B2B Marketing Overview
Reputation has always been the primary driver of growth for companies that sell services to other businesses. Since the dynamics of business relationships have shifted to the digital realm, traditional referrals are slowly trending away from being a reliable lead generation source. However, the core tenants of modern B2B marketing operate on conventional principles of conveying value upfront and leveraging a positive reputation to secure new business relationships.
Rather than asking colleagues or associates for referrals, modern businesses often conduct their own research by asking search engines or social media. An effective digital advertising program will connect with the individuals who are searching for the services that your business provides and helps them engage with your brand.
Since B2B companies typically provide high-ticket services with term commitments, there is a greater risk for these prospects to sign on. While this often means a longer sales cycle, an effective marketing funnel can streamline a significant portion of the hands-on work needed to direct those prospects into a closed sale.
Continue reading to learn how you can use digital advertising to target narrow segments of your target audience and engage them in a marketing funnel that leverages landing pages, ebooks, email marketing, social media, blog articles, and well-crafted calls to action to streamline the sales process and secure lasting relationships.
B2B Marketing Foundation
In This Section
The businesses B2B companies serve are just as busy as the businesses selling to them, which means all marketing efforts need to be streamlined and cohesive to work effectively. A long sales cycle does not mean complicated, as complications can deter prospects. Instead, B2B businesses need to sell their services in a simple and easy-to-understand way to keep their prospects’ attention.
To begin, focus on your audience and the solutions you created for them (your services). What do they need? Why do they need it? Once you know why and who, you can convey the how to them. It’s important to convey your services to your prospects in a way that recognizes their pain points and responds to them through your services. At its very core, the foundation of your marketing program is to distill the benefits of your services to your prospects, not to showcase features.
The reputability of your team providing the services is equally critical to build your marketing foundation. If your prospect understands your services and that those services meet their needs, but don’t think your team is up to snuff, they’ll seek out a competitor.
To prove that your team is qualified to perform these services for your prospects without boasting, you need to show them some wins. Humanize your brand by showing them your customers’ success stories and by showing them the team behind the brand name. The key here is to demonstrate the benefits of your services through the lens of your customers’ stories. By focusing on your customers’ stories rather than your own, you lay a foundation of trust with your prospects.
The first foundational marketing initiative you must complete is market research. By determining your target audience and positioning within the competitive landscape, you can better determine how you truly benefit the businesses you serve. Whether you are launching a new business or starting a new marketing initiative, creating or revisiting your business’s market research can help you better serve your clients.
Who is your target audience? And what do they need? To answer these questions, look beyond basic titles and demographics to better understand what makes them tick. Look beyond the scope of your services to determine other ways you can help them with your services, customer service, and more. This is vital information you need to know before beginning to develop your positioning.
If you’re unsure where to begin, start asking your current and previous customers questions about why they sought out your services, why they chose your business, and what needs your services fulfilled. They may offer you insights into aspects of your services that mean a lot to your customers and maybe even aspects that can be improved.
If you do not have a lot of customers to ask or much feedback to review, start by asking different members of your team for what they notice the most about how your services truly benefit your customers beyond the original scope of the services themselves. If you can, conduct a survey sent to your target audience.
Throughout this process, it’s imperative that you and your team identify customer objections and roadblocks. When you know what your customers struggle with, you can accommodate them to the best of your ability through your services and customer service, which includes your messaging. This involves resolving those challenges for your customers. The key is to focus on how your business solves your customers’ challenges, not on the services you provide. This is the foundation of your positioning and messaging.
What do you offer that your audience needs that your competitors don’t offer? These competitive differentiators are your basic positioning. Your positioning is what sets you apart in the competitive landscape. It’s what gives you a competitive edge.
At SharedTEAMS, we like to create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your top 3-4 competitors. This effort collects basic details of your top competitors, compares them with your business, and determines your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, which helps narrow your positioning in the landscape.
By focusing on promoting what your competitors lack in your marketing efforts, you stand apart in the industry. This also helps your audience find you based on your unique positioning according to their unique needs.
Utilizing your positioning, you can create your branding foundation, which includes messaging and a visual branding strategy. Developing brand assets, such as your logo, helps tie your business’s offerings together, but they offer limited meaning without developing messaging guidelines, so don’t skip any of these foundational steps.
Your audience, their needs, and your business’s unique positioning determine how you will develop your messaging guidelines.
Always start with your audience when developing messaging guidelines because who you serve determines how you will communicate with them. It’s likely that your audience is comprised of busy business owners and leaders, so part of your messaging guidelines may focus on being concise.
Does your audience understand your industry’s jargon? Or do they need to be informed of industry terms? Does your audience largely prefer a specific type of communication? If so, gear your guidelines to that format, such as phone, email, text, etc.
Once you know who you’re talking to, you need to understand their needs to effectively communicate with them. When you understand their needs as they relate to your services, business, and general business relationship, you will learn how to cater your messages specifically to them and their needs.
For example, a technology company that serves a tech-savvy audience knows they do not need to provide much guidance concerning its services. However, a technology company serving a less tech-savvy audience will need to include more guidance concerning their services.
When determining your audience’s needs, consider what they need in order to effectively get the most out of your services. Assume they don’t understand how your business works, what they may need to do, what to expect from you, or how your services work. (This is part of having good customer service.) Explain it to them.
Next, combine your audience and their needs with your unique positioning. Align your positioning with their needs to determine how you will speak to your audience. How can you reach out to them to meet their needs? What should you say and how should you say it?
The final step to developing your messaging guidelines is to understand your brand personality (see Brand Personality) and how you want to be perceived. To humanize your brand while still sounding professional, you need to determine the tone of your brand. Will you sound silly or serious? Formal or casual? Enthusiastic or apathetic? Authoritative or friendly? Choose 3 or 4 adjectives to describe your brand’s tone of voice.
If you serve multiple audience segments, it’s best to repeat this process for each segment. There may be some overlap in guidelines, but this will help guide your team in future marketing (and other business) projects. For businesses that serve very different audiences, this step is crucial to really connect with all of your audiences through messaging.
Depending on your services and your company culture, you will have a distinct brand personality, which will help you portray your business, services, and more to your audience through messaging. Your business’s brand personality is tied to the words you use, but it is also emotional. It’s important that your brand personality, messaging, and visual branding are cohesive – otherwise, your audience may be confused.
