B2B marketing is a very different beast from its consumer-fuelled cousin… or is it? The opportunities presented by digital are allowing B2B marketers to be much more receptive to the human element of their customer base, and areas like social media, digital PR and honing a unique brand voice are now cornerstones of the B2B marketing mix. Ahead of their presentations at the B2B Spotlight Roundtable on 13 April, Figaro Digital asked some of our expert speakers for their thoughts on the hot topics shaping B2B brands.
Many B2B brands feel that their niche products are simply not geared for the churning seas of social media, but with a growing focus on the human element of B2B marketing, social media often presents a great opportunity to connect with your customers at a more casual and intimate level. So how can B2B marketers align social strategy and product to get the best leverage?
“Social media is an important aspect of any B2B marketing strategy, especially as the personalized nature of social channels makes them most convenient place for prospects to consume content that directly relates to their business interests.” says Sandra McDill, Managing Partner, Convertr. “A fully aligned social strategy recognises that social marketing propels people through the conversion funnel; it should therefore understand where a prospect currently sits in the buying cycle to fully leverage that channel.”
“They can use social to nurture their audience with thought leadership pieces of content that will engage their target audience. For niche audiences, this is especially important.” Says Simon Douglass, Founder, Curated. “Social is not just about posting too – it should be used as a listening platform, and B2B marketers should actively look to engage in conversations rather than just push their product or service to their private networks. Testimonials and case studies are very useful – nothing can better validate a product or service than a peer recommendation.”
A Four-Point Plan To Boost Your Social Offering
“Find the sweet spot!” Says Andy Wood, Strategy Director, Freestyle Interactive
“Invest in some customer research to ‘get under the skin’ of what motivates your target customers. Find ‘the sweet spot’ where your knowledge, expertise and product intersects with your customers concerns, challenges and opportunities.
“B2B customers are people too, and they’re interested in knowledge that speaks to their challenges and opportunities. They’ll be asking conscious and subconscious questions like; does this make my life easier, simpler, or more enjoyable? Does this content give me a chance to look good, and show off to my peers?
“Develop content that adds value to the ‘sweet spot’. Use the customer research to understand where the challenges and opportunities are for your target market, and look at the knowledge and expertise inside your business. If you’re product is relevant to the audience there will always be a ‘sweet spot’ where the expertise you’ve accrued over the years (and maybe even take for granted), can be extremely interesting to your target audience.
“Build trust in social and click through to product, by adding value to the online conversation in the ways described above, then once you’ve built trust, you can provide calls to action that take the audience further down the product exploration route.”
B2B customers are, as a whole, savvier and more cautious shoppers. The pressure of spending company funds leaves customers anxious that they should be getting a great product, at a great price, and with great customer service. For this reason, B2B customers often spend a proportionately longer amount of time researching pre-purchase. What are some of the best ways for B2B marketers to implement digital PR? What is its value?
“Digital PR has become increasingly popular as traditional B2B press declines and marketers turn to LinkedIn and Twitter for more relevant business content, which is ready as and when they need it.” Says McDill. “Owning those ‘micro moments’ demands both an investment in paid digital PR and a more personalised approach – serving content to individuals rather than just businesses.”
“It’s key to any successful B2B marketing strategy.” Says Douglass. “It works to make potential customers more aware of your brand, and aims to get new audiences to buy into your culture. This can be through organically-gained links, and getting your brand mentioned in the right publications. Digital PR and the coverage gained will be the founding blocks of the website’s online reputation.”
As well as conveying your brand message to the most appropriate audience, digital PR also provides marketers with the capacity to link together the different key tools of the marketing stack to provide, measure and track uplift, ROI and links. “Links in coverage are very important for a brand’s SEO value, so it’s important to gain them.” Says Douglass. “Due to years of increased link schemes and spammy SEO tactics, Google has now advised that links be gained through editorial pieces and appear naturally. It’s now vitally important for B2B marketers to adopt an integrated approach to get their brand as much coverage as possible.”
Another key characteristic of digital PR is the use of influencers to help increase the reach of your product. And no, not the avocado-eating millennials of Instagram, but established networks of online influencers. As Wood explains, it allows marketers to reach larger numbers of their target audience quickly, and in a way that’s legitimised by the voice of the influencer. “Tapping into influencer networks is the most cost effective way to quickly extend the reach of your content online, reaching the right audiences, and in ways that are much more likely to be trusted and to get engagement and click through.” He says.
“To tap into these powerful influencer networks you need to offer content that has value to the influencer and their followers. This means offering the benefit of your knowledge and expertise, perhaps even giving away some ‘secrets’, in the areas where your product or service intersects with the topics relevant to the influencer and their audience.
“It’s often possible to offer a combination of great content and paid incentives, but genuine influencers will insist that content is of high value, before agreeing to comment, share, or produce editorial.”
By taking care to communicate effectively and efficiently with their target audience, B2B brands need not fear obscurity in the crowded marketplace. By taking advantage of the particular habits of B2B customers, their considered approach, their penchant for feedback, and careful product research, marketers can make sure that every stage in their purchase journey is geared to be as simple, informative and efficient as possible.
To find out more about our great speaker line up, click here. Don’t forget, you can watch videos of all the day’s presentations here as well, so watch this space!
Continue the conversation online at @Figaro_Digital.