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B2B marketing has significantly changed – are you doing everything you can to beat your competition?
B2B marketing has changed tremendously in recent years. All of this is the result of the rapid evolution of the digital world, the availability of more and better technological tools geared towards marketing, and marketers’ increased proficiency in technology and analytics.
Also, marketers have begun to realize that there is a human being behind the companies and organizations they are trying to sell to.
And since today, everyone and everything is online and almost anything can be measured and quantified, those human buyers and decision makers are more empowered than ever before. As a result, in many cases, modern B2B marketers have started implementing B2C marketing tactics, and these worlds are becoming closer and closer every day.
This can be hugely intimidating to the traditional B2B marketer.
If you are like me, a B2B marketer looking to constantly stay ahead of the trends, learn about new tactics and technologies as well as fill the knowledge gap around B2C marketing tactics, then sit back, relax and start reading. This post is for you. Here, I will cover the major changes experienced by B2B marketing in recent years, and discuss what you need to do to become an elite B2B marketer and stay ahead of the pack.
B2B marketing has changed. Tremendously.
According to B2B Buyers Research published by DemandGen Report, the world of B2B marketing is continuing the get more complex and B2B buyers are growing more sophisticated. To beat out the competition, B2B marketers must adapt and utilize more advanced tools and techniques to reach their target buyers and move them down the sales funnel and decision process. You can read more about creating the optimal B2B marketing activities mix here.
Here are some of the major changes we are seeing:
B2B Marketing is finally more measurable
Yes, I know I chose to start with the most obvious change; a change most of us are well aware of already, but you can’t NOT mention it when discussing how B2B marketing has changed. These days, buyers are increasingly using digital channels as research sources. For example, 53% of B2B buyers cited social media as instrumental to their purchasing consideration and decision. Luckily for us, digital activity in our domain leaves tracks that we can follow up and act on. Today, collecting and analyzing data via websites, email communications, social media and mobile applications is quick, easy and efficient. This means that the data B2B marketers need in order to launch effective campaigns, is out there and waiting to be utilized! As such, data-driven marketing strategy is a must for today’s B2B marketers. Those who are looking to excel at least! When performed correctly, data-driven marketing can have an average ROI of 224%. Data should support all of the B2B marketer’s past decisions, inform all future decisions, and justify any present actions taken. This, of course, helps with setting marketing KPIs and assessing whether these goals have been reached. At G2M Team we follow data-based insights almost religiously. Yes, many times we have a certain hunch (and there are still some B2B marketing tactics, though fewer and fewer, where a hunch is everything you have to go on), but we will always strive to A/B test several approaches to try and prove our hunch, right or wrong, in order to do better in the future.
MarTech is finally here!
Yes, more and more entrepreneurs have shifted their attention towards MarTech (marketing technology). In 2017, there are already over 5,000 companies whose core business is around MarTech (up from 150 companies in 2011), and I expect this market to continue to grow. Gartner’s CMO survey shows that CMOs invest a growing portion of their marketing budgets on technology tools, rivaling CIOs’ spend on technology. Can you believe it?. It is very clear that both demand and supply are there and growing.
There are plenty of tools out there for us B2B marketers to leverage in order to be more efficient, and more knowledgeable about what’s going on with our activities as well as the competition’s. These tools can help in optimizing performance, get personal with your audience and more.
Here’s a snapshot of the types of marketing tools some leading organizations use:
At G2M Team we use numerous tools for almost everything we do. It fits perfectly with our data-driven approach to marketing, as well as our desire to hold an efficient and smart marketing operation on behalf of our clients.
B2B marketing still goes hand in hand with the sales team
This one was always true and still is. But, in the past, B2B leads were handed off to sales teams, with up to 73% of them not yet sales ready. The ability of B2B marketers to use digital marketing tactics like social media, content marketing and SEO enables them to better prepare generated leads, so that they reach sales agents at a later stage in the funnel, readier to make a decision
A full customer life cycle view is recommended, in combination with your specific organization’s conversion funnel. The creation of thoughtful and targeted content geared towards the 94% of B2B buyers already researching products and services online on their own, can help align B2B sales and marketing tactics and boost sales rates by as much as 38%, according to Hubspot.