Developing your brand personality is usually easier for a small business because your brand personality is often much like the personality of you or the founders of the business. Are you formal or funny? Are you modern or classic? Are you young or mature? Are you premium or affordable? Are you masculine or feminine? Will you sound like an industry expert or a mentor – or both?
Overall, who are you as a brand? And how do you want to portray yourself to your audience? This is your brand personality. Use it to humanize and individualize your messaging. This will help you distinctly speak to your audience.
VISUAL BRANDING STRATEGY
After developing your messaging guidelines, it’s important to create visual branding that will resonate with your messaging. Together, your messaging and visual branding create your brand identity, helping your audience identify you in the competitive market over time––as long as it’s consistent. Together, they tell the story of your business, but good visual branding doesn’t need many if any, words.
Visual branding evokes emotions. Often, when a prospect views your branding and connects with it, they want more; or, they immediately can tell that your brand is not for them based on your branding. This is why having a visual branding strategy is so important. Not only must it match your messaging and audience’s needs, but it also needs to represent your brand fluidly, across all projects and platforms, online and offline.
Developing a visual branding strategy is very similar to developing messaging guidelines. You need to consider your industry, unique services, and brand personality with the emotions you want to evoke. For most B2B Services businesses, you will want to focus on conveying a reputable, reliable, and trustworthy image through your branding.
This strategy focuses on determining the logo, color palette, fonts, and types of images used for online and print pieces across all departments, but don’t stop there. If you plan on plastering your logo on the side of a truck, posting it on a large light-up sign in front of your building, or decorating your office accordingly, it’s best to include where your logo and other visual branding assets will be published, so you or your graphic designer knows what color schemes and sizes to use.
For some B2B businesses, you will want your branding to promote experience and expertise, which may include elegant and simple lines and typography, while others will want to convey convenience, which may include more playful shapes, colors, and images.
As you develop your visual branding strategy, determine whether those pieces feel like your brand. Do they convey the message you want them to, even without words? Also, remember to specify what pieces are meant for online or print publication, as well as the rules of use for both.
VISUAL BRANDING DEVELOPMENT
Once you know your visual branding strategy, it’s time to develop your assets. Common assets include logos, color palettes, fonts, and types of images, but you may require additional assets based on your unique business needs. Remember to consider how each piece will look online and in print, or what pieces are specifically designed for online or print.
Collect your messaging guidelines and visual branding assets in one place that is accessible to your entire team. All team members across all departments should use these guidelines and assets so that all messages to your customers and prospects are cohesive.
Modern B2B businesses need an online foundation before beginning marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate, a digital presence so your prospective clients can easily find you, business listings to expand your digital presence, and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. All of these pieces focus on helping your clients refer others to your business, directly and indirectly.
The website of most B2B small businesses should have a three-level hierarchy. This simple hierarchy helps you organize your website so your audience can easily navigate it. On the first level (homepage), you must convey your solutions in a clear and concise way.
The second level, which is usually the top-level items in your menu, displays the impact of your services. This is the ideal place to showcase your case studies, use cases, and customer reviews, which helps convey the real-world solutions you provide with your services.
On the third level, which can be accessed from the second level, it’s time to convey how your business works. This includes processes and the technical approach used to perform your services.
In order to limit your web pages to three levels, you must drill down your website content. This also helps your audience, as they are likely busy and want quick information to determine whether your services will meet their needs. Having your website follow this simple hierarchy helps your audience navigate not only your website, but it also helps them navigate through the customer journey with your business, which often begins when they visit your website. In this manner, as they click through each level, they are diving deeper into the customer journey.
BUILDING A DIGITAL PRESENCE
In addition to having a solid website that your audience can use as a resource, it’s important to lead to that website from a variety of platforms. Social media and other platforms under your business name are important (see Social Media section under Lead Nurturing), but it’s also important for each member of your company leadership to have an established presence on relevant business social media channels, such as LinkedIn.
For businesses that use leadership as a primary component of the brand, a presence on Twitter is also recommended. This presence not only directs personal followers to find your website, but it also instills confidence in your audience and followers because they see how active you are in promoting your business even outside of work hours.
Being active on these platforms also helps your business be found through a quick Google search. Not only will these pages ideally link to your website multiple times, but they will also showcase company awards, news, and other details that convey reputability whether found in a social media feed or in a Google search.
One of the best ways to help your audience find your business and your website are through business listings. Popular business listings for most industries include Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. There are also industry-specific and location-specific business directories, most of which allow you to create a business listing for free.
Having your business information listed on multiple directory listings helps your audience find you when the listing matches the intent of the business directory. Directories like Clutch and Capterra are commonly used by your audience when they research services they need, so it’s important to be listed next to your competitors for your prospects’ consideration.
To create your business listings, you first need to collect basic information about your business, including business name, business type, website URL, contact email and phone number, logo, and a basic description for your business. Then, you must distribute these across business directories that are appropriate for your business and industry.
To do so, you can either use third-party businesses that offer citation building as a service or you can manually create them. Which route will depend on how many directories you believe would benefit your business (and what directories your competitors are already on) as well as how much time you have to dedicate to this process?
Most SaaS companies that offer citation building are available on a monthly subscription basis, so choose one based on what other services you need. Or seek out a marketing agency, such as SharedTEAMS, to perform this task for you.
ONLINE REPUTATION STRATEGY
Customer stories, through online reviews, testimonials, and case studies can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This customer-generated content can change the opinions of prospective customers because customers trust other customers the most, even when those customers represent other businesses. This is why B2B businesses need to not only request testimonials and reviews, but they also need to manage their online reputation.
While anyone can review your business on most business listings or social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your services or were really upset with your services. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
- A way to ask your customers to review your business
- A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you can do so in person, in an email, via text messages, or in other ways. There are also platforms that automate this process for you, sending emails and texts on your behalf.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
ORM generally starts with your Business Listings. You will send customers to your Business Listings (Google My Business, Yelp, and industry-specific listings) so they can leave your business a review (see more details in Digital Presence). Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take the conversation off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email address). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on Business Listings, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. While this may happen less often for your B2B business than for a B2C business, it’s important to remember that your online reputation typically reflects your offline reputation, which happens through word-of-mouth marketing.
