing techniques and you're missing out.
Google's research shows that 89 per cent of B2B buyers research potential suppliers online before they engage. 50 per cent of those searches are on mobile devices. Before contacting your team, B2B buyers will make on average 12 different searches to better understand the options open to them. That means your website needs to address the questions that your potential customers are seeking to answer. Define those questions is no doubt a challenge - but the first place to start is your sales team. Ask them, what questions do customers ask in the early stages of a sales engagement. Then provide detailed, helpful, unbiased answers and share it on your blog and website.
Now - I'm not saying that all of the traditional methods no longer work. They do, I'm saying you need to balance the traditional with the new. Most B2B companies still focus marketing activities around outbound, trying to get the attention of their audience. Well, B2B decision makers are targeted heavily, they have become immune to distracting marketing tactics. They're looking for things that are useful, complementary to their processes and aligned to their decision-making processes. So, if you're looking to change, start small, retain the outbound tactics that work and add in some digitally focused inbound tactics that compliment your existing strategy.
I'm still surprised how badly B2B businesses are at blogging. Your blog gives you the ability to increase traffic to your site. Provide compelling insights into your target market and encourage your prospects to keep coming back. We engage with a lot of businesses that are hugely sceptical about this approach. Just look at what has happened over the last ten years. Your salespeople are no longer in control of the sales cycle. Buyers set the tone and pace. Buyers have more information available to them than ever before. Hubspot Research in 2018 found that over 80 percent of buyers don't want to talk to businesses until they've done their research. That means your blog can be an aid in helping them research. Start by answering the questions that your salespeople are asked in early in the sales cycle.
Identify the most relevant LinkedIn groups and Twitter hashtags for your target market. If you've not used social as part of your go-to-market strategy, think of it as a trade association or industry body. Treat it sensitively but build relationships. Start by being a viewer - understand the influencers and who is guiding the conversation. Don't go for blatant promotion, but help and respond when people ask questions that you can answer. They don't have to be related to your products or services, demonstrate your value and be generous with your time and knowledge. Once you're engaged, you can target particular groups with paid advertising to amplify your message.
If you have an existing email subscriber list, you've got the foundations for a digital strategy. Most companies we speak to are now terrified of email because of the recent GDPR changes. But, your database is a goldmine of leads waiting to be delivered to your sales team.
Most contacts want to hear from you. They already know you. But they want to see the right type of content. They want to hear about trends in their industry. Changes in approach and how other businesses like theirs are solving common business problems. Customers who are engaged, up to date and informed by your marketing efforts can share and refer prospects to your sales team. A recent study from Lead Forensics found that 86 per cent of customers get referrals from existing customers.
When you plan your email strategy, ensure that you are creating content that is of interest. Just think about the emails that arrive in your inbox and get deleted immediately, avoid the mistakes of others. But, learn from those emails that you receive a read regularly. Why is it that you read? What value do you get from it? Put yourself in your customer's shoes and think how you can create similar email content that keeps them engaged.
Digital marketing allows you to reach the goals that have frustrated business leaders for decades. How much return do I get for my marketing spend? Everything can be measured online, social media engagement, unique website visitors, form fills, ebook downloads, ads impression. Google Analytics is the standard tool - but adding in the likes of Hubspot will give you true end to end measurability from a prospect being a complete stranger, right through the marketing and sales process to them becoming an active advocate for your products and services.
By no means is this list conclusive. But they are all good starting places for you to start your transformation journey towards being a more digitally focused demand generation engine. I'd be keen to hear any other views and experiences so please input and comment below.