Why we need a Business to Business Marketing Focus
Marketing is an essential component of business in today’s world. It has the potential to give a business more customers than it can handle but that is something only very few businesses achieve and most businesses dream of. At its core, business to business marketing is to spread awareness of a product/service in an attempt to increase profit. A focus on increasing profit is crucial, as there are a wide array of marketing metrics to focus on but a good marketer always remembers to have profit as their true North Metric.
B2B customers are looking to be educated on a product before they buy. This is for a few reasons, the sales cycle is usually longer as there can be red tape to go through before the deal can close. Also the B2B customer must be educated before they buy because their company depends on them to make the very best decision. Today, a common and effective way to do that is through online education resources. Buyers use these resources in lieu of interactions with salespeople, and often to prepare themselves to deal with salespeople from a position of knowledge--from the position of strength. Now, as a B2B marketer you need to be able to educate these B2B consumers to position your company as an expert. Ideally as the expert. That is the way to win new business. In case you are looking for learning resources, we put together some of the best digital marketing resources to freshen up your digital marketing. This page is dedicated to the business side of marketing and has many elements from those digital marketing resources.
Digital Marketing Works for You Non-Stop
Business to business marketing typically involves a longer buying process and has a more extensive research process than your typical everyday purchase. Patience, persistence, and perseverance are the price of entry in a B2B marketplace. Fortunately, once developed and maintained, your quality digital marketing content never stops working for your buyers--and for you.
B2B sales teams can be great at signing up new business but they can’t always be at the right place at the right time. If your sales team is cold calling a specific business 5 times a day, and still you may not reach the right person when they are ready to be reached. Where sales teams fall short is where marketing excels. Marketing allows you to extend your businesses arms and reach out to the right person at exactly the right time!
Today’s marketing allows you to get in front of the right person when it is the right time for them to be reached out to. For example, the CEO of a software company is looking for a new HR system. That CEO at 4 AM can search for products, on a search engine, get all the education they need, and call the sales team at 9 am ready to take the next step. Buyers are ready to be educated on their schedule, not on your sales team's schedule. Without a clearly established set of marketing goals, none of this is possible.
Setting Business to Business Marketing Goals
Uughh do we have to talk about goals… YES! Without goals how do you know what direction to head? We need goals to measure progress and to make sure the money spent on marketing is effectively meeting a business need. Everything will stem from your marketing goals. Unfortunately, if you set the wrong goals everything else will be wrong too.
Too often, B2B companies have attempted some marketing without much success. In fact, a number of them are just going through the motions. The problem is business to business marketing needs to be more focused and targeted than traditional marketing. There needs to be a hyper-focused target audience, consistent message, and unambiguous marketing goals.
The first step is to make sure you understand your company’s current position. A useful tool to understand your position is a SWOT Analysis. Take some time with management to discuss your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. More times than not, this simple task will provide amazing findings and a clear direction.
Your Business Goals
Now, saying you want to grow your business or generate more leads is a nice idea. However, without effective planning, you’re unlikely to reach your goals. When it comes to choosing your goals, ensure that you use the SMART system and that these goals revolve around B2B ROI.
B2B companies, that have the most success, identify their long-term marketing goals using the SMART goal framework. A SMART goal stands for:
- Specific – Your goal should be unambiguous and communicate what is expected, why it is important, who is involved, where it is going to happen and which constraints are in place.
- Measurable – Your goal should have concrete criteria for measuring progress and reaching the goal. A goal should be abundantly clear when it is reached.
- Attainable – Your goal should be realistic and possible for your team to reach.
- Relevant – Your goal should matter to your business and address a core initiative.
- Timely – You should have an expected date that you will reach the goal.
Typically, companies have goals for online visits, contacts created, and customers for the year or quarter. These specific segments give the clearest vision of success in most B2B settings. If this doesn’t fit perfectly try B2B marketing ideas.
- Visits – You should focus on visits if you are just getting started with your website, or if you already have good conversion rates for visits to leads and leads to customers, but need additional traffic.
- Contacts Created – You’ll want to focus on the number of contacts created if you are satisfied with the amount of traffic to your content, but you are not getting enough leads for sales.
- Customers Signed – Focus on customers signed if you’re getting a healthy amount of traffic to your content and visitors are converting on forms, but the leads just aren’t ready to close the deal and turn into customers.
Now, let’s identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so that you and your team stay motivated until the entire goal is met! IT KPIs for you and your team. If you set a goal, disregard it for 12 months, then return to see if you succeeded, then the likelihood is that you won’t have. Achieving your goals and objectives is hard work and requires regular monitoring of performance. KPIs are helpful focused metrics that enable you to see if you are above or below your target at any given time. For example, your business’s SMART goal is to add 48 more clients over the next year. To make this goal more manageable, relevent, and to keep you motivated, you set yourself a KPI of 4 new customers every month. By May, you should expect to have added 20 new clients. By working to each little bite-size objective, you are ultimately on course to achieve your wider business goal. Go here for more marketing objectives examples.