Monitoring your online reputation gives you a sense of your overall reputation, online and offline, which can help you know how your services are benefitting your customers and opportunities for improvement.
There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create alerts for your business name and service names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand’s sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and industry have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion about your business, which means not enough people know about it yet. If your sentiment is positive, keep up the great work, but don’t stop managing ORM as sentiment can change.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your social media program, so start there to improve it by sharing quality content that your audience cares about.
To begin your sentiment analysis for free, use Social Buzz (you need to pay to enable monitoring, but you can do searches for free) or Social Mention.
Connecting with your audience online and in person is critical to your business’s success. For in-person meetings, professional and informal, a collateral package can help you inform prospects on the fly. To reach your prospects online, in addition to your digital presence initiative, you can leverage your happy clients’ experiences through a referral program, which helps prospects build trust in your business.
Once you have your visual branding foundation created, it’s time to develop a collateral package for your business, including business cards, a brochure, and a flyer. These assets are critical for many B2B Services businesses because they help inform and connect prospects and new customers with your brand and team.
Go one step beyond online reputation and further capitalize on the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing by developing a referral program. This can also be called a loyalty or rewards program, but whatever you call it, this program will benefit your customers and encourage them to inform their professional friends about your business and services.
A referral program largely offers discounts, free services, or another benefit in return for a number of customer referrals. For example, if you have high price services, then encourage a one-for-one referral program where if one of your customers refers one friend and they sign up for your services, give them both a discount on their next service. If you have lower-priced services, you could follow the same format but offer a discount after five referrals resulting in a new customer acquisition.
If your referral program is not bringing in new leads, go straight to the source and ask your customers why they haven’t taken advantage of the offer. You might find out that the benefit of the program is too difficult or maybe they just didn’t know about the program. Whatever you find out from your customers, take the feedback back to the team and modify the program to better serve your customers.
For B2B, you’ll typically be focused on lead generation and brand awareness when developing your advertising strategy to target your audience. For brand awareness, you’ll want to leverage social platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You will want to utilize Google’s keyword planner to identify a list of keywords with high intent for the business. On a monthly basis, you will update the negative keyword list to shape the traffic efficiently to increase lead generation, which will eventually lead to conversions. You will continuously optimize campaigns to improve ROI, landing page performance, cost, and audience targeting. Ultimately, you want to be tracking conversions. The two key metrics you’ll want your attention focused on are quality score and ad rank.
Before creating the advertising strategy, you need to spend time understanding the business, including learning its language and messaging, as these pieces are going to be key for discovering and identifying the high-intent keywords (see messaging in Marketing Foundation). The two key metrics for high-intent keywords are high monthly volume and low to mediocre keyword difficulty. Don’t be afraid of choosing high-difficulty keywords because typically those keywords are worth going for if it’s going to be generating conversions due to being highly relevant to the business. Investigate keywords that your competitors are targeting since you’ll be implementing remarketing campaigns and display campaigns.
As campaigns progress, don’t be afraid to experiment because every business is unique and requires a slightly different tactic to achieve success. Most importantly, you’ll want to identify website performance optimizations as well because, ultimately, your conversions likely happen on your website, which requires optimal website performance.
There are many advertising channels for you to consider, but it’s important to narrow in on the platforms that perform the best for B2B businesses. Overall, social media platforms are going to be great for brand awareness. Google Ads is going to be your best option for attracting businesses who are looking to buy services.
GOOGLE & BING ADS
With Google Ads, you’ll be able to target keywords that have high intent. Include these keywords and offer a solution to the user’s problem. No other platform can do this effectively.
For Google Ads, you have the option to choose to use the Search Network or the Display Network.
Search Network ads can help you target high-intent keywords. They look like text ads on the search results page to help people go further in the buying cycle.
Display Network ads typically show ads to people who are still in the “research” phase of the buying cycle. They can show ads on other websites with a topic related to your business, or to people who show an interest in your product or service. They can also show ads to people who have already visited your website in order to bring them back while they are researching. Using the Display Network, you also have the option to create new audiences to show ads to people who have similar traits.
While clicks on Google or Bing ads may be more expensive than for other advertising platforms, it has by far the highest conversion rate for B2B due to the fact that you can target people actively searching for your product or service.
LinkedIn can help you target people who work in a job or industry that would make use of your product or service, which is why advertising on this platform is very valuable for B2B businesses.
It’s important to note that since your audience is likely not actively searching for your services – as they would be on Google or Bing – they will be early in the buying cycle, and thus conversion rates are lower on LinkedIn than they are on other platforms.
However, LinkedIn has many unique benefits compared to other social media platforms. Not only can you target your audience by company, job title, industry, and more, but you can also layer multiple targeting options to reach the ideal customer.
There are multiple ad types on LinkedIn:
- Sponsored content ads are similar to “boosted” posts. They are made to feel like posts from the company’s own page, which are a good option for strengthening the company’s brand awareness.
- Text ads are similar to the ads shown on Google or Bing and are featured in the sidebar. These ads are smaller and less prevalent than the other ad types but may provide a cheaper source of clicks.
- Sponsored InMail ads are unique to LinkedIn. These allow marketers to send personalized messages directly to a person’s LinkedIn inbox. This ad type is not ideally used as the first touchpoint but is great for re-engaging prospects who’ve already interacted with the business.
When it comes to choosing which types of LinkedIn ads to use, consider your goals. Sponsored content ads and text ads are great for the initial outreach to decision-makers of companies in the industry you want to target but don’t expect many direct purchases from these ads. Sponsored InMail ads work best as part of a remarketing strategy.
LinkedIn advertising does come with a few minimums that all advertisers must spend:
- $10 daily budget per campaign
- $10 total budget per campaign (this is optional for Sponsored Content)
- $2 bid for CPC or CPM on Text Ad campaigns
LinkedIn advertising also has a minimum bid for Sponsored Content campaigns, but the exact amount for this ad will depend on the audience that you’re targeting.
Facebook is valuable for B2B advertising. Facebook recently implemented income-level segmentation and this platform also allows you to target your audience by job titles.
Unlike on LinkedIn, on Facebook, you can’t target people in specific company types or industries. However, it can be very valuable as part of a remarketing strategy and as a brand awareness tool. It is another good way to re-engage prospects who’ve already interacted with your business, and you can create lookalike audiences to target people with similar attributes to those prospects.
