If you’ve found yourself here, you’re probably in a position that has you questioning how to measure your current online marketing. There’s a common misconception that social media can’t work for B2B businesses. The reality of marketing in 2017 is that 55% of B2B buyers search for information on social media.
But, I’d like to let you in on a little secret: Any marketing strategy, social media included, should start with your buyers. Buyer personas ensure that you know who you’re talking to and clearly understand their challenges; without tailoring content to their goals, you may not resonate with your audience.
Social media without strategy results in wasted time, effort, and ultimately, money.
The traditional approach most B2B sales and marketing teams use to prospect customers isn’t working. There’s no getting past that technology has changed the way we purchase. There’s been a major shift in the buyer’s journey over the past few years and the truth is, It’s probably safe to say that before you make any type of product or service purchase some level of research goes into it, especially when it comes to big ticket items. Maybe you read online reviews or visit a vendor’s website to so you can make an informed decision—and if that’s the case you’re not alone.
According to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buyer’s journey is completed long before potential customers even contact a sales representative for information. Even more, 67% of those people are doing their product or service research solely online.
Think about the last time you bought a car:
From a business standpoint this tells us it’s crucial to provide potential leads with informational content to guide them towards the ultimate goal, the sale.
Historically, manufacturers have done well with incredible sales teams and marketing has largely played a small, supportive role. As a result, manufacturing has been slow to adopt digital marketing practices.
But the truth is, your customers are looking for information online long before they’re ready to purchase. In fact, 82% of shoppers conduct research online before ever making a purchase. So, no matter how great your sales team may be, if they aren’t getting calls because your website isn’t doing them justice, you aren’t selling.
Once a potential customer approaches your sales team, it’s more than likely they’ve done some research on your company. Whether that be browsing your website, reading a company blog post, social status or a sales page. At that point they’ve also already started to form an opinion on whether or not you’ll be of service to them.
This means the content they come across while searching the web must be relevant to their needs, no matter what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in. They want to know that you’re an expert at what you do and most importantly, they want to know how you can solve their problem.
This is what a typical buying process looks like:
There are a few foundational steps you’ll need to take in order to successfully implement a content strategy. The first is to consider your customer’s perspective and design your marketing and sales content with their needs in mind.
What kind of content you create or share depends on who you are trying to attract. We recommend creating 3-5 buyer personas, which are fictional representations of your ideal customers. These personas are a tool to help you focus your sales and marketing strategy.
Here are some strategies for successfully creating personas:
A well researched strategy will also help to align your sales and marketing team to work together. As your marketing team creates targeted content they’ll begin to collect data that will help both teams gain insight exactly what type of information is truly useful for your customers.
Marketing should collect data on which pieces of content prospects are engaging with most frequently. This is easier to do with marketing automation software that tracks engagement, but not impossible without it. If you can’t look at which blogs are the most read, or don’t have content to look at, try actually talking to your customers.
Salespeople can be great assets here; they have taken time to build and manage relationships with their clients. Ask them to talk to their best accounts and find out what convinced them to become customers. What problems were solving for them? What were their main concerns when they were making the decision?
Then return to your buyer’s journey and identify how you can help prospects address that challenge, where and when they are looking for it.
When it comes to content, one size rarely fits all. Delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time is the cornerstone of effective content marketing. To do that, you’ll need to content map: It may sound intimidating, but content mapping is just a process that will help your buyers make a decision in your favor, and also leave a positive impression, which influences their purchase decision.
Learn where they are going to find information and what they’re looking for in their decision making process; then, determine how to create content to meet them where they are already looking for information about your solution.
You’ll need to think about when they’re most likely to be ready to consume this content in relation to what stage they’re at in their buyer’s journey. We call this content mapping, and the goal is to target content according to who will be consuming it (that’s where buyer personas come in) and how close they are to making a purchase. This information will help your sales team gather lead information they can use to move potential buyers along in your sales funnel.
Before jumping in with the sales pitch make sure you understand your audience and where they’re at in the buyer’s journey. The key is to focus on being educational and to guide your readers to a solution. Show them you’re the expert they didn’t know they were looking for. Not only will you be helping them out no strings attached but you’ll also begin to build a foundation of trust and expertise—a must for turning potential leads in paying customers.