The plan you build should be designed to help you and your team plan and execute marketing activities by objective. According to Wikipedia, "a marketing plan is a comprehensive document or blueprint that outlines business advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year. It describes business activities involved in accomplishing specific marketing objectives within a set time frame.” Sounds like a lot of work? Keep it down to one page. Having a one page plan means you can't be too specific and you can easily reread it. The marketing plan should help you stay focused and motivated. If you ever find yourself in a motivation rut and need a confidence boost or just want some solid entertainment, check out some Marketing Conferences. These are held annually for marketers to stay up to date, get out of the office, and get motivated!
Your marketing plan should help:
- Prioritize your marketing objectives
- Define your ideal customers – Buyer Persona
- Identify program gaps and opportunities
- Plan the next B2B campaign
Marketing agencies see company after company that have just been coasting by on their product or service. The customers love the product, service, and their price. Which is great but the business can only grow to a certain point and can be successful but not reach its full potential. Eventually the business will plateau, sometimes with disastrous consequences. At some point, you will need marketing to continue growing. If a business isn't growing, eventually it is doomed to fail. That's why companies need to have a refined b2b brand strategy and continuously push the ball forward, even in the toughest of times.
Why Marketing Plans Annoy Many Marketers
The unfortunate truth is that you can’t rely on a template to plan for everything — you have to constantly update your template and make tweaks to stay up to date. There are a million different ways to write a marketing plan and each plan has a tendency to be significantly more difficult to accomplish on paper than in reality.
Creating a marketing plan and sticking too it is critical. However, the markets are always moving though and a plan you made three months ago may be obsolete. Allowing room for flexibility in a hard set plan is where the sweet spot is. Make sure when you write your marketing plan it stays a living breathing document that evolves and adapts to the needs of your business.
Developing Your Marketing Plan Template
Take a look at the HubSpot graphic shown below. Essentially, your plan template should have a smart goal based on the attract stage, convert stage, and the close stage. Pick one stage at a time and stick to it. Develop your plan template around a smart goal and list your KPIs. Next, outline each of the steps you will take to meet your SMART goal in the stage you have picked. For example, let's say we have a goal to attract 8000 new visitors over the next 6 months. Our KPI will be 1334 new visits per month. We will reach this by starting to write great blogs and optimizing them to get the most attention using keywords. We will promote this useful and consultative content on social media to spread the word.
Spend a healthy amount of time on your plan and then begin to execute. Don’t develop analysis paralysis.
Check your marketing plan template 2-3 times a month or more. Make adjustments reflecting the B2B landscape and use the data you collect to guide the ship. Metrics are only valuable if you use them to adapt when the information tells you something new.
Difference between B2B and B2C Marketing
While there are many similarities between B2B and B2C marketing, there are also some key differences, especially as they become sales prospects. B2B sales prospects are found in small vertical markets that require consultative selling and take longer to sell. B2B sales are, usually, “big ticket” sales and require developing credibility and trust. The payoff for B2B sales prospects is a high lifetime customer value.
Knowing the marketing differences between B2B and B2C are just the beginning steps to achieving marketing success.
Your marketing will be most effective when you understand the difference between B2B and B2C marketing and the impacts it has on your business.
Lifetime Customer Value
Often, B2B customers are much higher value customers due to larger budgets. They are also more likely to be repeat customers so the value per customer is higher.
|The value of a B2C customer is lower than B2B because the products they buy are less expensive and they are less likely to become repeat customers.|
Highly Detailed Content
It’s an audience that expects to be catered to by a sales and marketing team. Highly detailed content is required for business to business marketing.
|Since B2C sales are usually less complex, B2C social media activities simply need to meet the basic needs of being useful, humorous, and shareable.|
B2B markets are generally small vertical markets, niche in size, and comprised of a few thousand prospects.
|B2C markets include you, me, and everyone. Typically the general public is large broad markets of tens of thousands to millions of sales prospects.|
The B2B audience is seeking a consultative sale. B2B selling and marketing should focus on providing efficiency and expertise. The B2B purchase process tends to be rationally and logically driven.
|The general public more often seeks bargain deals and entertainment. Consumer choices are typically emotionally triggered (whether by hunger, desire, status, or cost).|
Valuable Brand Recognition
Valuable B2B brand identity is created through trust, personal relationships, and consultative selling.
|B2C brand identity is created in many different ways specifically advertising and social media.|
Typically, B2B marketers lack content and time to create great content. Creating great content helps speed up the long buyer education process.