Twitter can be good for B2B, but it really depends on what type of business you have. This platform should be considered after you’ve explored other channels for B2B marketing.
Advertising on Twitter is primarily used for brand awareness and consumer engagement efforts.
When it comes to targeting your ideal audience through advertising, you will want to use a mixture of demographic, keyword, geographic, interest, and device targeting.
If you don’t know the demographics of your audience, then you must first collect data. Lower the bid significantly for the audience that is bringing only about 20% of the results. You want to focus on the demographics that are bringing in most of the traffic and are satisfying the current marketing objective.
Facebook is continuing to improve its targeting options for B2B businesses as they add more targeting options, such as job titles. LinkedIn is going to be the obvious choice for social media B2B since they have more data on business professionals. Properly split test different audience groups. You want to be very specific and not start off with a broad approach as that will dilute the test results and eat through your budget fast.
At SharedTEAMS, we always recommend starting with a small budget to try out digital advertising. Your goal is to get data and results that reflect what you can expect, similar to sampling food before you buy. We highly recommend that you know as much information about the business first and who your target audience is because that will help improve the quality of results during the testing phase.
As programs progress, make bid adjustments in increments of 5% when enough data has been collected. Justify bid adjustments only when there is conversion data available, and there are either 100 clicks or 1-1.5k impressions. This is not a strict rule, but it is a good practice to follow. Never exclude a demographic, if possible; instead, try to significantly lower the bid.
Build a campaign for your ideal buyer. This could either be someone who knows the language of your business, or otherwise. If your ideal buyer is familiar with the language of the industry, then including acronyms can sometimes help as well.
Consider using Display Network as it has a lower CPC than Search Network. Display Network is going to be able to allow you to create remarketing campaigns to target previous website visitors.
Start with keywords with at least mediocre search volume and keyword difficulty. Furthermore, you’ll typically be focused on keywords with low CPC. But businesses for real estate, for example, are expected to have high CPC. If this is the case, you’ll probably need to start with long-tailed keywords to get results with a low monthly budget. Group all relevant keywords together in the same categorial ad group to facilitate a higher ad relevance score. Each ad group should have 5-10 keywords because you’re working with mostly small-budget accounts. In some rare cases, it might make sense to have 10-15 keywords in an ad group.
As programs progress, monitor the search term report to update the negative keyword list. Look for keywords that are bringing in bad traffic; in other words, peripheral, low-intent, and irrelevant keywords. Utilize the search term report and keyword planner to add more high-intent positive keywords; these keywords are typically best added as exact or phrase matches. Maintain a quality score ideally between 7-10; however, in some rare cases, this is not possible due to some industries being blacklisted under Google’s hidden strict guidelines. A quality score of 1-3 is only okay if it’s not for a high-intent keyword or one that is bringing in most of the good traffic to the business.
KEYWORD TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
Ad Rank: Increase ad rank for the most important keywords by increasing the quality score and max bid. Increase the quality score by trying to increase expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Pro Tip: Google secretly keeps a blacklist of certain industries where the highest quality score you can get is 4-6 at most. Sometimes you can get lucky to increase this number – say, for example, from a 4 to a 6 quality score – by talking directly with a Google rep to ensure that you’re running a legit business. An example would be the word “Botox.”
Search Impression Share: Keep in mind the search impression share (IS) at the keyword and campaign level (budget search IS). Use data of “search IS” with data of “lost search IS.” For example, low-search IS, high-lost search IS, and low-search IS (at the campaign level) are clear indications that your bid for the keyword needs to be higher to stay competitive. If this is a high-intent keyword with a high conversion rate, then you need to allocate your budget appropriately to increase the search IS for this keyword. There are many moving parts, so this kind of adjustment is going to be on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, one fix is to pause many lower-performing keywords/ad groups since they are barely driving conversions. Of course, you’ll be spending more for the high-performing keywords and CPC will go up, but in the end, because you know that high-intent keyword has a high conversion rate, the cost will be offset by the potential increase in profits.
Bad Actors: One last thing to consider is bad actors who purposely click on your ads to drive up costs. This is typically coming from competitors. It’s probably more common in highly-competitive local businesses, but it is still important to monitor. Watch out for this, because in this case, you need to speak with a Google rep to get these bad actors filtered out because they are costing you time and money.
Try to avoid visitors who are “interested” in the location to prevent any traffic outside the country or unnecessary traffic. If the business covers 50 states, then input all 50 states individually. If the business is very local, then set a small radius around the physical store (about a 1-mile to 10-mile radius). If the business is very local, try to include locations individually at a granular level, such as cities, zip codes, counties, etc. However, choose one type, such as zip codes only. Exclude locations in rare scenarios where the general population is negative towards the business or laws do not favor the business.
Make bid adjustments at the granular level at 5% increments. All bid adjustments must be justified with some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions. This is a generally good practice and not a hard and fast rule. Lower the bid for low-performing locations.
First, start with the observational option to see the potential for in-market audiences. Use an observational approach for various in-market audiences who could convert. Don’t be afraid to experiment with split testing targeting vs. observation.
If you are using the targeting option, split-test various in-market audience combinations. Make bid adjustments in 5% increments, but ensure there is some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and 1-1.5k impressions.
INTEREST TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
Hour-Day Strategy: Adjust bids by day first, then by the hour. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur, and lower bids otherwise.
Bid Adjustment Strategy: Make bid adjustments in increments of 5%. Justify bid adjustments with conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions. Depending on the business, you may want to exclude bids, if, for example, the business is getting phone calls at 3:00 AM, which is more than likely irrelevant to the business.
Users among various devices behave very differently. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur, and lower bids otherwise. It’s best to significantly lower bids for lower-performing devices rather than completely excluding them. Make bid adjustments in increments of 5%. Justify bid adjustments with conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions.
Advanced Bid Adjustment Strategy: If the business receives calls regularly, then it might make sense to make bid adjustments for call extensions. Observe the data collected first before making any bid adjustments. Make progressive bid adjustments in increments of 5%. These adjustments need to be justified with some conversion data, at least 100 clicks, and at least 1-1.5k impressions.
