The B2B realm is much different now than it was a year ago. This blog offers an insight into the best b2B Marketing tactics that can recuperate the losses from previous year and skyrocket your company’s growth going forward.
2020 was a tumultuous year for businesses, as the pandemic upended the marketer’s playbook, challenging the existing rules of building brands and customer relationships to close B2B sales. One year in, things are no different. In fact, they appear to have taken a turn for the worse, following the new surge of COVID cases and increasing number of victims.
Hereafter, there’s no reverting back to the ‘old normal’, as B2B marketers struggle to keep up with this altered reality and the chaos it creates for their existing practices. Many marketers are calling off their campaigns, pausing all ads, and doing their best to adjust to working remotely, which is adversely impacting their inbound and outbound B2B lead generation programs, causing a further strain on businesses.
In order to bounce back successfully, businesses need to recognise the current B2B trends, learn new skills and adapt to the new best practices that can have a positive impact on their ROI and drive growth.
Let’s take a look at the trends shaping up B2B marketing at present:
1. Long-form Content
When combined with striking visuals, long-form, well-researched articles can be the key to B2B content marketing success. These are posts essentially more than a thousand words, detailed in nature, aiming to educate the customers, making it more likely to be shared among people who are new to a particular field and intend to learn more. Besides ensuring customer satisfaction, they are a good practice to generate healthy backlinks, also building your domain ranking in the process and resulting in higher ranking on Google and other search engines.
For B2B marketers, investing a part of their budget in good quality long-form content is worthwhile in terms of generating good inbound intent leads. It gives your B2B marketing agency the recognition of a subject matter expert (SME), besides being engaging while offering valuable information.
For instance, Neil Patel has earned the distinction of being an SEO expert with his long-form actionable and informative blogs. His blogs not only have great user engagement, but are a great example for garnering inbound leads. Quality is key to doing this accurately, or you may run the risk of losing credibility.
2. Personalised Content
Considering that 82% of your website visitors are not potential customers, you need to do more than just drive traffic. Fortunately, personalised content in B2B marketing is one of the best ways to create awareness and demand where none exist. Essentially, content personalisation means serving customized content based on each individual prospect’s priorities, pain points, hesitations and role responsibilities at the right place and the right time to add value to their decision-making process.
There are many studies to show that customers are inclined to purchase something of more value than they planned, because of receiving personalised services. Therefore, you need to know your prospects and offer them the personalisation they need to drive purchase decisions. No matter what channel you use, the success rate of adopting a personalised content strategy for B2B marketing is resoundingly high.
Take for instance, Brainshark’s personalised in-trail messaging. A B2B software provider, Brainshark helps businesses create and share content for sales enablement, marketing and training. To engage their prospects early in the decision-making process, Brainshark offers a variety of “freemium” and free trial products. But, they were having trouble converting freemium users into paying customers. So, they teamed up with a B2B digital marketing agency to help them deliver targeted and personalised communications.
They started off with messages and small content pieces inside their product interface, before expanding to ads and pop-ups on their website to interact with existing users. These messages provided tips and education to help users optimize the free software provided by Brainshark and consider trying their other free product – SlideShark.
Eventually, they incorporated CTAs for whitepapers, webinars and product upgrades. The upgrade messages, sent specifically to logged-in users, outlined key advantages of using Brainshark’s paid products. At the end of their campaign, Brainshark reported a number of measurable benefits:
It’s important to note that, there’s no direct correlation between the amount of personalisation to its efficacy. Companies that personalise more than 80% of their content have known to not meet their stated objectives as well as those who personalise only about 40% of their communications. So, the question that now arises is what content should you personalise for best results? The answer to this question will vary depending on your target audience and business goals.
To find out the kind of personalised content that resonates most with your target audience, you have to analyze your content consumption patterns. DemandMetric, an agile marketing project management solution, lets B2B marketers organise content into five different categories:
While there’s a high demand for segment and persona-specific content personalisation in B2B, companies are free to branch out their personalisation efforts across a number of specific areas simultaneously, more so on the basis of their content consumption analytics.
3. Account-based Marketing
Over a relatively short period of time, account-based marketing has demonstrated its remarkable ability to improve marketing spend, increase conversion rates and drive better ROI. A survey reported that 84% of businesses using an account-based approach found that this strategy offers higher ROI than other marketing campaigns. This is why for most B2B firms, ABM is a gateway to the efficiency and performance often associated with digital marketing operations.
