Note: This is a guest blog post by Victoria Greene — She is a freelance writer and branding consultant. She updates her blog, Victoria Ecommerce, with news on the latest trends in the world of marketing, design, and ecommerce. Victoria has a drive for helping store owners achieve the most from their online presence
Running a B2B business? Chances are that you are boring. You don’t have to be.
Are you marketing something that others may find a bit ‘boring’? People will probably tell you that there is no way to ‘sex up’ industrial springs and that as a marketer you’re destined to guest posts on low-interest sites, and getting one retweet a week…
But that’s not true: B2B businesses have never had it better, and there are a ton out there sharing engaging, compelling, and useful content on a huge scale. Businesses are turning to services and products like never before, and ambitious entrepreneurs are leaning on outsourcing and automation. B2B businesses need to capitalize on all this energy by investing in their online marketing like they never have before.
Whether you are selling sales tax services, business insurance, or industrial piping — there is an audience out there for you.
Marketing in a B2B industry is the perfect challenge for the ambitious marketer: here’s some things that will help you succeed.
Don’t succumb to restrictive labels
Don’t think of yourself as B2B/boring/corporate marketer: don’t get stuck with a label.
You need to connect with the value of what you’re doing: how your products and services are helping businesses grow, hire staff, and succeed. Focusing on that authentic story will help you find your voice as a brand.
- Speak to your product team, and get some facetime with the CEO: learn as much as you can about the business to help structure your marketing plan around what matters the most. It’s important that B2B marketing teams are deeply and intimately connected with the company.
- Learn from the big tech companies: don’t just talk up the features and technical specifications — focus on value and benefits instead. Video conferencing? It’s all about connections and relationships. HR software? It’s all about teamwork and people. You need to understand your customers’ lives: what are people really buying from you?
- Even the most technical features need to be communicated to other human beings. The concept of marketing B2 Human is a great way of looking at things: don’t focus on acronyms, focus on speaking to your audience in a clear and direct manner, with minimal jargon and waffle instead. Avoid bland euphemisms that don’t really mean anything.
- New tech like chatbots can help you make inroads with a more direct and universal comms strategy, so don’t be afraid to explore the boundaries of online marketing. You never know, you could be adding memes to your next blog….
Be where your customers are
Apps are an invaluable marketing tool, but they also add value to B2B customers long after a sale is made. A mobile app is a perfect place to provide support, upsells, and build long term customer relationships.
The beauty of a great mobile app is that you can embed your business and product at the center of consumer’s lives. People literally cannot put their phones down, so offer them an extension of your business that’s always with them.
- The best apps are the ones that integrate with the existing app ecosystem: integrations, add-ons, and plugins are the perfect way to make your app even more important to people.
- Don’t just invest in an app that you use at an exhibition stand, take your app on the road with you and keep adding new features based on client and customer feedback.
- If you don’t need an app — don’t build one. Invest in mobile marketing instead. It’s important to stay clear of vanity apps and projects that don’t really offer your customers value.
Go hard on content
Content is your chance to change the conversation, even if you run a B2B business.
Content is the fundamental building block of the inbound methodology and it’s a simple and cost-effective way to meet SEO and marketing KPIs.
- You have to start with defining a coherent content strategy that has both employee and management buy-in. A big kickoff meeting where you present your editorial calendar and make it clear when you are going to need input from teams will help keep everyone on the same page.
- It can be hard getting details off from people in a busy business, so make content production as easy as possible. Interview people at their desks, listen in on meetings, and make sure that management understands the importance of having content that’s real, rather than superficially manufactured.
- Some of the best content is content that’s not created by you. Find the influencers in your industry and court endorsements from them, whether that’s through guest posts, content exchanges, or expert roundups. When you are reaching out to busy people, make sure you don’t waste their time and keep your emails concise and direct. Having great content on your own domain will help convince people that they should work with you.
- Think carefully about your content distribution network: what sites and channels do you need to be seen on? For B2B businesses, certain platforms like LinkedIn are key, whereas others like Snapchat might attract the wrong crowd. Especially on social media, you need to be super-clear on audience habits and ground rules before diving in. Get to grips with the latest social trends and see whether your content strategy is keeping up with the latest social developments.
Invest in great people stories
PayPal knows that the secret to an engaging story and press release is not the technical aspects of your service, but the people behind it.
That’s why their blog is all about the people who work for them, and the people they work with: sharing human, touching, and unique stories about issues that span a wide range of modern society, from medical to military, and from India to the US.
Every brand can learn from this same strategy and spend more time talking to the people behind the work. Content like this will help humanize your business, and it’s also much more likely to get social shares and be picked up by media publications.
- Sharing company culture in micro-moments doesn’t have to involve in-depth and researched posts, just go in and take some snapshots and share them on social with some inspiring hashtags. Focus on moments that tell people more about your team culture and company values.
- Talk to employees: host a meeting entirely focused on capturing great people stories and keep the content team on standby for interviews and pictures. (Make sure you get their permission first).
- A great B2B strategy is to get senior leaders and executives to develop their own brands that help bolster the company profile. LinkedIn and guest posts can help raise people’s personal profiles to enhance the overall brand reputation.
Segment information to fight the overwhelm
Sometimes certain content and information needs to be on a ‘need to know’ basis: if you throw everything at people from day one, they will not be able to process the information. As a B2B publisher, it’s important that you segment off information into different content channels and formats.
Clarity and direction will help people decide whether they need your service: focus on the client and customer journey in order to meet people with the right messaging at the right time.
Be mindful that some businesses have procurement teams who might not be product and service experts: you need to provide value without baffling.
Selling a technical product to a potentially non-technical audience? Make sure your landing page has enough detail, but also use visual cues like graphics and videos to help break up the text. Simplified visual image will appeal to visual thinkers who just want to get going with their business idea or next project. Learn how to make the most of visual storytelling and embed fun stock photography in and amongst real-life shots to help your visual strategy go further.
- Use your blog as a place to write short, and snappy content on issues that affect your customers, with more in-depth guides and resources for people who are ready for the next level. Create a dynamic mix of beginner and expert-level content.
- Remember to refer back to your business buyer personas: this should help you decide what different issues and features you need to be addressing in content.
Don’t let B2B business boundaries hold you back when it comes to effective marketing: focus on creating new conversations around what you do. What’s your biggest B2B marketing challenges right now?