Once you know what advertising channels you’re using, who you’re targeting, and how, it’s important to optimize your ads and strategy. You will optimize your first campaigns and continue optimizing campaigns as you continue your advertising program.
You want to put emphasis on the benefits of your services, and not so much on the features. Highlight any promos or discounts. Always have a CTA, such as “contact us with no obligations” or “start growing your business today.” Emphasize the audience’s pain points to draw them in, and then capitalize on their needs by giving them a solution. If possible, add credibility statements, social proof, or testimonials to build trust.
Typically, you’ll also want to experiment with split testing with acronyms in the creative if your buyer is familiar with the language. You might also want to try filtering out unwanted clicks by including headlines geared toward businesses and not consumers. For example, “Serving businesses since…” or “Expand your business…”.
Overall, the ad copy should be specific, show value, and showcase credibility, such as social proof.
SOCIAL MEDIA AD CONTENT
Ad copies vary because people are not buying directly on social platforms. You’re going to have to collect data as you spread brand awareness. You need to split-test various ad copies and pay very close attention to your demographic metrics to get a better sense of who you’re high converting audience segment is.
Pro tip: If you have short videos explaining how your services are a solution to a business’s problem, it may be effective to use them in advertising campaigns. Video is a great way to capture your audience’s interest when done right. Be sure to choose the videos wisely and enable a mute button so as not to annoy the prospect.
As programs progress, split test 3-4 ad copies. With small budgets, you’re most likely going to be split testing 2-3 ad copies to collect enough data within 30 days or so. Headers are expected to have the most impact. Split test everything from ad text, phrasing (e.g. fun, catchy, negative first, cute, or emotional), benefits, offers, features, unique proposition, etc. It really depends on who your audience is, and that’s why you need to split test to understand who your high-converting customer is, and what they like to respond to.
Pause your lowest-performing ad copy (do not edit it!), and replace it with a fresh one that is modeled after the best-performing ad. Be sure not to edit the ad copy if it’s low-performing because you do not want to convolute the data when you, or especially when someone else, tries to analyze it.
Be aware of attribution towards a paid click. Someone could click on an ad but later convert via organic search. You can leverage the conversion window option in Google Ads to account for this kind of conversion. One effective strategy is creating ad groups based on phases of the sales funnel. We want to try driving down conversion costs by focusing on long-tailed keywords since we typically work with small budgets. However, sometimes you’ll need to request a larger budget for very competitive businesses.
Some lead magnets for this type of industry would be an ebook that each covers different case studies, an outlined step-by-step process, or detailed information about the service you provide. Don’t make the visitor look for the “button” to convert. Make it obvious and visible because they’ll be more likely to click. Be very transparent with information on the landing page because it builds trust in Google’s algorithm and with the customer. Providing a free quote is always an option as well. Other ebook alternatives include white papers or infographics, which are both worth testing via Google Ads and LinkedIn.
A tactic to consider is remarketing to users who saw a specific page on your website, so you can retarget them with a relevant ad. If a professional video is available, it helps to remarket this to users on YouTube. Also consider remarketing on the Search Network because this allows you to target a broader range of keywords, but only for those who previously visited your website.
If sale cycles are much longer, then you may want to increase the duration of your audience list. Typically, a remarketing list defaults at 30 days. Linking Google Analytics might be necessary for your B2B company if you’re lacking conversions because you’re going to need to gain insight into website metrics.
You’ll want to pay attention closely to metrics like time per session, bounce rate, number of pages per session, etc. On social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn, you need to be split testing different demographics, geolocations, etc., to zoom in on high-converting traffic. LinkedIn ads are going to allow you to target audiences at a granular level, such as by industry, job title, company, and more.
GOOGLE ADS AND BING OPTIMIZATION
Remarketing is always going to be an option here as well because it’s one of the most powerful tools in driving conversions. You’ll be building a custom audience based on the behavior on your website. After collecting data for a couple of weeks or at least until you have enough results, you’ll also be optimizing based on hour and day of the week. Lastly, you’ll be updating that negative keyword list to refine that high-quality custom audience.
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING OPTIMIZATION
Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer the same features mentioned above for Google Ads and Bing; however, the demographic and interest-based targeting on social media is on another level, and, frankly, is a lot better. You’ll be able to take full advantage of Facebook’s algorithm when you split-test different audience groups to figure out the best combination that leads to the highest quality of conversions. Split testing will be key for advertising on these social platforms.
Optimizing Facebook, specifically, includes swapping the ad copies, testing the ad copies, and testing the ad sets, as well as creating a custom audience or lookalike audience and continuing to track custom conversions.
Swap Ad Copies: A study was already done and swapping out ad copies with fresh ones is favorable to Facebook’s algorithm, which will lower the overall cost of advertising. Use a similar theme because you want similar expected results.
Split Test Ad Copies: Same with Google Ads, the importance of split testing ads should be a natural optimization step.
Split Test Ad Sets: Use different segmented audiences to fine-tune and discover the best segmentation that is going to give the right balance between conversions and cost.
Custom Audience/Lookalike Audience: Keep analyzing and making adjustments as needed to increase the performance of lookalike audience targeting and custom audience retargeting.
Custom Conversions: Keep tracking custom conversions to understand important KPIs of the business. Eventually, after analyzing the data and making performance adjustments for a few months, switch campaign objectives to optimize for conversions. You need to justify this switch after analyzing and optimizing results (or conversions) and cost.
Optimizing LinkedIn, specifically, you will want to target audiences at a granular level, such as by industry, job title, company, and more. The type of conversions will depend on the business marketing objective. Split test different demographics, geolocations, etc., to zoom in on high-converting traffic.
Allocate your budget to where 80% is focused on high-conversion groups and 20% is focused on lower-performing or experimental groups. Make a budget, bid, and segmentation adjustments as needed to follow the 80/20 rule (80% budget on results and 20% on experimentation).
Pay close attention to your business’s website performance because it’s as important as Google Ads performance; website performance can refer to load time speed, bounce rate, time per session, etc. One of the most common mistakes businesses make in digital marketing is wrongfully blaming poor performance on campaigns and advertising when their website is poorly optimized for conversions. You can bring the highest quality traffic at the lowest cost to the website, but that doesn’t matter if they cannot convert due to the limitations of the website.