Comments, direct messages and reviews, mean that you’ll get to hear first hand from current and potential customers with any questions or opinions they may have. This is even more true when you are posting content that aligns directly with what your audience wants to hear.
If you’re looking to get the most out of your social media investment, start with a marketing strategy. We know there is not a one size fits all social media solution for B2B businesses. However, for most B2B companies, your social media marketing efforts are likely to be centered around online lead generation.
The role of your marketing strategy is should be to attract and convert the highest quality leads for your salespeople via your website and supporting digital channels. If the goal is to connect your most profitable prospects, one of the best tools for doing so is unequivocally LinkedIn, where your demographic is spending their time online.
One of our healthcare manufacturing clients asked if we would be able to help them use LinkedIn. The problem was that their sales team were, well.. Salespeople. They were enigmatic, engaging, personable, but not writers. So asking them to suddenly write something on LinkedIn everyday was not a realistic plan.
We put together a content creation and promotion plan that helped their sales team boost their brand awareness and start making worthwhile connections by creating the right content for their audience.
As always, we began our quarterly content planning call with a recap of the last quarter. On our call the Vice President Sales - Senior Living shared a big win with us.
He recounted a recent sales meeting with four key decision makers of a large national account he’d been pursuing. Before beginning the meeting he asked the decision makers what, if anything, they knew about the company. To his surprise they responded with his company’s branded tagline, verbatim.
As it turns out, the company had been following along with his team’s frequent posts on LinkedIn and had seen some of the articles that had been published in leading industry magazines. This meeting was proof that consistent posting of value driven content was being seen by the right people and being remembered by the key decision makers they were targeted to.
Our client ended up winning this $700,000 annual contract. Though we’re confident that it is their commitment to quality products and excellent customer service that ultimately sealed the deal, the brand awareness that the LinkedIn content strategy brought certainly didn’t hurt.
The truth is, the ROI of working with an outsourced marketing team is more than worth it for businesses who are serious about putting together a long-term content strategy. Partnering with content marketing specialists not only delivers results, but takes tasks your team finds frustrating or overwhelming off their plates so they can focus on their expertise.
You might be wondering how you could possibly be saving money if you’re hiring someone. For many manufacturers, the marketing team consists of one, maybe two people. Building an inhouse team of people with the expertise to execute your content marketing efforts can quickly become expensive, with the average national salary of content strategist being $71,000. That’s not including other expenses such as marketing automation softwares and any other tools they would need to do their jobs well. If your company doesn’t have the financial resources to hire someone or train current employees to learn how to use content marketing effectively, it might just make more sense to partner with an outsourced team of experts.
At Strategy House, Hubspot has been the best choice to tackle the four most important sales and marketing tools all on one platform. Hubspot allows us to track, analyze, and report performance from our social media efforts, company website and customer relationship management (CRM) all with the help of marketing automation.
A fully responsive, SEO-friendly website can easily be created through HubSpot. However, in order to understand whether the content and design are doing its job, there are a few key performance indicators (KPI) to pay attention to which can easily be found through Google Analytics. These are:
If your social media activities aren’t related to your business growth goals, they aren’t serving a purpose. The best solution for tackling your social media strategy is a hybrid solution of internal and external resources. Set a social strategy that will resonate with your ideal customers, and ensure your team has all the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to implement.
As your business evolves, information overload can set in. A well designed CRM will keep everything in place, from contact information and sales cycle to communication channels. Having key information in one easy to find spot, makes for seamless communication and allows your sales team to spend more of their energy on what they do best - closing sales.
Marketing automation can help scale your business by automating tasks like emails, social media, and customer relationship management. Hubspot makes marketing automation easy by focusing in on where your customer is in the buying cycle and what their needs are. It then provides them with the necessary information they need to buy or get in contact.
At this point if we haven’t convinced you that the internet isn’t going away and you should have a plan for how your team uses it to sell, we likely won’t. If however, you acknowledge that your team can either use it correctly or let it work against you, you’re ready to start leveraging content as a sales tool.
When employed effectively, content marketing on your website, social media, and via email will generate leads for your sales team, build brand awareness for the company as a whole, and reinforce industry expertise. If these are goals you’ve set for the year, it’s time to take a more strategic approach to your sales and marketing strategy.