As trends and technologies continue to accelerate at a pace faster than many marketers can match, the New Year is going to provide even more challenges for business-to-business marketers. With that in mind, here are what I believe are the top five most essential strategies you need to consider for 2015.
B2B marketers have been disproportionately focused on the shiny new marketing toy du jour – from mobile to display to social media to content marketing and back to mobile. With the rapid growth of digital consumption and what seems like the daily proliferation of social media channels, marketers are faced with more choices than ever when considering how they want to reach the business customer.
With each choice comes a certain amount of risk as marketers choosing to put a heavy investment in one channel may miss the untapped potential of another. This leaves a smaller margin for error as highly informed business consumers have become acutely aware of how to seek out information across a myriad of interactive channels, poll their networks and complete transactions.
Any effective B2B marketing strategy for 2015 should be one that integrates every channel across every device. This approach requires marketers – with the help of their agency – to understand the experience the customer is seeking when interacting with their brand. Omni-channel is a reflection of the wide variety of choices that customers have in how they engage a brand. The successful brand will enable their prospects to use all of the available channels.
The proliferation of mobile, search and social analytics give us marketers all the tools we need to develop custom B2B strategies to hyper-target target customers with surgical precision – allowing us carve out the waste of traditional print and broadcast media and touch each prospect with the near intimacy of a one-to-one conversation.
Critical to creating these targeted messages is knowing who you’re talking to. Developing buyer personas allows you to craft and aim your marketing messaging with a higher degree of accuracy. As a digital-first agency, every campaign we develop is informed by the buyer personas of our clients. We look to yield as much information on these personas as possible, honing in on attributes such as their challenges, goals, background and the channels they use to research their decisions.
Committing to persona development lets you deep dive into needs, lifestyle, and motivations of your buyers. The work is well worth the results, which is the ability to construct more relevant content strategies throughout the buying cycle, post-purchase efforts, and account-based marketing activities. The more we understand their pains, the better we can create content that will point them in the right direction to address that pain.
A dramatic shift has already begun towards paid social media advertising, a result of the decline in organic reach as social networks surge in popularity. This is a natural result of the growing competition for audience across these social platforms from bigger brands with more resources to spend on both organic and paid social.
As social networks and large publishers move away from earned media and towards paid media, B2B marketing teams will have to spend more time – and money – investing in paid or sponsored placements to engage hard-to-reach business targets. Changes to the Facebook algorithm in late 2013 have already produced a 44 percent decline in non-sponsored brand content in users’ newsfeeds. LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Pinterest now offer sponsored content placements and ads that promise specific reach.
The days of free social exposure are over and the only way to gain mindshare over the competition is to establish a budget to supplement your organic storytelling.
The key is to invest in those social properties that are working best for you and reinforce posts with strong calls to action (CTAs) and other supporting elements. For example, rather than embedding a link to a whitepaper download in the post, send interested users to a content landing page to extend the conversation. Then split test CTAs so you can get the right piece, in the right place, at the right time to further optimize every dollar spent.
With more than 50 percent of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, B2B marketers must keep in mind that business prospects are still the same consumers outside of work that expect the same kind of omni-channel access to the types of digital experiences that consumer brands offer.
As B2B marketers, our challenge is to create these digital experiences to fit the preferences and needs of our buyer persona. More and more B2b brands are achieving omni-channel success with highly targeted digital properties that speak to very specific business users. And these efforts aren’t just flashy websites. They fold in mobile-optimized elements, offline activities and dynamic content offers to round out the personalized digital experience.
The key is to consider a “mobile-first” digital strategy so that it incorporates the totality of your content marketing and distribution strategy into dynamic display technology that adjusts content offers and image sizes based on the users’ screen resolution. Mobile is quickly becoming the hotbed of engagement in B2B marketing – if there is one race where you don’t want to get left behind – this is it.
High-Quality Visual Content
As brands turn into publishers, their content needs will span beyond grammatical accuracy and into the finer points of writing compelling copy adaptable across omni-channel platforms, crafted to resonate with the hyper-targeted personas we talked about above.
We are in an age of visual content where the need for well-crafted copy and visuals goes hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, one of the content marketers’ consistent pain points is not being able to produce enough to fill their content pipelines. This has lead forward-thinking marketers to seek out experienced agencies that specialize in creating masterfully written and visually gorgeous content specific to their buyer persona.
To do this most effectively, you must develop in-depth creative briefs with documentation that provides a complete view of what you’re trying to accomplish. Why?
- Articles with images get 94 percent more total views
- Including a Photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45 percent
- Sixty percent of buyers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in a search result
- Sixty-seven percent of online buyers say the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting a brand or purchasing a product
- Online buyers think that the quality of a products image is more important than product-specific information (63 percent), a long description (54 percent) and ratings and reviews (53 percent)
- There is a 37 percent higher level of engagement for photos over pure text