The typical B2B Services sales cycle is longer than the sales cycle for most business types, which means your lead nurturing strategy needs to be geared toward this longer sales cycle. Because of this, it’s important to focus on nurturing relationships with your prospects and current customers, conveying the value of your services, and easing prospects into the sale through your communications efforts. This strategy will help your team integrate all communications and other lead nurturing efforts across departments and teams.
To create a lead nurturing strategy that focuses on these pieces, you must first revisit the customer journey. Consider your audience targeting efforts (primarily advertising efforts) and continue the messages (which were developed based on your messaging guidelines and positioning in Marketing Foundation) throughout all communications with prospects and customers. Determine what customers need to know and when they need to know it. Then consider the best formats for that information, which is based on where they go to consume information (i.e. which social media platforms, which news platforms, etc.). This is the basis of your lead nurturing strategy.
Remember: Your communications with your prospects and customers are usually not salesy in nature. Instead, they are informative and beneficial for where they are in the customer journey. This information will help them choose your services or use your services, depending on where they are in the customer journey.
When you know what type of information your audience needs and what the best formats are to share them in (e.g. blog articles, videos, ebooks, etc.), you can start developing an overall strategy for content creation and distribution that will benefit your audience in the customer journey. This strategy should also include the frequency of content development and distribution, and what platforms will be used for distribution.
Overall, the goal of the lead nurturing strategy is to develop a plan for communicating with your audience in such a way that automates some of your team’s tasks and answers your audience’s questions in a place where they can easily find the answers.
Once you have a lead nurturing strategy, you can develop a content calendar that fleshes out the details for when content is publishing, where, and how it’s being shared.
Be aware of your customers’ changing needs. If your analytics (e.g. blog views, Facebook likes, etc.) decrease greatly or your customers start asking your customer service team more questions, it’s time to reevaluate your lead nurturing strategy. The entire point of this strategy is to better serve your customers as a team.
If silos develop within your team, causing disconnected messages to your customers, revisit your strategy and update your messaging guidelines to ensure consistency on all platforms by all team members.
Note: Sometimes a decrease (or increase) in the analytics you’re monitoring is focused on one platform, so be sure to compare analytics on platforms individually as well as across the board before updating your strategy. This can connect to algorithm changes, for example.
For all of your communications efforts, remember that while you are working for and with businesses, you are first working for and with people. Individuals and groups of people are choosing to work with your business, so communicate with them in a personal, but professional, way, rather than in a corporate, stuffy manner.
For many of your communications, use marketing automation. This includes CRM, email marketing, ad campaigns, mobile marketing, and more. Automate processes to help your team effectively reach your audience more often and in a more personalized manner.
Email is still one of the most popular communication avenues for B2B businesses because your audience likely prefers communicating with you via email. B2B businesses should integrate their email marketing program with all of their other lead nurturing efforts in order to successfully help their audience through the customer journey. To do this, email is used as a lead nurturing tool that distributes your lead nurturing assets, such as ebooks and blog content.
SENDER ADDRESS & NAME
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails, for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing accounts. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com, etc.) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Most customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Business Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name or Name from their Business Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
CHOOSING AN EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing program. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, MailerLite, SendPulse, or Sendinblue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform, start creating and sending emails, and gather subscriber email addresses. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
COLLECTING AN AUDIENCE
B2B businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, you should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they inquire about your business. The key is to separate prospects and customers so you can send them different email content that relates to their unique needs. This helps you better serve them wherever they are in the customer journey.
We recommend using a lead magnet to encourage your audience to sign up for your email list. This opt-in process typically involves a landing page on your website encouraging sign-ups in exchange for the lead magnet itself as well as the email that contains the lead magnet download. The email containing the lead magnet download should be a trigger-based automated email (stand-alone or sequence) that automatically sends to your new subscribers when they are added to your list.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email addresses, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an ebook (see Types of Content in the Other Communication Efforts section). The format of the lead magnet will depend on your business’s services and what your customers could benefit from having. Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
EMAIL CREATION & DESIGN
Newsletters can be used by B2B businesses to maintain contact with customers and stakeholders. These are often used on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep your audiences in the loop on your business. The content included depends on the intention of the emails themselves. Each email must have a purpose; if an email does not have a purpose for your business and a benefit to your audience, it does not need to be created and sent.
Depending on the business and services offered, a B2B business will want to showcase long- or short-form content within their emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email. If an email’s purpose is to provide a transactional purpose, such as confirming an appointment or sending a digital bill, the content should be very short. If an email’s purpose is to provide an informative purpose, the content can be longer.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or using a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Newsletters primarily educate and engage subscribers on a recurring basis, such as weekly or monthly, to help keep your brand top-of-mind with your subscribers. Newsletters are a great place to showcase customer reviews, blog articles, service updates and launches, and more. Typically, newsletters are longer emails with multiple sections and calls to action.
Newsletters should follow the same format each time so subscribers can recognize them. Be sure to test frequency as well as send days and times to see what works best for your subscribers, and then be consistent for most of your newsletters.
To start, send a monthly newsletter after your audience has received a Welcome email (see Automated Email Sequences for more information on Welcome emails).
Tip: Make your newsletter about the inside scoop on your services. Let your email subscribers be the first to know anything about your services.
In addition to regular newsletters, we recommend sending promotional emails as needed. These are one-time emails that promote a product or service launch, company news, sale, contest, survey, or something else. Typically, promotional emails promote one thing with one call to action.
When sending promotions, you can increase the frequency (e.g. daily for three days for a three-day flash sale) and change the send days and times of the emails to align with your sale or launch.
When you do send promotional emails, you may benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics. This means you showcase a limited time frame of the sale. When using this tactic, only promote the limited time frame of a sale if you are not going to extend it. Scarcity marketing can increase the urgency and effectiveness of a sale when you do it with honesty and integrity.
Tip: When determining whether to include a promotion in a Newsletter with other updates or in a separate Promotional Email, consider how big the news is that you’re sharing. If it’s time-sensitive or you want to maximize click-throughs, send one or a few Promotional Emails. You can also tease a promotion in the Newsletter you send before the promotional email, if time allows, and on social media to drum up excitement.
