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By Lane Ellis.

What will successful B2B marketing look like in a post-pandemic world, and what can marketers do today to be ready?

B2B marketers are facing daunting and unprecedented challenges — not unlike a Rubik’s Cube — during the global health crisis. Each impediment, however, also offers valuable lessons that can help us as we transition to 2021 and the future opportunities that await.

Let’s begin unraveling the mysteries of the post-pandemic marketing world, with six dynamic tactics B2B marketers can use today to prepare for the future business landscape.

1 — Influencer Intensification: Subject Matter Experts

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Post-pandemic marketing will likely feature a noticeable intensification when it comes to the use of B2B influencers. As one of the most pandemic-proof marketing practices during the global health crisis, B2B influencer marketing is poised to continue growing in 2021 and beyond, due in part to the value industry experts bring to everyone involved.

“Traditional marketing channels are drying up and even trade shows are imperiled in 2021,” Mark Schaefer, chief operating officer at B Squared Media observed. “The influence marketing trend will be amplified as businesses seek trusted voices to join industry conversations,” Mark added.

Mark’s prediction is among dozens of insightful influencer marketing statistics in our recent 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report, and the following data points speak to the strength of industry influencers and point to increased use as we move into 2021:

  • 90% of B2B marketers expect their influencer marketing budget to increase or stay the same
  • 78% of B2B marketers believe prospects rely on advice from influencers
  • 74% of B2B marketers say that influencer marketing improves customer and prospect experiences with a brand, and 90% plan to increase their budget in the near future
  • 63% agree that marketing would have better results if it included an influencer marketing program

“Digging into the results, one can quickly see a trend in B2B marketers who are optimistic about influencer marketing yet not confident about their ability to execute,” Shama Hyder, chief executive at Zen Media recently observed in her Forbes interview with our co-founder and chief executive Lee Odden, “New Report Says B2B Influencer Marketing Still Has Massive Room For Growth.”

“With the pandemic causing a loss of in-person B2B tactics — field marketing, in-person trade shows, and experiential marketing efforts, for example — much of where buyers focus for information are digital channels,” Lee noted.

“This is exactly where influencers provide valuable and trusted perspectives. Trust, reach and engagement are always challenges for B2B brands, and collaborating with trusted industry experts that have the attention and respect of buyer audiences has proven to be an effective solution,” Lee added — a sentiment also expressed by Sarita Rao, senior vice president of marketing at AT&T Business*.

“Working with credible B2B influencers helps to build brand authority through real, human conversations and interactions.” — @saritasayso of @ATTBusinessCLICK TO TWEET

Sarita Rao Image

According to research conducted by Forrester the pandemic has seen new opportunities for influencer marketing, as 63 percent of U.S. consumers have spent more time using social media platforms, 58 percent have noticed more content from influencers, and 51 percent have had a positive attitude about influencer content and found it valuable.

Additionally, between March and July 2020 sponsored influencer posts saw a five-fold increase in interactions, reaching 57 million in July, according to report data from Shareablee.

Among U.S. and U.K. consumers who follow social media influencers, 72 percent said they have spent more time using social platforms during the pandemic, and 64 percent also said that they are likely to continue the same level of usage during post-pandemic times, according to GlobalWebIndex survey data.

Aside from its resilience during the pandemic, influencer marketing has for some time been poised to see more mainstream B2B usage, a move that is likely to steadily increase in our post-pandemic marketing world.

To learn more about B2B influencer marketing or beginning a pilot program, here are six additional recent resources we’ve compiled:

2 — Persistent Programs: Always-On Marketing

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Studies have shown the increased effectiveness of always-on marketing programs that replace one-and-done single-use campaigns with ongoing efforts that match the always-on nature of today’s consumer.

The case for a post-pandemic shift to always-on marketing programs is bolstered by compelling recent data from our report, such as:

  • 76% of B2B marketers find that the strategy of working with influencers through always-on engagement or when combined with campaigns delivers results
  • 75% saw increased views of brand content using always-on influencer marketing
  • 60% saw an increased share of voice, 55% saw more media brand mentions, and 50% saw increased brand advocacy through always-on influencer marketing
  • 89% of B2B marketers using always-on influencer programs expect their budgets to increase or remain the same, versus 73% for marketers running traditional campaign-based programs

This all points to persistent B2B marketing programs becoming more widespread among successful B2B marketers in the post-pandemic era, and it’s easy to see why, as the partnerships formed through always-on programs build ongoing brand credibility and trust that can be difficult or impossible to achieve using one-and-done campaigns.

“With brand trust at a low, it’s important for B2B companies to invest in relationships with credible experts that buyers do trust.” — Lee Odden @LeeOddenCLICK TO TWEET

If you’re looking to learn more about why always-on programs achieve better results and how you can implement them, check out the following recent articles we’ve written about a topic that will only become more important in 2021 and beyond:

“Being ‘always-on’ has allowed our team to build meaningful relationships with influencers.” — Garnor Morantes of @LinkedInCLICK TO TWEET

Garnor Morantes Always-On Influence Quote

3 — Shifting Search: New Challenges & Opportunities

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Like blowing dunes, the sands of the search technology landscape change often, and in the post-pandemic environment marketers will see a shift as Apple seeks to make inroads with its own search experience and whittle away at Google’s long-standing dominance.

Paid and organic search marketing efforts are a vital part of most B2B firms’ strategy, and pandemic or not these efforts would have continued for the majority of businesses. The global health crisis has given us a newfound appreciation of the importance of findability and how valuable a sound search plan is for businesses today, and this will continue into the foreseeable future.

Search strategies no longer involve only a website and traditional search engines, as more people than ever also search for answers and information from within social media platforms’ own often-lackluster search mechanisms, which some see as presenting new challenges, as well through the increasing use of voice search.

66 percent of B2B chief marketing officers said that their 2021 budgets would see an increase in spending on search engine optimization (SEO), with the same percentage also planning to boost spending on paid search, according to Gartner’s annual CMO spending survey.

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I expect a growth in importance and usage of structured data, an increase in predictive search features, and a shift to a more technical SEO ecosystem. @aleydaCLICK TO TWEET

Recently I took an in-depth look at why search is more important than ever, in “SEO Strategy: 5 Reasons Why It’s More Important Than Ever For B2B Marketers,” and we’ve also explored other aspects of SEO in B2B marketing in these articles:

4 — Virtual Variations: Social VR Landscapes

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This year the world has spent more time using both traditional social media platforms and social virtual reality worlds, and when our lives return to some semblance of normal, all flavors of VR will seek to capitalize on an audience that — although no longer captive at home — has come to know and expect that brands use the technology.

51 percent of U.S. adults have increased their use of social media during the global health crisis according to eMarketer, and nearly a third have spent an additional one to two hours of time on social platforms during the pandemic, leaving more time for audiences to explore the new virtual worlds being created by social firms, such as Facebook’s Horizon VR experience.

“The convergence of both the physical and virtual worlds will create new opportunities in the future in the way friends, families, and even colleagues connect,” Cathy Hackl, author and futurist recently noted in Forbes.

By 2022 some forecasts predict over 95 million augmented reality (AR) users in the U.S. alone, including over 60 percent using VR with more than 30 percent using VR headsets, a trend that savvy B2B marketers are keeping a close eye on for post-pandemic marketing spending.

eMarketer AR/VR Image

Other survey data has shown that 39 percent of B2B professionals expect to install new AR and VR technology in the next 12 months.

With in-game, AR, and VR marketing opportunities seeing greater interest in 2021 and beyond, B2B marketers can learn more about the importance of experiential storytelling in the following pieces we’ve written about these and related subjects:

5 — Evolving Marketing Events: In-Person & Virtual

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How will marketing events change in a post-COVID19 world?

There’s no question that in-person marketing events are win-win experiences for the many parties involved, from speakers and attendees to exhibitors, sponsors, and others, yet during the pandemic creative new takes on virtual conferences have presented viable alternatives that are likely to be with us for good, continuing to augment in-person events once the health crisis ends.

The pandemic has seen Facebook begin offering paid event options for businesses, with direct in-stream purchases available for eligible Facebook business pages in 20 countries including the U.S., offering digital marketers new monetization and event marketing options.

Virtual events help traditional in-person conferences expand their reach and gain new online audiences — people who may eventually also attend an organization’s physical events.

Similarly, in-person events such as marketing conferences may — in post-pandemic times — serve as good examples for some of the purely virtual events that have come into existence this year out of necessity, pushing them to begin their own new physical events.

92 percent of marketers have said that they believe putting on successful virtual events will be important until the pandemic ends, and some brands have already chosen to postpone or cancel their events all the way through the middle of 2021, including major players Facebook and Microsoft.

73 percent of B2B event organizers have had to cancel a physical event because of the pandemic, and 81 percent have provided virtual alternatives, according to survey data from The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).

2020 July 24 CEIR Chart

The time is bound to arrive when in-person events return, however, and smart B2B marketers will be prepared to incorporate both virtual and physical conference experiences for learning, networking, and selling.

Having an influencer marketing strategy makes sense for taking full advantage of both virtual and in-person events.