|B2C marketers usually have a bigger advertising budget to spread the word more quickly. They typically don’t have to worry as much about educating the buyer as much.|
Since the product or service being sold B2B is much larger the purchasing process is much longer. The process can be extremely complex with hundreds of employees' input taken into account before a purchase is made.
|B2C sales go from impulse buys “oh piece of candy”, to a few days and is a simple sale consummated immediately.|
The marketing differences between B2B and B2C are crucial to a business's marketing plan. Knowing your target buyer, developing a hyper-targeted B2B marketing message, and your marketing distribution methods are very different if you are a B2B as opposed to a B2C company. Using big business consumer marketing tactics are not cost effective and are not likely to produce the new business to business clients you seek. However, at the end of the day, no matter which side of the B2B or B2C divide a marketer works on, all marketing is person to person (P2P) despite the external differences. Another similarity between the two is both B2B and B2C need to get customers to come to them.
Attract Visitors to Your Business
Attracting customers to come to you is as good as it sounds, with proven results, but requires sustained effort and investment. A good place to start would be to think who am I trying to attract? What does your "dream customer" look like? You need to start by building a buyer persona.
A buyer persona, defined by Hubspot.com, “is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customer”. Develop these personas by using real-world research, interviews, evidence, and informed assumptions to compile mini-bios of your ideal customers. Once you know what they read, what they do, where they go, along with other patterns you've identified, then all your marketing activities should be placed in orbit around these buyer personas. B2B prospecting will get much easier if you build a really detailed and well thought out buyer persona. Buyer personas are perhaps the most important part of marketing as they influence the rest of your decisions.
Now that you have your ideal customer profile built out go back to your buyer persona and see where specifically these individuals get information and what questions are they asking. For marketing, there are hundreds of mediums available to businesses to get information but one that we find especially effective in B2B is LinkedIn.
Writing great content that is helpful to your persona and merely throwing it up on LinkedIn will not achieve anything. It is too easy for your content to get lost in all the clutter and noise of the internet. Finding a way to cut through the noise is the differentiator between failure and success. To cut through, the content you create needs to be extremely targeted to your specific persona. One way to do this is by getting inside the mind of your persona and start thinking like they think. If possible, ask existing clients what content you could create for them that would be helpful. Creating great content around what your persona is looking for is a very powerful way to provide value to them.
Now that you have chosen your medium, like LinkedIn, you can develop content, for instance writing a blog, that will help your persona answer questions they have. Providing your buyer personas with helpful content will do two very important things. First, it establishes you as the expert in that field. Second, your content should be helping them out and providing value to them which they will respect and remember when it comes time to sign your contract.
Let’s say you sell restaurant management software, the Moz keyword explorer allows you type in a phrase like “Advantages of Restaurant Management Software” and see how many people are searching for it on search engines, like Google. If there is a lot of people searching that phrase, it is likely a good idea to develop content based around the phrase to help the persona answer any questions they have. A great way to put this information in front of your persona is to put the information in a blog and post it to your website.
Once your content is developed and your buyer persona has read it, how do we convert the reader into a real sales lead?
Convert Your Visitors to Leads
You’ve had a person find your blog on the internet and read it, now what? If only there was a way to get the person’s email, phone number, and name. Lucky for you, we have a way. The way to do it is by setting up a well-designed customer conversion path. In order for the path to work, you must entice the buyer to follow your path.
Customer Conversion Path Building
The customer conversion path is the way your persona goes from a stranger who has never heard of you to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This process varies from business to business but ultimately boils down to some key steps. The stranger is introduced to your company by reading a blog they found on a search engine. They read the blog and at the end of the blog there is a Call-To-Action (CTA) where you are asking them to do something, usually to look at another more useful and robust piece of content you have developed. You don’t want to go for the close yet, but you will get there don’t worry!
Now the CTA is a crucial step in converting the reader from a visitor to a real lead. The CTA gets the reader to take action. Posted usually at the end of a blog, the CTA invites the reader to view another piece of content that is more helpful, usually longer, and more in depth than the blog. The piece of content we see companies use most often is an eBook (like this one here). So being the helpful company you are, you write a short eBook for them on a relevant topic and offer it to them for free. Yes, FREE! All you ask in return is a few pieces of relevant information like: Name, company, email, position, and phone number.
The CTA (examples here) gets people to act by having powerful phrase like “download this great and super relevant eBook here”. Once they click the CTA button it takes them to a landing page. The landing page has a phrase saying something like “fill out the form to download your eBook”. Once the form is completed they can download the helpful eBook you offered.
The Conversion Magic
Forcing the visitor to fill out a form before they get the eBook is where the magic happens. This does two really great things that help you and your sales team. First, the form allows your sales team to reach out to them and say “hey, I see you downloaded our eBook, did you have any questions”? Secondly, if your content topic is chosen wisely, it helps get rid of the people who aren’t a good fit for your business. This will save your sales team hours and hours of reaching out to people who should have never qualified as a lead. Once you hand these hot leads to your sales team, you will want to make sure they review Early Interaction Mistakes To Avoid.