88% of B2B marketers are currently using content marketing as a means of producing relevant and engaging marketing materials.
For example, when we onboard a new client we always start with carefully defining the funnel and make sure we create content for every step in the funnel that’s appropriate to the interest and details level a potential buyer would like to get at that stage. We call them ‘content hooks’ and once these are in place we start leveraging them in the different lead generation and nurturing channels that we engage with, such as newsletters, emails, paid campaigns, landing pages, and more. If goals and events are set up correctly in the backend (and we make sure they are!) then analyzing people’s behavior along your funnel is easy and intuitive and we can make clear fine-tuning decisions based on that information. All of this also helps us get those leads to the sales people in a more advanced stage, closer to the decision point.
Low touch selling for SaaS is becoming more popular
Once upon a time, B2B companies tended to use high touch sales models, involving several points of interaction prior to conversion.Not anymore. Both B2B customers and marketers are looking for the perfect low touch model, with a well defined, specific funnel and self-serve onboarding process that results in the desired automated checkout. Low touch models involve more inbound and viral marketing and less cold calling and complex sales. As a result, it is more efficient and cost-effective for B2B marketers to implement, making it an increasingly more popular method, especially when selling SaaS (Software as a Service).
Here is a great chart, demonstrating the difference in marketing tactics when dealing with low touch vs. high touch selling.
This change is of course relevant to specific types of products (mainly the above mentioned SaaS), but some types of products and services have no choice but staying in the high-touch models, due to the nature of the business. But even in this scenario, there is still a lot that can be done in the digital space in order to “warm” potential customers up towards a specific B2B offering.
So, what do you need to do in order to stay ahead of the pack and excel?
To “survive” this era of tremendous change in B2B marketing, thrive in it and stay ahead of the competition, B2B marketers must implement certain crucial practices in their everyday activities.
Here are my top eight:
1. Understand the shift in target audience
All B2B purchasing decisions start with research. The people who conduct this research are part of the circle of influencers. Today, millennials, men and women between the ages of 18 to 34, comprise up to 70% of the B2B researcher demographic. They do all the related research for the decision makers. A lot of B2B marketers tend to forget this “small” change in demographic, but this is a change that makes a huge difference as millennials are a largely online generation. They do their research online, in professional communities in social channels and many other digital channels. So if you are still debating how much to invest in digital marketing channels and tactics, well… you can stop debating now.
2. Go mobile!
Now that you have internalized that an important chunk of your target audience is younger and is online, it’s time to go mobile. Again, something that makes complete sense and still, a pitfall for a lot of B2B marketers. More than 42% of B2B researchers use a mobile device at some point during their path to purchase, so if your website, landing pages, social pages and any other digital footprint is not taking mobile into account, step on it and make sure mobile is part of everything you do! Having said that, we do see,still, sometimes, clients whose target audience reads a lot of the materials on mobile, but takes action on desktop. This is an important parameter to check when you run paid campaigns for example (lead gen or anything else). If this is the case for you, you still have to make sure everything is mobile-friendly, but campaign money should be spent mostly on desktop.
3. Invest more in video-marketing and alternative content formats
We all know by now that the world of content marketing extends far beyond writing blog posts. Some of us prefer textual content, some prefer video footage, some static visual content and the list goes on. Many B2B marketers tend to stay within the relatively safe boundaries of textual blog posts, but that’s a mistake. You should definitely consider alternative content formats, such as infographics, guides, whitepapers and videos and use them smartly across the funnel. Different content formats for different stages of the funnel. The different formats can also serve as multiple touch points across different channels and give your target B2B researchers and decision makers the feeling that you and your product/service are everywhere. Also, let’s not forget that creating several forms of marketing content for a product helps in generating quality backlinks. Which brings us to our next important practice.
4. Continue investing in content-based SEO
Yes,a lot has been said about the brutal death of SEO. That’s probably true for all the white hats, black hats and any other hats out there. But I think no one would argue that high-quality content, can and will do wonders to your SEO. Yes, we all know SEO 101 and we make sure our content is SEO friendly, but combined with #3 above, and a strong focus on quality, you can reach the content holy grail of having the variety, the frequency and the digital presence to win.