“Partnering with influencers is more important now than it ever has been,” our president and co-founder Susan Misukanis explained. “Targeting the right influencer communities can be the best way to expand virtual event attendance and reach into a broader audience — who may not have planned to travel to your live event or conference,” Susan added.

Partnering with influencers is more important now than it ever has been. Targeting the right influencer communities can be the best way to expand virtual event attendance and reach into a broader audience.” @smisukanisCLICK TO TWEET

To level-up your event game for both virtual and physical conferences, here are six articles we’ve published to help:

6 — Delivery Diversity: New Communication Channels

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The pandemic has both driven us apart and brought us together in new ways, and given us creative methods to both tell and hear compelling digital stories.

New communication channels have arisen, such as the virtual worlds of Facebook’s Horizon and others we’ve already explored, along with the huge rise in online video communication through Zoom, Slack, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and others.

The mass turn to video conferencing has also helped drive a large increase in both mobile app usage and advertising spending, highlighting the importance of making mobile a part of any well-rounded B2B marketing strategy.

Engagement among mobile ads has climbed by some 15 percent during the global health crisis according to survey data, and despite an overall drop in ad spending for the year, mobile ad spend has fared the best, as its 15 percent decrease was less than the 25 percent seen for desktop ad buying, according to additional data.

Business app opens saw a 26 percent year-over-year increase from March through June, report data shows, as seen here.

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“We’re all the same size rectangle on the Zoom screen.” — Vanessa Colella of @CitiCLICK TO TWEET

A rare pandemic silver lining is how we’ve all found new ways to communicate and  — more importantly — the stories we’re telling. Storytelling will be key in the post-pandemic marketing landscape, and to help you weave authentic messages that audiences will remember here are six recent articles we have available on this important topic:

Don’t Forget Your B2B Marketing Gravity

via GIPHY

The post-pandemic world will see intensified use of B2B influencer marketing, the growth of always-on programs, shifts in the world of search, more social VR, the evolution of events, and new communication channels, and we hope that by exploring these areas here your future marketing efforts will achieve newfound success — even if you’re no closer to solving that Rubik’s Cube.

Succeeding in any of these areas takes considerable time, effort and experience, which is why many firms choose a top marketing agency like TopRank Marketing.

Contact us and find out why firms including Adobe, LinkedIn, AT&T, 3M, Dell, Oracle, monday.com and many others have chosen us for award-winning marketing.

By Lane Ellis.

Lane R. Ellis (@lanerellis), TopRank Marketing Social Media and Content Marketing Manager, has over 36 years’ experience working with and writing about the Internet. Lane spent more than a decade as Lead Editor for prestigious conference firm Pubcon. When he’s not writing, Lane enjoys distance running (11 marathons including two ultras so far), genealogical research, cross-country skate skiing, vegetarian cooking, and spending time with his wonderful wife Julie Ahasay and their three cats in beautiful Duluth, Minnesota.

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Information acted upon is power.

Data is a crucial part of any business. Without it, you would be relying on guesswork and trial and error tactics. Everything revolves around data. Even our five senses are data-gathering machines that help us navigate through life.

Big data has become a buzzword these days. Many B2C and B2B businesses are heavily capitalizing on it. There are different ways in which you can use it to gain a competitive advantage. One big area is sales and marketing.

In this article, we will take a closer look at how big data is reshaping the marketing efforts of B2B companies. There are opportunities but also challenges in this new environment. Next, we will examine the connection between big data and the ABM approach which is the most popular B2B tactics these days.

How can “Big Data” help exactly?

If you had to summarize “big data” in one sentence you could say that big data offers a possibility to create both high impact and highly personalized marketing campaigns by offering deep insights into both the market and the consumer.

By having this deep insight, you will be able to create highly accurate and responsive campaigns. Knowing who to target, when, and with what message and price are the key benefits “big data” provides.

How does this function?

Big data is essentially any collection of data that can’t be effectively analyzed by existing traditional models of data. Since data can be in both structured or unstructured formats, and from numerous channels, you first need to make all the data accessible and usable. After, data analytic techniques can be utilized to effectively process and analyze all of the data. These actions are usually achieved by using a big data platform.

Examples of data sources can be competitive analysis and market information, marketing research, product knowledge data, website traffic data, social media posts, press releases, call center logs, customer feedback, device data, 3rd party data, consumer sentiments, and transaction logs.

How can big data affect marketing?

Marketing and sales departments were historically divided, and they still are. They have different targets and often come to a disagreement regarding several topics. For example, is the lead qualified enough and who’s at fault because they didn’t convert to a customer?

This tendency can be seen across the entire ecosystem of the company. Indeed, a company is just a collection of different systems, much like a large Fortune 500 company operates. In the case of an enterprise, these systems can be the ERP, CRM, Product Information Management System, Order Management System, and Marketing Automation System.

This is the old, so-called, silo approach to departments. Big data analytics helps us to turn all these different systems into a unified framework with a precise collective set of goals. All these systems are sources of data that can be used to create a perfect go-to-market strategy, set up different marketing segments and audiences, or to guide targeted advertising strategies and campaigns.

Big data is reshaping the anatomy of a company. In order to leverage the knowledge and data, all departments of the company should be integrated and interconnected.

Knowing where to focus marketing efforts is important. With big data, you can achieve more with precise targeting, lead generation, and increasing sales. Combined with predictive analytics and AI methods, big data can help us determine where the customers will be, how they may act, and what they may “do”. This responsiveness translates to better demand generation, the ability to create new markets and segments, while enhancing and optimizing both multi-channel and omni-channel marketing experiences.

Customer analytics, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), email marketing, Push/SMS/mobile app marketing, and digital ad platforms are just some of the areas where big data brings a competitive advantage.

Opportunities for B2B companies

Providing a unified and exceptional customer experience across all channels is the end goal that will increase your b2b sales. Great “above and beyond” customer experience can be achieved through personalization and customization.

Through personalization, we come to relevance and precise targeting. A simple example is a webpage, offer, coupon, or ad that displays a different message for an existing visitor compared to a new website visitor. If you are running an ecommerce business, you can deliver a perfectly timed discount, cross-sell, or up-sell campaign. This strategy or variation thereof, can apply to many types of businesses, webshops and digital storefronts and marketplaces are typically the platforms that get the most out of these personalization marketing strategies.

Another example is the ability to customize the price on a customer-product level. Again, highly valuable for any B2B eCommerce business since each customer is different. This wouldn’t be possible without the automated stream of data. You can also optimize the order and reorder processes by using the information about the previous purchase.

Some companies structure their entire business around data to produce something called the ultimate product. The ultimate product or service is that which came as a direct response to customer insight. By analyzing every piece of information to determine the most beneficial set of features, the product is guaranteed to be a success (if everything else goes well).

Challenges for B2B companies

If you compare a B2B and B2C market you will spot a tangible difference. Whereas you can have millions of users in a B2C market you have a lot less in a typical B2B setting. This in effect is the main challenge for B2B companies.

The number of customers influences the quantity of data, and the quantity of data influences the ability to draw conclusions. However, eCommerce businesses are an exception here. Although still having far fewer customers than a B2C store they can produce a large enough pool of actionable data. Again, this is not a rule.

Big Data and ABM strategy

There is an interesting aspect of a B2B market...

The number of customers is not large, they usually require highly customizable services, and prices will differ from one account to another. The usual approach of segmenting different customers into customer groups starts to lose its purpose since every customer is an island for itself. This line of thought has led to the creation of the ABM approach.

The ABM approach is the most popular B2B tactic. It stands for Account-Based Marketing. If you are not familiar with it, ABM is a business marketing concept that treats every account as a market. This approach represents a shift from the usual MQL (marketing qualified leads) strategy.

The major prerequisite for ABM is to have good, quality data. To identify key accounts and targets companies, while gathering strong firmographic and demographic data. After they have identified their markets they should reach them across a variety of channels and deliver relevant content.

Can you see the pattern? ABM is the most successful approach for small SMEs and other B2B players and it will almost always translate to an increase in B2B sales. However, that’s not possible if you can’t obtain quality data. The kind that big data platforms can generate.

Conclusion

Every company in every age has its own unique challenges and opportunities. We all know what happened to those who acted upon them. Luckily with the aid of the right technology, even the relatively small B2B companies have a chance to compete against bigger players.

The key is to have good quality data. 

The last few years have seen a growing trend among marketers. There is a rising demand for data quality. Each year more marketers list the quality of their data as a determining factor of their go-to-market strategy.

If you don’t know where to start from, we as a digital marketing agency can help you.

We are experts for B2B digital marketing and our main goal is to help you set up a successful ABM strategy, which you can’t do without quality data.

Everything is connected! Do you think you got what it takes to be the winner?

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In a previous series of posts, we have taken an extensive look at the characteristics of Inbound marketing, distinguishing it from Outbound, recounting its history, and identifying the latest developments. The goal was to describe the evolution of a concept, from theory to practice.

In this post, we will look at inbound marketing from the point of view of B2B, looking at why it’s effective, and focusing on the features that make it stand out: the production, management, and strategic distribution of high quality content (content marketing).

What is B2B marketing?

