B2B technologies are the almost unlimited resources and distribution platforms that comprise the B2B marketing arsenal. Not too long ago, B2B was limited by a lack of vision and a scarcity of effective tools. Not any more. Today B2B exceeds B2C in the number of weapons in the marketer's toolkit. All it takes is a bit of 'logical creativity' to spot the opportunities.
Let's start with well-established but still viable tools… things like print advertising, product literature, direct mail and trade shows. Many agencies talk about how old school these things are, but old school doesn't mean ineffective. When used intelligently and now that costs are down these 'analogue' resources are attractive again. Trade magazines, for example, can still work very well for B2B.
Next, there's 'traditional' online/web tools… web sites, email blasts, banner ads, digital product literature. A little more than 10 years ago these were considered revolutionary. Today they're essential. Your website is the most important marketing tool you have… the central focus of all you do. It has to be right and that means well-designed, well written, full of pertinent information, interactive, up to date and SEO precise.
Now there are social media platforms - YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare, Twitter, eBooks and virtual tradeshows. Unfortunately, all of the hype has caused confusion and turned off a lot of B2B marketers. Calling these media platforms 'social media' hasn't helped. The phrase implies a weekend get-together, not doing business. But when used intelligently, social media works like crazy for B2B - as part of a balanced strategy in certain market segments. Consider this: most technology-based companies have opportunities in places like India, Brazil, Laos and Vietnam. How do you reach potential customers with magazine ads or email?
You can't, not cost-effectively. But Facebook and YouTube are the technologies of choice in many parts of the world. Now can you see the B2B value of social media? Our philosophy is simple. We use whatever works, whatever is cost effective in every market and every region. Give customers information they need in a format they prefer and you will shorten the sales/procurement cycle… and that means a solid ROI.
The primary goal of B2B marketing is to convert prospects into customers. And that process is very different from B2C, which is so often based on impulse buying.
B2B buyers make a 'considered purchase' and that requires a more sophisticated value proposition… in part, because B2B buyers' purchase cycles are long - often months - and involve multiple steps. Plus, others, both inside and outside the company, influence the buyer.
And while it's certainly true that some procurement cycles can't be shortened (military approvals require a particular amount of testing that can't be rushed), for most B2B procurement cycles, the process can be made faster, more efficient by tying marketing activities to the buying process itself. In other words, making information readily accessible and in the desired format to the right person (CEO, CFO, engineer, etc.) when they most need it.
Such a goal was impossible just a few years ago buy today, we have the tools and expertise to offer a virtually individualised experience to each potential customer… and that personalisation speeds the sale and builds customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Your website is the cornerstone, the hub, of your marketing plan and the face of your company and its brand.
Unlike B2C, a B2B site isn't about closing the sale; it's about establishing who you are, what you do and how you engage customers. It needs to inform and engage… to be helpful, technically relevant and easy to access.
At any time during the procurement cycle, potential customers, whether it be a CFO, CEO or engineer, should be able to find the information they need at that moment to move the process forward… a personalised 'lending library' of sorts that demonstrates your expertise and commitment to excellence and service that's fully accessible to customers, the sales team and/or your channel partners anywhere in the world.
We're always questioning our clients and their clients about the effectiveness of our work, what people like and what they don't seem to understand. And often we're surprised at what we learn.
Case in point: in a recent questionnaire we asked clients what agency traits were most important to them and which did Vertical do best.
"Quality listening," is how one customer put it. "You guys come in and actually listen to us, let us tell our story before you offer any strategy. Most agencies start offering advice within the first few minutes, but you never shoot from the hip… you listen, you don't lecture."
Thank you - we didn't realize that listening made us different from other agencies. It's the way we work, always has been.
Your marketing efforts should be platform/media/tools agnostic… so they can go anywhere at any time. From print ads and video to Twitter and blogs, your orchestrated strategy is all about creating and promulgating an authentic message that informs the market and builds understanding and trust.
Use whatever it takes, whatever makes sense, whatever can cost effectively intrigue your customers and enhance your corporate/brand image. Stay platform agnostic so you can deliver your message into places potential customers might least expect.
Doesn't it always seem to be the same plan for everyone: write a few releases, develop a print ad, attend a trade show or two, and build a web site? Done.
In the recent past, these activities were just about all B2B agencies had… or were they?
No matter, because today everything is on the table - available tools and programmes are virtually limitless if you use a bit of intelligence and some creativity of thought while taking a 360° global view of what's out there. To do so requires a few things: