B2B Online Marketing
Online Marketing and B2B Best Practices
There is a vast opportunity for B2B companies to benefit from online marketing. Many marketers now prefer this format over expensive, inconvenient traditional methods like trade fairs (especially in the current pandemic climate), and the ability to measure clients' progress through the sales funnel shows clear positive results that land in conversion.
- The job to be done here is to cast a wide net and introduce potential clients to your company. Therefore, the goal is to establish a good reputation for being of value. This is done by being helpful and educating, rather than a hard sell.
- Best practice: Offer FREE content, rather than product-specific content or sales materials. This can be registration-free, or at most available in exchange for an email address.
- Email is a preferred channel for this, which also helps you build a closer relationship, but blog posts, press releases, or case studies work well as well.
- At this point, a company should know more about the customer. The best practice is to send emails that focus on targeted pain points, like case studies that prove the product is effective.
- Best practice 1: Do not discount those that are subscribing, but don't "look" like the ideal customer. According to one study, over 80% of referrals came from someone who was not currently a client. Rather, they were people who over time learned to trust the company through emails, social media, and more (expertise-based referrals).
- Best practice 2: Be patient. The availability of metrics on digital efforts also often means that companies make the mistake of removing support because there is no obvious revenue generation after a few months. It takes time for a new website to be ranked higher in Google results (for example) or for a firm to build credibility.
- Best practice 3: A company should establish multiple "touchpoints" before asking for new business, even for clients that have already registered for premium content. Using a drip campaign, companies should aim for about seven "touchpoints" where new and valuable resources are offered each time. This can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on the company.
- Ideally, the first follow-up should be about a week after, with each touchpoint offering more valuable information connected to the initial download. If the company can keep the client engaged until the final touchpoint, then it can create a non-intrusive offer for a free assessment/conversation in exchange for more contact details that you can turn over to the sales team. This should be done on the same landing page where the company thanks the client for downloading/otherwise participating in your last offer.
- Since at this point, potential customers are choosing between brands, the focus is on providing unique selling propositions and competitive advantage.
- Best practice: it's key to introduce branded assets (versus earlier steps that were brand-agnostic and educational). Some formats to consider are product comparisons and demos, testimonials, and product reviews. Free discounts are also a best practice as it introduces a sense of urgency.
- While brand-specific communication is a traditional province of offline B2B, many marketers preferred online marketing over channels like trade fairs for getting high-value leads. 57% preferred email marketing, with 54% saying search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click (PPC) strategies and 44% saying social media. In contrast, only 39% preferred trade shows and 26% liked direct mail.
- Best practice: Clarify what exactly online purchase or conversion means to the business. It is possible that a customer may have converted due to online tactics, but needed the help of someone like a sales representative to complete the transaction. In addition, conversion can refer to several things- not just clicking "buy" but also downloading a catalog, completing forms for more information, or responding to a specific call to action. Vague definitions across the business may skew analytics and lead to misinformed assumptions. In one survey, nearly 40% of B2B sellers did not know or track conversion rates.
- Ensure you are looking at the right benchmarks. B2B conversion rates are very different from B2C ones given different dynamics like longer sales cycles and larger prices. For example, landing page conversion rates for business services have a median conversion rate of 3.4% but may have a top conversion rate of 15.7%. Smaller companies may have conversion rates of 50-70%, but that would be extremely high for mature companies.
- Best practice 2: Utilize formats that have been proven to drive conversion. There is an 80% increase in conversion for companies that have videos on their landing page. Research shows that 55% of American consumers are influenced by reviews and testimonials.
- It can cost up to five times more to get new clients vs. retaining old ones. On the other hand, companies that improve retention rate by 5% can increase profit by 25-95%.
- Best practice 1: Continue to stay in touch with the customer to ensure a smooth product experience. This includes optimizing post-purchase client support, effective product UX, and a continuing purchase process via more special offers. This allows for a smooth customer experience, easy solutions should they have any issues, and a way to make them feel valued while increasing their Customer Life Value (CLV).
- Best practice 2: Collect feedback from customers to fuel your funnel. Use surveys like Surveymonkey or Gizmodo.