“Business-to-business marketing refers to the marketing of products or services to other businesses and organizations. It holds several key distinctions from B2C marketing, which is oriented toward consumers.” This definition is taken from the Marketing Solutions Blog from, LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking site with over 550 million members.

In a broad sense, B2B marketing content tends to be more informative and direct than B2C content. This is because the purchasing decisions of businesses, compared to those of consumers, are based on the impact on profits. The return on investment (ROI) is rarely a consideration of the average consumer, at least in the sense of a purely “material” investment (the ratio between expenditure and immediate economically quantifiable benefit), but it is an absolutely primary objective for business decision-makers.

B2B marketers find themselves managing a complex sales process, where they are called upon to identify the real decision-makers and the main stakeholders of the target company within a corporate landscape that is unique and characterized by specific organizational charts and decision-making flows. It becomes absolutely necessary to acquire a solid and precise knowledge of the company so as to be able to map the people really involved in the decisions by reaching them with relevant and personalized information.

Who is B2B marketing aimed at?

B2B marketing campaigns are aimed at any individual who has the ability to influence purchasing decisions. This can include a wide variety of professional titles, up to the C-level.

B2B marketing in context 

To start getting an idea of the context, let’s take a look at the Sagefrog Marketing Group’s 2020 Marketing Mix Report B2B (download here), which contains data on B2B marketing strategies, competitive trends and emerging tactics:

  • Between 2017 and 2018, at least 40% of B2B companies invested a tenth of their budget in marketing. Since then, that number has risen to almost 50%
  • The total expenditure is distributed across the following: 56% on Digital Marketing, 52% on Website Development and 36% on tradeshows and events
  • Content Marketing (27%) is an area in constant growth

In the 2018 B2B Content Marketing report focusing on Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends by CMI and MarketingProfs, 91% of companies employ Inbound Marketing  as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Of the remaining 9%, 54% said they plan to invest in content marketing within 12 months; 43% have no immediate plans to use content marketing; and 4% have used content marketing in the past.

Quality content: a strong return on investment

The Sagefrog Report highlights that quality content can offer a strong ROI when properly optimised for search engines so that it can be easily found and shared over and over again.  This means that quality content combined with clear and graphically pleasing landing pages and contact forms can help provide qualified leads. To achieve this goal, each piece of content must be designed in such a way that it is informative, relevant, searchable, shareable, not overly promotional, and above all, distinctive from that proposed by competitors.

Where the objectives of marketing and sales meet

Among marketers’ main objectives for 2020, in the first place is the need to convert leads into customers, followed by increasing sales, growth in brand awareness, the creation of “Thought Leadership,” and finally, increased website traffic.

What’s important to point out here is that the two main objectives are in fact priorities that marketing and sales teams share, which suggests the need to harmonize operations between the two departments.

Sales and marketing leads get personal

Referrals are the main source of qualified marketing and sales leads (63%). This is by no means surprising: B2B draws useful knowledge and contacts from the interpersonal networks of professionals, who are more likely to invest their time and money working with a company if they can rely on an existing connection.

In any case, if referrals are the main source of sales and marketing leads, inbound marketing is also gaining traction (33%). In both cases, we can read the strong signal of increasing attention to the personalization of communications.

In fact, the marketing experts interviewed by Sagefrog say that in 2020 they will explore personalization strategies (47%) through Account-based marketing (42%), video marketing, (41%) and inbound marketing (39%), AI and automation (36%), conversational marketing in the form of chatbots (33%) and influencer marketing (27%).

How do I create a B2B marketing strategy? The best B2B inbound marketing tactics

The competition to win the attention of customers gets tougher every day. Building a B2B strategy that delivers results requires considered planning, execution, and management. In the aforementioned LinkedIn article, the steps for planning a B2B marketing strategy are outlined. The steps for getting there, as the aforementioned LinkedIn article describes, are part of any inbound plan because they incorporate two fundamental assumptions:

  • Personalized, useful, and relevant content that authentically conveys the brand’s vision and value system through relevant channels
  • Continuous listening to the feedback of the reference target, previously profiled
  1. Develop a global vision and select specific and measurable business objectives
  2. Define the market, never forgetting that you’re talking to a person. While B2C goods often have a wider and more general audience, B2B products and services are marketed to a set of customers with specific needs related to their sector, department, and the business function. However, potential customers are also individuals with precise demographic data, urgencies, and priorities.
  3. Identify B2B inbound marketing tactics and channels. Once solid information about the target audience has been defined, determine how and where to reach them. The knowledge gained through the previous step should help. In any case, it is good practice to prepare a list of questions to establish time and place, both physical and virtual, in which to try to intercept those who will be the recipients of targeted marketing actions.
  4. Create content, distribute it and organize campaigns. After deciding which channels to use, plan and implement best practices for each one. Each action should, in any case, be built around some critical elements: a message, expressively translated with a creative approach, a series of useful insights, the most accurate targeting possible and some understandable, transparent and persuasive call to action.
  5. Measure and improve. Consult analysis and metrics reports in order to activate review and fine-tuning processes in real time: even with a well-studied basis, the creation of content and campaigns is intrinsically based on hypotheses and forecasts and must be optimized until you have substantial involvement and conversion data to rely on. Observe the channels, topics and media that resonate the most and then enhance them.

Essential elements of B2B inbound marketing tactics  

Truly effective B2B marketing is conversational, focused, and contextually relevant, and a B2B marketing strategy must include a variety of content, most of which is typically inbound: blogs, white papers, social media, email, videos.

Blogs: Regularly updated blogs provide organic visibility and direct inbound traffic to the website, whether institutional or product based. The blog can contain different types of content: copy, infographics, videos, case studies and much more.

Search: SEO best practices must be updated in conjunction with Google’s algorithm, which is changing more and more often, making it difficult to keep up. Lately, the focus has shifted from keywords and metadata to the interpretation of the user’s signals of intent.

Social media: Both organic and paid traffic should always be part of the mix. Social networks allow you to reach and attract potential customers where they are active. B2B customers increasingly use these channels to search for potential suppliers and to inform their purchasing decisions.

White papers and ebooks: Resources containing valuable information can be gated (requiring users to provide contact information or perform another action to download the content) or freely available. Often used as B2B lead generation tools.

Email: Although its effectiveness in recent years has been impacted by the proliferation of spam filters, email is still widely used today.

Video: Content that can be used within many of areas listed above (blogs, social media, e-mail) is becoming increasingly important for B2B strategies

In conclusion: Be human

When it comes to B2B marketing, the biggest mistake we could make is thinking that you are addressing an abstract and impersonal entity. In fact, as it should be clear by now, any marketing action will be aimed at recipients who are first and foremost real people who are driven by emotional and cognitive motivations. Although corporate decisions tend to be more rational and logical in nature, this does not mean that the content communicated must be formal or “robotic” in tone.

For the same reason, campaigns that are too broad will not be able to connect with (or influence) the audience in the same way that those aimed at specific segments can. Defining and segmenting the audience is an absolutely fundamental preliminary step in creating a message that speaks directly to individuals driven by a real need.

Personalization and relevance are essential: “speaking the language” of customers is a valid precondition because it allows us to cross an initial barrier, that of understanding. But it’s not enough: it’s necessary to publish content and ads that thematically adapt to the place where they are displayed. For example, shorter videos with simpler and more immediate narrative hooks work better on social media feeds, while a longer video is probably better suited to YouTube. Put yourself in the end user’s shoes and humanize your relationship with him or her right away. As in any Inbound strategy, even in the case of B2B marketing the starting point—each person’s needs and desires—is unique.

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By Lee Odden.

We talk a lot here on Online Marketing Blog about influencer marketing and one of the benefits of incorporating the voices of influencers in brand content is not often covered: customer experience.

What’s the connection between CX and influence? A big part of customer experience is trust and many customers simply do not trust brands or advertising.

That’s where adding credible 3rd party voices to brand content comes into play. Brands that want to deliver the most relevant, engaging and actionable experience for their customers will often incorporate external experts that already have the attention of the audience that brands want to reach.

Partnering with relevant influencers to co-create content can open doors for brands trying to engage hard to reach and increasingly skeptical audiences. Those content collaborations can also help deliver an experience that is more credible and trusted than brand content alone.

Of course, simply including influencer quotes in brand content is not enough. In order to optimize brand content to be more trusted, influencer contributions must be genuine, authentic, and ultimately impactful.

The starting point for influencer collaboration success begins with brands identifying specific topics of influence. Those topics need to be aligned with what customers care about so that when the brand identifies and engages with influencers on those topics, they are authentic to customer interests. Influencers that understand firsthand what buyer goals, pain and interests are in the context of solutions the brand offers can be critical for content collaboration that is genuine and impactful.

Another part of influencer and brand authenticity is disclosure. If the influencer has been compensated in any way, they need to disclose the relationship as sponsored or as an advertisement. If the content is relevant and engaging, the disclosure will not be a distraction.

Boosting the credibility of B2B content with influence can be complemented with making sure that content is findable. That is where the intersection of SEO and influence come into play.

Search engines like Google have realized long ago that delivering the best search experience correlates with successful advertising engagement. That means the left side organic results and ads alike need to be the best answer for customers.

