Last week, Marketing Profs and TopRank published an excellent “this is not your father’s B2B” eBook (thank you!) with 33 tips from top marketers (now embedded below) on how to bring innovation to the classic world of B2B marketing. I’ve whittled it down to what I think are the strongest TOP 5 themes.
First, there is a crucial message woven into the eBook that is increasingly important and impossible to ignore:
#1. “B’s and C’s are People (and people love a good story),” via @davidbthomas.
Multiple thought leaders in the eBook emphasized (and re-emphasized) that whether you’re labelled B2B or B2C, the bottom line is we’re all people and need to be approached as human beings for greatest success. I’m not saying you can simply take an idea from the Skittles Facebook page and apply it to your latest Big Data pitch. But I am stressing that businesses don’t get excited, people do. Here it is, straight from marketing’s best:
@omdirect: “B2B customers are people ﬁrst, B2B buyers second. So many bad B2B promotions look like they were created for robotic buyers. No one is going to be inspired to buy a laundry list of product features. Speak to their dreams, their plans and hopes, and even their fears.”
@expertbail: “I think that people make too much of a distinction between B2B and B2C marketing. When I put my clothes on in the morning and go in to the ofﬁce, I am not suddenly another person with a whole new set of values and beliefs.”
@shellykramer: “Whether it’s content marketing, social media marketing, lead gen, or other components of your integrated marketing strategy, in B2B marketing, the “B” is still your “C.” You’re still marketing to customers (consumers), but customers who happen to be consuming business-related products.”
@tomﬁshburne: “Whether B2C or B2B, the most important shift in marketing is that brand communication is no longer a one-way command-and-control megaphone. It’s a conversation.”
#2. “Make your customer the hero of your brand’s story,” via @marketingprofs.
Reality check. It’s usually not the business product or service itself that is interesting; what does get people’s attention (again, B’s are people) is how it’s actually being used in the real world. Talk to your customers. Feature them in press releases, blog posts, case studies, eBooks, pitches, bylined articles, tweets, etc. Reward them for being the true innovators, and you will quickly reap the benefits.
#3. “Focus on three things: utility (is it useful to audience?), share-ability (has easy-to-use share buttons?) and remarkability (will others pass it along?),” via @abelniak.
Know your audience (and where to find them). Give them the information they need to solve their problems, the social buttons to share the solutions, and the rest will follow. Tip: don’t forget to leverage your social testimonials in creative ways. Do whatever you can to extend the life of your social shares as their shelf life is a mere 3 hours.
#4. “The most innovative aspect of marketing right now is the ability to respond in real time,” via @martikonstant.
I understand that you’re busy and can’t be tweeting every minute of every day. So, it’s time to get smart on the tools available to you to take advantage of real-time communication. Start small. Schedule three tweets a day: one at 9am, one around Noon, and one around 2pm (most active times of day); BUT the key is to then have Twitter alert you if someone (a customer, a prospect, an investor, a partner, the press) sends you an @mention with a question, comment or story. Responding in real time will make all the difference. According to Gartner, “failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers.” Responding simply sends the message to your @mentioner that they are important and you are listening. (See more on real-time marketing.)
#5. “Marketers should use web data,” via @chadhorenfeldt.
Chad goes on to give a real-world example of what he means: “By changing the button text on our website from ‘Launch Overview’ to ‘Product Overview’ it resulted in a 109% increase in clicks and a 41% increase in conversions.” Another example…by having access to Google Analytics, I was recently able to see that a Forbes article drove more traffic to a client’s site than Facebook did. Solid evidence of where our audience lives. Measure, test and analyze. We have the data to make better decisions today. Let’s use it.
*BONUS: One huge B2B distinction (and advantage!):
@kamichat: “Unlike B2C, you don’t have to worry as much about reach, but instead you have the luxury of focusing on depth. Be everywhere your customer is, be helpful and be relevant, then they will turn to you when they are in the narrow buying window.”
This is huge, and slightly underplayed in the eBook. Because B2B marketers have the advantage of focusing on depth vs. reach, we can churn out more in-depth content, which will in turn power our Inbound PR engine with helpful blogs, e-newsletters, eBooks, social media, customer stories, and guest columns to pull our customers in rather than interrupt them.
Which tips are essential to your B2B Marketing efforts?
— Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs) October 1, 2012