In today’s competitive global market, businesses need an extra creative edge to stand out from the competition. Here are some strategies to tackle major challenges B2B marketers face.
1. Address a Longer Sales Cycle with Educational Content
The sales process doesn’t start when customers get in touch with a sales rep; according to Gartner Research, over 85% of the purchase decision process will take place online, without any human interaction. Before you have a chance to make your pitch, B2B customers are reading through reviews, comparing prices and packages online, viewing sample work, and perhaps opting out of the process altogether.
According to Hubspot, 63% of marketers say that generating traffic and leads is the biggest challenge their business faces. To attract more quality leads, create educational marketing content that helps customers identify their needs, and introduces them to your brand as a subject matter expert.
Developing an easy-to-navigate, engaging online presence is crucial to addressing B2B customers in the exploratory stages. Offering potential customers educational content for free creates value and helps establish trust: blogposts, social media, videos, emails, infographics, and whitepapers, and other downloadable content can help your customer better understand the complex and unique needs of their business.
However, developing innovative new content can require technical skills—copywriting, graphic design, video and animation, and developers—that you might not have in-house. Partnering with a multidisciplinary creative team can launch your marketing efforts to the next level.
2. Measure Marketing ROI
The success of marketing initiatives can feel nebulous and difficult to quantify. While it’s not always possible to track how many potential customers you’ve reached, specific metrics like click-through rates and social media impressions can give you a way to quantify how you’ve moved the needle. Each marketing initiative should have a specific goal, connected to a key performance indicator. Evaluate what you want to happen—entice customers to click through to your website? To generate new leads?—and look at metrics that align with that specific goal.
One marketing campaign, like a new landing page, doesn’t have to do everything—attract new customers, get their contact information, close that sale, get shared on Facebook. By creating a constellation of touchpoints, you can encourage customers to follow a chain of events that moves them closer to making a purchase.
3. Navigate a Tight Budget
While small businesses and startups are familiar with making the most out of a narrow marketing budget, larger B2B companies might also feel the strain of extensive budget approval processes. B2B marketers need the support and backing from leadership in order to make the investments necessary into their marketing initiatives.
To gain buy-in from higher-ups, leverage data to prove that your marketing efforts are driving real results. Make sure there’s an associated metric of success or measurement strategy if a campaign is successful. Demonstrate how they’ll get a return on investment: new leads, closing sales, etc.
Partnering with a creative team can give you the bandwidth to create and promote in-depth content; maintain a consistent presence on social media channels; and personalize marketing for a range of target audiences in different stages of the sales process. But it also gets expensive. Pricey larger agencies or boutiques are a daunting financial investment, especially for B2B startups. While freelancers offer more flexibility, the quality isn’t consistent, and their availability is not as dependable.
Assess your marketing needs and determine whether an in-house marketing person or an outside agency as needed is the most cost-effective solution for your business. Be choosy about the marketing services you invest in: larger packages don’t always mean bigger results, especially if the marketing mix isn’t right for your business or your customers.
4. Differentiate in a Globalized Marketplace
In today’s digitized world, you’re not just up against local businesses—you could be competing against companies around the world for new clients. With so many options at the tips of their fingers, B2B customers are looking for more than just exceptional services or even a price point. Companies need to find innovative ways to add value in order to cut through all the clutter.
Instead of treating the sales process as a means to an end, B2B marketers can create value for the customer throughout the process by concentrating on a simple and engaging customer experience. Look at both pain points—a complex service offering that’s difficult to understand, a trove of options to choose from—and consider how to address those specific difficulties, but also how to build “bridges” between stages of the sales process. In an era of big data, personalization and relevant content are more important than ever.
It’s not enough just to pretty things up—if you’ve been on the other end of the process, as a B2B customer, you’ve probably seen the endless sleek websites with stock graphics, promising the same kinds of things. According to Instagram, the number of business pages on Instagram rocketed to 25 million by the end of 2018, out of 500 million total users, indicating the brand saturation of social media channels.
In a sea of near-identical options, what makes your company different? Your website can present your unique value in new, creative ways, like infographics, animated graphs, and key statistics. Your online presence should create clear walkpaths and make the exploratory information a customer needs as clear, engaging, and available as possible. Craft an experience that imagines the customer’s chain of decisions, anticipating their emotions and needs at each stage.
5. Scale with Efficiency
As your company (and your marketing budget) grows, you’ll need to reevaluate if the same marketing strategy that worked for a shoestring operation will still function for a larger team. Integration more a of a challenge for larger operations than smaller ones, but making sure all marketing efforts and sales initiatives are working together to create a targeted customer experience.
Make sure new investments in marketing are complementary, and work together to create a strong cohesive customer experience. Instead of investing more in separate projects or addressing pain points one by one, keep in mind how the customer experience is functioning overall.
When working with an outside agency, things can get quickly out of hand—having multiple points of contact for different projects can slow initiatives down and create confusion. If you need a creative partner, look for reliable agencies with the flexibility and availability to work on projects on an as-needed basis. While freelancers are great to patch projects through, a long-term partnership with an agency that “gets” your brand can reduce onboarding time, and give you a valuable outside perspective.