B2B marketing is evolving at its fastest ever pace. The kinds of techniques and strategies that delivered superb results just a few years ago no longer applying. In fact, sticking to your guns with dated tactics could have a detrimental impact on your B2B strategy.
It’s never pleasant to watch the competition thrive while you and your business struggle to remain afloat. Particularly if you’ve previously led the charge, yet for some reason seem to have fallen behind the pack. If you still have nothing but confidence in your products, your services and your brand, chances are it’s a marketing issue.
The question being – where are you going wrong?
More often than not, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness with B2B marketing can be attributed to a handful of common causes. Isolate the issue (or combination thereof) and you’ll be in a much better position to do something about it. If all else fails, you can always bring on an independent third party to take a more objective look at the strengths and weaknesses of your strategy.
In the meantime, it’s worth considering whether you’re falling foul of any of the following areas:
Treating it like a B2C strategy
The first and most important lesson to learn when creating a B2B strategy is that the usual B2C rules do not apply. When marketing directly to the customer, you’re looking to instil some kind of emotional response and engagement. Many (if not most) of the purchase decisions we make as consumers are based on emotions, rather than logic and prospective returns. In addition, we make our purchase decisions independently, without the need to seek authorisation elsewhere.
With B2B, it’s an entirely different story. For one thing, there’s little to no emotion involved. B2B purchases tend to be based on nothing but logic, analysis and the extent to which the purchase can generate a good return. In addition, appealing to B2B buyers means appealing to multiple stakeholders at a variety of levels. The buyers themselves, along with influencers, gatekeepers budget controllers and so on. Hence, you cannot realistically expect B2C marketing techniques to work in the B2B arena.
Far too many B2B organisations fall into the trap of believing they don’t need to aggressively promote whatever it is they’re selling. They’re confident word-of-mouth is the way to go, or they simply don’t like the idea of blowing their own proverbial trumpets. The problem being that if you don’t promote the living daylights out of your products and services, they’re not going to appeal to your target audience.
What’s important to remember is that irrespective of your personal perspectives on promotion, your closest rivals are taking things to extremes. If your competitors are actively and aggressively promoting themselves, how can you expect to stand out and attract the attention of your audience? If you’re not comfortable promoting (or simply not equipped to promote) your own business, it’s essential that you hire an independent third party. B2B marketing should be viewed as a fulltime job in its own right if you expect your campaign to yield a positive result.
Lack of product or service information
These days, customers in the B2B arena expect to be able to find out everythingabout your products and services, without having to get in touch with you directly. It’s the same in the B2C arena, though in this instance you’re appealing to their logic, rather than their emotions. Essentially, you need to ensure that your online and offline marketing materials convey every important shred of information about whatever it is you’re selling.
With B2C marketing, the key to success lies in focusing almost exclusively on value, rather than features. In the B2B sphere, it’s not quite the same. Assuming you’re selling an important product or offering a vital service, the B2B buyer will want to know everything there is to now about it. This means presenting both the value of your products/services and all the technical/factual information they’ll need to know what they’re looking at. The more questions they’re left with, the more likely they are to head elsewhere and do business with your competitors.
Not taking SEO seriously
Just as is the case with B2C buyers, B2B prospects instinctively turn to the major search engines to find whatever it is they need. If they’ve already decided what they need, search engines are used to research sellers and compare rival providers. On the whole, the major search engines direct approximately 95% of allweb traffic worldwide. So unless you’re taking SEO seriously, you’re doomed to fall behind and remain behind.
It’s therefore a case of carrying out the necessary research to find the most relevant keywords and search terms for your buyer. Avoid keyword-stuffing at all costs, instead focusing on traditional content marketing tactics to increase traffic to your website.
Not having a blog
If anything, it’s even moreimportant to operate a blog as a B2B seller than it would be working in the B2C sphere. This is because businesses spanning all industries and sectors are constantly on the lookout for educated, authoritative and reliable providers of key information. It’s not enough to simply sell quality products and services – you need to present yourself as a credible and established leader in your field.
A blog provides the perfect platform to showcase your knowledge and position within your niche. It’s also the perfect tool for telling your brand’s story, keeping readers up to date with the latest industry news and contributing to your SEO efforts with a steady stream of fresh and relevant content. A blog should never be used to aggressively push and promote your products. Focus on providing the information your readers actually want, as opposed to what youwant to get out of them.
Not capitalising on social media
Social media has become one of the most important marketing platforms for B2B organisations worldwide. Holding particularly strong appeal for the millennial generation, buyers in droves are turning to social media to help guide their most important purchase decisions. If you’re neglecting your social media presence, you’re denying yourself access to an enormous and fast-growing market.
Social media provides businesses with the opportunity to create an open forum and engage with their audience. It’s also the perfect place to capitalise on the power of ‘selling without selling’. If you can get just a handful of influencers to say something positive about your products on social media, you’re golden. In addition, more buyers than ever before are turning to social media as their preferred customer support channel.
Not leveraging satisfied customers
If you’ve made the effort to build a decent-sized audience of satisfied customers, why not make use of them? We live in an age where social proof holds more power than all the traditional marketing and advertising in the world. Social proof applies for any form of marketing for promotion that originates from an outsider, rather than your business itself.
From star-ratings to product recommendations to testimonials and so on, there are dozens of avenues to explore. Rather than attempting to persuade buyers you’re the brand to do business with using your own voice, allow the words and reassurances of satisfied customers to do it on your behalf. If you’re not currently attracting a steady stream of feedback, adopt a more proactive approach and askevery customer to share their thoughts.
Forgetting about beginners
Last but not least, one of the most common mistakes in B2B circles is that of assuming every prospect already understands your products and services. To an extent, you can expect a decent segment of your target audience to have a good grasp of your niche. They’ll know exactly what they’re looking for, along with the characteristics and points of value they expect. Nevertheless, you also have to anticipate at least someattention from those coming across your products and services for the first time.
Along with plenty of technical information, therefore, you might want to think about providing informative materials for beginners. Video tutorials, helpful articles, infographics, downloadable PDFs – pretty much anything you can think of to help familiarise newcomers. Once again, doing so will also contribute to your SEO efforts with a steady stream of rich and relevant content. Answer as many possible questions as you can in the content you publish, considering the requirements of experts and beginners alike.
Once again, it’s important to know where to draw the line and consider hiring help. If your B2B strategy simply isn’t working in spite of all efforts to date, the input of an independent third party could prove invaluable.