As we enter a new decade, it's a good time to take stock and assess where you are. Is your marketing the best it could be?
Are you concentrating on the right elements and heading in the right direction?
Marketing has changed so radically in the past decade it would be easy to get overwhelmed or left behind. But then it would be just as easy to make rash decisions and end up wasting time and resources on a strategy that’s flawed or inappropriate for your audience.
Here are ten elements I believe are essential to an effective and successful B2B marketing strategy for the next year and beyond…
1. Honesty & Truth
All around us the media landscape is increasingly dominated by fake news, falsehoods, rumours, non-science, beliefs, and outright lies. There is a feeling that many people are deciding for themselves what they want to believe in, without recourse to reason or facts.
In this climate, it can be tempting to return to the early days of advertising when businesses made outrageous claims for their products and felt free to say whatever they liked.
But there are two good reasons why a B2B business should not be dishonest or embellish the truth.
Firstly, we have laws that govern trade and selling that can be invoked when a company’s product does not live up to the marketing. Whilst it is seemingly impossible to hold politicians or newspapers to account when they lie, businesses can be brought before the courts.
But the second, and by far the most important reason is that B2B buyers are focussed on purchasing solutions that work, and therefore the facts. They are practical, hard-headed people (by and large) who need to know a product or service is going to work for them. They respect the truth and want to know that you are being honest and truthful with them.
Business is, after all, based on trust, and trust is built on honesty and truth. Lie to somebody, whether face-to-face or in marketing copy, and they will no longer trust you – no longer do business with you.
The more fake news there is in the world at large – the more important it is that your business demonstrates integrity, honesty and truthfulness.
2. Customer Service
Some things never change, customer service has always been important and will continue to be one of the defining factors in the success or failure of a B2B business. You may think great customer service is a high-cost luxury – but nobody wins or retains business by cutting customer support.
Unlike a B2C business that can offer promotions such as money off coupons, two for one deals, competitions, discounts, free samples and much more – most B2B companies do not have those options. So when promotional offers are not in the marketing mix, there’s a more limited number of ways to differentiate yourself from the competition, which places customer service as a key way to attract and retain business.
Its importance is further boosted by the fact that many business-to-business deals are for high-value items and involve a long-term relationship of continuous sales and support.
Always be thinking of better ways to serve your B2B customers.
We talked about truth and honesty earlier – but this goes hand in hand with authority. How does a customer work out that you are telling the truth and can be trusted? If you are an established authority in your marketplace, then that battle for the trust of the buyer becomes so much easier.
Establishing authority will take time and effort – but it pays real dividends in market value.
4. Explainer Videos
It is usually very easy to find the specific details of a product, service or process. Getting the facts or the detail about one aspect in particular. In fact, over 50% of buyers think that the amount of trustworthy information is overwhelming. What is harder to track down, is an overview – or an explanation of how the thing actually works with practical examples and step by step instructions. But research tells us that buyers find these “explainer” videos to be the most useful and valued content. High quality content is not enough – providing articles that make sense and give context to all this information are what’s important today.
Create videos that cover:
- …of a topic
- …of a process
- …of the available choices
- …of the potential strategies you could follow
- …of the history of an industry or the industry environment (legal, social, economic etc).
- How to plan for introducing new equipment, processes, services or products
- How to buy a product or service
- How to use a product or service
- How to maintain a product
- How to get the best from a service
- Tips and tricks from industry insiders
One of the most trusted sources of information for buyers is other buyers or companies in a similar position to their own. Testimonials from clients are always going to be very powerful and persuasive. In fact, any content that involves clients is a very valuable resource – whether that be case studies, interviews, questions, contributions to forums or comments on social media.
As well as instigating some of this content – make sure it’s straightforward and painless for your clients to respond and react on social media and ensure it’s easy for them to contribute content of any sort.
Making your customers’ lives easier should be a major goal for your business. Saving them time, money or hassle is a powerful reason to buy from you.
One way to do that is by providing interactive online tools that help them specify, choose or implement solutions. Anything you can do to reduce the complexity of the buyer’s journey and shorten the route to purchase will increase your sales revenue.
But as well as tools related to your products and services, try to think of any other tools that would make life easier for your customers and potential buyers. If you can provide a helpful utility that causes them to visit your site – that’s an engagement opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise have had.
It may be surprising, but customers value content from ordinary employees more than that from marketers and salespeople. So the more employee advocacy you can generate the better. After all, if you can’t get your employees on board, cheering on your marketing efforts and supporting the company’s goals, then you are not doing things right.
Social media participation following company guidelines is a great way to leverage the power of employee advocacy, as are videos, blogs and images generated by staff.
Don’t try and get everyone involved – identify in-house expertise and knowledge along with communication skills and emotional intelligence (put simply, the ability to stop oneself putting your foot in it!) Support and nurture these company ambassadors and they will become another powerful reason to buy from your business.
8. Big New Thing
You must always adopt the latest big new thing in marketing.
Oh sorry, I meant NEVER adopt the latest new thing in marketing! Every week or so we read about this new social network, that new chat app, this new technology, that new medium or this future trend.
Bear in mind that many of these will only ever be appropriate for B2C applications and even then, only after a considerable amount of time has passed. Many of these new channels are adopted by teenagers or young, early adopters and neither of these groups is likely to be the target audience for your B2B marketing. Many are also closed channels that cannot be exploited by any marketing technique.
Journalists and bloggers love to write about the latest thing, but adopting the latest thing is unlikely to prove effective for most B2B marketers. Stay up to date by all means, take inspiration from new ideas and techniques – but always make absolutely sure they will be effective for your business, addressing your target market. Learn to evaluate and qualify B2B marketing trends. You can waste a lot of money to no good purpose following trendy marketing fashions.
9. The Planet
Given recent global catastrophes and climate-driven events, everyone on the planet (with a few notable orange-haired exceptions) will soon be concerned about the impact we are having on our planet. Already we are seeing financially driven, hard-nosed investors withdrawing from fossil fuels, organisations pursuing a range of green initiatives and major cities like Copenhagen and even Nottingham working towards becoming carbon neutral.
This justified concern for preserving the planet will influence even the toughest of buyers as their business’s policies will dictate that they look for suppliers that have their own green policies in place.
The sooner your business can establish eco-friendly processes and planet-friendly strategic priorities, the sooner you can talk about it and it becomes a powerful point of differentiation between you and your competitors. This is one strategic race you don’t want to find yourself falling behind.
After many years in this business, it still amazes me that so many companies spend time and money on tweaking their latest digital development whilst at the same time neglecting very basic marketing necessities. I spend so much time with businesses getting them to dot the I’s and cross the t’s. There is no point moving on until you have all the basics of B2B marketing covered.
- Make it easy for clients to contact you.
- Make sure your copy is legible everywhere.
- Make offers and your proposition clear.
- Keep things simple.
- Make sure that your web site is mobile friendly and accessible – AND TEST THIS. I’ve come across so many websites from major brands that fall apart on mobile and make it impossible to see vital information, make contact or order products.
- Target everything at your market – look at your marketing through their eyes
- Make sure the benefit to them is clear. Why should they read your copy? Why should they care? Why should they buy your product or service?
Work on these ten areas and you will be well on the way to a prosperous 2020 and a successful future for your marketing.