This increased ROI also compounds itself over time, as data-driven insights into your ABM performance, helps identify content channels and strategies that are most effective at moving prospects to the bottom of the funnel. These insights can further reveal the blindspots in your content or marketing approach that are failing to gain traction or even turning customers off completely. However, high ROI or conversions may not be seen if you lack the necessary analytical tools to measure your account-based marketing initiatives.
Even on a small scale, tracking the necessary data points and uncovering insights to improve your strategy will be impossible without measurement tools. In that regard, ABM can be a complex marketing strategy as you’ll require KPIs that can identify multichannel outreach options to help you get closer to the decision-makers of a particular prospect account in your efforts to close the deal. Despite these complexities, the benefits of implementing an account-based approach for B2B businesses is manifold. It bridges the marketing and sales gap using personalised strategies that target specific accounts to engage with key influencers, building on that relationship to open up the door for sales opportunities.
Essentially, ABM drives revenues by focussing your company resources on only those prospects that are a right fit for your product, thus reducing your marketing expenses. Realistically, the investment made in account-based marketing delivers either the same ROI, somewhat higher or significantly higher returns when compared to other marketing initiatives. This makes it a zero-waste strategy!
4. Conversational Marketing through Website Chatbots
Another important approach to achieve B2B success in 2021 is to enhance your customer service and provide your prospects and customers with the best possible experience. Making them take too many actions like filling out a form, waiting for an email response, or attending a phone call from a sales rep is not an acceptable way to service them in today’s always-on super-connected times.
Setting up conversational marketing platforms for your B2B marketing teams can ensure a constant flow of leads. Since these are intent leads that are landing on your website and can be engaged with immediately, they are most likely to convert. Conversational marketing is also better than one-way communications seen in emails and forums, as it engages the customer with your brand in real-time one-to-one conversations to provide real value to your prospects. It is the fastest and the most effective way to guide prospects through your funnel and ultimately convert them into clients.
In most cases, an exceptional conversational marketing strategy will combine the benefits of automated chatbots with the advantages that the human chat agents offer. Imagine this: a visitor finds your company’s website and begins to browse through your offerings. Within seconds of the visitor’s arrival, a chatbot messenger greets him and offers assistance. After a moment or two of thought, the visitor decides to type in a query into the messenger’s textbox. The chatbot quickly responds with the appropriate answer, additionally, offering to connect him with a live agent if his query is still unresolved or if he wants to interact further. On the backend, the website chatbot software classifies this visitor as a “warm” lead.
In this scenario, conversational marketing enabled a quick journey through the sales funnel in a matter of minutes, instead of dragging out the lead qualifying process over a period of weeks or months, without risking any loss of interest. Moreover, AI-driven chatbots can also be optimized to provide visitors with a personalised experience on your site.
Suppose a prospect browsed through your website and downloaded a case study. She later returns looking for more information on your products or services and their pricing. Now, based on her earlier activity on the site, a chatbot can greet her and provide her with targeted options for what steps she can take next – from offering a data sheet, pricing guide or the option to schedule a meeting with your sales team – all helpful choices that will nurture the prospect.
For instance, Hubspot was able to attract 20% more qualified leads by adding live chat as a communication channel. Similarly, Drift reported a 15% increase in top-of-the-funnel lead volume by presenting users with an alternative to filing out a form. They also reported that B2B customers want conversations with brands to be fast and accurate, and if those expectations aren’t met, most say they will stop using that particular communication channel.
Even though conversational marketing has many moving parts, and goes against the grain of traditional sales exchange, it’s a powerful method of efficiently qualifying leads, providing a positive customer experience, boosting conversion rates, and ultimately driving revenue.
5. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is designed to simplify your marketing operations, putting all repetitive and manual tasks on autopilot to achieve operational efficiency while accelerating revenue growth for your business without overextending your marketing teams. For B2B marketers, enabling a marketing automation platform (MAP) tracks every visitor’s behaviour and action on your website, blogs, landing pages, and monitors how they engage with your emails, ads, forms, CTAs, visitor frequency, location, source of channels and much more.
Based on these triggers, you can set up automated workflows and enable delivering them the right messages at the right time through high-conversion email automation drips. Such contextual engagements drive them faster through the sales journey. According to a study by HBR, prospects are sixty times more likely to convert into qualified leads if businesses follow up with them within an hour as compared to when they take 24 hours or longer from the moment those prospects make contact with your brand.
If you’re a B2B business-owner, you know how complex your marketing processes can get, leaving you with little to no time to focus on other important aspects of the business that need your attention. Depending on the nature and size of your business, you can either partner with a marketing automation agency that can set up certain marketing activities and reduce the pain points associated with doing them or you can choose from a number of software solutions like Eloqua, Pardot, Hubspot, Adobe Campaigns, Act-on and Marketo etc. to help you optimize your marketing efforts. Successfully automating your marketing operations at scale in 2021 is a practical approach that can result in huge savings on time and overhead costs, increasing productivity and revenue inflow.
