Marketing to businesses is different than marketing to individual consumers, which is why an entirely different marketing method — B2B marketing — exists. It’s why we’ve hosted several lunchtime seminars on the topic (pre-pandemic), spoken about it at Milwaukee’s local Biz Expo and it’s why we wrote this article. By the time you are done reading, you’ll understand that B2B marketing requires solutions that help with rational decision making versus spur-of-the moment purchases. You’ll come to realize the modern business-to-business sales cycle has evolved. It is no longer a traditional funnel, but rather a fluid cycle with overlapping touchpoints, which means prospects are engaging in more independent research.
We’ve noticed three trends to keep your eye on. If you tap into these trends, you’ll have a better chance of converting your business audience into customers.
Trend One — The customer is in the driver’s seat
Today’s B2B decision makers are using online research to digitally move themselves about 75 percent of the way through the purchasing process before ever reaching out to a brand or engaging a sales rep. In fact, 70 percent to 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get information from an article they read online rather than an ad, says Connecticut PR guru Wendy Marx. With this trend in mind, B2B marketers should invest a generous amount of money and several resources into content marketing rather than traditional advertising. If B2B buyers learn about you on their own, the content you create should add valuable information and inform them: it’s obviously what they are looking for. Since they are focused on expertise, driven by logic and desire to be educated, there’s no better marketing tool to satiate these curiosities than to produce different types of sharable website content based on where they are in the buying cycle. Prospects who are in the research phase appreciate educational content such as checklists, white papers, industry/research reports, blog posts, webinars, case studies, newsletters, ROI calculators and testimonials. B2C buyers are often more persuaded by viral matter, infographics, videos, buyers’ guides, product demos and reviews, but these can be useful in B2B use as well.
Your mixture of content should entice buyers to bop around your website, answering questions that move them seamlessly through the stages of awareness-building to understanding to trial, without any involvement from a sales rep. When prospects are given the opportunity to build trust in your brand and your content on their own, they will contact you when they are ready.
Trend Two — Data as a game changer
The trend to measure hundreds of terabytes of data weekly is popular for a reason. Measuring gives you a clear picture of your customers’ journey. Understanding your metrics can shape your strategy and provide an advantage over your competition. The amount of analytics available goes beyond what can be found in Google. Combining data from a variety of sources will help you sharpen your focus and provide opportunity to influence prospects in new and different ways while selling more to your current customers. Don’t be fooled by incomplete metrics. Be sure to mine data in a way that can help you drive traffic, improve and personalize the content you’re offering so it works better for you.
And speaking of current customers … don’t forget about your own database. Keep it tidy and updated so that you can use it to your advantage. It’s tough, we know. In fact, the D&B Sales and Marketing Institute reports on average 120 business change addresses, phone numbers and personnel every 30 minutes. A wrong email address or phone number in your database or sales program can quickly derail your best-intentioned strategy. Not knowing about key changes will leave opportunities on the table and will likely give the sale away.
Trend Three — Online landscape is ever-changing
Your website needs to be more than informative and engaging, though. It needs to be discoverable. You can do this with on-page SEO and technical SEO tactics. SEO includes everything from image alt-text and meta descriptions (what your visitors can see) to structured data and site speed (what your visitors can’t see). You must study what prospects are searching for and employ the use of long-tail keywords, keywords or key phrases that are more specific – and usually longer – than more commonly searched for keywords. Long-tail keywords will bring less search traffic, but will usually have a higher conversion value, as they are more specific. In the super competitive world of B2B marketing, you must battle for SERP success or risk losing a potential customer to a competitor. Search competition is fierce. In addition to your keyword research, understanding the ever-changing search landscape is critical. You must understand that Google updates its algorithms thousands of times every year, which affects its 200+ ranking factors and web core vital scores. Off-page SEO is also at play here, which refers to external linking strategies and social sharing — tactics that occur in places other than your website. SEO also involves buying pay-per-click advertising space and using social media. If you are relevant in the channels potential customers are likely consuming, your content marketing efforts will pay off.
As B2B buyers are becoming more sophisticated, so must your marketing strategies. The way buyers research and buy products has changed and your marketing must be able to do more of the heavy lifting before a buyer is finally ready to engage with your sales reps. There are three trends that are changing the ways a company markets to another company: prospect control, availability of data and the expectation for personalization through SEO. Tapping into these trends will give you a good chance of converting your business audience into customers.
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