“The only way to win is to keep playing”: A guide to digital marketing for B2B businesses

Rocket Agency co-founder James Lawrence.

Whether you’re selling air conditioners to corporate buyers, share portfolios to fund managers or software to HR teams, making digital marketing work for your business can feel like trying to solve a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle without the handy picture on the box. 

Almost all business owners and in-house marketers are comfortable with the idea that Google Ads, SEO and display advertising have a role to play in their complex B2B marketing efforts. However, many remain sceptical about effectively reaching their audiences via LinkedIn and Facebook.

A question I often hear is: ‘Can social media channels drive real business outcomes for complex B2B buyer journeys?’

The answer is ‘yes’.

Used well, these channels work extremely effectively for many businesses and can form a critical part of most demand- or lead-generation efforts.

The key, as always, is to understand your customers and their buyer journey. You need to run campaigns that take the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

 Why digital marketing works for complex B2B businesses 

Virtually everyone is online, and a lot of their time is spent figuring out how to solve problems, comparing competitive offers, reading reviews, silently judging brands and making decisions about their options. Often this is done without ever speaking to a single person. 

While this behaviour might be simple to picture for a consumer who wants to buy a particular shirt, it holds just as true for B2B customers. 

Think about it. The buying journey of B2B sales is typically longer than that of most B2C transactions because there are often more factors to consider. It’s a purchase decision that’s likely to involve multiple decision-makers, approvals and intangibles like ‘cultural fit’. Online research is critical to this process for most people. Therefore, so is digital marketing if you’re wanting to have your voice heard.   

B2B companies effectively using digital channels in their sales and marketing efforts almost always establish a strong brand presence online. They know this is critical if they are to meet their prospects during the research phase of their journey. They invest their time, energy and resources in establishing their online profile.

At Rocket, our clients achieve this in different ways depending on their specific needs. Often it includes SEO so they can appear more prominently in Google searches, running brand-based Google Ads campaigns or, in many cases, running hyper-targeted LinkedIn and Facebook prospecting campaigns.  

One channel is never the answer

When it comes to generating leads, many businesses fixate on a single platform as their primary source of leads or sales. Some are convinced it’s Google Ads or SEO. Others will swear by LinkedIn or Facebook. Some now think Instagram is the key.

Whatever your marketing challenge, a single platform should never be your first concern. Just playing in one channel will rarely (if ever) get you the results you deserve.

The reality is, your customers are everywhere — on multiple channels, on multiple devices. If you focus on a single channel that is the only place you’ll be seen by them. You’re turning your back on your customers in many of the places they spend their time. 

It all starts with brand building  

Understanding who your customer is and where they are in their relationship with your brand is an invaluable factor to consider. 

Many B2B businesses put minimal effort into building the strength of their brand online. They instead focus on the small percentage of their potential market ready to buy right now. But it is significantly easier to sell services and drive more leads if you have a strong brand presence.

I know how hard it can be to commit to strategies and channels which you suspect will not demonstrate a clear return on investment in the short-term.

But you have to ask yourself what the cost will be of constantly marketing for the short-term by trying to attract only those people ready to buy right now?

Years of experience running digital marketing campaigns makes it clear that thinking long-term works. And I am not the only ones who think so.

Take the survey results from the 2019 Altimeter Research Report, for example, where 37% of marketers said they consider building brand awareness and brand health to be the primary goal of their digital marketing activity.   

The ‘Hollywood blockbuster model’

Content sits in the middle of a lot of digital marketing. A fresh piece of customer-relevant content gives a brand the credible reason they need to get in front of their prospects and deliver value and build their brand. 

You then promote that content through all the channels you’re active in — publish the content on your website for SEO, share it via your social channels, break it up and post it as blogs and distribute it via emails. The possibilities are endless. 

But it is important to focus on the quality of your content, rather than quantity. An analogy I use is the ‘Hollywood blockbuster model’ — because 17 of the last 20 blockbusters were existing stories that had been packaged up and relaunched.

You need to move away from newspaper, editorial-type content, where you’re churning out new content constantly. Five years ago, I would have told clients to write a new blog weekly, infusing it with keywords and metadata that were important at that time for SEO success. 

Now, as Google continues to evolve its algorithm, marketers need to adapt. They need to focus on meaningful interaction as opposed to sheer volume.

Balancing long-form and short-form content

SEO is a long-term game that has the potential to deliver a solid ROI.

But the only way to win is to keep playing.

Crafting copy based on search intent has always been the norm for SEO-specific content. Now, it’s become essential.

Marketers need to write shorter and smarter copy that answers their target audience’s most pressing questions promptly. This can be in the form of an FAQ section or as a part of a longer blog article.

But there is also a place for long-form content. Over time and with Google’s changing algorithm, it is now considered better for SEO to publish long-form content if it better solves the searchers’ problem.

Such webpages have the potential to become content pillars of your site from an SEO point-of-view, ranking for multiple semantic keywords in one shot, increasing the time a person spends on your site, reducing bounce rates, and most importantly, providing your target market everything there is to know about the one thing your business is an expert at.

LinkedIn is a B2B marketer’s must-have

Despite its clunky ad interface and potentially questionable user experience for marketers, LinkedIn stands strong as the obvious channel for B2B marketers. This holds true especially for prospecting campaigns focused on lead generation.

Year-on-year, I’ve seen a huge growth in LinkedIn — a network that now boasts over 10 million Australian members.

It’s likely that your prospects turn to LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with industry news, share information and job updates and follow thought leaders and companies that resonate.

Next steps

B2B digital marketing in 2020 will not be without its challenges. Sustained success typically requires a clear and well-executed strategy.

But success is very much possible.

If done correctly, digital marketing will continue to offer rich opportunities to build your brand and secure leads and sales cost-effectively.

NOW READ: Six ways to nail your digital marketing strategy, from GlamCorner co-founder Dean Jones

NOW READ: How digital marketing will change in 2020


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