Remember all those marketing plans you made for 2020 and your strategies that were painstakingly crafted to catapult your company to a new stratosphere of sales and marketing success? That was before lockdowns, record unemployment, a zig-zag stock market, limping economy, and millions living in social isolation. The pandemic disrupted every industry, and forced every marketer to pivot in stride.
So, how should you plan for 2021? What lessons did you learn, and where do you need to focus your energy moving forward?
Since our overall focus at Weidert Group is to help complex B2B businesses grow better and smarter, we’ve identified the best inbound marketing strategies for B2B that we’re going to emphasize more than ever in 2021, both within our clients’ marketing plans and our own.
Start With a Firm Foundation
To withstand a storm like we all experienced in 2020 requires a foundation built on solid principles. Before we dive in, it’s important to frame marketing opportunities within HubSpot’s inbound flywheel philosophy. It starts with identifying force — what you do to power the flywheel through the three continuous stages: attract, engage, and delight. You also need to identify areas of friction — eliminating anything that reduces the momentum of the flywheel through unintended barriers or a lack of simplicity.
The flywheel approach helps marketers think far beyond the traditional sales funnel that treats the purchase decision as the end of the process. Instead, look at customers both in the context of their lifetime value and the potential marketing and product improvement value they can represent. The flywheel more formally embraces what we all intuitively knew — that an initial purchase should really be the beginning of an ongoing customer-vendor relationship.
Here are six inbound strategies we believe B2B marketers in complex industries should implement or improve this year. And keep in mind, if you use HubSpot, many of these trends can be approached using their tools that already exist. So, it’s not as difficult as it may initially seem.
1. Market TO Your Customers
Few aspects of a customer relationship are overlooked and undervalued more than customer lifetime value. It’s critical to long-term success, yet most marketers don’t think about it much. Pumping more into successful relationships sounds logical, but you have prospects you need to land, right?
Well, consider this: How much more expensive is it to acquire a new customer versus retaining an existing one? Some studies suggest spending time and resources on finding a new client is 5 to 25 times more expensive than the cost of effective retention efforts. So marketing to — and getting value from — your current customers is a cost-effective opportunity that should not be missed. How can you do this?
Be thorough. Dig deep to uncover exactly what they need. You already know them, their industry, and their pain points. Strive to understand what they need before they even know it.
Be relevant. Market to customers in the ways they want to be marketed to. This varies by customer, of course, but we suggest providing value first. Then turn that into a sales opportunity.
Be a good listener. Your current customers have had a customer experience (or CX), and they may have a lot to say about you. Have you asked them? I bet you’ll hear ideas that can enhance your inbound marketing strategy with both current customers and prospects. Implementing a strategic Voice of the Customer Program is a key to success in 2021.
Some studies suggest that increasing customer retention by only 5% can increase profits 25% or more, so marketing to current customers can be huge! Now, let’s explore marketing through them.
2. Market THROUGH Your Customers
They know you, they appreciate you, and they love you!
Marketing “to” customers is a rocket launcher for marketing through them. Identify the top, say, 20% of your customers, not necessarily in terms of total sales but pure satisfaction. These are your greatest advocates, and they’ll likely be thrilled to help you grow.
Here’s how we helped a client do this. We interviewed some of our client’s top customers; simple one-on-one discussions during which our client was not present. These provided insights on the industry, real customer challenges, and it generated honest feedback on that client’s performance. So, we not only collected valuable information to shape their inbound marketing plans, we captured testimonials, sparked case studies, and developed other gold mine marketing content.
Imagine how valuable this content can be: a prospect reads the praises for a company written by a current customer in a similar situation as them. That’s powerful and compelling!
You just need to make it easy for your customers to be great advocates and, more importantly, you need to act on that feedback to improve your performance. When customers see you acting on their input, they’re more inspired than ever to repeat that behavior and help you grow.
These first two strategies are foundational to the flywheel. Yes, you’re capitalizing on force (your successes with your customers), and you’re reducing friction (improving CX and making it easier for customers to fuel your marketing). Plus, you’re celebrating successes, building trust, and showing that you appreciate a customer’s value.
3. Conversational Marketing and Chatbots
The traditional marketing approach of convincing people has been replaced by helping people. Today’s buyer expectation is to receive some guidance or advice first. Then, they may be open to purchasing something, if that guidance is solid.