For brands, delivering a great user experience in search means understanding searcher intent and providing content that meets those expectations at the very moment of need. Modern SEO best practices do exactly that: provide highly specific, useful information that is relevant to the purpose of the customer in solving their problem or meeting their need.

For optimal SEO performance, those best answer content experiences should be delivered with relevant, fast loading pages that are mobile friendly and deemed credible by other websites that link to them. Even better, is when that content is optimized for trust with relevant 3rd party experts.

Effective Content Marketing is about delivering useful information where, when and in the formats that are most meaningful to buyers. Optimizing content for effective discovery, consumption and action according to buyer preferences relies on insights for each of those outcomes. How buyers discover solution content, their preferences for content format, device and topic and the triggers that will motivate action are all insights that can lead to corresponding metrics such as Attract, Engage, and Convert.

For example:
Attract: Organic visibility of target topic content with a high click through rate from Google search results to brand content
Engage: On-topic content consumption, interaction, engagement and low bounce or abandon rates
Convert: Visits that result in relevant action: Subscriptions, downloads, trials, demos, inquiries, sales, referrals

While the marketing world is focused on the many obvious approaches to improving customer experience, those that understand the value of content that is optimized for findability and credibility will realize even greater benefits.

By Lee Odden

Sourced from TopRank Marketing

By Nick Nelson

Oh, look. Another death of email marketing headline. All too often, we see posts that lead with this provocative clickbait proclamation, while keeping the contradicting nuances under the surface.

Ironically, this kind of practice is exactly WHY email marketing has seen its reputation tarnished. The focus has shifted too far toward style at the expense of substance. Marketers became so singularly obsessed with compelling opens and clicks, through irresistible subject lines and poppy CTAs, that many of us lost touch with the core value of this digital channel: direct, one-on-one engagement.

I’m here to tell you that this value still exists, and might be more essential today than ever, in spite of (maybe even because of) the waters becoming so muddied. Recipients will welcome a little freshness and clarity in their inbox, from those brands and influencers that are willing to buck the trend.

Dead? No way. Email marketing is alive and well, and it can still be a central component of a successful, customer-centric marketing strategy when done right.

The Rise and “Fall” of Email Marketing

This life experience might be unique to fellow millennials, but I’ll never forget the jolt of excitement I felt as a preteen logging into America Online in the mid-90s and hearing those three magical words: “You’ve got mail!” The internet in general was too new and grand a concept for my young mind to grasp, but anyone could take delight in a mysterious message sent expressly to you — like a present waiting to be unwrapped.

via GIPHY

Fast-forward a couple decades, and the quaint charm of a full inbox has largely disappeared. Irrelevant messages began to proliferate and pile up like AOL trial discs. Spam started running amok, to the point where — as of March 2019 — 56% of all email messages were categorized as such. The sheer volume of messages we receive, and the dread of digging through them all, can cause legitimately troublesome levels of stress and anxiety.

As a result, many emails are now being cast aside, either because inundated human users click delete instead of open, or because increasingly stringent filters are diverting them to the spam folder — especially if they come from a company or unfamiliar sender.

There’s no doubt that trust has been shaken. Anecdotally, I’m sure most people reading this have been scarred by an experience where they had to completely shut down an email address because it became overwhelmed by promotional junk, or where they repeatedly tried to unsubscribe from an unwanted newsletter to no avail.

It is at times like these that well-intentioned, creative, value-driven marketers can answer the call and rise above the fray. Here’s how.

Rejuvenating Your Email Marketing Strategy

A fact that might surprise you: open rates aren’t in a state of steady, ceaseless decline. In fact, according to Super Office, the average rate has generally been increasing (or at least remaining steady) year-to-year over the past decade-plus:

Email Open Rate According to Super Office

Meanwhile, a new Email Usage Study from Adobe finds that the average person spends 5+ hours per day checking email, including 3+ hours at work.

As Adobe’s Sarah Kennedy puts it in a blog post: “The Adobe survey findings solidify how important email still is in the everyday lives of our customers, and this means there is still a big opportunity for marketers to utilize email to engage with people in relevant and useful ways.”

Relevant and useful. Therein lies the key. Here’s how we can pursue these ideals.

Refine Your Mailing List

First of all, opt-ins are essential. If you can’t verify that a person on your list actively volunteered to receive emails from you, remove them. You might even want to consider a double-opt-in (send a confirmation email once a person signs up). It’s better to write for 10 people who truly want to receive your messages than 100 who are ambivalent or worse.

From there, any type of segmentation you can do will help. Can you divvy up your list based on areas of interest or specialization? If so, you’ll be able to create different content (or even slight variations of the same content) oriented more toward the specific individuals receiving it. A little personalization goes a long way.

It’s better to write for 10 people who truly want to receive your messages than 100 who are ambivalent or worse. @NickNelsonMN #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Use Email to Build Relationships, Not to Sell

There are multiple problems with salesy emails. One: people generally don’t like them. Two: spam filters tend to be triggered by the terminology used in these messages. Three: they represent a fumbled opportunity.

When someone opts into your newsletter and then starts getting overtly pitched right away, it can feel like a betrayal of trust. As a relatively direct and personal form of marketing communication, email should be used to deliver value and build brand affinity. This is not to say you must avoid any type of lead generation elements in your messages, but make them subtle and sparse.

When someone opts into your newsletter and then starts getting overtly pitched right away, it can feel like a betrayal of trust. @NickNelsonMN #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Speak as a Human, to a Human

Your emails should never come from an address that looks like this: noreply@company.com. Use a real person’s name in the sender field (an executive or marketing manager or whomever you want to use as the face of your outward brand communications) and craft content in a way that feels human and friendly.

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, has an awesome newsletter called TotalAnnarchy that epitomizes this genuine vibe. At Social Media Marketing World earlier this year, she gave a talk about creating a newsletter people want to read. Among her tips: focus less on the NEWS and more on the LETTER, make it delightful, and write as if your message were only going out to one person.

I love the way Ann frames the present value of this channel as a marketing tool: Email is the only place where people, not algorithms, are in control.

Email, when it’s done well, is like hot fire. It can burn like nobody’s business. Ann Handley @MarketingProfs #EmailMarketing Click To Tweet

Make Your Emails Visually Interesting

This is tricky terrain because different email clients will display images differently (and sometimes not at all) but in general it’s wise to err on the side of making your emails more colorful and lively. Among their examples of powerful B2B marketing campaigns, Campaign Monitor shares this webinar promo email from AdWeek featuring an animated GIF to infuse their content with understated movement.

AdWeek Email Marketing Example

(Example via Campaign Monitor)

Just like on social feeds, compelling visuals can make your emails stand out in a crowded inbox. But make sure you don’t cross the line into gaudiness.

Make Email a Thoughtful Part of Your Overall Strategy

“We need more traffic to our blog post. Do an email blast.” This kind of reactionary thinking is a problematic aspect of email marketing.

As we say repeatedly, promotion should be built into campaigns from the start, and every channel should have a distinct purpose. Connect your email strategy with your goals and give it the proper effort to become a worthwhile standalone piece rather than an obligatory add-on.

Bring Your Email Marketing Strategy Back to Life

The rumors of email marketing’s death are greatly exaggerated. This channel can still be a key fixture in your content strategy if you give it the care and attention it deserves. But like other content channels, in order to maximize its efficacy we need to emphasize quality over quantity, focus on building trust-driven relationships, strike a human resonance, spice up the visuals, and connect it to our larger goals and strategy.

When you achieve this, you just may reignite that “You’ve got mail!” spark of wonder that recipients feel when your messages pop up in their inbox.

 

By Nick Nelson

Sourced from TopRank Marketing

By Lee Odden

Before starting on any new marketing initiative or trying a new tactic, B2B marketers need to answer and essential question: Why?

While most B2B marketers won’t admit it, many still practice some “spaghetti/wall marketing” wherein each year they throw new digital tactics “against the wall” to see what sticks without really knowing why a tactic would work for their audience over another.

This is not to say that you should slow down on innovating and trying new things. But it’s important for success to be strategic and test. I challenge marketers to do more research around customer insights and preferences so that any changes they make are driven by data and informed hypothesis—rather than simply trying new things just to see if they will work.

Focusing Your Data Lens

For content, we focus on three types of customer data:

  • Discovery: Where, when, and how buyers find information that helps them identify a solution.
  • Consumption: Preferences for channels, content types, topics, formats, devices, and experience.
  • Action: What triggers will motivate the desired action.

With buyer discovery, consumption, and action metrics, you’ll know how to create awareness, great customer engagement, and compelling offers that matter to your customers. And you’ll always know which approach to use to improve your marketing because it will be customer driven.

A New View of Content

What does that customer driven content look like in today’s landscape? It’s data-informed. It’s interactive. It’s influential.

For example, client Prophix provides Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software in an industry not known for exciting marketing. With an understanding that B2B buyers are also consumers, they decided to launch campaigns that would go beyond educating buyers to “info-taining” them.

To create a standout content experience for their annual report for the financial planning and accounting industry, they brought together financial industry influencers with an interactive online game. The quiz-themed game asked questions using data from the report as well as from the influencers who were represented as avatars within the game.