If you are looking to master content marketing, than our post, detailing our full content marketing methodology can serve as a useful extra reading.
5. Maximize the power of familiarity
B2B researchers are people, we mentioned that already, right? They are also quite young and learned to trust their online communities just as much (if not more) than they trust their communities in the physical world. Therefore, like all of us, they will more likely show interest in a brand (and the people behind it) they are familiar with. If you, the B2B marketer will be involved in relevant online communities, like really active in social groups such as Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook and more, your product or service has a greater chance of standing out and being selected by a company. Yes, it’s a simple equation, so no more excuses, I know you are busy, but this is an important part of your job in this new B2B era.
6. Take another look at your KPIs, more often that you’re used to
Strategy is a must. Assess your existing KPIs and re-evaluate their potential impact on your overall business goals. You must determine “where you are now” and “where you want to be,” in terms of marketing goals, then establish clear steps to get from Point A to Point B. Hell, you are a great B2B marketer, so you probably did that by now. The problem is that we are all busy, and we forget to come back and visit our KPIs in a frequency that matters. Many times, we get buried in day-to-day tasks and forget to use our KPIs compass to see if things have changed and whether we need to recalculate our route. Naturally, goals, such as lead generation, nurturing, sales and retention should be measured according to key measures of success – website traffic rates, sales lead quality, conversion rates and actual sales. If you stop for a minute to monitor and update your KPIs as needed, I believe there are higher chances that this alone will give your B2B marketing activities a boost.
7. Try new tactics, tools and technologies – in moderation
I will complement myself and say that reading this blog will encourage you to stop what you are doing for a minute and reevaluate if you are doing what you should be doing. I am hoping it will also drive you to rethink some tactics you may have dismissed before, or think about new tactics that you want to try out. That’s great. For sure, if you want to stay ahead of the pack, you have to try out new tactics, tools and technologies geared towards modernizing your B2B marketing. But hold your horses (just for a minute) – not all innovations are right for everybody. Be selective about which new tactics and ways of thinking you ultimately adopt and which you opt not to use long-term. Think about the unique characteristics of your product or service, about the amount of time and resources you have at your disposal. Take all of that into consideration and decide on the mix and pace of new stuff that is right for you. Then start running and have some fun while you’re at it!
8. You have so much data, use it smartly!
I saved the best one (and to my opinion the most obvious one) to the end. We all know that we have TONS of data that we can look at. Yet, many B2B marketers talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. The list of excuses is endless. I know it can be intimidating. I know it can be scary, but you cannot avoid it anymore. Let me say it clearly: Many B2B marketers today, are still not making the best use of the data available to them. Data is your reality check. It should be your best friend. Your secret friend that keeps bringing you valuable insights.Don’t over use it and don’t under use it. Use it smartly. You need to think long and hard what you want to measure and what you can measure and find the right balance between them. Otherwise you risk becoming an analyst rather than a marketer. The flip side of the coin is to fall back into old habits and run everything based on hunches. Data is a gift. Tap into this potential 224% growth in ROI and use it to stay ahead of the pack.
If you feel like your management’s expectations of your B2B marketing capabilities is getting higher and higher, you are probably right. They are constantly looking for you to make greater contributions to the business and secure more sales. A great way to do this is by following the advice mentioned in this post and reinvent your approach to B2B marketing to fit with this evolving field. Let your conscience be your guide – allowing your overall business goals, your personal contribution and new marketing trends to lead you to innovative marketing techniques and channels.
To stay ahead of the pack, reading up as much as you can about new and upcoming B2B marketing trends is crucial. If you’re an autodidact, or have a knack for trying new things, you’re in luck. Also important to the learning process is to keep following relevant social groups and be an active participant in discussions. Always keep abreast of what’s going on in other industries; there is no shame in borrowing good ideas. And finally – and most importantly, step outside of your comfort zone!
Good luck and don’t forget to join our Facebook group that’s made for global tech pros and startup marketers operating in Israel
Tsipi Joseph is a co-founder of G2M. She has been in the global tech marketing industry for 'oh so many years', dealing with technical products and services in almost any industry you can think of, including mobile apps, augmented reality, telecommunications, finance, medical, cyber and more.