Grabbing the attention of today’s busier-than-ever business buyers requires new thinking and new approaches. The good news? By using this guidance from three of the top minds in B2B marketing, you can do it.
At the recent Digital Branding Summit 2020, more than 50 top marketing professionals shared their latest insights in presentations and panel discussions. It would be difficult to share all of the key takeaways shared in hundreds of pages, much less hundreds of words.
But here are a number of the most useful, actionable ideas shared in three critical areas.
Buyer Personas: Your Fuel for Driving Engagement That Creates Demand
According to author, speaker, and marketing strategy pro Ardath Albee, B2B content marketing success is no longer just about creating high-quality content. 89% of B2B buyers say they can find high-quality content—but only 40% say it is relevant to their needs.
Although you’ll focus on different topics for different members of the buying team, make sure your fundamental brand messaging remains consistent. Buying team members find content in different places; inconsistent brand messages cause confusion, which damages your chance of getting the sale.
More buyers today are trying to solve problems they haven’t solved before. So, marketers need deeper knowledge of buyer problems.
Among other key points from Ardath’s presentation:
- A persona is a composite sketch, so don’t worry about getting too detailed. Focus on commonality.
- Only create as many personas as you have the resources to address. For buying team members who play only a small role in the decision process, you don’t need a full persona–just enough information to address their key concerns.
- A full persona includes “orientation,” meaning their characteristics at work that are actionable.
- Video is all the rage. But many times, buyers want to “scan and move on””—so don’t ignore text posts or over-invest in video.
- Think about triggers; what is it that will make the buyer want to buy now? Often the biggest competition is “no decision,” just sticking with the status quo.
- Think about context. EVERYONE wants to “grow revenue,” for example. Be specific about how your offering will help them do that.
- Look at numerous LinkedIn profiles by title to create a list of commonalities. Also use a tool like Crystal Knows to help build more in-depth personas.
- The questions you ask when conducting customer interviews are critical! One of the most important things you can learn will help you identify the specific questions your buyers have from sitting in status quo to actively buying (as shown in the example below). How you choose to answer them will drive your content creation.
- Do 12-15 customer interviews if possible. Talk to the sales team first; find out who (by title or role) they are usually talking to in new opportunities.
- For the less crucial members of the buying team, create a “day in the life” and a mini persona. It’s faster and easier to create than a full persona.
- Keep interviews open and conversational. And don’t waste time asking basic questions you can answer from their LinkedIn profile.
Break Free of Boring B2B With Influencers and Experiences
So, Lee Odden asks, why not use more engaging content formats like quizzes, 360-degree video, and interactive infographics? As he put it, B2B doesn’t have to mean “boring to boring.”
Why use influencer marketing? Because 65% of buyers don’t trust ads. 55% don’t even trust their own vendors!
Influencer marketing helps break through the noise, inspire advocacy, and build trust. This slide summarizes the benefits nicely.
Influencer marketing and interactive content are most effective when used together. Influencer content such as expert interviews can drive traffic to interactive content, which in turn drives visitors to your download page. Top-of-the-funnel interactive content formats include contests, games, quizzes, assessments, and interactive infographics.
Before reaching out to influencers, Lee recommends adding “some romance” to the process: follower your influencers on Twitter and other social channels, quote them in posts, and retweet or re-share their content.
When it’s time to do your outreach, do it right: personalize each message and let influencers know what’s in it for them. Here’s an excellent outline for outreach:
When you produce influencer content, make it easy for your influencers to share by providing them with prewritten updates and tweets.
Finally, keep the relationship alive. Effective influencer marketing isn’t about “one and done.” Focus on creating a great influencer experience just as you would a great customer experience.
How to Use Your Digital Brand to Drive Demand
B2B marketing today isn’t just about how many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) you generate, says Matt Heinz. It’s about pipeline contribution.
Sales and marketing aren’t always on the same page, but should always have the same objective: to drive revenue. Focusing on vanity metrics risks developing the reputation of being the “arts and crafts” department.
Your brand tells your prospects what you stand for. The buying process starts with solving a problem; if your brand is recognized as being able to solve that problem, you have a leg up. A strong brand will result in greater engagement on social channels and easier conversations for sales.
Among other key points from Matt’s presentation:
- According to Gartner, of all the “leads” in your opt-in list, on average at any given time, 3%-4% are actively in buying mode. 46% are “poised”—they will have an eventual need, but are not an immediate opportunity. The other 50% are a waste of time.
- You want your brand to be not just recognized, but valued; to have a positive perception, and be associated by buyers with value and a problem they need to solve.
- Selling is hard today because excessive cold calling over the years has damaged the image of the sales profession (and many brands). People are less likely than ever to pick up their office phone (if they even have one).
- Your sales process has to be based on how your prospect buy—otherwise you are adding friction. Your job is to understand this and be an authority on the process. Help buyers understand the cost of doing nothing.
- Have empathy. The less time you spend talking about yourself and your product, the more the prospect believes that you care. When you do talk, don’t “sell.” Provide information that is of value.
- Keep in mind the flywheel of loyalty. This is important.
- Your buyers have changed. Today, they are busier than ever (they want nuggets of useful information, not 20-page white papers). They are largely self-educated, through online research (though brand marketers have the opportunity to be part of that education). And they are skeptical, jaded, and mistrustful of vendors.
- The longer you wait to talk about your product, the better your chances of winning the sale.
- The Challenger Sale is the most important sales book written in the past 10 years, per Matt. Applying the principles in this book will make you more likely to inspire loyalty and make the buyer change, by helping them understand the outcome.
- Challengers teach, tailor, and take control.
- “The value of your insights trumps the quality of your products.” The insights don’t have to be yours—you just have to be the person who shares them.
- Understand and apply the Pipeline Development Maturity Model:
- The worst thing sales and marketing groups can do is to treat communication channels as silos. Instead, integrate and collaborate for clarity and consistency.
And…there’s so much more.
The Digital Branding Institute will have periodic “Watch Parties” in its Facebook Group of popular sessions during the summit.
The organization will also host several other summits this year that focus on specific industries. You can stay up to date with more summit information by visiting www.digitalbrandinginstitute.