Prophix Crush It Interactive Quiz

The creative element to the content plus the collaboration with trusted industry experts drove performance of this program above and beyond expectations, beating the benchmark for asset views by 600%.

With a taste for what interactive content and working with industry influencers for content and promotion can do, Prophix followed up with another campaign featuring a simulated voice assistant named Penny.

An interactive microsite highlighted the intersection of finance and artificial intelligence with Penny as the guide. By interacting with Penny, users were able to access a group of influencers that provided their expertise via audio and text. The microsite had 189% more views than the benchmark and 642% more engagement.

Interactive Influencer Asset with Voice Assistant

By taking what is often called “boring-to-boring” content and packaging it as an interactive experience with trusted experts providing useful information, Prophix was able to realize their “new lens” of marketing as something that was beyond a shiny object. It was effective marketing.

An Eye to the Future of B2B Marketing

B2B brands are increasingly investing in interactive influencer marketing to engage with industry influencers and co-create content that is packaged with brand content in an experience that is engaging for influencers and buyers alike.

The sheer volume of information and media that confronts people in the business world is overwhelming and often pretty boring. Creating compelling experiences with interactive content is one way to stand out, differentiate, and optimize for effectiveness. At the same time, buyers don’t trust advertising or brand marketing messages. Co-creating content with trusted experts brings credibility and interest to the brand message.

My upcoming presentation at the 2019 Clever Content Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark will help B2B marketers understand how to “break free of boring marketing” by exploring the top interactive formats, best practices for influencer engagement and case studies featuring mid-market and large enterprise B2B brands doing interactive influencer marketing right. Learn more about my Break Free of Boring Marketing presentation here.

By Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.

Sourced from Top Rank Marketing

By Alexis Hall

B2B brands’ marketing departments are constantly evolving. Over the past 10 years, marketing teams have undergone a seismic shift to accommodate changing technology, millennial consumers and employees, and to breakdown silos between marketing and the rest of the business.

To keep pace with the changing marketplace, many B2B brands are working to find the perfect balance between growing out their in-house digital marketing team and partnering with an external digital marketing agency. Most brands are seeking agency partners to provide a spectrum of services, from tactical support to creative strategy and content innovation. And they need a partner that can adapt and evolve along with their marketing needs and opportunities.

So, the question is: To find that partner that can grow and adapt to your needs, what should you be looking for?

In our humble opinion, the best brand/agency partnerships help brands stay ahead of their competitors with integrated strategies, an eye on the latest and greatest, and the ability to measure and iterate on the success of campaigns. Here are some key characteristics that you should be on the lookout for.

What to Look for in a B2B Marketing Agency Partner

#1 – They have an eye (and hand) on emerging trends.

Interactive content. Influencer marketing. Podcasting. Virtual Reality. As the B2B landscape and B2B buyers evolve, brands and marketers need to adapt their digital and content marketing strategies to not only stand out from their competition and reach their target audience audience, but connect and resonate with buyers. And that means carefully investing in new types of content and strategies.

Of course, dipping your toe into new waters can be scary, and you’ll need to set aside time, resources, and budget for testing new mediums and following trends. And at the end of the day, you need the expertise to get it done. That’s where an experienced agency partner can help you gain traction.

For example, if you’re interested in going bold with interactive content; look for an external agency with experience here to help you:

  • Planning: An experienced marketing agency likely already has a planning checklist developed and has worked through the kinks you haven’t even considered yet; like where to host, how to optimize multi-media files, and how to create a UX experience in an non-static asset.
  • Tools and Equipment: New trends often require new technology. Tap into a marketing agency’s existing tool set and expertise using the tools.
  • Optimization: Another benefit of agency specialization is that they’ve already optimized the process, the promotion mix and experience, so your brand gets the benefit of all that experience; instead of having to start from scratch.
  • Measurement: A great agency partner will be able to help you set up tracking and provide reporting to tell you if and how emerging trends are really working for you.

#2 – They possess undeniable strategic acumen.

External agencies are great at providing support and creative ideas as needed for projects. However, the development of agency talent, expertise and context, provides agencies with strategic expertise to help you develop the marketing approach that informs their tactical support.

Tapping into an outside perspective to deep dive into owned, competitive, or prospect data to develop a comprehensive strategy and recommendation can be a really impactful set up in planning. External agencies can offer brand support in:

  • Owned and competitive audits.
  • Strategic roadmaps.
  • Customer or prospect research and profiles.
  • Overcoming marketing pain points like a lack of qualified leads or a sudden drop in traffic.

#3 – They challenge the status quo.

In-house marketing teams offer the benefit of people that are deeply immersed within the brand and the team. Frequently they sit in the same building, same floor as the rest of the team, making them easily accessible for questions, brainstorming, and strategy development.

This can be a great benefit when it comes to the free flow of information and integration across team. However, familiarity can be stifle innovation. But the good news is that it can empower an outsider to think differently.

By offering a third-party, neutral perspective, an agency can drive tough conversations that push you out of your comfort zone to create next-level strategies, and help:

  • Persuade: Agencies’ specialization and work across many clients can drive knowledge and credibility which may be able to convince a marketing team to take the next step.
  • Bring new ideas: Agency marketers, who live and breathe new marketing, and often focus on creative hires, can supply brands with new tactical or creative approaches which can push the envelope and grab attention within the marketplace.

#4 – They prioritize client relationships.

The relationship an external agency creates with your brand and in-house team is so critical. The best agency/brand relationships are based on trust and genuine alignment of goals.

Strong relationships are a key factor in creating innovative and successful marketing tactics. As you are considering agency partners, look for:

  • Alignment of values, purpose and mission: Agencies and brands that fit and work best together tend to have alignment around key culture items. Teams which exemplify the brand/agency core values are able to connect and enjoy working collaboratively toward the same goals.
  • Engaged Listening: Agency partners need to advise, but they should also be adept listeners. During the prospecting phase, a potentially great agency partner should be able to really listen to your business’ needs and present a solution that syncs with your brands’ objectives.
  • Thoughtfulness: Yes, great agency partners are responsive to your needs and queries. Perhaps more important than a quick response; is thoughtfulness and quality of response. A really great partner will offer you well thought out and creative solutions to challenges and questions, to really drive results.
  • A referral from someone you trust: When it doubt, ask your colleagues and associates for a referral to an agency they love. If they love them, that agency is already more likely to align with your values, be familiar with your brand voice and requirements, and think of you as a highly valuable partner.

#5 – They’re committed to transparency of contracts, tactics, and data.

Along with prioritizing the relationship, the right agency partner will build trust with your brand by offering transparency, which comes to everything from contract deliverables to the results of your core KPIs.

If you are partnering with an agency to help you test emerging trends; it’s especially critical that a great partner share what is and is not working, so your teams can together optimize and iterate.

Whether it’s a change in timeline, a tweak to a tactical mix or an honest assessment of how you’re tracking against benchmarks, a good partner will drive straight forward conversations that help you move forward in the best way.

#6 – They know your niche.

In B2B it can be especially tough to get up to speed on a new vertical or product. Tapping into an agency that has a similar client base to you; speeds the learning curve as much as possible.

Industry trends (like IOT for example) often span verticals; so look for a partner that understands the lingo, but also has an existing network of influencer and contacts.

Better Together: Find a Partner You Can Grow With

The agency place within your marketing department will continue to evolve as your team does. And partnering with right agency can provide you with a partner who will help you innovate tactically and strategically, while providing your in house team with the support they need to reach their goals in 2019 and beyond.

By Alexis Hall

Sourced from TopRank Marketing

By Triniti Burton

80% of all B2B leads generated via social media come from LinkedIn, according to this Oktopost infographic. Being recognizes as a thought leader or influencer through mastery of LinkedIn B2B marketing can deepen engagement with high-value audiences and provide significant visibility for your company and brand. Of the network’s 500 million members, 61 million hold senior leadership positions and 40 million are B2B decision-makers.

The LinkedIn marketing tactics that were effective in 2016 are unlikely to work today. The LinkedIn algorithm now rewards high-quality content creators with visibility, while significantly limiting the exposure of lower-quality LinkedIn users.

Although you can certainly find tips and tricks on how to “beat the algorithm” with optimized posts, you can’t really hack your way to hard-earned status as an B2B marketing influencer with genuine engagement by posting sub-par content.

If you really want to be perceived as an industry thought leader and build a LinkedIn following, there are some top B2B influencers who provide some valuable cues to help you network your way to the top.

8 Influencers Who Rock at LinkedIn B2B Marketing

1. Trish Bertuzzi | CEO at The Bridge Group, Inc.

With over 216,000 followers, Trish Bertuzzi’s LinkedIn presence is among the most prominent in B2B marketing. Her posts emphasize the value of human relationships and trust in marketing through compelling anecdotes and stories. Followers can anticipate a mixture of insights through podcast links, videos and other highly relevant content.

Trish has mastered the art of creating compelling, multimedia content which is easily consumable for LinkedIn users – including stories, anecdotes and short-form video. She’s also an engaged member of conversations around B2B sales, marketing and entrepreneurship who actively comments and shares content from within her network.

