How Digital Marketing Can Drive Your B2B Company Results

Digital MarketingI suspect that two types of people will read this article. The first group consists of those who are fairly new to digital marketing. They need to understand how they can benefit and a few tips to get started. The second group consists of those who are participating in digital marketing, but need to improve their results. This may require a bit of tweaking or a major re-work of their strategy.

So, what can digital marketing do for you and why is it worth spending your precious time and budget? Assuming you do it right, digital marketing can:

  1. Build your company credibility. In most B2B industries, prospects check out a company online before engaging, let alone buying. You have a chance to establish the online presence that either adds to, or subtracts from, the strength of your brand. And if things get off track, you can use reputation management techniques to help restore your brand value. One important point about an online presence: If you are going to go, go BIG. There is a lot of “me-too” out there and you need some compelling differentiation to cut through the clutter.
  2. Generate leads and revenue at low cost. If you are going to compete with larger players, you need to play the digital marketing game as well as they do. This means capturing the email addresses of your prospects and customers, or getting them to follow you on Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the other interactive social media platforms.
  3. Shorten the sales cycle. B2B companies that have complex and/or long sales cycles have found digital marketing to be enormously helpful in saving the time of their reps and improving sales conversion rates. For more on this topic, read my article about Six Ways to Shorten the Sales Cycle. More good news: The same techniques that shorten the sales cycle can give you the added benefit of lowering your customer acquisition cost (CaC).
  4. Create awareness. You can’t win business from those that don’t know you exist. The cyber world is vast, amorphous, chaotic and constantly changing. You have to grab—and hold—your share of the attention to succeed. Many successful online companies started out as local firms with a very limited market reach. And many small- to mid-size companies have grabbed market share from larger competitors because of their aggressive and effective use of digital marketing.
  5. Provide anywhere and anytime access. Just a few years ago, mobile access was something of an afterthought. You built your website for desktop and laptop viewers and then figured out how to make it mobile-friendly. However, we are now seeing prospects and customers utilizing mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) at the rate of 1/3 to 1/2 of total views in some industries. The key to making this work for you is to provide a website that is both mobile-responsive and full of the type of information necessary to move prospects closer to a buying decision.
  6. Give you a great testing platform. Want to test a new message, product viability or landing page? Digital marketing techniques like SEO, pay-per-click or online advertising can quickly test your marketplace receptivity. The idea is to test quickly, abandon what doesn’t work and scale what does work.

The reality every B2B company faces is that consumer and business expectations are increasing. It is easier than ever for prospects to find your competitors if you don’t offer them a productive and pleasant online experience. For our clients, we complete something called a website and social media analysis to find out what digital marketing actions they need to take to surpass competitors. This type of analysis can be a good jumping off point to get you on the right path to digital marketing success.

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Digital Marketing – How to Use it to Beat Large Competitors

CompetitorsBeing a smaller fish in a pond full of big fish can be a daunting position. Fortunately, there are a few advantages to being the underdog. First of all, your competitor probably doesn’t know you as well as you know them (see below). You can pivot on a dime where it takes the big company much longer. Also, you can often fly under the radar and implement new targeting, messaging and media before they know you exist.

From a digital marketing standpoint, here are some of the options you have when faced with larger competitors:

  1. Give up. No, I am not being funny here. There are situations when the competitor has so much marketing firepower (dollars and people) that you have little chance of moving the needle in your favor. In such cases, a strategic retreat is not such a bad idea.
  2. Compete on price. This is an oft-used strategy that usually backfires. It makes you out to be a ‘commodity’ player and you still don’t get a fraction of the mindshare of the big company.
  3. Take a head-on approach. Sometimes, the best option is to analyze the competitor’s weakness and attack this loudly and publically. I worked for an enterprise software company where we successfully used this tactic to take on a company 12 times our size. It worked because the industry giant had issued a new release that had more bugs than new features.
  4. Be a specialist, not a generalist. This is the niche marketing, “go where they aren’t” strategy and it is the one that I usually recommend.

Before going to war against a large competitor, it’s vital that you thoroughly understand the battlefield. As Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Keeping this sage advice in mind, one of the things you need to know about your competitor is how they are using digital marketing. What are they saying, to whom and on which media? For clients, we often do in-depth research on our their competitors’ usage of both paid and non-paid media. This can produce some very useful insights and help us target our efforts where the opportunity is strong and the other company is weakest. We also take a close look at what is being said in cyberspace about our product and/or services area. This is real, roll-up-your-sleeves work, not just quick analysis made on a few Google searches.

Digital marketing has a broad definition, so we’ll save the detailed how-to discussions for later. But you had best analyze all the tools and media available and choose a few that you can really focus on, instead of being very shallow in many media. As an example, we have a client in the B2B services space that is putting 90 percent of its efforts (and budget) in just four areas of digital marketing:

  • Highly relevant content related to its niche market (including consistent blogging).
  • Compelling landing pages that convert at over two times the industry average.
  • Tightly targeted (and long-tail) pay-per-click promotions with a cost-per-click (CPC) of about 40% of what competitors are paying for more generic search terms.
  • LinkedIn content, company and showcase pages, and sponsored InMail.

By the way, last month Merkle released its Q4 2016 Digital Marketing Report analyzing trends across paid search, social media, display and organic search, while providing highly regarded insights into the performance of major industry players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo. It’s worth a read.

Digital Disruption and Disintermediation – Key Drivers for B2B Companies

Digital DisruptionOne of our super-smart clients sent me a really interesting article titled The Battle is for the Customer Interface. The article talks about how the customer interface (usually web-based) is where the action and the big profits are.  To quote from the article: “The new breed of companies are the fastest-growing in history. Uber, Instacart, Alibaba, Airbnb, Seamless, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google: These companies are indescribably thin layers that sit on top of vast supply systems (where the costs are) and interface with a huge number of people (where the money is).”

So what does this trend have to do with “disintermediation” and “disruption,” and why should you care?

Read More

Winning Digital Marketing Strategies

I just had the opportuntity to participate in an interesting eBook project.  The DigitalMarketingOne.com folks (part of CustomerThink) brought 15 highly experienced authors together (including yours truly) to produce an eBook titled Strategic Roadmap for Digital Marketing in 2011: eBook for Marketing Execs.  The book covers three primary subject areas:
  1. Channels: advertising, search marketing, mobile marketing and social media marketing.
  2. Techniques: content marketing, lead management, revenue performance management and customer marketing.
  3. Optimization: accountability, ROI, management practices and technology strategy.

My chapter deals with the critically important subject of lead management.  Why, you may ask, is lead management so darned important?  Because generating leads is only part of the battle. To be successful in the end-to-end marketing and sales process, you have to manage your leads in such a way as to convert as many of them as possible into sales opportunities and then into new customers.  This means you have to capture leads, and offer the right content at the right time.  You need to apply nurturing techniques that make the prospect feel that he or she is buying in a way that is comfortable – as opposed to being sold.

Do yourself a favor and download the eBook to learn from some of the best digital marketing experts.  The price is right (free) and you don’t even have to give your contact information to receive a copy.  You can pick up your copy here.

Cheers,

Chris