Guest post by Cheryl Joy.
According to recent research from Forrester, digital marketing spend in the US will reach $120 billion by 2021. Spread over paid search, video marketing, social media and other online channels, digital is expected to account for more than 46% of all advertising in the next five years.
But what does this mean for brands, especially B2B vendors, that have traditionally relied on more conservative means of attracting their audiences?
The rules of the game are changing, and establishing a digital presence has gone well beyond having a basic website and occasionally updated social media pages. Here are nine distinct digital marketing strategies by brands in the B2B space, and how they’re redefining the state of the art in B2B marketing.
Did anybody say B2B is boring? Not if you look to these guys for inspiration. Dig right in!
Make it interesting: Mobile gaming
When networking giant Juniper Networks decided to create a campaign that showcased the importance of data protection and security, they looked to gamification as an approach that would be interesting and relevant to their audience.
Deception Force is a game that holds Juniper’s vision at its heart: the need to know, control and expose risks is integral to IT security. The mobile game app is the perfect example of an idea that is just as educational as it is entertaining. As players stave off creatures that plague the network, they vicariously experience Juniper’s core message: know that you’re being attacked, control the attack, and expose the threat to a global database.
The campaign scored high on relevance and impact as it creatively captured the attention of the audience in a cluttered marketing environment for security software.
With over 15,000 downloads and a finalist spot in the gamification category of 7th Annual Shorty Awards, Deception Force shows how mobile gaming can be an important part of digital marketing strategies.
Extend your unique brand: Integrate multiple channels
When email marketing giant MailChimp felt the need to reach new audience segments, they used their quirky name to get noticed.
FailChips, JailBlimp and KaleLimp to SnailPrimp, MaleCrimp and MailShrimp, fictitious products that ranged from potato chips to fashion and beauty trends, were created and promoted through short films, social media buzz, and even a music video. However, anyone searching for these products online would be rerouted to the MailChimp website. One of the biggest examples of quirky creative in recent times, this campaign goes to show the importance of a well-thought out media strategy that spans across multiple channels to ensure effectiveness.
What makes the idea more interesting is its genesis—it was borne out of the number of ways people have mispronounced the brand’s name in the past. Quoting Mark DiCristina, Senior Director of Brand Marketing at MailChimp, “We used mispronunciation as a creative device to inspire all kinds of different executions, knowing that people would be curious about what they were seeing and search for more information. Anyone who searches for MailShrimp or MaleCrimp is asked, ‘Did you mean MailChimp?”
Talk about turning a negative into a positive!
Share your expertise: Online communities and forums
Cisco’s marketing strategy, both online and offline focuses on imagining and defining the future of the internet. They effectively use content to establish subject matter expertise in this area and to build a community of like-minded people who can share and add to the conversation in order to become a thought leader in this space.
The Cisco DevNet community is one such example of an online community that leverages the power of shared knowledge. The online platform allows users to learn coding, brings people together to share and discuss their creations, participate in trending tech forums, and to organize developer forums as live or virtual events. The best part of it all? It’s free.
Be human: Not just social media; be social
One of the definitive components of the digital era for brands across B2B and B2C was the inclusion of social media as a part of their overall plan. A primary outcome of this was that most websites were adorned with three (at least) social media icons in the corner so visitors could easily connect with them.
Unfortunately, especially for B2B brands, that’s often where it stopped. Most brands are clueless when it comes to establishing an identity on social and come across as robotic. Defeats the purpose of ‘being more human,’ doesn’t it?
For all those who’re looking and nodding in agreement, wondering what to do next: take a leaf out of GE’s book. With enviable presence on all prominent social networks, GE’s social strategy across platforms is just as creative as its diverse suite of products.
Their #TheNextFrontier series on YouTube< delves into aspects of the human brain, while campaigns like #Instawalk allowed influencers and fans to visitGE facilities and share their experiences on Instagram.
Simplify your messaging: Video marketing
Including a video on your landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%. That number goes even higher if you include them in your emails: click-through rates of emails that have a video are 200-300% higher.
Videos play a significant role in the digital marketing strategy of brands, particularly in the B2B sector. In fact, spending for online videos has gone up 114% since 2014. Product walkthroughs, explainer videos, tutorials, and how-to’s are only some of the ways in which B2B brands can use videos to make their products more relatable to the audience. It isn’t surprising then that a whopping 96% of B2B organizations use videos in some form as part of their marketing campaigns; an impressive 73% of those marketers claim that videos have a positive impact on their ROI.
