Digital marketing helps B2B companies to increase their sales and stay established on the market in the long term. Here you can find out which focal points you should set for online marketing and which are the appropriate first steps. Technical terms are explained in the text in an understandable way.
Take Aways for B2B Marketing:
- Digital marketing also works well for business customers. Many measures are still affordable and profitable
- The competition never sleeps. Those who don't start now to position themselves better online will soon fall behind their competitors.
- Your own website must be designed in such a way that it generates high-quality contact requests. In close cooperation with the sales department, it will be clarified in parallel how the inquiries are to be processed
- If many unqualified inquiries come in, it is the task of online marketing to increase the contact quality by upstream processes.
- Communicate with your customers! This includes e-mail marketing, a newsletter and, if necessary, social media.
- Short-term channels are the most expensive. Long-term low-cost measures such as content marketing need more time to establish themselves. It makes sense to build both step by step.
- The same content can be prepared for different channels and formats. This way you use synergies.
- For the start external help by a suitable agency is needed (SEO/ SEA). You are embarking on a learning process which is different in every company.
Digital Marketing für digital Industry
Marketing has no tradition at many technically oriented companies. For engineers, it often enjoys little priority or appreciation. As a result, the discipline does not develop its full effect for establishing itself on the market. This affects small to large companies and even corporations with international presence.
Digitalisation is changing marketing massively. It opens up many new opportunities to win and retain customers. But it also threatens to be left behind if the signs of the times are not recognized. So-called performance marketing makes it possible to back up the success of measures with figures and data. Which goals are set in a sensible way? What is worthwhile and what needs to be invested?
Many specialist articles on online marketing are tailored to the consumer goods business. Many agencies have also gained their experience in the B2C sector, which cannot easily be transferred to business customers.
Marketing employees for industrial goods find it difficult to implement many of the tips in their everyday work. They lack the necessary technology, expertise and data. Supervisors have little marketing expertise and are only brought on board by convincing arguments.
B2B stands for Business to Consumer and describes pure business customer business, for example, as a supplier for required parts for plant construction. B2C stands for Business to Consumer and describes the business with end customers. An example of direct end customer business is the mail order company Zalando or the food retail trade.
Specialities of B2B Marketing
There are serious differences between B2B industrial marketing and that for B2C markets. In the business customer sector, trade fairs are traditionally of great importance, as are information events and congresses. All event formats, where people meet in person and exchange ideas among themselves in the industry, enjoy unbroken popularity. Analogue event organisation is therefore at the top of the marketing wish list for many. The possibilities online are often underestimated. It is only through the Corona crisis, where events are being cancelled in series, that specialists and managers are realising that online marketing offers a great opportunity to remain able to communicate with customers despite physical distance.
For more details you will find here shortly an article on the most important differences between B2B und B2C online Marketing.
Purpose of the B2B online Marketing
The goal of all efforts is the lead. Leads are incoming enquiries from potential customers who are interested in your portfolio. In online marketing we distinguish between two types of enquiries: own or paid leads. Own contact inquiries come via the company's website presence and are promoted by a precisely tailored search engine optimization (SEO). Paid contacts are obtained by placing paid advertisements and banners on the Internet.
The online ads are called "Google Ads" due to the dominance of the search engine Google. Only in a few cases, such as in China, are there other search engines to consider. Google Ads are useful for B2B, but mean that a certain budget is reserved monthly for this form of marketing. You need an agency or your own employee to set up, manage and constantly monitor these ads in order to implement adjustments of the bids or the playout in a timely manner. Specialist knowledge is required for this. In view of a small marketing budget, it therefore makes sense to first turn to what you can design yourself. These are SEO optimization, e-mail marketing, buyer persona and content.
Most important actions to start with:
- Search Engine Optimization for website (SEO)
- Start E-Mail-Marketing
- Work on Buyer Personas
- Start elaborating useful Content
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The improvement of your own website for findability in Google ensures that you are found on the Internet for relevant search terms. SEO optimization is an effective and inexpensive tool and belongs in any case in the toolbox for beginners and advanced in digital B2B industry marketing. After an inventory of the most important technical and content criteria for the search engines, all errors found are eliminated. If necessary, a more user-friendly navigation will be implemented. To the details of the SEO work, I will give an instruction later in a different article.
Closely related to SEO optimization is the keyword research and tracking of the website. In large companies or groups there are often their own application-oriented teams in the IT department, which provide assistance in this area. Marketing employees have the possibility to get direct access to Google Analytics. It is important in B2B marketing that forms in particular are tracked. In this way they can find out whether forms are clicked on on the one hand and whether they are sent to the other. Without this tracking, it is not clear where the leads come from and whether a form is often called up but then not submitted for some reason.
Besides the website, this is the most important communication channel in B2B. With an informative newsletter or helpful mailings you can set yourself apart from the competition and show your expertise. Through these measures, which are part of outbound marketing, you maintain direct contact with your own customers and prospects (leads). Information reaches their mailbox without detours. We are therefore independent of Google, which changes its algorithm again, or of other basic conditions which are not subject to our influence.
Email marketing kills two birds with one stone:
- Care of existing customers
- Further qualification of leads towards purchase (through invitations to events, information on products/ value-added services etc.)
The basis for e-mail marketing is the address list of all persons with whom we maintain business contact. Information about existing customers and their contact persons can be found in the merchandise management system. The address base for e-mail marketing also includes all interested parties and multipliers. Multipliers are, for example, consulting firms that do not buy products or services directly, but advise other customers to do so. Only individual contacts that are available with e-mail and data can be systematically served online. Unfortunately, a database with only existing customers is not sufficient for online marketing.
