When it comes to the B2B realm, the word “digital” is still considered a bit taboo. A good majority of B2B companies have yet to totally integrate digital strategies into their overarching marketing efforts.
Don’t get me wrong—some in the B2B sector really get it, such as Dell, American Express, GE, among others.
But why is it that so many B2B executives feel that digital marketing won’t help them take their business to new levels?
To answer that question, surveying the B2B entities I work with, it’s because some execs still feel that their products or services “are so niche that [digital] won’t work” or “our target audiences aren’t on social,” etc. But these thoughts don’t reflect what’s been shown to work for similar entities.
Whether a B2B firm is tip-toeing into digital or has embraced some elements, here are a few good tips and examples that can be integrated so that firms might begin to move away from traditional means of marketing.
1. Embrace inbound marketing
Our BCM resident SEO/SEM expert, Jeremiah Baker, says, “search engine advertising is likely the best marketing tool for B2B firms since the invention of the telephone.”
Research agrees with him. According to Marketo, “93% of B2B buyers use search engines to begin their buying process.” Baker believes that this is the first time in history that marketers can access their customers at the moment they’re looking for their product or service, and that’s powerful.
In the past, most contact with a potential customer happened through interruption-based tactics, such as cold calling, direct mail, radio and/or television. Today there’s a huge benefit to having the potential customer find you first rather than using cold calling as the initial outreach. You don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands a year to do it right, either.
The key to making this work is being seen as a trusted advisor. Potential customers—no matter what industry—like to believe they’re having normal conversations. Think about it: When someone calls you out of the blue, do you want to talk to them, or do you try to get them off the phone as quickly as possible?
2. Build storytelling efforts
What can storytelling mean? Look at the law firm sector. A good majority of law firms are still quite behind in today’s digital world. Even the most simple of digital marketing tactics aren’t engrained, and the traditional means of getting referrals is still a main source of gaining new clients.
But not all firms are the same. Take the global law firm White & Case, which supports many corporate entities. It shows that, even with prestigious corporate client needs, developing a story around thought leadership in the sector is powerful.
The blog that they developed is a great example of how White & Case showcases its thought leadership content. It further expands the firm’s exposure to stakeholders and allows the firm to be seen in a different light by associates they wish to recruit. Not to mention, this firm happened to be one of the firsts to hire an actual CMO.
White & Case’s content uses a lot of video and shares its thoughts on the industry from both a trends and opportunities perspective.
These stories of who they are and what they stand for are used to engage their stakeholders across their owned media, e.g., LinkedIn and Facebook. The type of content it has developed enhances social channels overall, which goes beyond just boosting marketing efforts (helps them in driving business development, recruitment efforts, etc.).
3. Get creative with content
Content is king. As marketers, we've all heard this saying over and over again. What does it really mean?
Square Inc. in the mobile payment sector, stands out, as their content is visually stimulating. While the product of Square Inc. is simple, the imagery they’ve created has impact and speaks volumes about what they do.
Its content also engages readers in ways that extend beyond just providing knowledge about their product. For instance, their Facebook page shows the product being used and provides a brief case study to accentuate how Square is helping businesses in real time.
The content also features other products from local businesses, a creative way to show support for all businesses whether they’re a Square customer or not.
It has done a good job of developing creative content that engages prospects and customers in conversations that are over and above just stating what the product is about.
4. Engraining social
The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “Industrial companies are starting to catch up to consumer brands in their use of social media marketing”.
Caterpillar, Inc. is a good example of a B2B manufacturing company that’s embraced social. They’ve engrained social media elements throughout all of their digital assets beyond just placing widgets on their site to display conversations and posts.
Additionally, it uses social media from a multichannel standpoint, which is a bit of a different approach than others in the sector.
They reach customers via Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ and have connected those social sites to their CRM system (Salesforce.com). In an email to the Wall Street Journal, the company’s social media manager, Kevin G. Espinosa, wrote that the integration was a “huge process improvement for us”.
Caterpillar has evolved to keep up with generations of customers who’ve moved into using social for more than just posting pictures of family.
Putting this all together
The key to making these tips work is to approach them in the right manner, which means knowing key stakeholders. Know exactly how and where they want to be messaged, and have the analytics to back up every decision made.
Given the current disruption of social and the ever-evolving technologies that underpin great innovation, now is the time to take risks. It’s time to break out of the traditional frame of mind when it comes to marketing as there’s now enough proof in the pudding to help executives make the right business decisions.