I spend a lot of time talking with executives at business-to-business (B2B) companies about digital marketing — assessing the competitive lanscape, evaluating options, and defining strategies. Digital marketing is appealing to B2B companies — especially the small- and medium-sized (SMB) sector — for many reasons, but it’s especially attractive because of its accessibility, targeting ability, and track-ability.
Until recently, meaningful marketing and promotion activities were often cost-prohibitive to many B2B companies; advertising via television, radio, print and event channels requires a significant upfront cost, and not much opportunity to make adjustments on-the-fly. Digital marketing is quite the opposite. When done properly, a B2B website can be an organization’s most effective salesperson — an asset that works 24/7/365, around the globe.
Yet while digital marketing is accessible to the masses, the internet is a noisy environment, and so programs can quickly get complicated. Successful digital marketing initiatives are therefore comprised of a variety of moving parts and need constant tuning to realize optimization. The following tips and techniques are intended to serve as a user-friendly checklist for managers who are launching, managing or auditing their B2B digital marketing strategies.
B2B Digital Marketing Planning Checklist
Develop CPA and CPL Metrics
Establishing quantifiable cost metrics for cost-per-acquistion andcost-per-lead activities helps to remove digital marketing biases fromthe conversation, and directs it towards a performance-based discussion, which will be used to guide online marketing budget setting.
Add up dollars spent on sales and marketing staff, marketing tactics(advertising, conferences, etc.) and divide by number of new customersand qualified leads for a defined period (say, the previous 12 months). Warning: CPA and CPL metrics for B2B companies canoften be in the 5- and 6-figure categories, and may result in stickershock; but it can help to put a $50,000 website overhaul project or $10,000/month pay-per-click program into perspective.
Cover The Basics
Ensure the organization is optimizing its use of assets and tools that mayalready be in place. Standardize email signatures to promote thewebsite, blogs, and Twitter accounts. Ditto for LinkedIn — make sure toinclude links to the website, blogs, and skills and expertise that will promote employees in appropriate areas. Conduct adigital marketing and website audit to identify opportunities for quickhits; it’s not a painful as it sounds — use this checklist to guide the exercise.
Analyze The Competition
Another appealing element of digital marketing is the relativetransparency of competitor strategies (on websites, search, social, email, and display advertising), which can be identified throughresearch with a high degree of accuracy and confidence. If a directcompetitor is outspending you by 200%-1000% on digital advertising, strategieswill need to be adjusted accordingly, as will expectations among top executives. Then take a pagefrom Wee Willy Keeler’s playbook, and “hit ‘em where they ain’t”. Savvymarketers have been steadily redirecting dollars to the internet overthe past decade, and are often able to dominate the digital channel as aresult. But with so many tactics at a marketer’s disposal, there are almost alwaysfertile areas available, if you look hard enough.
With B2B digital marketing, it’s preferable to follow the “inch wide, mile deep” principle. An 80% solution for most B2B companies includes a corporatewebsite, search marketing, LinkedIn, and content marketing. If you don’thave the resources to cover them effectively, disregard Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and others. Know that blogging and content marketingare easy to do badly and can have a negative impact if done poorly — put blogging on the shelf if you don’t have budget for skilled writersto produce regular content with a unique and valuable point-of-view. Formany small- and mid-sized B2B companies, a high-performingpay-per-click program can yield great results.
Conduct Keyword Research
With all the rage surrounding social media these days, it’s easy tooverlook the most compelling piece of the digital marketing puzzle: search marketing. Indeed, some pundits argue that search marketing isthe only form of marketing that really matters. It’s an extreme view, but one that has merits — in the same way that “change your oil every5,000 miles” and “drinks lots of water” are standbys for automaintenance and personal health care. If you can’t do any other kind ofmarketing, do search marketing, and start by conducting keywordresearch. Find out what terms are being searched for and how frequently, and organize a program around those findings to get in front ofprospects; no other marketing tactic offers a similar level ofspecificity as search marketing.
Measure, Analyze, Adjust & Repeat
A core appeal of digital marketing is its tracking ability, so set upthe necessary programs — such as the freely available Google Analytics— to monitor activity, and get familiar with the data and how tointerpret it. The internet is chock full of noise, so determining theworthy versus worthless activity in your digital ecosystem will takesome time, as will everything else, including website structure, landingpage effectiveness, conversion tracking, and ultimate impact (likelymeasured in CPA or CPL terms).
The Digital Marketing Game is Heating Up in B2B
Digital marketing has changed the rules of business development inthe B2B space. Given that personal relationships play such an importantrole in many B2B sales situations— which are characterized by longersales cycles and fewer impulse purchases — it makes sense that digitalmarketing has seeped into the B2B space at a less furious pace than itdid in B2C. While dominant global brands like Coca-Cola and Procter& Gamble consider marketing as a core competency andaggressively work new techniques into their marketing programs, B2Bcompanies play by a different set of rules.
But B2B companies are starting to figure out the digital marketinggame. Indeed, in sectors such as technology, established companies don’t have muchof a choice, as upstart firms typically rely on sophisticated digital marketing strategy as a cornerstone of their success. It’s these upstarts, often venture-backed with ample resources, that are serving as the catalyst for change, and will ensure steady – if not rapid – evolution maintains its grip on the B2B marketing landscape for years to come.