B2B marketing used to be synonymous with the cold call. Your sales agents would pick up the phone, call a business, pitch, rinse and repeat. Then, once email was popularized, calls were supported with generic mass messages.
Those days are over. Relying on spam emails and calls that cast the widest possible net without any personalization or targeting is no longer a viable strategy.
Let’s take a look at the best practices for how your business can create a strategic, meaningful B2B campaign that helps you land new clients, rather than driving them away.
Start With Market Research
Before you begin planning a campaign, do the research to know who you’re trying to reach and how to talk to them. This means conducting market research, building buyer personas and then constantly updating your research to keep up with evolving marketplaces and customer needs.
Here are some essential rules your organization needs to follow, regardless of industry.
The easiest way to find out what your customers want is to ask them. Set up interviews with key clients and ask them to be honest with you.
Why did they choose your company? What have they liked/what hasn’t lived up to expectations? Is there anything they think they would have liked to hear more about during the decision stage?
Find out if any of your content or offers played a role in their decision to work with you. You want to learn what worked along with what aspects of your campaign fell short.
It’s also not a bad idea to reach out to prospects who didn’t end up going with your business. You can always learn from your setbacks, and, if there are specific marketing reasons why a lead didn’t convert (other than just a lower cost elsewhere), their feedback can be invaluable.
For a more in-depth guide on interviewing your clients, check out this blog post.
Don’t Ignore Your Competitors
Take a look at your competitors: what are they doing that seems to resonate with their audience and what doesn’t? Are there any forms of content (blogs, videos, infographics) that are frequently shared on social media, have high likes or exceptional view counts? Is your competition doing anything that your organization isn’t?
You don’t want to just rip off whatever your competitors are doing, but you should use insights from your competitors’ successful channels to help drive your decisions.
Building Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are audience avatars — essentially compilations of key attributes and needs shared among your ideal customers. Personas help you articulate your targets’ goals, behaviors and generally understand them better. There’s no limit to how many personas your organization can have, but you should keep it to two or three to begin with.
Here’s an example for how personas can help you finetune your marketing efforts. If you’re selling equipment to manufacturers, one persona might be a plant manager who oversees day-to-day operations, while a second persona will be higher up decision-maker like a purchasing manager. You’ll have a list of the stressors and needs for each persona, allowing you to craft personalized marketing content and messaging to each one.
Rely on your market research (using tools like DataUSA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and customer interviews to build these personas. You can also use a free tool like this one provided by HubSpot.
Combine Account-Based and Inbound Marketing Tactics
Inbound is a marketing tactic that calls for organizations to produce content (blogs, videos, etc.) to nurture leads through the buyer’s journey. Account-based marketing (ABM), on the other hand, calls for you to target specific leads with offers or messaging geared directly toward them.
Which should you rely on? Both, ideally!
Creating valuable content (more on this below) is an essential step for all organizations to increase the odds your target audience finds you and then recognizes your business as experts in the field.
And while some leads will naturally flow through the buyer’s journey, this won’t always be the case. Inbound ensures people searching for your offerings find you, and ABM helps you get in front of highly-qualified specific targets with a more personalized multi-channel campaign to drive leads.
Produce Quality Content
It probably goes without saying that if your organization is going to create content it should be good, but you should ensure you have a content development process in place which allows you to confirm you’re creating content your audience needs, promoting it in the right locations and measuring its impact.
It’s important to note this can be a time-consuming process that might require you working with outside marketing specialists (hi!), and I recommend you take a look at some of our other blogs which go into more detail on content strategy development.
Some key things to keep in mind include:
- Sound human. In B2B marketing specifically, there is a tendency to rely on a standard, professional-sounding marketing voice when reaching out to leads. Think about how many other emails, blogs and etc. your leads are receiving any given day that all sound this way. To stand apart, you need to sound real and authentic. Develop a tone and personality for your company and speak like you would in person, with care for their concerns and solutions on hand.
- Have a website that is easy to navigate. If your links go to drab, outdated webpages or your website is in general difficult to navigate… prospects are frankly just going to move on quickly. Appearance counts!
- Use content offers, but make sure they’re worth downloading. Content offers like whitepapers and guides are excellent ways to collect new leads (click here for some great examples). You put your best, most in-depth content behind landing page forms which viewers must give some info to obtain, usually at least name and email address. Keep in mind that great information alone isn’t enough. Design matters. Leading me to my next point…
- Have a style guide. All of the tips above ultimately tie back to your organization’s style guide — which is a must. This should include information on colors you use, fonts, spelling and capitalization guidelines for organizational terms, and then samples of the tone you want to use in messaging. This should be the foundation for all your marketing efforts.
- Always edit your content. Never post anything without getting at least one other person’s eyes on it. This may sound obvious, but you need to have an editorial process in place that catches slip ups like typos and poor grammar while also ensuring you’re sticking to that style guide.
Utilize A/B Testing and Follow These Email Tips
The last note I’d like to touch on is email. As I previously mentioned, the days of spamming emails are over. This doesn’t mean you should never send marketing emails out to your contact lists – it means you need to be strategic and personalize whenever possible.
Let’s say you’re running a 20% offer on one of your services this month. In the old days, you might just write one email that you’d send to all your contacts multiple times throughout that month. You might change the subject line for each message, but that’s about all the variance there would be.
Today, all this will accomplish is getting your emails locked firmly in your prospects’ spam folder. You need to rely on list segmentation and email personalization to increase the success rate of campaigns like this.
For the example mentioned above, you should set up a workflow that allows you to send different, personalized emails that correspond to how your lead reacts to your initial email. If a lead never saw your email, then these contacts can receive the same version of your original message with an updated subject line.
Recipients who opened your email but didn’t click on your CTA, on the other hand, can receive a new email with an updated message giving more details on why your offer benefits your contact’s business.
Finally, for those who do click on your offer but do not either follow up with you or fill out a form for more information, you can have personalized emails come from each contact’s assigned account manager, offering to set up a time to chat or to send more details on the service.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not as bad as you think. Marketing automation software like HubSpot allows you to easily set up these email workflows, stay up-to-date on the performance of each message and use personalization tokens like first and company name so you don’t have to create a brand new email for each individual contact in your list.
Get Help (When Needed)
Many smaller B2B businesses are still starting from scratch when it comes to updating their B2B lead generation campaigns — and there’s no shame in that. Recent years have seen rapid advancements in marketing automation software and techniques, making it hard to keep up with it all while you’re trying to run a business.
If you’re ready to take the next step and modernize your marketing efforts for more leads, reach out to a marketing firm that knows what they’re doing. To contact us and talk through what issues you’re facing, click here. We’re here to help.