The Red Rocket Blog has detailed many how-to lessons about marketing for B2C companies, and driving sales teams and strategies for B2B companies, which you can re-read from the site index. And, as presented in the past, your B2B focus should primarily be focused on building strong sales tactics, to start. But, there is also a need for marketing efforts for B2B companies, especially as they get larger, to help support and complement the sales team’s efforts. Below are the summary of key things you need for successful B2B marketing efforts.
Make sure your salespeople have everything they need to be successful. Does your website look professional? Does it tell the right story, solving key problems for clients with unique, cost-effective solutions? Do you have effective sales kit materials? Are your sales scripts for phone and email leads compelling? Do you have good case studies to share? Are you promoting any awards you have won (and did you apply for them in the first place)? Are you promoting key press mentions about your company? Do you have an engaging brand video to get prospects excited? Have you organized your references and listed your client testimonials? All of these things help instill trust, and make the sales process easier.
Content marketing is king for B2B companies, as we learned back in Lesson #142 with the Red Rocket content marketing case study. You want to come across as a thought leader in your space and a go-to resource for the industry. And content comes in many forms. Does your company and/or its key executives publish a blog? Have you published any educational white papers that lend itself well to sharing between key executives in your industry? Do you run any free webinars or in-person events to attract prospective customers? Do you maintain in in-house email lists, for consistent communications with prospects over time? Have you optimized your website for the keywords that will help drive inbound search traffic? Do you maintain social media profiles on sites like LinkedIn or Twitter and consistently share and communicate great content with your followers? Do you educate industry research analysts and bloggers so they favorably write about you? Do you participate in online forums/networking sites/listservs/LinkedIn groups/Q&A sites related to your industry (as members of those sites may have a known need you can help them with)? These are all cost-effective and a must in your B2B marketing planning.
If the inbound marketing section above uses “pull” techniques, outbound marketing uses “push” techniques. This includes a wide range of ways you can get your message out there. Obviously, there are many targeted industry-related media outlets where your prospective buyers are reading where you can buy online or offline advertising. You may not have the budgets to do everything you would like, so prioritize your efforts based on the most effective channels therein, constantly testing and tinkering with your marketing vehicles, creatives and messaging to see what strikes a chord with readers (just like you would with B2C marketing). And this category also includes things like pay-per-click marketing in the search engines, public relations firms, to help get media promotion and support for your business, and engaging a telemarketing/lead generation firm to help qualify leads and set up appointments for your sales team (keeping your best sales guys focused on closing sales, and not sourcing new leads).
Obviously, focusing your marketing efforts around members of your specific industry present some really low-hanging-fruit, high-ROI opportunities. Who are the key industry trade associations where your target buyers are members? Do those associations run any trade shows or conferences, which you can participate as a speaker, exhibitor or sponsor (in that order of rising costs)? Do they publish any virally-shareable annual research you can sponsor? Do they have a website you can buy advertising on? Do that have a direct mail or email list to communicate with their members? Do they have an active group on LinkedIn or other business networking site? Are there other creative ways you can tap into their audience?
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT/CHANNEL SALES.
Remember, there may be third party companies that can help you more quickly or more affordably acquire new clients, by piggybacking on communications with their existing clients (who are the same target for your business). These channel sales, value-added resellers, technology marketplaces/platforms or business development partners may see interest in your product or service (as a complementary add-on to their own products or services), and would be willing to help you sell them, in exchange for a revenue share (e.g., 10% range) or a small equity stake in your business. For this to work, you need to offer them a meaningful way to drive additional revenues or a big equity return from their efforts. So, put on their hats, not yours, when pitching it. Also look for key middlemen you can leverage, like RFP management companies, that manage the request for proposal process on behalf of their end clients (to make sure you are aware of all key contracts up for bid).
Make sure your business has all the technologies its needs to effectively manage its sales and marketing efforts. This includes a CRM package (like Salesforce.com), to store leads, track pipelines, management performance and communicate with your prospects. And, email blasting software package (like MailChimp or Constant Contact), to manage your email marketing campaigns. And marketing automation technologies (like Eloqua, Marketo or HubSpot), to automate some of the lead follow up process. And, the scores of other one-off technologies you can license to help optimize your specific marketing efforts by tactic (e.g., social media analytics, pay-per-click optimization, webinar management, online presentations). It also includes any technologies you may need to build to make your salespersons’ or clients’ jobs easier (e.g., mobile apps they can use, automated demos).
Most B2B companies spend around 5% of their revenues on marketing related activities. And to be clear, that is a distinct and separate line item from the costs of their sales teams (e.g., salaries, commissions, benefits, travel and entertainment). So, if you are going to build a B2B business correctly, make sure you have reserved enough budget for the required B2B marketing activities detailed above.
Hopefully, all you B2B companies are now better armed for long term marketing success. And, depending on your product/price and target buyer (e.g., SMB or Enterprise focused), while dictate which of the above items are the best places to start.
This article was originally published on the Red Rocket VC blog, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the startup, digital and venture community.
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