Digital Marketing isn’t just for consumer marketing, B2B can greatly benefit from it. That is to say, provided you understand how it works beforehand. A friend of mine is working in the marketing department of a medium-sized B2B industrial company. It has just over 300 employees and operates on a large network of distributors throughout the world. The business is quite flourishing. But things are changing very fast today. My friend believes he should jump on the digital marketing bandwagon, to increase his company’s visibility on the Web: in other words, he wants to develop a strategic presence on social networks. The problem is that he is not really familiar with all the digital concepts. So, he turned to me and asked for advice. While I was at it, I turned my recommendations into this blog post, as it might as well benefit to all the readers of Visionary Marketing.
Digital Marketing: What’s in it for businesses?
Thus, how can one define digital marketing and especially what’s in it for professionals like my friend and their businesses? First and foremost, one must live and breathe digital before launching any digital marketing endeavour. Especially in B2B.
Let me describe the different steps that are essential to the success of any digital marketing project for B2B.
Digital Marketing and B2B: hand in glove!
Digital marketing is first a matter of moving with the flow.
As Tom Pick has it:
B2B marketing budgets are shifting to digital and social. Overall, B2B marketing budgets are expected to increase, on average, by about 5% in the coming year. But spending on digital marketing programs is projected to rise three times as fast, and over the next five years, the share of budget dollars dedicated to social media marketing will more than double.
However, digital marketing goes well beyond all this. It does have an impact in B2B.
What are the advantages of digital marketing in B2B
Multi-channel: By using multiple channels, digital marketing offers many opportunities (complementary to traditional marketing) and allows users and companies alike to act at all levels of the purchasing process
Cost efficiency: Digital marketing is less costly than traditional marketing.
Even risk-averse traditional marketers know that they cannot compete with the Internet’s potential to reach thousands with just a single post
Printing and shipment costs account for nothing in the digital world and CPC beats traditional advertising hands down (you only pay when somebody clicks your links).
Immediate results regardless of borders: information, communication and advertising are instant and know no borders. This is the most efficient way to reach any customer anywhere and anytime; the best and unique way to create traffic;
Razor-sharp targeting: with digital marketing, it is very easy to target very precisely whom you would like to reach; many criteria (demography, geography, function…) can be used to refine this reach and improve efficiency as long as you avoid spamming;
Inbound marketing: by creating and sharing content specifically designed to appeal to your customers, inbound marketing attracts and retains qualified prospects for your business. This approach is very efficient and can help you reach customers at any stage of the B2B purchasing process.
Data collection and analysis: with digital marketing, B2B companies can collect data (pages visited, products downloaded, average revenue per user (ARPU), time spent on which page, what keywords, what queries…) about their customers.
With digital marketing, businesses can also follow up on all their users’ online actions — provided the right trackers are in place. As a result, data collection and analysis make up a major competitor advantage for one’s sales and marketing teams.
This is especially true when it comes to targeting marketing campaigns towards specific segments, and improving customer experience and satisfaction.
Making preparations for an effective B2B digital strategy
But what about the strategic aspect of digital? A strategic vision is a must and to this end, a stepped approach must be implemented.
Define your objectives
Before you start, it is essential to clearly identify your digital marketing objectives. It is necessary for them to be aligned with your primary marketing goals. For greater effectiveness, these objectives must be SMART.
Define your target audience
Once objectives are defined, targets must be identified, together with marketing and based on the personas they have defined. They could be based on demography, geography, job title, market (segments, subsegments) …
The more accurate the targets, the greater the relevancy and ROI of your B2B digital marketing endeavours.
Know all about your resources
You are almost ready. As long as you know what teams to rely on, and have a digital marketing budget at the ready.
A clear understanding of your available resources will help you fine-tune your strategy and set up an achievable and realistic action plan. Working on a long-term strategic development plan is also a key success factor.
Do not belittle your competitors
You should also monitor what the Market definition in B2B and B2C - The very notion of "market" is at the heart of any marketing approach. A market can be defined... is doing on the Web, if only to keep up with them, but also to find inspiration and fully understand what your customers are looking for.
This will also teach you what and how to improve and what might make you stand out, more innovative. Yet, you are well advised to steer clear of cut and paste, even of Web design. It is illegal and would not do anything for the distinctiveness of your online presence.
An action plan is the must-have of any B2B online strategy
We’re almost there. It is now time to clarify your action plan. Here are the elements that should be taken into account:
In the age of mobile marketing, one wouldn’t imagine a B2B digital marketing strategy otherwise than mobile first. Responsive design is obligatory, full stop.
The right channel for the right B2B digital marketing strategy
Your digital marketing endeavour cannot be limited to your website. All available channels must be appraised and weighed carefully in view of your objectives. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), Social, Email marketing, SEA (Search Engine Advertising), Video marketing, Display advertising, … You must select those channels that are suitable to your needs rather than try them all for the sake of technology.
Nonetheless, among all these channels, two of them cannot be ignored:
- SEO: the main objective of SEO is the ranking. A well-ranked website means it will be more visible. SEO is all about improving this ranking. Yet, SEO isn’t just about technology. It is mostly about content. Creating the right kind of content for your audiences is what will put you in the map. And bear in mind Joe Pulizzi‘s definition of content marketing. By content, one means relevant, valuable and consistent content.
- Social marketing: social is a real opportunity for B2B companies. Social networks, mostly those that are aimed at professionals, can make an impact for businesses. One could almost state that there is some kind of love story between B2B and social. However, don’t confuse social presence with social spamming. Each social platform should be chosen for what it has to offer:
- LinkedIn because it is the social networking platform for businesses
- Facebook when it comes to emotions and targeting audiences in the lower end of the market
- Twitter for press relations and influencer marketing
Making an impact for Business to Business
The definition and the launch of an action plan is not sufficient.
To grow your business, you will have to monitor the success of this plan. One you have put the right trackers in place and collected some data, now is the time to analyse them and measure your performance, your marketing ROI and the effectiveness of all the digital marketing actions you may have implemented.
Quantifying everything isn’t an end in itself, though, it’s just a means to an end. For one, everything is not quantifiable and focussing on qualitative feedback is a very good idea too.
Similarly, refrain from defining too many KPIs, no decision maker is able to keep an eye on 20 different key success factors.
Bearing all my advice in mind, my friend and yourself can now get down to business and set up your own B2B digital marketing strategy and implement it successfully.