It wasn't so long ago that B2B marketing was all about renting lists and banging on doors to reach the CEO. Sales reps, with some help from marketers, would call, email, or golf with executives to try to start the long, slow sales cycle.
Today, just about everything about B2B marketing has changed—and not merely because business marketers now have more tools than ever before.
They're also shifting strategies to address new buyers and new buying behaviors: Instead of targeting the C-suite alone, marketers must now target groups of buyers and influencers, who can range from junior procurement specialists in their 20s, to senior executives in their 50s and 60s.
Reaching and engaging such diverse groups of stakeholders requires more than just banging on doors—especially when so much of the B2B buying process now occurs online, before a customer ever picks up a phone. The most successful marketers are relying on plans that include everything from social and mobile to print and connected TV.
With that in mind, here are some of the tactics that are working for B2B marketers today. These tactics can help reach buyers of all generations and tech comfort levels.
For some marketers, there's nothing new about inbound. Companies like HubSpot have been singing its praises for years now, and with good reason: It's effective and relatively low-cost, which means that it can work for companies of any size.
So, what is inbound marketing, exactly? Essentially, it's the practice of creating content that's relevant and helpful to your target buyers. That content can be in any format—text-based blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts—but it must be optimized for search so that it's easily found by a prospect looking for a solution like yours. In addition to creating that great, sticky content, inbound marketing entails distribution tactics, such as social sharing, email, and optimized landing pages.
The difference between traditional and inbound marketing is that rather than handing out sales sheets, inbound is pull-based: It brings the buyers to the business, rather than pushing the business out to buyers.
Inbound is often a tough sell for old-school, boots-on-the-ground sales teams, but the good news is that inbound works very effectively with other types of marketing. It doesn't have to be the only tactic in play, and most marketers agree that it combines very well with push tactics like display advertising—especially because inbound takes time to get up and running.
Once your inbound marketing program is humming along, you'll find you are able to more effectively reach your B2B prospects that span the generations.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
ABM has become a familiar term, and today's ABM is rooted in programmatic advertising, and it's been updated to include all stakeholders in the purchase decision. It's powered by data, both the marketer's own customer and prospect data and, increasingly, third-party B2B data available for purchase.
Using those data and carefully designed, personalized creative, marketers can use programmatic advertising to reach, engage, educate, and persuade decision-makers to consider their product or service.
Although this type of advertising is relatively new, marketers are seeing great success. After employing ABM for at least a year, 60% of users reported a revenue increase of at least 10%, while 19% reported a revenue impact of 30% or greater, the Content Marketing Institute reports.
Keep in mind that the "new" ABM can be used very effectively in conjunction with "old-school" ABM. Those digital ads can be supported effectively by traditional direct mail, live events, and follow-up phone calls. That means sales teams can gain access to mobile-first millennials as well as tech-free executives.
An Awesome Website
In many industries, the website is an afterthought. In traditional B2B marketing that wasn't such a big deal. Today, however, it is a big deal. Consider these three stats:
- 61% of B2B decision-makers start the decision-making process with an online search. (Source: Demand Gen Report)
- 77% of B2B purchasers say they won't even speak to a salesperson until they've done their own research. (Source: CEB)
- 40% of corporate buyers spend more than 50% of their procurement budget online (Source: CMO Council)
In short, prospects will see your website before they ever pick up a phone to call you—and likely well before they ever meet one of your sales reps in person. Your website must do the heavy lifting of making that great first impression. These days, that entails a couple of important considerations.
First, make sure your website makes it very clear what problem you are solving: Every stakeholder, in every buying committee, should be able to easily understand your solution or services.
Second, ensure your site is mobile-friendly. You may not think that's important, but it is. It's likely that if you look at your current site analytics, a minimum of 20%—and probably a lot more—of your website traffic is already coming from mobile. That number will only grow as mobile usage continues to increase, and as buyer demographics continue to shift.
Also, as you begin to ramp up your marketing, you'll see more traffic overall, and a larger percentage of that new traffic will come from mobile users of all ages.
Content Is the Driving Force
The thread that ties all these tactics together is content. Content is literally the fuel that powers marketing today: articles, videos, and podcasts that establish you as leader in your field and explain how your solution solves an industry's unique pain point, feeding the buyer's hunger for information.
Prospects searching for a partner, product, or service—whether a technology platform, a parts supplier, or a cleaning service—are looking for answers. They want to know what this partner, product, or service can do to make their job easier, their team more efficient, or their company more profitable. They will go to Google in search of answers, and they will find and consume content that will help guide them to that solution.
Your content needs to be a top result in that Google search. Better yet, ensure your solution is top of mind as they realize they have reached a pain point. Your content—discovered via search, their LinkedIn feed, or an ad that surfaced while they were catching up on the day's news—is what will help them choose your company.
High-quality educational content, discovered via inbound marketing, account-based marketing, and within the pages of your website, is the most powerful tool you as a marketer have. It gives you the ability to reach, educate, and convert decision-makers. Whether they read it on their mobile devices, on their desktops, or in a brochure that arrives via courier, it's the content that opens the doors to every prospective buyer.
Great content, however you deliver it, is the key to winning the hearts and minds of all your prospective buyers—no matter who they are.