6. Audio Marketing through B2B Podcasts
Podcasts are gaining momentum with B2B marketers these days, as it can be easily consumed by the vast audience as opposed to other formats. It’s one of the most cost-effective channels to promote high-level content. An example of successful podcast marketing is Julie Snyder’s Serial, the big takeaway from which is- storytelling is the most important aspect of good podcasting, which can be a part of any business’s audio marketing strategy.
B2B leaders have noted that an increasing number of corporate buyers are strapping on their headphones and listening to podcasts during their commute, lunch breaks, workout time and more. They figured that B2B podcasting is another way to reach busy prospects who don’t have the time for one more long-form white paper.
For companies that are taking omnichannel approaches for their B2B content, podcasting is a great way to spread their message in a more informal setting, where the audience is excited to hear their perspective as a B2B brand. However, remember to push beyond simple sales positioning and create valued content that’s truly engaging.
Make sure to develop a content plan that generates excitement in the audience and plays to your own interests as well. Maintaining a conversational tone is also critical in B2B podcasts to ensure engagement. The senior managing officer at IBM very aptly said that, “The goal…[of our podcasts]..was not to sell IBM stuff, but just to have a chat with our listeners.”
Interestingly, podcasts are now attracting mature audiences as well, when earlier it was primarily the focus of young marketers. B2B podcasts draw in business enthusiasts in an effort-efficient manner and provide a more personal touch than written blogs without the production costs involved in a video offering.
Audio content has become a great way to boost conventional marketing techniques and brands that don’t include podcasts as a part of their marketing programs are missing out on a huge and loyal audience who could be their future clients.
7. B2B Video Marketing
Since content is the backbone for B2B marketing strategies, video content too is a preferred content format for B2B marketers. Given that videos generally involve a story, script, images, brand messaging and music, it becomes a powerful communication tool, improving customer engagement and audience retention rates.
Video content is also trending in B2B marketing after LinkedIn developed new solutions for video advertisers. But YouTube is still the cornerstone for video marketing, boasting an audience of over 1 billion (a third of the internet), making it the best place to expand your audience apart from reaching out to the target demographic. Since videos rank higher than webpage results on Google, YouTube content marketing can boost your search rankings.
A good case in point would be Intel’s stunning repertoire of video content, choosing to showcase the lives and stories of the brand’s diverse customer base. Storytelling lies at the heart of Intel’s video marketing ethos, especially impressive considering that Intel specializes in manufacturing computer chips, a hardware component that may not always grab the interest of the layman.
Intel’s The Making of A Chip
A comprehensive study by Weirdert reveals that 87% of businesses planned to use video as a marketing tool in 2020. One can only imagine what these numbers would look like in 2021, especially since the pandemic has waylaid most of the regular strategies for B2B marketers.
8. Voice Search Marketing
Voice search is being used for more than just discovering the best coffee shops nearby, and B2B marketers need to look out for this game-changer, which has a very high adoption rate due to its ease of use. Thanks to voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Home, consumers no longer need to type keywords in search engines. Google’s voice recognition technology is now 95% accurate, making it popular with the millennial B2B buyers who have grown up with access to advanced technology.
On an average humans can speak more than 3x as many words per minute as they can type. If voice recognition becomes as accurate as typing, the speed of a voice search provides a compelling justification for adoption. It was predicted that 50% of all searches would be voice-based in 2020 and even more so in 2021, so the next natural course of action for B2B marketers is to adapt themselves to appear in these voice searches.
Optimizing for B2B voice search includes focussing on mobile devices and targeting long-tail keywords and featured snippets. In addition to that, you can also optimize your website for voice search, which will enhance your overall SEO as well.
Undoubtedly, voice search has become a sizable factor in customer journeys and will remain one going forward. The reason being, in a technology-centric world, B2B companies need to be less robotic and more human. The rise of voice search is simply another trend feeding this urgency.
Once you have a deeper understanding of all the trends, it’s time to execute them in unison with the following best practices of B2B marketing to optimize revenue growth in 2021:
To no one’s surprise, this is the year that B2B marketing services fall into new routines, set fresh standards and pivot on multiple levels. So, it’s safe to say that the shift we’re experiencing is just getting started. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the change is coming about due to a pandemic or a technological advancement – your path to success always requires adapting to the new reality. A B2B marketing company can surely help ease this adjustment to the new normal. So, don’t hesitate to partner with one and keep washing your hands.