A friend of mine is working in the marketing department of a medium sized B2B industrial company. The latter has just over 300 employees and operates on a large network of distributors throughout the world. The business is quite flourishing. But things can change. In fact, things are changing very fast today. My friend believes he should board on the digital marketing wave, 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 me for advice.
This lead to a long reflection with him about what digital marketing really is and especially what the benefits can be for him and his business. It is important to understand digital before rushing into it prematurely. Finally, I quickly described to him the different steps that are essential to the success of his “digital marketing” project.
Digital Marketing and B2B: the two make a pair!
Digital marketing is first a matter of trend. To be competitive and innovative it is necessary to stay in the race, and therefore follow the flow.
“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.”
But digital marketing goes well beyond a simple trend. It has real advantages 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 / companies to act at all levels of the purchasing process
Cost-efficiency: Digital marketing is less costly than “traditional” marketing; indeed “…Even stalwart traditional marketers know that they cannot compete the Internet’s potential to reach thousands with just a single post”. Printing and shipment costs are not taken into account in digital, this is the advantage of CPC (you pay only when click).
Immediate and borderless: Information, communication and advertising are instant and have no borders. This is the most efficient way to reach any customer anywhere and anytime; the best and unique way to create traffic;
Targeted: with digital marketing, it is very easy to target very precisely who you would like to reach; many criteria (demography, geography, function…) can be used to refine this reach. But do not to turn into a spammer;
Inbound marketing: By creating and sharing content specifically designed to appeal to your customers, inbound marketing attracts and retains qualified prospects to 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 a lot of data (pages visited, products downloaded, basket average, time spent on which page, what keywords, what queries…) about their customers. They can track all their actions online – provided the right trackers are in place. The collection and analysis of these data represent a major asset for the sale forces and the marketing teams; especially in the perspective of very targeted marketing addressed to specific segments, and the improvement of customer experience and satisfaction.
Getting Ready: The Secret of an Effective B2B Digital Strategy
But what about the “strategy”? Without a strategic vision, nothing can be put in place. Steps must be followed.
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 those defined by the marketing. For greater effectiveness, these objectives have to meet the SMART criteria.
Define your target audience
Once objectives are defined, targets must be addressed. These targets also come from marketing. Created mostly from “personas”, they allow you as a business to reach your customers very precisely based on many criteria: demography, geography, profession, market (segments, sub-segments) …
The more accurate the targets are, the greater the relevance and ROI of communications will be.
Know your resources
It is time to act. But for that, you need to know, which team you can count on and what your budget is. It is important to have a clear view of your resources to adapt your strategy and propose a reasonable and reachable action plan; working on a strategic development plan over the longer term is strongly advised.
Do not neglect your competitors
It is important to monitor what your competitors are doing on the web: To stay in the race, but also to find inspiration and fully understand what your customers are looking for; This will also allow you to have a better understanding of what you could improve and what might make you unique, more innovative. But be careful, not to exactly copy your competitors!
Action plan: the “must have” of all B2B digital strategy
You now have everything that is required to start. You are ready. It is thus time to define an action plan. Here are the elements that should not be overlooked
Think mobile first
It is important to think “mobile first” and to set everything up in this sense. Today one can no longer ignore the multi-device and the importance of the mobile. If you think that responsive design is not adapted to your strategy, keep at least in mind the mobile.
Choose the right channels wisely
Your marketing should not be limited to your web site, nor should it systematically use all channels available: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), social marketing, emailing, SEA (Search Engine Advertising), video, display advertising, … You must use the channels that are adapted to your needs and not the other way round. The selection must be in line with the strategy you have set.
However, among these channels, two are essential:
- SEO:“The main objective of SEO is the ranking: a well ranked website has better chances to be seen by customers. To improve this, ranking technical best practices are to be respected… But SEO is not only about techniques. It is also about content. The notion of “content is king” has always to be kept in mind. Just like the notion of customer centric. It is very important to work the content, to create the right one, the consistent one and to make sure it is always up to date.”
- Social marketing:It represents a real opportunity for B2B companies. Indeed, social networks (professional and B2C) represent a huge potential thanks to their incredible number of users. But it goes far beyond that; We can even talk about a “love story” . However, it is not advisable to be present on all social networks at all costs. Each social network has its own vocation and therefore its targets:
- “LinkedIn– the social network to reach businesses: LinkedIn – world leader in professional social networks – is a network focused on business contacts and skills. It is as such an exceptional database for prospecting and targeting LinkedIn profiles based on their skills and their activity.
- Facebook – the social network to transmit emotions and target your audience:Facebook is the undisputed leader of social networks – in terms of number of users and time spent on its site and its mobile applications.
- Twitter – the social network to reach influencers:Twitter is a major social network focused on real-time information and having a stream of publications limited to 140 characters. Twitter is such an ideal platform to reach opinion leaders and is a network adapted to the relationship between consumers and brands (hot news, latest trends …).”
Don’t forget about content and editorial strategy
Technique is one thing; content is another. Even if the two are complementary, content must always have a special and important place. Not only in terms of quality, SEO, regularity or relevance, but also in terms of strategy. Indeed, it is essential to define a style, a voice, but also and above all a true editorial strategy, defining with precision: the objectives and targets, the editorial line, as well as the editorial calendar – which of course can be adjusted over time.
In all cases, it is necessary to keep in mind, that certainly you write for robots (positioning requires) but above all for users: humans! To be effective, your content must necessarily take this into account.
Digital marketing: a major asset to enhance B2B businesses
The definition and the launch of an action plan is not enough. To enhance your business, you have to monitor the success of this plan. You have put many trackers in place and collected a lot of data. Now it is important to be able to analyse them to:
- the performance of this plan;
- measure your ROI (ReturnOn Investment);
- the effectiveness of all marketing actions digital implemented; These actions can be general or very specific.
- draw out statistics;
- put in place any corrective action (if necessary) – it is now possible to adjust in real time as results are themselves in real time!
Last but not least, you will have to define KPIs. They will allow you to take the most of all these collected data and of these various analyses. These KPIs – in line with the objectives specified within the global digital strategy – are specific to your needs. There are no good or bad ones.
Be careful, however, not to have in mind only the “quantitative”. Everything is not quantifiable and “qualitative” may represent a genuine interest. “… to qualify a quantitative indicator on the acquisition of influencers X via qualitative indicators (stars, fans, ambassadors, experts) will allow better analysis.” ().
In the same way, it is not advisable to define too many KPIs: you should be able to monitor analyse them.