Inbound marketing isn’t right for everybody, but it works wonders for some. For B2B companies in particular, there seems to exist various unwritten rules about what you should and should not do, particularly when it comes to exploring risky or unconventional ideas. Often thought of as boring, B2B marketing on the whole tends to side with the safe and sensible, rather than racing ahead of the curve. We’re not saying it should completely change its colors but, certainly, there’s no harm in shaking things up a bit. Things are changing, and it’s time to change with them. Here are five misunderstood facts about B2B marketing that will shatter your preconceptions.
B2B and B2C Marketing Share Similar Goals
While it can sometimes seem that businesses are the primary target of B2B marketing, the truth is that at the end of the day you’re still reaching out to people—not faceless droids. As such, the same tactics used to grab the attention of B2C consumers still apply. It’s all about working out which human emotion your strategy needs to appeal to, and focusing on the relevant benefits.
Of course, the main difference with B2B is that you might approach your campaign from a different angle. Where a B2C brand might focus on the individual—perhaps home or personal life—a B2B brand would more likely come at things from a more business-focused perspective.
Marketing is all about building brand awareness and generating more sales, and that’s true whether you’re a big multinational or a small ecommerce business. Content marketing, in particular, has been shown to be effective in either scenario. On average, B2B marketers allocate 28% of their total marketing budget to content marketing. This number will likely rise over the coming years.
Old School Tactics Still Get Results
The internet is very exciting. Social media, digital marketing, email newsletters: they all have their place. But let’s not forget about the old techniques that have stood the test of time, and still work. Many of today’s tactics are simply revised versions of the old ways, modernized for the digital generation.
For example, look at webinars and Slideshare presentations. Do they not closely resemble the trusty brochure or research paper? Then, of course, there’s social media, a platform surprisingly like that of a virtual tradeshow, building customer and industry connections.
The truth is that B2B marketers are still getting great results from traditional strategies as well, so they shouldn’t give up on them. The ideal approach is to do both: employ traditional approaches alongside your digital ones. Social media will never quite equal meeting someone in person at a networking event, but it can help you to stay in contact with them.
Shopify is the perfect example of a B2B company that uses blog content, webinars and social media communities to further its reach, influence and relevance online. A lot of its content is focused on delivering on old-school business maxims like customer service and product support.
Take a lesson from this SaaS giant and make support needs part of your marketing strategy—sell a product, as well as a vibrant service user community.
And remember, traditional techniques are not outdated as long as you keep the content fresh and take a modern approach, which means avoiding pushy selling tactics.
An Active Social Media Presence is Key
Social media is not just for B2C business. Without making the most of social media as a B2B company, you are throwing away valuable opportunities to build new connections and gain useful insight into your customers and industry. Maybe you think your B2B customers don’t use social media for business reasons? Yet 90% of all marketers indicate that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses, and about 60% of marketers who invested six hours per week in social media saw lead generation benefits and improved search engine rankings.
Social media doesn’t have to be limited to Facebook and LinkedIn. We tend to forget about Google+, which is one of the biggest social networks on the planet, and a great one for businesses. It’s always worth remembering that the purpose of social media is not simply to share products and content—it’s also a place to find out what people are talking about and join the conversation.
B2B Marketing Can Be Fun and Silly
Many B2B marketers feel compelled to direct their marketing efforts in a formal, stuffy way in order to appear “professional.” It’s wrong to think that just because you’re providing useful or valuable information, you can’t be witty or entertaining. It fact, we are more likely to remember it if it is. Shake off the veneer—it’s easy to be a shining, faceless corporate entity, but it’s boring. What people and decision-makers are increasingly looking for is what will give them the edge. Out-of-the-box thinkers who challenge the status quo and provide authentic value. Let customers see who you really are.
If you can provide useful information in a way that excites, compels or entertains, then you’re onto a winner. Check out this great B2B video example from Slack:
B2B Buyers Do A Lot of Online Research
The B2B sales process is a long one—much lengthier than the standard B2C sales process. What’s more, B2B buyers are typically not the only people weighing in on the purchase decision. They do their research online in order to present options and prices to the rest of the decision makers. So the more information you have available on your website, the better. It’s no longer just a way to contact you—it’s a sales tool. More than ever, factors like relevant content, reviews and testimonials are of paramount importance.
If your competitors are providing a wealth of relevant information that caters to the B2B buyer’s desire to research, while you are not, then you’re taking a great risk. Nowadays, it’s less about the schmooze and more about helping your potential customers reach the point of wanting to place an order with you—before they’ve even picked up the phone. It’s a hands-off approach that can work wonders. But, it goes without saying that your customer service should also be top-notch.
Do you work in the B2B industry? Which of these facts surprised you most? Or perhaps you take another view? Share your thoughts and start a discussion in the comments.
Posted by Patrick Foster Patrick Foster is a freelance writer, marketer and ecommerce entrepreneur who contributes to multiple marketing and ecommerce blogs, covering both B2B and B2C strategy. He’s passionate about marketing and the psychology behind what sells—and why. You can reach out to him at email@example.com