The style in which you communicate, or conversational marketing, comes down to people needing to be treated like people (imagine that). No matter the industry, people want to be heard, understood, and helped. Not only that, they also want it on their terms and timing which, increasingly, isn’t during normal business hours. It’s this kind of positive CX that, I’ll say it again, reduces friction and creates force — go flywheel!
Google’s big change back in fall of 2019, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, of course), included improvements based on improving language understanding. Google realized that queries reflect natural language and conversations, so BERT better understands these human nuances and leads to more helpful results, and it’s still influencing those results in 2021.
The science of conversational marketing relates to chatbots. People are demanding quick, accurate answers to their questions and becoming more and more comfortable using chatbots. With advances in AI, they’re also becoming more and more helpful and customizable.
Yes, most people know chatbots are sophisticated algorithms, not real people, but they still feel comforted and cared for. Depending on where you are within a website, a chatbot can ask to be of assistance in different ways. It can help narrow a visitor’s focus and lead him/her through their individual buyer’s journey.
One of the simple joys of having Netflix is clicking on my profile icon and seeing the various options pop up. Yes, the algorithms used to track my viewing and recommend shows and relevant content may be spooky accurate, but it’s a personal touch that I do appreciate, even though I know it’s a form of marketing automation.
As a human in today’s world, each of us expects a level of personal touch, even in our day-to-day business dealings. Personalization, a next-step evolution of conversational marketing, not only includes your name, it includes your preferences and often directly addresses your needs. And, it’s within the grasp of every company, so why not use it?
Similarly, retargeting ads follow an audience that has visited your site, reminding them of your existence and creating a more personal touch. It’s another way that creators are getting smarter, wanting us to feel that they get us.
It’s amazing how quickly people will adapt to new technology, especially when it enhances our lives. Every year, we expect our experiences to improve, from navigating websites to watching videos. Speaking of video…
5. Video Marketing
At Weidert Group, we’ve been talking about video’s power for more than a decade (this still-relevant post is from 2011), and it’s only becoming stronger. This past year has emphasized the importance of visual engagement more than ever, with Zoom meetings, virtual events, webinars, and more. No other medium connects on such an authentic and emotional level, which naturally leads to more interest, engagement, and conversions.
People now accept the presence of videos in places they wouldn’t in the past: emails, social media, blog posts, presentations, within reviews, and on website landing pages.
With the impact of the pandemic expected to continue through much of this year and some businesses announcing that their workforces will remain remote, companies need to continue to ramp up their video usage. That includes their sales team!
Nine out of 10 marketers feel the pandemic has made video more important for brand awareness, according to HubSpot’s latest video statistics. And it shows:
87% of video marketers reported positive ROI from their video efforts in 2020—a huge increase from 2015 when only 33% felt that way.
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is an extension of your inbound program, combining your best inbound methodologies and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies with your top sales tactics. It starts by identifying the short list of ideal prospects and then targeting them with a laser focus. Some research suggests that an account based marketing plan could generate as much as 200% more revenue from a company’s marketing efforts.
The use of intent data to identify a target audience is a growing 2021 marketing trend, helping identify those who are currently in the market for your products or services. As its name suggests, intent data is used to gauge the intent of prospects who are a good fit for your company based on their active online research. With intent data, you can better understand where they are in their buying journey and provide them with what they need when they need it.
Combining intent data with an ABM approach can help strengthen your inbound marketing program and sales results. With more and more companies going virtual (which will have a lasting impact after the pandemic), sales teams need to evolve their approach and toolset. It’s more important than ever to strengthen your sales and marketing team relationships — to move away from old-school sales playbooks and toward an inbound sales approach. Build a strong foundation for this approach by creating a B2B sales and marketing service level agreement (SLA).
Welcome to the year of going beyond the traditional sales funnel and embracing the flywheel’s “new normal.” And congratulations on being a thought leader by consuming content that makes you a better marketer! May your 2021 include additional learning and continued success.
Want to learn more about inbound marketing and using the flywheel approach as your foundation? Check out our free recorded webinar below.
Posted by Keith Voss As an Inbound Strategist, Keith is all about GROWTH by helping develop and execute content-driven lead generation and integrated marketing campaigns for clients in manufacturing and B2B professional services.