Social media, content aggregation and curation, user-generated content and other developments have dramatically changed the B2B buying cycle over the past few years. Marketers need to think like publishers not only to improve their company’s visibility in search (which is where 93% of B2B buying cycles now start) but also to address the differing information needs of buying team members, at different stages during the decision process.
This evolution has changed life for sales reps as well. Prospects often don’t surface until much later in the buying process than they did just a few years ago. Buyers are better informed (and expect sales reps to be better informed about their industry and likely challenges as well), and often need only a few key questions answered (most critically, price) by the time they contact a sales person.
How can B2B organizations, marketers and sales professionals adjust to, and thrive in, this new environment? Find out here in some of the best blog posts and articles of the past year offering strategic guidance and insights for B2B marketing and sales executives.
B2B Marketing Trends, Tips and Strategies
The Top-10 B2B Marketing Trends for 2011 by Everything Technology Marketing
Holger Schulze laid out these ten predictions in January 2011. For the most part, the predictions were on target. And also, for the most part, these predicted areas of focus (e.g. social media ROI, lead quality, content marketing) will remain priorities in 2012.
Just What Do Marketers Do, Anyway? by MarketingProfs
Barbara Bix and Olga Taylor craft an intriguing case for focused market research and targeting using the example of a violin virtuoso playing in a subway for $32, after having sold out a concert with $100 tickets just days before. Bix and Taylor explain that “Quality and price are important, but only in front of the right buyer, at the right time and place,” then provide guidance on determining those attributes in order to maximize profits.
You’ve Got New Visitors at Your Site. Now What? by MarketingProfs
Contending that “Only by creating rich experiences—in the form of content, features, interactivity, and the like—can businesses convert visitors into more than just passing window shoppers,” Gretel Going details a process for creating the right kinds of content based on buyer types, stage in the buying process, and differing content preferences, utilizing an array of different formats from ebooks and webinars to video and mobile apps–in addition to great web page copy.
B2B Websites NOT Great At Demand Gen by Business2Community
The insightful Ardath Albee picks up on the theme of the post above, noting that while B2B marketers expend great efforts on SEO and social media marketing to attract visitors to the websites, research shows that their websites are then often “ignoring the very audience they worked so hard to attract.” This post details a conversation she had with Craig Rosenberg about B2B website usability, effectiveness and conversion rate optimization.
Is Youtility the Future of Marketing? by iMedia Connection
Frequent “best of” contributor Jay Baer writes that “The difference between helping and selling is just 2 letters. But those letters make all the difference. Your company needs to become a YOUtility. Sell something, and you make a customer. Help someone, and you make a customer for life.” He illustrates the concept of YOUtility with real-world examples and explains how any company can do this.
Because “getting to the top of the search results requires work and the understanding of not only what tactical methods you need to use to get there, but also what foundation you need to build and have in place to be most effective,” Rania Kort outlines three high-level strategies for optimizing a company’s presence in search.
101 awesome marketing quotes; A presentation by Thewebcitizen
Ilias Chelidonis shares 101 marketing quotes from a HubSpot presentation, such as “Remarkable social media content and great sales copy are pretty much the same–plain spoken words designed to focus on the needs of the reader, listener or viewer” and “Make the customer the hero of your story” (so true).
10 rules for entrepreneurial survival by TECHdotMN
Getting your attention by opening his post with “If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s something wrong with you. You have a genetic predisposition for risking it all…You are a masochist who is mentally prepared to run an ultra-marathon with an invisible finish line. Yet, you are confident in the pursuit of your destination,” Lief Larson of Workface goes on to list 10 survival rules for entpreneurs. For example, #8: “There are no shortcuts. There is only one right way to do things: the right way. Dig your heels in and be prepared to endure. ‘Overnight success’ can take years in the making.”
Why lead generation and branding aren’t mutually exclusive by iMedia Connection
Chris Chariton shares five ideas on how “sales and marketing can work together to generate leads and build the brand as part of the same effort.” Among her ideas is increasing your company’s “findability.” As Chris notes, “pushing information out to customers and prospects is not nearly as effective as it once was. Instead, you have to make sure they can find you when they’re looking” (which is why web presence optimization is crucial).
Addressing Changes in the B2B Buying Cycle
No One Wants To Read Your Whitepaper. Let’s Hope They Recycle It. by Marketing Automation Software Guide
Writing that “I have no interest in reading a War and Peace-style sales pitch — and, let’s face it, that’s what most whitepapers are these days…Companies need to find new and more direct ways to reach the buyer 2.0 without going all Tolstoy on them,” Lauren Carlson recommends alternatives focused on providing the information that buyers need, when they want it, in forms that are more digestible and engaging.
The Future of Buyer Relationships by Business2Community
Tony Zambito outlines seven aspects of changes in the buying cycle brought about by social media and the explosion of user-generated content, including the importance of building an online reputation, understanding how social algorithms work, and producing real-time content.
The Blurry B2B Buying Process | New Breed of B2B Buyer #2 by Chaotic Flow
Joel York offers his insights on reaching “the new elusive B2B buyer” who seeks to engage with sales “only when there is clear value to be gained, not just to get information.” He demonstrates the imperative of marketing automation through some interesting variations of the traditional sales funnel model.
Five Ways B-to-B Marketers Need to Change Their Game by Biznology
Citing dramatic changes in the typical B2B sales cycle – “Buyers don’t really want to talk to vendors until somewhere akin to 70% of the way down the road, at the stage of writing RFPs and getting quotes…Business buying processes are getting longer, and—most important—involving more parties than ever before. The so-called Buying Circle in large enterprise B-to-B—the influencers, specifiers, users, decision-makers—comprises as many as 21 people, according to Marketing Sherpa”—Ruth Stevens challenges marketers to “think differently” and use these specific techniques to maximize impact with buyers.
B2B Sales Trends and Strategies
Salesmen are Dying and Other IT Trends by IT Marketing World
Tom Pisello details changes in the B2B buying cycle resulting from the immediate access to vast amounts of information now available online. It isn’t exactly “death of a salesman” but it does mean death to the old way of selling. Pisello concludes that “Advanced ROI business case tools and training should be provided to direct and channel sales professionals to help them advance from traditional product / solution selling, to the value selling buyers now demand.”
Gartner: 5 Questions for Anyone Selling Technology by Inflexion Point
Bob Apollo shares five questions posed by Steve Prentice of Gartner in a presentation on the use of technology to drive business innovation, along with his interpretation of what those questions mean to those focused on selling technology-based products or services in a B2B context.
5 Ways To Influence B2B Group Buying Decisions by Social Media B2B
Noting that B2B purchases are normally group decisions, Adam Holden-Bache suggests “five things to consider as you create social media content targeted at B2B group buyers,” including highlighting the value of your offering (based on buyer roles) and showing how it will integrate with the buying company’s existing tools, systems and processes.
Future Trends: 2012 Online Marketing & Technology Predictions by TopRank Online Marketing Blog
This post opened with Holger Schulze’s predictions for 2011, and fittingly closes with Lee Odden’s prognostication for 2012. He challenges marketers to think how their audiences will be consuming information in the coming years (evolving online and device technology) rather than narrow concepts, then presents seven compelling reports and infographics outlining “key technology, social business and digital marketing trends for 2012 and beyond.”