While B2B marketing can often be seen as staid compared to B2C, many of the best brands in the online marketing space focus on humanizing their brands and offerings in order to win. They are focused on targeting niche audiences with unique content and stories, and tailor not just in terms of messaging but even delivery and formatting to ensure it resonates. Behind the scenes they also leverage the strengths of online marketing to automate as much as possible, giving them the ability to respond quickly even to massive requests.
Case Study 1: Assurant
- Assurant handles risk management products and services, which is both an extremely competitive market. They decided to dip their toe into improving content marketing as a way to get an edge when it came to conversion. Because each client can be extremely high-value, they decided to focus on one client at a time and dive deep into creating content that targeted key decision makers across the entire buyer's journey.
- They created 21 unique assets over six months, targeting four different types of decision makers, in a variety of formats mapping back to the consumer's needs at each point. Throughout the entire journey, they coordinated heavily with Sales to monitor their target's activity so they could adjust on the fly as needed.
- The strategy successfully engaged senior management and secured buy-in for online marketing as a viable strategy for Assurant.
- Some of their plans for content and client personas can be viewed here.
Case Study 2: Atlanta Light Bulbs
- Atlanta Light Bulbs was one of the first movers when it came to ecommerce for B2B in 1999, which helped it stand out for decades. However, as competition intensified, they had to step up their strategies as well.
- Their strategy revolves around fixes at every step to ensure purchasing is as easy as possible for their clients with as few opportunities to abandon their carts as possible. For example, their app allows their salespeople to set up favorite products for their clients on their clients' phones, making it far easier to reorder with a few taps vs. finding new competitors.
- They also identified key pain points that are unique to buying online. Face-to-face deals allow clients to negotiate quotes and offers on the spot- but that can be hard to do online. Atlanta identified this pain point and relies on automation to issue accurate quotes and compute whether an offer is acceptable (given the volume of order), allowing them to get back to clients immediately. Within 90 days of implementing this automation, they had pulled in $100,000 worth of orders.
- They also proactively addressed the issue of clients abandoning carts. A pop-up message asks prospective clients not to leave yet and to make an offer to see if they can work together.
- Finally, they use store reward points and monthly emails alongside traditional audience segmentation to keep customers coming back for more.
- The company is now growing revenue by 25% YoY.
- Interact with their site here.
Case Study 3: Intel
- In 2018, Intel made a sharp pivot towards focusing more on its B2B business and reducing its reliance on B2C.
- According to Alyson Griffin, the VP of Global Marketing & Communications, B2B Marketing Strategy for Intel, their strategy is to humanize their products by focusing on real-life stories and applications. They also rely heavily on online marketing strategies like retargeting and optimizing to ensure they adjust their message depending on their client's interaction with their content.
- Intel is interesting as well in their increasing reliance on AI for their online marketing strategy. This allows them to better track and optimize their efforts, especially when it comes to working with their media agency for better targeting.
- Aside from tools, Intel is explicitly pushing their content marketing strategy in new ways. They are focusing on reaching super-niche audiences where they are, rather than waiting for them to be further down the process or already be coming to Intel. Second, they are deliberately moving away from any generic banners or web ads- they are leveraging Intel's capabilities to ensure that ad is directed to a specific audience and the webpage, the whole experience, is designed for that audience.
- The results seem to be promising. Alyson said, "We have KPIs, and our campaigns are significantly above norms."
- Interact with their Supply Chain site here.
Case Study 4: IBM
- IBM has been running a successful "Rethink Business" campaign that derives its strength from combining the strengths of online marketing-measurement and granular audience understanding- with lessons taken from B2C marketing.
- According to Michelle Killebrew, IBM's Program Director for Strategy & Solutions, it's important not only to tailor message and placement to audiences but also the look and feel, usability, and interaction. For example, she points out that digital marketers will be attracted to glossy, high-quality content since that's what they are used to, but IT professionals may feel that lacks credibility and will want to hear from other professionals in the field.
- For them, peer-to-peer sharing is a huge part of their online marketing strategy. They ensure each piece of content ties into a larger frame (ex. a blog post about a webinar) to ensure maximum interaction with the brand.
- It's also important for them to support the business after purchase. IBM’s Cloud Storage service gives every client access to a team of specialists to ensure they are able to successfully integrate- and more than integrate, maximize- the new product with their existing business systems. This personalized approach keeps clients engaged and more likely to renew or refer.
- IBM's enterprise website can be found here.