AUTOMATED EMAIL SEQUENCES
Automated email sequences (also called sequenced email campaigns, email automation, and drip campaigns) are ideal for B2B businesses because you can create them in advance, turn them on, and they automatically send them to your subscribers.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and recommendations after your team perform the requested services.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences. Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open and click rates, and purchases or appointments are likely to increase.
Common uses for automated sequences are for new leads who want to download a lead magnet or new customers who need some guidance on how your business works. Either way, the email sequence takes the prospect or customer on a journey to better understand the business and services provided to either choose the business or use the services.
The length of an automated sequence depends on the content included in it. And the content in the sequence depends on the customer or prospect’s journey. Based on what they need to know, you can determine what content to include and link to, and how many emails to create.
Tip: Each email should have one call to action, so let your calls to action determine how many emails you create. Or, if you have one call to action for most of your emails (perhaps after a lead magnet), then allow your content to determine the number of emails.
The key is to integrate your other content assets into your email marketing efforts. Use your ebook, for example, as a lead magnet on a landing page on your website. Then, in the first email in the sequence, give them the ebook as a download. From there, take them on a customer journey using your blog articles, case studies, and other content.
Tip: Creating fresh content is not necessary for your email marketing. Instead, what is fresh is bringing your customers what they need when they need it in their email inboxes.
Common automated email sequences are lifecycle emails. Sending these specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These emails include:
- Welcome emails
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
These short and sweet emails show the subscriber that the business cares about them in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
EMAIL MARKETING BEST PRACTICES
A/B Testing: Creating and sending content to subscribers isn’t enough for B2B businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and appointments. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email/name
- Call to action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more clickthroughs? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the rest of the audience.
Note: Some email automation platforms, like Mailchimp, don’t offer A/B testing for lists that have less than 10,000 subscribers. This is because they recommend a test group of 5,000 subscribers each. (Mailchimp also does not offer A/B testing on their free plan.) However, if your list is small, you can still A/B test sequence to sequence or newsletter to the newsletter. Just remember to only change one thing for each (except the content, of course), and test each change for a few campaigns rather than just one.
Personalization: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues with using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. For B2B businesses, this means sending customers on your email list a reminder when they are due to receive your services again. This also means recommending services in an email a while after they received a similar service that is relevant if your business offers multiple services.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
Email Scrubbing: Even with B2B businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists. Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t will be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit the business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a B2B small business can manage these processes in-house better because they know their customers.
Resend to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase the performance of campaigns with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
Email Design: When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance (see Visual Branding in Foundation).
The focus of your social media program should be on conveying industry expertise and skills, as well as showcasing an inside look at your business. Again, you will want to incorporate your other marketing efforts (communications and sales) in your social media planning. Social media platforms are ideal places to distribute smaller content assets, such as blog articles and videos.
Based on your other marketing programs, develop a strategy to distribute content assets using social media. Then, add other content ideas that focus on your industry, business, team, services, or other unique content ideas. Use social media as a way to inform and engage with prospects, as well as to be a little more informal with them. Show your audience the people behind your business. The foundation of your social media strategy is the combination of your content distribution and an inside look into your business. Once you know what you’re posting, you can determine where you will post.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
People search for business solutions on the go, which means they not only use search engines to look up your services, but also social media. The best social media platforms for B2B businesses depend on how much your services cost. For higher-ticket services, you should focus your social media efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter as these are commonly used by professionals in a personal and professional manner. This limited presence is ideal for higher-ticket services because your audience is likely more niche.
For lower-ticket services, focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as Instagram if your business is visually-focused. Having a larger presence for services with a smaller price tag will help increase brand awareness and prospect communication.
Once you know where you’re posting and what you’re posting, you need a posting schedule. For B2B, less is more. Depending on your audience, you may benefit from posts published once per week or about three times per week. The exact frequency will depend on how often your audience is on those social media platforms, so be sure to test this out and watch the data.
To publish social media content, you can use social media scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer, which include free plans, as well as Zoho Social, Oktopost, SocialOomph, Sprout Social, and more. We recommend choosing one social media scheduling tool based on your platforms, needs, and budget. This way, you can create posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish in a week, a month, or at a later time. This streamlines the time you spend on social media for your business, but don’t forget to check your pages, too. Alternatively, you can publish directly to each native platform, but this often takes longer, especially if you want to share a similar post on multiple platforms, and most platforms don’t have scheduling options, limiting your publishing times to “now.”
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
Promotional posts have their place, but educational and newsworthy posts should be the majority. Depending on your industry and personality, you may be able to showcase a behind-the-scenes look at your business, too. Live video works great for this. You also may be able to entertain your followers with creative posts; B2B customers still enjoy being entertained, though entertainment should not be the primary focus of your social media program.
USE THE DATA
Social media is always changing just as your customer’s needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (likes and comments).
Engagement isn’t the top priority for B2B businesses (instead, informing your ideal audience is), but it’s still a good practice to see what content your followers like and what content helps reduce common customer questions. Since your social media pages are meant to convey industry expertise and skills, using the data to make changes to your social media program will only benefit your social media program and business all around because you will be helping your customers.
Social media is meant to be “social,” so B2B businesses need at least one dedicated team member to check each social media platform daily, minimum, in order to reply to follower comments and DMs.
B2B businesses can take advantage of many communication efforts to better serve their customers, including ebooks, blog articles, infographics, videos, chatbots, and text marketing. Each one serves a unique purpose, driving prospects through the customer journey with informative content.
To develop an effective content strategy, you first need to have refined messaging guidelines, as these are the base of your content strategy. Specifically, who your audience is and what they need are the basis of this strategy, but with one caveat: you need to identify the segment of your audience who is most likely to convert. The audience segment that is most likely to convert should direct the majority of your content strategy and creation.
By focusing your strategy on the audience segment that is most likely to purchase your services, you are directly serving their needs, rather than wasting time writing content for people who are less likely to spend money on your services. And, it’s likely that any outliers will convert anyway, even if you offer them minimum content based on their unique needs because they still value your services. A good rule of thumb is to create 80% of your content for the audience segment that is highly likely to purchase your services and 20% for the content you want to share or content that will benefit other audience segments.
When developing your content strategy, focus on the intent of that audience segment. Perform your own research on what questions they ask and why they ask them. What are their intentions when they visit your website and your competitors’ websites? The more information and data you can find, the more detailed your strategy will be, which will help you genuinely target your ideal audience with your content marketing efforts.