2. Sangram Vajre | Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder at Terminus

Aside from his role at Terminus, Sangram Vajre is well-known for his daily “#FlipMyFunnel” podcast on B2B marketing, sales and customer success. While his LinkedIn presence and social media strategy for sharing content reflect a broad mixture of B2B insights, his podcast’s promotion on his LinkedIn profile is particularly inspiring.

Aspiring influencers may want take a cue from Sangram’s mastery of LinkedIn. His podcast is well-optimized for search with a well-written description and visually appealing links to recent content.

3. Aaron Ross | Co-CEO at Predictable Revenue, Inc.

With over 30,000 followers, B2B marketing influencer and author Aaron Ross is an excellent LinkedIn source for webinars, videos and articles on sales conversion optimization.

Aaron takes full advantage of LinkedIn Pulse to share his thought leadership efforts, frequently publishing insightful interviews with B2B sales leaders who get to the heart of issues such as customer experience, revenue forecasting and prospecting best practices.

4. Matt Heinz | President at Heinz Marketing, Inc.

In addition to his role at Heinz Marketing, Matt Heinz is well-known throughout the demand generation and ABM verticals for his work as a keynote speaker, author and host of Sales Pipeline Radio.

With over 34,000 LinkedIn followers, Matt focuses on sharing stories and insights through long-form posts which are optimized for visibility on the network. His thoughts spark engagement and conversation among his followers, not only increasing his own visibility but encouraging more connection between marketers and sales pros.

5. Jon Miller | CEO and Co-Founder at Engagio

As one of the original co-founders of Marketo (which as we all know recently landed a massive acquisition by Adobe) Jon is a highly sought-after keynote speaker and recognized influencer in topics such as marketing automation, predictive analytics, ABM and demand generation for B2B marketing.

Jon regularly shares high-value content with his LinkedIn followers to help them up-level their strategies and rethink their current marketing tactics.

6. Peter Isaacson | Chief Marketing Officer at Demandbase

With over 25 years of experience in B2B marketing and account-based marketing (ABM), Peter Isaacson is widely recognized as a key expert in topics such as demand generation, multi-channel marketing, lead management and more. His LinkedIn updates include valuable insight into the future of ABM, best practices for account-based marketing success, industry news and emerging research. Peter regularly contributes to LinkedIn Pulse to further share his expertise in account-based strategy.

7. Scott Vaughan | Chief Marketing Officer at Integrate

Near and dear to our hearts at Integrate, Scott Vaughan is recognized B2B marketing influencer. His areas of focus include integrated marketing at the intersection of art and science, sales enablement, thought leadership marketing and strategic positioning.

Scott’s actively shares an array of industry news, trends and research, while always including his own thoughtful analysis on each piece of content.

8. Ann Handley | Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

And last but far from least, with over 338,000 LinkedIn followers, Ann Handley is among the most influential thought leaders on LinkedIn. Ann’s posts garner hundreds to thousands of interactions on LinkedIn. She shares content that teaches, enlightens and inspires us to all be better marketers, writers, professionals and people.

If you’re looking to add someone to your feed whose posts will often make you think or smile, and who can help you step up your game, Ann is definitely a LinkedIn influencer worth following.

For more insight on how the most effective B2B organizations are leveraging LinkedIn for influencer marketing, social listening and other strategies, we recommend The 4 Critical Roles of Social Media in Demand Generation Marketing.

How to Measure B2B LinkedIn Marketing Success

Although there are several social media analytics platforms for business, they aren’t really built to measure the success of your personal LinkedIn strategy.

Brian Honigman, Forbes Contributor and NYU Professor, recommends individuals adopt the following metrics to measure individual effectiveness on LinkedIn:

  1. Followers
  2. Followers Acquired
  3. Impressions
  4. Interactions: Likes, Shares, Comments
  5. LinkedIn Referral Traffic
  6. Engagement Rate
  7. Engagement by Post Type

Creating a Winning LinkedIn Presence for B2B

For demand generation professionals who aspire to be thought leaders, LinkedIn is the ideal platform to create an optimized profile, develop a content strategy, engage with others and build an audience. Not only does LinkedIn offer strong B2B lead generation potential for businesses, but it’s also among the ideal channels for people to develop their reputations as subject matter experts. And after all, it’s our presence as leaders in the industry that truly amplifies the presence of our brands.

While LinkedIn algorithms are in a state of rapid flux and the role of social marketing is evolving quickly, influencer status is worth striving for. At the end of the day, what’s really important is to be authentic, find your voice, share helpful content with your unique point of view and engage with others who are adding value to the community.

By Triniti Burton

Sourced from B2C Business 2 Community

By Aashish Sharma

61% of marketers say that generating quality business leads is their biggest challenge. This shows that all businesses need to spend a lot of energy to attract prospects. To make things a bit easier, it’s important to be clear about some simple but proven marketing tactics — these 12 techniques are essential if you want to know how to attract customers more effectively.

This blog looks at ways to attract a group of prospects or customers potentially interested in your product or service. It is important to properly qualify your business leads good correspondence to your business, the potential for transformation into prospects or, in other words, the serious leads that are worthwhile to provide sales efforts.

Let’s dive into the techniques that will turn your business into a lead generation machine:

Direct Marketing: personally, contact your potential client

The Direct Marketing is a technique used to communicate directly with prospects, e.g. IM, during a call or e-mail, or in person. A direct marketing message almost always involves a specific call to action, intended to trigger a direct response from your target. These responses can range from clicking a link to subscribe to calling a phone number or visiting a website. A strong call for action might even prompt the target to buy a product directly. A direct marketing message can be the first point of contact that prospects have with your brand

A) Know that some people feel this form of marketing as intrusive and painful. As you often contact your prospects without having an appointment, adapt your communication and highlight what are the benefits for them.

A well-targeted direct marketing campaign always has great benefits, as it allows you to:

B) Ability to contact targets that are difficult to reach otherwise

Example: Older generations are not very engaged in digital, but they might be interested in your offer if you call them.

C) Test the attractiveness of your product or service because potential customers must respond immediately

Example: You have designed a new product, but you are not sure how people will react. Why not call a test audience and see how they react, before going ahead and throwing it out?

D) Achieve clear and measurable results

Example: You can very easily evaluate the impact of your direct marketing campaign. If you sent a direct email to 100 prospects inviting them to download your catalog for free, and 20 of them did, it gives you a 20% positive response rate. You can then qualify them and feed them to sign the deal later … knowing exactly how many leads have become customers. Very handy for easily measuring success and calculating the cost of acquiring new customers that results from this campaign.

1. Cold Solicitation: to convince your prospects in real-time conversations

Skip unsolicited calls to potential customers, or cold calling”, was one of the favorite techniques before, but its popularity declined. This is understandable because calling people can be tiring and tedious if they have never heard of your company before — and they might not be super interested.

This does not mean that this form of telemarketing is always a bad idea. Having real-time conversations with potential customers can play an important role in convincing them. And if you target your efforts on decision makers, you greatly increase your chances of convincing them.

Focus on clear, targeted audiences with a well-prepared script, and compare statistics about your business (number and duration of your calls), quality (how many decision makers did you reach, how many leads do you have) qualified?) and the conversion rate (how many demos or purchases have followed the call?) to find out if this is a technique in which you should invest. You can buy call lists for this, or build them yourself, for example via events or online searches.

2. Direct Mailing: Make sure your target audience sees your messages

Direct mailing, whether sent by e-mail or mail, can also be a valuable technique if you want to target a specific audience effectively. Make people aware of your brand or catch their attention with creative and interesting messages. For example, top executives may be important prospects for your business, but they do not have much time to browse the web for information. Make sure they do not miss out on your content and send them a direct email with information that you have compiled specifically for them.

Direct marketing: advantages and disadvantages

The reasons why direct marketing is a popular marketing tactic are clear: it allows for personal contact, helps you reach an audience that might be hard to reach otherwise, and provides you with exact figures about who you’ve called or contacted via your mailing.

However, calling or sending a mailing to all these prospects in a personalized way takes a lot of time. And sometimes your efforts are not even appreciated, because not everybody likes to be contacted unexpectedly, or finds that your messages are a little too urgent.

Do not worry: direct marketing is always a valuable tactic, especially when combined with other marketing techniques. And best of all, you can easily do it yourself without any outside help.

Inbound Marketing: distribute interesting content to attract the attention of your customers

We have already indicated that if you contact prospects through direct marketing, you should share valuable content with them … But the content is what, exactly?

The content is presenting information to an audience that can be shared in different formats. There are many possibilities: in addition to e-mails you can write blogs, ebooks or product catalogs, create videos and more.

Content plays a key role in inbound marketing. By broadcasting informative, educational or entertaining content, you create a real relationship with your audience. Providing content to your potential customers helps them find what they need and shows that your business is trustworthy. Without speaking to them directly, you help your prospects assess their situation, find a solution and make a decision.

With inbound marketing, you give potential customers the exact information they are looking for. Perfect for buyers who like to find out carefully before (or even without) a face-to-face conversation.

3. Content: the basic component of all your marketing actions

According to Forrester, for each content sent by a marketer or a salesperson, buyers read three others elsewhere. The buyers’ self-information is real, and our environment exposes us to a lot of content. It’s your job to be heard despite the noise, to find new ways for prospects to find you and to provide them with the information they are looking for.

Keep in mind that content is the core component of all your marketing campaigns, from e-mail to social networks. High-quality content can help you break into information overload on the Internet, and help you earn the trust of your prospects.

You already know that you can create content in a wide variety of formats … But where to post it once you’ve created it? Well, your website is one of the most important places to publish exclusive content. This might seem a bit controversial, but you should even do it for free.

Your content is the first step to attract visitors. Now it’s time to think about turning them into prospects. Your content may be free, but that does not mean you should not get something out of it: what if you asked them for their contact information?

Using web forms to upload your content offering is a great way to gather information about prospects. Why not offer them to subscribe to your blog? A blog can bring a lot of value to your website because it keeps your readers interested and, hopefully, will make them come back for more. Moreover, quality written content also plays an important role in improving your natural search engine ranking …

4. SEO: Attract prospects by sleeping

SEO (“SEO” for Search Engine Optimization) is the set of actions that improve your ranking on search engines. Suppose you sell office supplies — it would be great if people found your website by typing “buy office supplies” as search.

People use search engines all the time, especially Google. With SEO, you make sure that the content you create matches what people are looking for.

The more your website is optimized, the higher it will be ranked high on the search engine results page or “SERPs” (Search Engine Page Ranks). And that’s what you want because it will greatly increase the chances of finding you and clicking on a link pointing to your site.

If you’re looking to optimize your website, try to increase its relevance and authority, because Google values ​​informative content and benefits web pages that use the same vocabulary as your target customers and answer any questions they may have.

->To put it simply, relevance refers to the ability to answer your audience’s question. For example, the associated search terms at the bottom of a page might give you an indication of what your customers are looking for. Google will give your website a higher score if you can provide clear answers to searches.

->Authority is measured by the number and quality of links from other web pages — what you can do first by creating relevant content, or secondly by having guest experts contribute to your blog (“guest blogging “).

Imagine that you sell a wide range of pools. When people are considering this type of purchase, they may be looking for different alternatives. A blog about the differences between concrete, vinyl-clad and fiberglass pools could answer some of their questions and therefore increase your relevance.

Some of your suppliers also find your blog very useful, so they put a link to your website. When a landscaper notices it, he suggests that you work together. You write content that they will post on their website, which will put their visitors in touch with your business. These links to your website will increase your authority and help you reach a new audience.

Choose to invest in SEO if you want:

->Obtain consistent results. It takes a while to appear on the first page of the search engine, but once you are there, you will enjoy a significant increase in traffic.

->Create an authoritative website. This is a well-established resource or website to which one turns for a particular niche. An authoritative website will drive traffic to your page in a sustainable way, and help your business build its reputation until you’re popular enough to dominate the market — which is only possible with smart content and good SEO planning.

Increase the value of your website and get more search traffic because you appear higher in the search engine.

Inbound Marketing: Pros and Cons

The SEO efforts you provide have a long-term impact and they cost you almost nothing — as long as you do not account for the resources you spend to optimize and create your content. All of this might sound a little awesome at first, so it’s a good idea to contact an expert to guide you through the basic steps. Many external agencies and freelancers can optimize your website or create effective SEO content.

You cannot ignore the fact that everyone is online, so you have to be too. People are also actively looking for information, so you should provide it to them. Through inbound marketing and SEO, your business becomes a respected thought leader and source of information. It also makes your website easier to find. If your prospects are aware of your existence, they are no longer surprised when you contact them, so it’s a great idea to attract prospects online and then follow-up by contacting them personally.

Paid online advertising: to reach a more targeted audience faster

Online ads are a great way to reach more of your target audience and find leads. Let’s take a look at some of the most common techniques.

5. Online Advertising & Retargeting: Focus on Your Target Market

Online advertisements are ads on websites. They look like classic magazine ads, but with one important difference: you are fully aware of the results. It is possible to follow the ads online: who clicked on it? What were the demographic characteristics of those interested? The more you know about your target, the better you can customize your ads.

Online advertising is useful for targeting audiences with different demographics or behavioral characteristics. For example, if your business is active in different cities across the country, it might be interesting to target only people who live in these locations. You can also choose where you want to make your ads visible: choose an online publishing space where your prospects spend time. Imagine selling cars: you would like your banner to appear on a website that compares the price of cars.

If you do not know which websites visit the prospects you are targeting, or if you want to distribute your paid shares, taking advantage of retargeting ads can be a good idea. These ads follow visitors to your website via a cookie and then reappear on other sites they visit. These reminders about your business help bring prospects to your website once they are ready to make a decision.

6. Search Engine Advertising (“SEA”): pay per click to get high quality leads right away

You may have already noticed that when you have something, the first hits on Google are ads. Pay-Per-Click advertising (PPC) is a form of Search Engine Advertising (SEA) that shows ads in the search engine. Advertisers bid on keyword their keyword list. For example, if you were a plumber, you’d try to use keywords like ‘plumbing’, ‘boiler repair’ or ‘repining’. The advertiser only country when someone clicks on the displayed ad.

Paid Online Advertising: Pros and Cons

Use the PPC technique to attract prospects if you want to:

->Get immediate results and speed up traffic in a short period of time, such as product launches or seasonal promotions.

->Generate highly targeted traffic. The PPC also allows you to reduce the number of your prospects based on their demographic characteristics. This means that you define which prospects have an interest in seeing your ads, which leads to high-quality leads.

->Try new things. Spend the field with new products or new offers and learn more about how people respond by spending a reduced budget. If you notice that your idea works, go further and create a campaign on your different marketing channels.

When we talk about search engine advertising, everything revolves around Google. Use their video tutorials to set up a campaign yourself, or consult an expert. If paid advertising is one of the main marketing tactics you use, it can cost you a lot. Instead, it’s best to use it for small-scale testing, or as a complement to your other marketing tactics.

Social Networks: combine community animation and lead generation

66% of marketers notice a positive evolution of their lead generation by spending only 6 hours a week on social networks. It’s time to create an account, be visible and active by regularly posting content, and respond to questions and expressions of interest. Even putting a “like” on someone’s post or commenting on their photos helps users remember your brand.

7. LinkedIn: Do you make new relationships to sell more

Finding a prospect through LinkedIn can be very simple, but also take time. Examine the connection suggestions made to you and evaluate whether they match your offer. LinkedIn also offers a large number of groups. Join a group of professionals who might be interested in your business and send them a login request.

Talk to them once they have accepted the connection and use the right sales techniques to close a deal. It’s easy — if you take the time to follow up and keep track of your connection requests and messages.

If you are willing to pay to get some new prospects, you could also use LinkedIn ads. The optional Lead Collection feature redirects members who click on your ads to your landing page, where they can fill out a contact request. It’s very easy for the user, and it helps you build a list of prospects very quickly.

8. Facebook: reach people close to your target audience

Facebook also helps you to generate more leads on social networks. For example, use the ability to get a direct link to your website. The platform also allows you to subscribe to a newsletter directly on the network, so you can quickly get contact details of visitors interested in your newsletter.

When it comes to advertising, Facebook offers simple ways to reach your target audiences.

->Custom Audiences: The first method is to download a list of emails and match the emails to users. You have now created a custom audience for your ads. Custom audiences are made up of people who have taken an action that you have specified, such as going to your website or downloading your app. They are often used to track current users

->Similar audiences: You can also create a similar audience from a list of customer emails, which creates an audience of people similar to your current customer database. There are many ways you can build your database, like hiring someone for B2B data service, having opt-in forms, collect data from sales department. In other words, you use the demographics of your customers to reach a wider group of people who might be interested in your services. A similar audience is useful if you want to size your ads and find a lot of new leads.

Social networks: advantages and disadvantages

The wider your reach on social media, the more prospects you will attract without spending anything. Rome was not built in a day, nor your LinkedIn and Facebook account. Be active and post attractive content to collect more likes and comments. This will increase your chances that new audiences will see your content in their newsfeed.

When it comes to attracting a large number of potential customers, paid options such as “LinkedIn Lead Collection” or “Facebook Ads” will generate more leads. It is wise to use them as a tactic that complements your other marketing actions. Of course, you should be present on social networks, because they are not only valuable to attract or convince a prospect, but also to please your customers and keep them informed.

Email Marketing: so, your potential customers keep your brand in mind

E-mail should be one of your main forms of communication because it helps you stay in touch with your audience. Create targeted messages to send relevant content to your potential customers and keep them in mind. And why not segment your different types of audiences and send them custom content?

An automated and generic e-mail is another easy way to find out who’s interested in your business or who does not, simply by asking your prospects. Give them the opportunity to respond easily to your message (for example by clicking on a call-to-action button or subscription form) and use this opportunity to compile a list of prospects you should call a day. To know more see this articlehow to build a targeted email list

Want to know more about email marketing? We have listed a whole set of techniques to turn your prospects into customers — check them out here.