Going back to the example of the blog written about “Advantages of Restaurant Management Software”, that is just a tip of the iceberg that someone buying Restaurant Management software needs to know about before buying. In your persona research, you discover that your persona could use an “Ultimate Guide to Buying Restaurant Management Software”.
Who in their right mind would give personal information out to a company to download an eBook that isn’t seriously considering buying and has prequalified themselves? Anyone that downloads the eBook, can readily be contacted by your sales team and jump on the hot lead. The most exciting part is that you and your sales team can experience a shorter sales cycle because the lead has already read your content in order to self educate. Previously the educating fell on the shoulders of the sales team and took up their valuable time. Don't get us wrong, we still expect some sales to be difficult and have to overcome challenges so we have built a comprehensive guide to building diplomacy in B2B sales. The guide should help your sales team find common ground within the sales team to help smooth the transition.
You should also begin lead nurturing by bringing your sales and marketing teams together. Your marketing team will need to stay in touch with your sales team for the long haul, keep the mood light with some Funny Sales Cartoons. Meetings between sales and marketing get heated so its best to be prepared and work as a team, ultimately your goal is the same. B2B Email Marketing is where your two teams will need to put their heads together and really dive deep into lead nurturing.
As the teams work together you want to build an automated email workflow. A great example of a first email in your automated workflow is thanking them for downloading your eBook. HubSpot is an amazing automated workflow tool (and so much more) that always stays cutting edge.
There is a lot to do to get someone to find your B2B website, read a blog, and download an eBook. Who is the right person to do all of this? Should I hire an internal marketing team, should I hire an external marketing agency?
Hiring Marketing Agency vs Hiring Marketing Employee
As your business grows, you’ll eventually need to think about how the marketing will be handled. It can be a tough and often confusing decision: hire an agency or an in-house team? Based on experience, especially if you’re a small business owner, you should consider hiring an agency before you hire your first full time marketing employee. Here’s why…
The best thing about hiring an agency is you’ll have access to a highly specialized team of experts. The knowledge and skill set bandwidth of B2B digital marketing is too great for any one person to have all the requisite skill sets. Also, agencies usually have zeroed in on a few verticals and can quickly point you in the right direction with less trial and error. Finally, with an agency you’ll save a lot of money. You might be surprised to hear that an agency, over time, will be much less expensive. Here’s how:
- You won’t need to pay payroll taxes since they are an independent contractor.
- You won’t need to pay benefits/healthcare costs.
- You won’t have to pay for any of the expensive tools that are needed to properly run and track a marketing campaign
Here's how an agency isn't as good as hiring your own team:
- Most agencies like to lock you in for a fixed time frame (12 months or more) since it takes time to build inbound marketing results.
- Agencies still need someone in your company to be responsible for the agency and oversee that your company's goals and the agencies goals are aligned.
- Little things like adding a comma to a website may take longer to get done.
Internal Marketing Teams
Internal teams are warranted the larger your company becomes. When you have a team of marketing employees that are entirely dedicated to your marketing, things get done faster… assuming you have hired the right people of course. Also, the mind share and collaborative nature of working make marketing teams effective when the company calls for it.
Unfortunately, you typically have to make several hires to have all the skills needed to complete your marketing department. One good marketing manager hire that has the knowledge and experience to strategically lead your internal marketing team will cost you at least $80,000 / year, plus taxes and benefits. They will need an assistant to perform the activities that they don’t specialize in, like social media and content creation. That’ll run you at least another $45,000 / year, plus taxes and benefits. With two people, it’s likely you won’t have all the skills and man hours to accomplish your marketing goals. Actually, agencies are hired most often as a supplement to a marketing team to fill in skill gaps and to provide additional man hours. All in, hiring your own team is your most expensive option.
Finally, you will need to on-board, train, and manage these new employees. You will have to make sure your new staff are up to speed and understand the new role. Even after all that is done, you’ll still need to spend time managing the employees and making sure they stay on task. With an agency, it’s a whole other relationship. There is no on-boarding, training, or managing to deal with on your end (they won’t even take up any office space) because that is handled internally by the agency’s management team. This frees you up to do what you do best-run your business.
There are many different aspects to business to business marketing and it can be overwhelming but don't let it defeat you. It has the potential to bring you success like you've never seen before. Keep that in mind while you're diving into this world. There are tons of resources out there beside this post, including our blog, to learn more about it and become an expert. You can always hire an agency, marketing team, or both to help increase sales. The thought of creating and maintaining a marketing plan that captures your brand’s identity is certainly very intimidating, but the potential riches it may bring makes it fun and worth it!