The Crazy Egg explainer video that takes you through their heat map tool is a great example of how videos can help simplify a concept. The catchy graphics and simple storytelling technique, focused on how the tool helps in solving a problem rather than listing out product features, is perfect for grabbing audience attention.
Find ways to engage your audience: Interactive content
There are more case studies and whitepapers out there than there is time to read them. Instead of using the same channels all the time, try conveying the same information in a unique way. One of the primary goals of content, whether offline or digital, is to get people to engage with the brand in some way. Interactive content is a great means to do just that. In fact, 88% of marketers believe that interactive content helps in differentiating them from their competition.
Interactive infographics and whitepapers, online polls and surveys, contests, and online calculators are only some of the ways in which B2B brands can incorporate interactive content in their digital marketing strategy and drive engagement among their audience.
An additional benefit of interactive content is how it can be used in different stages of the customer’s buying cycle to drive conversion. An interesting example is this Salesforce infographic on the state of wearable tech. The interactive infographic, designed and executed by Ceros, was released to promote the insight report that discusses how companies in the US use wearable technology to drive business performance.
Make customers your brand champions: Customer testimonials
There’s no more compelling method to communicate the value derived from a product or solution than a real-life customer testimonial. This is partcularly true for B2B vendors as the benefits from incorporating a solution can frequently be measured and effectively communicated to other similar target audiences.
Time Warner Cable Business Class did exactly that when they ran a social campaign across YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to share videos and stories about how the connectivity provider helped users across industries. The success stories helped show how they have solutions for every kind of user as they showcase customers ranging from large educational institutions to successful small businesses.
All testimonials end with different call to actions that are tailored as per the solution presented in the video and give viewers multiple ways to contact the brand for their own needs.
Combine your strengths: Build worthwhile brand partnerships
National Geographic has one of the most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, mind blowingly fascinating pictures on their Instagram page. It isn’t surprising that they have over 77 million followers on the photo-sharing network. So when Microsoft decided to run an Instagram campaign for Women’s Day earlier this year, they chose National Geographic as a fitting partner that would allow them to reach a wider audience.
The campaign, christened #MakeWhatsNext, focuses on encouraging young girls to become innovators in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as currently only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees.
A total of 30 photos, shot by renowned photographers, were posted across different National Geographic Instagram handles with captions that featured stories of famous female adventurers or innovators. The campaign, which culminated in a joint workshop by Microsoft and National Geographic in select Microsoft stores helping girls connect with successful women in STEM fields, was a huge success and helped garner over 3.5 million likes across the photos.
Tie it all together: Combine offline and online
When Gigamon broke into the data security market with GigaSECURE, they had a simple message to convey to the audience: how the security delivery platform can help detect and mitigate risks that are hidden from plain sight but present all around us.
The campaign, conceptualised by Fox Parrack Singapour, creatively combined virtual and real as they commissioned a world famous body painter to skillfully paint ‘hackers’ into four corporate scenarios.
The campaign creatively tried to show that no matter how well cyber criminals disguised themselves, they would eventually be spotted and thwarted by Gigamon’s solution. The campaign was further strengthened through social media, live installations at security events, and even an online campaign to fight cyber crime.
These nine examples show how digital has transformed the way these B2B brands, from various industries and at different stages of growth, connect with their audience.
To summarise the lessons, here’s a snapshot of what B2B brands need to do to strengthen their own digital marketing strategies:
- Make it interesting by trying more immersive technologies like mobile gaming
- Extend your unique brand across multiple channels
- Share your expertise through product communities and discussion forums
- Use social media to humanize your brand
- Adopt channels and media that help simplify your message and product offering
- Pick engaging media sources that encourage users to interact with your content
- Turn your customers into your brand champions
- Explore synergies with like-minded brand partnerships
- Combine online and offline media to create overarching goal-oriented marketing campaigns that span across the real and the virtual
Cheryl Joy is the Editor-in-Chief for Epictions, a technology company that makes content marketing and media monitoring tools. She is a passionate writer who specialises in creating data-rich stories across relevant themes in digital marketing. When she isn’t weaving content for Epictions, she enjoys reading, travelling, and gruelling CrossFit workouts.