Marketing by e-mail: advantages and disadvantages

Email marketing is inexpensive. You do not need expensive software or hardware and you do not have to waste time sending emails to all your customers separately. Instead, you can standardize your communication for segmented groups of prospects.

It is also very easy to follow the results. With minimal tracking, you know which emails have been received, which people have unsubscribed, the open rate (people who opened your email) and the clickthrough rate (people who opened your email and click on the link that is included).

Remember that people see a lot of content every day. If your prospects receive a lot of emails, how are you going to stand out? Think about what you want to send and who you will send it to. Using original object titles could already help increase your open rate. Adapt each campaign to a specific target audience and send people content that interests them if you want e-mail marketing to work for you.

Affiliate Marketing: Let Other Businesses Help You Sell

In affiliate marketing, someone recommends your product. Whenever a purchase is made on the basis of this recommendation, the ambassador receives a reward. In its most traditional forms, affiliate marketing is established through partnerships. Every time your partner sends you a new client, he receives a commission. The most modern affiliate marketing is placing banners and URLs on partner sites.

By using a tracking URL, you can keep a perfect overview of all the traffic and sales you generate through different promotional techniques. Affiliate marketing is similar to Google’s online advertising (Display Network), but the difference is that you build the partnerships yourself, instead of having to choose from Google’s criteria.

Affiliate Marketing: Pros and Cons

It takes time and energy to establish reliable affiliate partnerships with third parties, especially if you take into account the discussions to agree on the commission amounts and set-up fees. In addition, the commissions come naturally nibble a piece of your profit margin.

But if you do it right, affiliate marketing increases the visibility of your products and services and is a good way to get additional sources of income.

11. Referral Programs: Use Word of Mouth to Acquire New Clients

Testimonials and shared experiences from satisfied customers are a great way to attract potential customers in a cost-effective way. People like to have social proof and concrete results. Word of mouth is also inexpensive: satisfied customers are often more than willing to promote your business for free.

Consider who you are targeting and what similar customers you have. Approach these clients and ask them directly for a recommendation or think of incentives that would encourage them to do so. Ask them for a recommendation when they have just had a really positive experience with your customer support or give a high score to your business … or simply approach your most loyal customers. Make it easy for them to give you a recommendation: do not make them write long letters but a short and pleasant message that they can share.

Referral marketing is a bit similar to affiliate marketing, where partner sites and magazines look after your ads and promote your business. The important difference is that a referral program invests in ambassadors who can recommend your brand to friends and family — Word of mouth may be the oldest marketing channel in the world, but it is still valuable.

Recommendation programs: advantages and disadvantages

Recommendation marketing helps you reduce the length of your sales cycle. People you contact through a referral program will rarely be interested, as cold prospects might be, and calling hot leads helps you save money.

But do not be too urgent. Let people decide if they want to recommend your business. Even a satisfied customer might not want to, because recommending a brand is a big problem for some people because it affects their reputation.

Just set up a referral program, and let people come to you. Do not try to make as many transactions as possible, but appreciate the recommendations you receive.

12. Event Marketing: to convince your potential customers face to face

Since there is no better form of advertising than sharing the experience of a satisfied customer, why not try to please them at an event? This is the perfect opportunity to promote what your brand represents, to show some of the solutions you provide and to build personal relationships with participants. With personal contact, it’s easier to turn potential customers into serious prospects, while conveying the key ideas of your business and increasing brand awareness.

Event marketing: advantages and disadvantages

Events require a lot of time and energy. They are hard work and often come back to sacrifice evenings and weekends. You need to make a lot of effort, but it can pay: have the opportunity to have serious conversations, to meet people who otherwise might never have heard of your company … The good one’s Events are worth it as you invest time — to get out!

Are you ready to attract your potential customers?

None of these techniques represent a guaranteed entry card to an infinite flow of prospects but, if you combine them, they can significantly improve the number of your prospects. Try to find a balance between online and offline actions, personal contact and digital messaging, optimization and creation. Test different things, integrate and apply marketing techniques that will help you attract many quality prospects.

By Aashish Sharma

Sourced from Hackernoon

By John Gerzema

When I started out (around the time Duran Duran roamed the planet), business-to-business (B2B) marketing was confined to the domain of the literal. The customer was deemed rational and analytical, so the messaging was bland and unimaginative. B2B meant “boring-to-boring.” All the communications felt like PowerPoint presentations. We spoke in the native language of sales collateral and trade show jargon. And a bulk of the work seemed dependent on sales teams’ connections and cold calling target clients.

Yet, over the past decade, we’ve seen B2B marketing evolve into “business-to-beautiful” marketing — marketing that illuminates the beautiful stories behind businesses today, expressing their visions and values in society. Suddenly, some of the best work is aimed at procurement executives through thought leadership, branded content, social media and content marketing strategies that drive a wonderful overhead appeal to shareholders and lovers of great narratives.

The shift was inevitable, in my opinion, given the rise of the internet and social media. What we’ve realized through social is that businesses are inherently emotional beings, they are creations of our imaginations, rivers of human growth and determiners of where we build our future communities. B2B marketing is no longer isolated in the ivory tower, creating empires unknown by the general public. Instead, “B2Beautiful” marketing has made the connection between B2B storytelling and our human growth potential. These B2Beautiful stories captivate our imaginations and trigger emotional resonance — key ingredients in building that residual stickiness factor in an attention-deficit world.

My company, The Harris Poll, recently released the Reputation Quotient study (registration required), which reports that contemporary drivers are found in today’s consumer desires, and many of the storytelling strategies employed by B2C marketers are becoming increasingly applicable to B2B marketing.

We see brilliant examples of brands implementing B2Beautiful campaigns today and engaging communities even in functional, low-interest categories. Maersk, for instance, is humanizing logistics services by personifying its giant cargo ships and documenting their travels through stunning visual images on Instagram. Cisco’s award-winning documentary, The Network Effect, highlights telecom development stories, while companies such as Salesforce and The Mosaic Company have created engaging podcasts. The Mosaic Company’s podcast, “The Great Yield Mystery,” featured a dramatic audio play about two farmers trying to understand why their harvest came short — it even offered listeners clues to solve the mystery and win prizes.

These companies understand that brands are stories in and of themselves and every aspect of who they are — from their work culture, logistics, products and services, to how they think and operate behind the scenes — is essential to creating an effective B2Beautiful marketing strategy. Their strategies provide five crucial takeaways that marketers should keep in mind while creating B2Beautiful marketing, regardless of if you’re a startup or a large corporation.

1. Pinpoint Your Story 

Use your mission and objectives to frame your values and use those components to create your story. Interestingly, The Harris Poll’s RQ survey also shows that there is a new market opportunity for B2B companies to take action on social issues. A new class of what we call “humanity brands” — companies that stand up for what they believe in and walk their talk. These brands are solving social ills, despite their political affiliation.

Successful B2Beautiful marketing, especially in the age of consumer activism, involves being able to identify issues that resonate with your brand and weave them into your story.

2. Weaponize Your Culture

A 2015 FORTUNE Knowledge Group report showed that corporate culture is incredibly important to building B2B relationships. Furthermore, 59% of executives surveyed rated knowing what a company stands for as more important when choosing a partner to work with, ranking higher than market dominance and innovation.

Depending on its mission, each company’s culture is unique. Once you know who you are and what you stand for as a company, you can then find engaging ways to share those convictions through the right media platforms. WeWork, for instance, uses its Instagram account to showcase their offices around the world, with photos of workers doing yoga or wearing stormtrooper helmets. They are motivating people around their motto to “make a life, not just a living.”

3. Don’t Be Constrained By Your Category 

At its core, B2Beautiful marketing involves building emotional equity. Every story you set out to tell about your company should be crafted to evoke empathy. This is how you inspire B2B buyers, (who, by the way, are consumers just like you and me) to be emotionally invested in your brand.

Some of the most emotionally engaging and brilliant work is coming from a few of the lowest-interest categories. In fact, it’s there where the biggest white space is found.

4. Diversify Your Channels And Forms Of Content

As a 21st-century business, there are key owned-media platforms that are imperative for B2Beautiful marketing — a blog for brand storytelling, social media platforms (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and a newsletter. However, in addition to those channels, there are other platforms such as podcasts, videos, infographics and even gifs.

Work with creative partners to determine the right channels to use, depending on the stories you want to tell about the company, its products and services and core truths.

5. Ensure Your Strategy Is Buyer-Focused

We still are selling, after all, so be mindful of your target audience (B2B buyers) when you create your B2Beautiful marketing. What are their needs? Not just the tangible ones in terms of products or services, but also their values, triggers and unmet needs. What are their goals and how can you help them meet those goals?

Think about how your services amplify their missions, visions and values. Through your strategy, you can even educate buyers on ways to better connect with the end consumer and build substantial relationships that grow over time.

In the coming years, B2B marketing will, inevitably, continue to evolve in this direction. Therefore, it is important for marketers to adapt to these rules in order to differentiate their brands and remain attractive and relevant in the eyes of buyers.

By John Gerzema

CEO of The Harris Poll (Harris Insights & Analytics), a public opinion, corporate & brand reputation firm. NYT bestselling author.

Sourced from Forbes