TYPES OF CONTENT
B2B businesses can use the following content types:
- White papers
- Case studies
- Use studies
- Free assets
These options are typically created and downloaded as a PDF (see Lead Magnets in Email Marketing), which means you can create valuable content that saves your ideal audience time and money, while also allowing your team some creativity.
Ebooks are great pieces of content for your customers when they’re in the awareness stage before they are heavily debating which service to use. This is why ebooks are commonly used as lead magnets, which then flow into your email marketing program, which nurtures the lead. The reason why ebooks are so effective for B2B businesses is that you can educate your prospects on a lot of things concerning your business and services through a focused ebook.
Tip: Ebooks are effective for B2B Services, but so are the creative alternatives (listed in Types of Content). To best serve your audience, try using an ebook and another format for lead magnet variety, and then A/B test their effectiveness.
Remember: Whether you choose a traditional ebook or a creative alternative, make the PDF visually appealing. Your audience will likely appreciate a longer PDF with an on-brand design that complements the content than a shorter PDF of plain text. The best part? You will be delivering the PDF via email, which means you won’t need to print it out. While some leads may print it out, they are more likely to download it to their mobile device so they can read it on the go.
Tip: Try using your lead magnet in an advertising campaign. Many B2B businesses find this approach to be effective for both their lead nurturing and audience targeting programs because this allows both programs to integrate.
Blog articles are also ideal for the awareness stage in the customer’s journey. However, they can also be used to educate new customers and as a customer service tool. Not only do blog articles help improve your SEO and help prospects find your business based on their inquiries, but they can also directly help prospects and customers. The key is to develop content that answers their questions and meets their needs in a consistent and concise manner.
Long-form blog articles generally perform better than shorter blog articles for B2B businesses because your audience is willing to spend more time learning and making an educated service provider decision, but they are also busy. This means it’s best to develop long-form blog articles that provide in-depth information relevant to the audience member’s current stage in the buyer’s journey. For fresh awareness, perhaps the content should be medium in length. Then, as they go to the evaluation, consideration, and decision stages, make blog content longer and longer, and more in-depth.
Remember: Integrate your blog articles with your other communications efforts.
To showcase your business’s expertise, it may benefit to publish content on third-party publications, such as industry magazines, industry (not competitor) blogs, and podcasts. Most publications offer free and sponsored opportunities. Do some research to find publications that serve your ideal niche audience to get the best brand awareness boost.
Don’t just stop at writing blog articles! Get visual with infographics. Creating infographics to distill the information from a long blog article not only helps your audience digest the information quicker and more effectively, but it also catches their eye. Be sure to share the infographic on your website alongside the blog article (perhaps in the middle, in the beginning, or at the end) as well as on your social media pages.
Remember: You want to integrate your programs effectively to ensure your core messages are consistently reaching your audience. Infographics are a great way to share the same information in a new way. Plus, your audience is more likely to share an infographic than they are a blog article.
Free programs that help you create infographics include Canva, Adobe Spark, and Piktochart.
Note: Infographics can also be used to test out a long-form content idea when shared on social media. If the infographic performs well on social media, your team may consider diving into the topic even more through a blog article or ebook. If the infographic doesn’t perform well on social media, then that topic is less likely to perform well on your blog or as a lead magnet.
When testing a topic idea using an infographic, share it on your business’s Twitter account because that platform still has a good organic reach. Sharing it on LinkedIn may help you, too; if you choose to share it on both Twitter and LinkedIn, see how the infographic topic performs on each platform respectively to develop more insights about your audiences’ preferences on each platform.
Video content is powerful on most platforms, including social media and your website. Many B2B businesses provide unique services or common services performed in a unique way. The best way to showcase these services may be through video. Not only are followers more likely to watch a video than read a block of text, but it may be the best way to inform your customers how your business works – by literally showing them. These informative videos can answer questions and calm nerves, depending on the service. Videos can even be recorded and edited on a smartphone. Remember to use your Brand Guidebook when developing video content.
Creating and sharing video content also involves adding helpful descriptions, which help viewers understand the context of the video (beyond just the video title) and can improve SEO as well.
To develop your video content strategy, you need to determine whether it will replace or augment other content you are sharing. Depending on your business and resources, your answer will vary; however, augmenting long-form content, such as blog articles, with videos can help showcase your industry expertise in a digestible format.
Examples of video content formats include pre-recorded videos, pre-recorded and live webinars, and live streams. Live video is typically performed via social media, so if your business does not use Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, we don’t recommend pursuing live video; Twitter offers live video, but it is not ideal for B2B businesses.
Chatbots are an ideal and cost-effective customer service solution for B2B businesses. A chatbot helps lower operations costs by providing 24/7 customer service on your website and focusing on the simpler requests of your audience. (If you have a Facebook account, you can also set up a Facebook Messenger bot, but a chatbot on your website will likely have a larger ROI for your B2B business.) You decide whether you want it to help prospects walk through the customer journey by answering their questions, or by helping customers use your services by answering their questions and performing various tasks. To decide this, think about your prospects’ and customers’ common questions. Can most of them be distilled into a list? Or does either audience commonly ask complex questions? If most of their questions are routine for your customer service representatives, consider creating a chatbot.
You can also decide whether you want a fully-automated chatbot or one that can push your prospects and customers to a live representative for further help. That will, again, be determined by the audiences’ common questions and whether or not you have customer service representatives. However, you can use a fully-automated chatbot and include an option to direct prospects to a customer service email or phone number.
To build a chatbot, there are many solutions for you to consider. Based on your intent for the chatbot, you will know what basic content to have in the conversation. We recommend using short-form, Q&A content to lead your audience through a conversation in order to figure out what their needs are and answer them.
On a consistent basis, such as quarterly, visit your chatbot analytics to see if there are any updates that need to be made to the conversation. Updates can include additional topics being added to the conversation that comes up for your live customer service representatives or topics that see high drop-off rates, indicating the message in the conversation is too long or unhelpful.
For some B2B businesses, text marketing can augment your email marketing efforts, especially if your services are time-sensitive. We also recommend implementing a text marketing program (once your email marketing program is solid) if you rely heavily on appointments.