We know best what each contact is interested in, so that we can send them information from the appropriate subject area. Probably the one who has a CRM database containing all these contacts and additional information. Those who do not have this, better start yesterday than tomorrow with collecting the different addresses. For this I will give an instruction how to proceed.
Buyer Persona as a navigator to success
When choosing communication channels, it pays off to develop a solid buyer persona beforehand. What is that? The Buyer Persona is a fictitious representation for the people who decide on the purchase of your product or service or are involved in the decision. In practice, the creation of such profiles is often perceived as exaggerated by target persons. From my own experience I know that nothing is as enlightening as taking a look at the people to whom one intends to sell in an exemplary way. The result is highly relevant for everyone in the company.
There are detailed instructions on how to create the Buyer Persona elsewhere. It is important to ask the target persons about the information channels they use professionally. The information on this point is then decisive for your own resource assignment to the corresponding preferred channels. Here you can find out which social media or forums are visited by the desired customers.
Why is it important to differentiate between target groups and buyer personas? In the market segment, you can generally see the companies that could be considered as customers for your product or service. In this way you determine the target group. On the other hand, it makes a difference to look at the individual persons who prepare or make the decision to buy within the desired customer company. The pure target group is too small for your marketing. Online, every person who is significantly involved in the decision-making process is addressed and picked up. Therefore, you must have a separate image of each person, what they represent, what specific issues they deal with and through which channels they obtain their information. If the findings are all the same for the persons, they flow together in just one Buyer Persona. It is highly probable that the management of a department at the desired customer has different problems than the buyer. Ask your sales department.
Content ist King in B2B online Marketing
This is the top class of digital B2B industrial marketing. Relevant content is the best way to be perceived by customers as a competent partner. Content marketing requires staying power. It is important to be found quickly and easily understood with your own website in search engines. Once you have created a lot of useful content, your own website is the best channel to generate high-quality contact requests for sales. The leads become more and more valuable as the content progresses and the touchpoints of the customer journey improve. The content can be used multiple times: Newsletter, magazine, website, webinars, events, e-books, white papers, social media news, tutorials, videos...
Unfortunately, many B2B companies have little understanding of content marketing. Experts are convinced that the customer already knows everything and therefore does not need information in an understandable form. From experience I can say that this is a clear misjudgement against the background of own professional blindness. In the presence of experts, people do not necessarily always admit that they have not understood everything. Not only proven experts are involved in the decision-making process, but also purchasers, managers and other people who are not experts.
With content materials, the less you advertise the content with paid ads, the more complex it is. A comprehensive guidebook on a technical concept and approach, for example, did not require special ads. Even so, there are enough hits on Google. It is important to capture these search hits via the right link, then to leave data on the corresponding landing page to prevent downloads and thereby secure addresses. A company magazine is complex and tedious in its creation and permanent establishment, but in the long run it generates a lot of free traffic on the website (SEO-traffic). A small whitepaper, on the other hand, probably does not achieve much on its own and must be additionally advertised with Google Ads or banners on suitable theme portals (affiliate marketing).
Content marketing fits B2B like a glove because you show your expertise. There is relatively little competition, depending on the specialist topic and niche. The more and the better content is created, the faster you get to qualified email addresses. These are the treasure in B2B marketing. Collecting them and then processing them with sales is a must.
The selection of the information and formats to be produced depends again on the research of the Buyer Persona. Which problems and which questions do the target persons have for which it seeks solutions and answers. Where does the shoe pinch? These so-called Pain Points are addressed in the content and provided with solution offers. Current trend topics are also taken up in order to show the connection to the own performance. In this way, high search volumes on the net are served and attracted with terms from the target industry. Content marketing is an important topic and will be discussed in detail in the following articles.
What about Social Media?
Business networks LinkedIn and Xing are preferred social media channels for B2B companies. Many employees are active there because of possible job offers and like to ask the marketing department why their own company is not represented in all these platforms.
Without a doubt, social media are suitable for reaching many people quickly and seemingly inexpensively. The time required to maintain the social media sites is an obstacle and cost factor here. For example, if you have decided to support facebook as your own channel, then 24/7 support is unavoidable so that if you have a question, an answer is always available. This is essential when critical comments are made that could quickly escalate into a shitstorm. In large companies with corresponding company agreements on working hours, it is often not possible to organize continuous monitoring with the own staff. Then an agency will be called in to manage the social media channels over the weekend.
Before starting activities in social media, it is therefore necessary to check whether the target customers sought are actually present in the corresponding channels. This can be achieved by carefully creating buyer personas .social marketing is often not the first choice for B2B companies. If channels are operated and the support is organized in a group of companies, it is nevertheless advisable to only become active here if it is clear that the target group can be found in the medium.
For a start, it is more effective to let the sales department make their first experiences via LinkedIn as an international business network or Xing as a more regional network. For this purpose, each salesperson creates a profile and looks for suitable contacts and topic groups in their own industry. Accordingly, Xing Ads or LinkedIn Ads are placed later. These are significantly more expensive than comparable ads on facebook. The business networks are ideal for generating leads that are to download an e-book or a whitepaper, for example.
Indispensable, however, is a YouTube channel. Here you can explain complex services and let top-class experts from your own ranks have their say. Videos are sometimes better at conveying emotions and closeness to the customer than technical texts. These advantages benefit your sales.
There is no way around digital marketing for business customers
Today, everyone researches via the Internet. Both for private and professional questions. There is no way around an online presence. Professional online marketing begins with the optimization of your own website for readers and search engines. E-mail marketing and the regular publication of a newsletter are also part of the basic equipment. The implementation of content marketing completes the first phase of professionalization in online marketing. The development of buyer personas is an essential prerequisite for success. More sales via online marketing also requires that contact data of customers and interested parties are available in a database for action.