Like it or not, your B2B enterprise is now an online business. Every company is. It’s where business gets done. And the events of this year have certainly contributed to this ever-growing online business market.
If you're a part of a business-to-business (B2B) enterprise – perhaps you have noticed that your buyers’ habits have changed. Have you experienced recent difficulties in reaching prospective customers? If so, your business may not be using digital marketing effectively.
In recent years, the B2B buyer demographic and habits have changed; now, those between the ages of 18 and 34 years represent almost half of all B2B buyers. With this shift has come a fundamental change in how B2B sales are conducted; no longer are old-school meet and greet methods effective – an incorporation of strategic digital marketing is necessary to survive.
Please dismiss any idea that digital is only for B2C brands; if developed effectively, it can be used to reach the shifting demographic of B2B buyers who increasingly rely upon online sources for their decision-making and purchasing.
Here are the top components of digital marketing that your B2B business should be seriously considering.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The value of having an up-to-date, dynamic and interactive website can't be understated. This is the face of your business for prospective customers, so it’s worth investing in a high-quality website that showcases your industry expertise.
However, even a well designed, user-friendly website is worth nothing if it doesn't get any visitors. In order to be successful in a virtual economy, it's vital to optimize your site for search engine visibility. This is largely dependent on featuring the right content, accounting for industry keywords and phrases in order to improve your site's searchability.
SEO is made up of multiple different elements, and knowing what they are and how they work is key to understanding why SEO is so important.
Long gone are the days when keywords were the only SEO technique that mattered, but that doesn’t mean they aren't still crucial. The difference is that today, keywords must be well-researched, carefully chosen, and judiciously used in your content in order to be effective. But what are keywords, exactly? Keywords are words and phrases that prospects use to find online content, and that brands can then use to connect with prospects who are looking for their products and services.
When researching keywords, it’s important to look for ones that have high search rates and low competition and to choose short-tail keywords (such as dog), long-tail keywords (such as terrier puppies for sale), and local keywords (such as puppies for sale in Kelowna) to work into your content. You can also use keywords to optimize all your titles, URLs, and other on-page SEO elements.
Content creation has emerged as the primary form of digital marketing that drives inbound traffic. Simply producing gobs of content is not enough; to be effective, it must be of high quality and search engine optimized for various stages of the buyer's journey. Essentially, you want your customers to actually read and engage with the content you produce.
70 percent of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago. Content Marketing Institute (2020)
As always, do your research. What are your competitors writing about? How many times a week are they publishing new content? What keywords do your audience use in their searches?
Content is a vital part of SEO because it’s the vehicle you use to reach and engage audiences. For instance, if you own a software company that specializes in inventory management tools, you might publish a series of blogs about barcoding, warehousing and more. When a person who wanted to know about inventory management went looking for that information, your blog would come up, and you'd be able to build a relationship with that prospect by providing valuable information. When the time came for that prospect to buy software for their business, you’d be the first provider that came to mind. Today’s content must be educational, but also interesting, relevant, engaging, and shareable.
Pay-per-Click (PPC) Advertising
We’ve all seen this form of advertising located in the sidebar or banners on news sites trying to sell us a product or service. You might be surprised to know that these can actually be extremely effective (and cost-effective), especially in the B2B space. At its core, your business is about solving a customer’s problem – whether it’s through technology, production, the supply chain, or any other business operation. So don’t advertise a product or company – advertise your solution. Ask yourself, "What do you bring to the table that solves their unique problem?" The answer may be, for example, "increased production," "cost management," or "redundancy." Pinpoint what your customers are looking for and, equally important, where they’re looking for it online, and then offer them a viable solution though a PPC campaign.
Automation platforms have greatly simplified digital marketing, making it easier to capture and nurture leads without having a salesperson on call 24/7. These constructs can efficiently systematize repetitive tasks across channels like social media and email. Creating an automation platform that integrates with your website, ecommerce and/or other platforms isn’t a walk in the park, but when done correctly it definitely works, increasing sales dramatically all the while giving you the data you need to measure your digital tactics so you can calculate ROI and adjust accordingly. Marketing automation is power.
Read more about marketing automation in our recent article on Marketing Funnels.
E-newsletters and other forms of e-mail marketing are a fantastic tool for keeping your B2B business top-of-mind with your past, present and potential customers. This platform gives you the time and space to need to tell the story of your business and share some of the unique projects and solutions you’ve been involved in. Use case studies, testimonials, video, and infographics to share your expertise. Talk about industry trends, share your thought leadership on topics important to the industry, offer tips and advice to your customers, and introduce new services and technology. Boom.
Even in a B2B world, social media can be very effective for connecting with other businesses, future employees and prospective customers. More business-forward platforms like LinkedIn are a great place to position yourself as an industry thought leader. Share articles and posts on industry issues and trends and how your business is embracing or adapting. All of this makes your business look like it's a leader in its field (and who doesn't want to deal with the best?)
Chew On This
Digital marketing is not one-size-fits-all; a recipe for one B2B is not necessarily going to work wonders for another. The key is to start with a strategy. Develop a plan that objectively evaluates your business and its target audiences, competition, strengths and positioning before embarking on, say, throwing money at a paid Facebook campaign.
That said, once your business does determine a go-forward, it will stand to reap significant benefits upon proceeding with an informed series of digital tactics. Unlike old-school marketing, these online strategies can actually give you some very valuable metrics that will clearly inform you as to which messages and platforms are most effective. It’s a much more efficient way to manage your advertising budget.
Are you ready to get rolling? Let's discuss a plan of attack.