Business-to-business marketers tend to forget that their prospects and customers are normal consumers outside of the office. Unfortunately, this oversight has all but halted the type of brand transformations seen in the business-to-consumer world.
Consumers today expect brands to know what they want when they want it, and to deliver, b-to-b marketers need to understand the emotions that motivate business buyers. Just like in a b-to-c situation, emotion is a 1.5x more powerful predictor of customer loyalty, advocacy and repeat purchases than any other datapoint, according to a recent Forrester study commissioned by FocusVision.
To keep up with the changing needs and expectations of consumers, b-to-b marketers need to embark on a path of radical transformation. Here are ten ways to get you where you need to be.
1. Start with research: To understand how your customer thinks, feels and acts you need to run the right research. Start with a basic survey to identify pain points, buying considerations and levels of brand awareness. Then, layer on qualitative research to understand how your buyers feel about your brand. Combining the two tactics heightens the likelihood that you’ll learn something you weren’t thinking about when you designed your survey.
Tip: Use video when doing your qualitative research to educate and sell internally.
2. Build your toolkit: The demand to deliver as fast as possible never ceases and to meet it, marketing teams often just start creating. The result? Random acts of marketing.
To cease the chaos, you need to build a foundation. Start by agreeing on the stages of the buyer’s journey then create a story arc around it. Create key messaging docs (KMDs) for your brand narrative and product and agree to a campaign cadence.
3. It’s true, content is king: Do a content audit. Gather all the whitepapers, videos, infographics, etc. in your brand’s library and categorize them into stages of the buyer’s journey.
You’ll probably find that you have a lot of mid-stage content and articles about your product, but that there are gaps in the rest of the stages. Once you know what you’re missing you’ll be in a good place to determine how to fill the rest of your library.
Tip: Be warned: A majority of marketing content never gets used. Avoid this by getting a content management platform to create, manage and maintain it.
4. Find your audience: Analyze search, social, publishers and partners to figure out where your buyers are going to find solutions to their problems. Then, place your content where you know they’ll find it.
To be effective in your chosen channels, you need to know what buyers are expecting from each. This is a great place to do some quick surveys. Instead of churning on what kind of content your audience wants to consume and where they consume it, simply ask them.
5. Build an engagement strategy: Once you’ve figured out your audience’s watering holes, you need to plan how you’ll engage with the buying team.
Get in a room with your team and brainstorm what the logical buying paths are. Start with a linear one. For example, a prospect searches for a relevant term, clicks your ad and lands on your site. Think about that experience. Where will they land and where do you want them to go next? Then, plan how you’ll keep them engaged after they leave your site.
Every action a prospect takes should have a marketing reaction. Ideally, you’re constantly engaging with the prospect and the buying team.
6. Realize that the buyer’s journey isn’t always linear: All of your marketing touchpoints need to connect the prospect to the next piece of content you want them to read or action you want them to take.
Make sure all content has links to related content and that all paths lead the customer on a journey. Watch out for dead ends or worse, an island they can’t get off of, like a landing page or microsite.
7. Protect and grow your database: It can be hard to say no to every internal stakeholder who wants to get a message out to customers but it’s necessary. Spam hurts the two-way relationship you’re trying to build with the interested buyer.
Instead, engage with the contact and account on what they have told you through their digital body language that they care about. Also, make sure you create a workflow for adding contacts and accounts to your CRM and a process with sales to handle them.
8. Automate to stay always on: The key to true engagement with your buyers and customers is to always be there when they need you—not when you put it on your campaign calendar.
Business buyers buy according to their budget cycles, so you need to be there when their budget is. The best way to do this is through an always-on approach that’s based on a mar tech stack that’s integrated and set up to respond automatically.
9. Create conversion points: Remember the buyer is on a journey that they can control. Create ways for them to get in touch with you like an 888 number, click to chat or a webform. Add on offers like ROI calculators, free trials and webinars. Make sure the entire process is set up to respond to these inbound queries.
10. Measure and then measure again: Success is revenue—no other metric matters if the company is not making its revenue goals. Measure the impact your engaged audience is having on a number of opportunities, size of opportunities and win rates. And when you need to say yes to a one-off request because someone above you has insisted, compare the impact of the one-off tactics to your engagement metrics to show the benefit of your strategy.
Modernizing your marketing machine and building an engagement strategy is never done. New content, activations and engagement plans need to be continuously created, changed, cultivated and optimized to stay relevant and effective. Technologies need to be continuously evaluated, retired and added to ensure you’re leveraging the best solutions to meet your goals.