Much has been written about how the internet in general, and the explosion of content marketing in particular, has changed the nature of b2b marketing. In less than a generation, information has gone from being scarce to overabundant. Today’s b2b buyers are typically 70% of the way through their purchase process before they contact a vendor’s sales team.
Information proliferation means buyers are better-informed than ever about potential approaches to solving problems, and the related product and service alternatives. But the increased availability of data means vendors are also more knowledgeable about what matters to buyers, how they conduct research, which content resonates with prospective customers (and what types of content fall flat), how to refine and act on key measures and metrics, and most importantly, how decisions are ultimately made. The old “sales funnel” model is giving way to more sophisticated analytical frameworks.
How should b2b marketers adjust their strategies to keep up with this evolution? What types of messages matter most to today’s buyers? Which long-held beliefs of b2b marketers need to be discarded? What do elite marketers do well that their more average counterparts don’t?
Find the answers to those questions and others here in more than a dozen insightful guides to b2b marketing strategy from the past year.
How To Market For the Top Four B2B Business Growth Strategies by g2m Solutions
Sarah Pern examines “four major business growth strategies identified by the Ansoff Product-Market Matrix and shows you how to develop marketing strategies that are aligned with achieving the business goals you want.” For example, recommended marketing strategies for the business growth approach of market development include market research to help develop rich buyer personas, and awareness building using “online advertising…PR, SEO, Social Media, attending exhibitions, sponsoring events” (basically all of the elements of the web presence optimization framework) plus outbound tactics.
How To Do It Right: Demand Generation by Forbes
Patrick Spenner brilliantly makes that case that b2b marketers should focus on “improving the connections among stakeholders at customer organizations” rather than those between the supplier and individual stakeholders. He astutely notes that personas are often created as isolated individuals, with the connections between the different stakeholders who make up the B2B customer buying team left unexplored and unaddressed.
Glenn Taylor reports on the disconnect between what B2B companies tend to say about themselves and what potential customers want to hear (that is, what types of messages contribute most to perceived brand strength. He advises vendors to take the “opportunity to dig into your positioning and try to tell your story and the ‘why’ of what you do. Statements like ‘driver of innovation’ or ‘leader in our field’ are over done and past their prime. Most marketers cannot deliver on these and almost no customer believes them.”
John Lee details four practices used by the most successful social brands in B2B, such as using measurement to drive integration (“Lack of measurement is the number one reason that social fails…Nearly 90 percent of brands measure volume and engagement (likes, followers, etc.), but only 31% measure it against revenue”), and developing individual strategies for each social media platform.
B2B Marketing Trends That Will Shape Your Strategy by Anders Pink
Noting that B2B marketers have been gradually shifting effort and budget from outbound to inbound marketing channels “as buyers increasingly manage the early stages of the buying process without contacting vendors by reviewing websites, talking to peers in the industry and reviewing resources. This allows them to often filter and shortlist without ever talking to a sales rep,” Steve Rayson details eight strategy-shaping trends, including changes in buyer behavior, SEO, and corporate websites, along with the growth in content marketing and social media.
B2B Marketers Need To Step Up Emotional Connections by MediaPost
B2C marketing is often perceived as emotion-based, while B2B buyers decide based on facts and logic. The reality turns out to be quite different though; Laurie Sullivan reports on recent research which found “Emotional connections are much more ‘intense’ for business-to-business clients compared with B2C…Between 40% and 70% of customers feel emotionally connected to brands like Oracle, Accenture, FedEx, SAP, and Salesforce, compared with between 10% and 40% for CVS, L’Oreal, and Wal-Mart.” B2B marketers need to become more adept at presenting the professional, social, emotional, and personal value of their products and services.
Expanding on the findings reported in the post above, Scott Gillum reveals that “The company customers say that they are most emotionally connected to is…Cisco.” B2B purchases involve professional risk, particularly for the internal champion, and Cisco is very good at reducing risk for buyers. Furthermore, “Cisco is able to create…’personal value’ consisting of four parts: professional, social, emotional and self-image benefits.”
6 Persuasion Techniques: Science in B2B Marketing by Ideas@Work Blog
Following up on the post above, Vann Morris describes half-a-dozen techniques for tapping into B2B buyer emotion, such as liking: “Research shows that we are more likely to say yes to people we like, and we tend to like people who are similar to us, people who complement us, and people who cooperate with us toward a common goal.” Creating the vision of that “common goal” (and the buyer’s emotional attachment to it) is a powerful marketing technique.
7 Tactics that Are Working for B2B Lead Generation Today by CustomerThink
Louis Foong shares seven tactics that work in b2b marketing today, among them lead scoring using behavioral data (“For example, when a prospect signs up for a free trial, you should attach a higher score to that behaviour than when a new subscriber gets added to your email newsletter list”); progressive lead profiling (asking for new, additional information each time a specific prospect converts); and social retargeting (“If a prospect is just about floating at the top of the funnel, gated content won’t work—you need to give away something valuable, easily, with no strings attached. Gated content will work for prospects that are already quite convinced that your company has the knowledge to educate them on specific problems they are challenged with”).
The Myth of the Infinite Selling Universe by DemandBase
The always-insightful Ardath Albee exposes the myth (often used when raising venture capital) that the pool of prospective buyers for a company’s product or service is infinite; why this myth is dangerous (“it costs more to generate more leads. It costs more for salespeople to spend more time following up with more leads. This increases the cost per opportunity.”); and suggests how marketers should focus their time on the small set of ideal prospects.
Five Ideas on the Business-to-Individual Concept for B2B Marketers by MarketingSherpa
Reflecting discussions with industry experts including Brian Carroll and Brian Solis, David Kirkpatrick offers “five lessons on why you should be marketing to the individual, even as a B2B marketer,” among them: “Creating relationships should be a philosophy, not just a marketing strategy”; relevance matters; and the customer is now completely in charge of the buying process, so b2b vendors must “make it easy for those prospects to conduct self-discovery and self-service…provide content and tools that enable those potential prospects to make the decision to buy from you.”
5 Buyer Behaviors Reshaping B2B Marketing by iMedia Connection
Frequent best-of honoree Tony Zambito delves into five buyer behaviors that marketers need to be aware of and respond to, including that buyers embrace collaboration; they want to be involved in the co-creation of products and services; and “buyers want less content – yet desire smart content.”
B2B Marketing’s Measurement Problem by B2B Digital Marketing
Writing “It is called a complex sale for a reason, but B2B marketers keep trying to fit it into a simplistic measurement framework: where did we get that lead?,” Eric Wittlake explains why simple B2B marketing metrics are not just ineffective but also misleading, and offers recommendations on how to “more effectively measure the impact of marketing on your business.” (We would agree that a new breed of marketing metrics is needed to understand cross-channel impacts.)
The Forgotten Stars of B2B Lead Conversion by Business2Community
Warning about the dangers of forgetting the “less glamorous but vitally important tactical elements that do a lot of the the hard, relentless work of attracting and converting visitors to real leads,” Christabelle Tani outlines three simple yet vital components of lead generation, including social proof (“evidence that other human beings are advocating your company and what you sell”) and their role in each stage of the sales funnel.