Many B2B firms find themselves surrounded by the massive changes that have taken place—and are still taking place—in the world of business. And these changes have given birth to a new marketing ecosystem that requires new strategies, tactics and a customer-centric approach.
For decades, B2B marketing has been vastly different than B2C marketing and with good reason. B2B tends to be less transactional and more about building long-term relationships—especially for firms with big-ticket products and services and long sales cycles. But while relationships are still front and center, the truth is, leading firms are initiating and nurturing relationships differently than they have in the past.
Is your B2B firm still relying on the same strategies and tactics that you’ve been using for decades? If so, due to some key changes, your marketing strategy might be in need of a transformation. So here are some compelling reasons for change.
It’s a brave new (digital) world
There’s no doubt the world around us is becoming increasingly more digital every day. Think about it, when you want to research a company, find out about a product, look for an answer to a question or find out almost anything, what do you do? You go to Google, Yahoo, Bing or some other search engine. We’ve become a very web-centric culture, in both our personal and business lives.
Your website is your front door
When you want to learn about a potential client, vendor or even a competitor, the first thing you do is visit their website. And every day there are potential clients visiting your website doing research and vetting your firm. So your website can no longer be just an online brochure. It needs to be the hub of your marketing efforts and a tool for sales and business development.
Your audience is social
Social media’s use in B2B marketing has been met with much skepticism. But social media is no longer just for celebrities and consumer product companies. Today, it has become a dominant component of our daily lives and that dominance has found its way into the business world as well. A study from Hubspot found that 53% of B2B companies surveyed had acquired a customer from LinkedIn and 43% had acquired a customer through Facebook. Social media provides B2B firms with opportunities to connect and engage with prospects and customers, distribute content and drive web traffic.
B2B buyers have changed
Today’s B2B buyers have become incredibly savvy and self-sufficient, researching online—often extensively—before making a purchasing decision. According to a DemandGen Report, 78% of B2B buyers start their research with a web search. A smaller but still significant number (50%) said they turn to social media and peer reviews. Your prospects are researching solutions, looking at their options and educating themselves as much as they can to inform their decisions.
And here’s the big change: much of this research is taking place before they ever pick up the phone or submit a contact request on your website. Studies from the Corporate Executive Board Company have found that today’s B2B buyers go through nearly 60% of the purchasing process before ever talking to sales. So what is your marketing strategy doing to engage these buyers before they engage you?
B2C is impacting B2B
All the brand interactions and experiences your prospects and customers have as consumers are starting to impact their expectations for B2B marketing as well. They expect personalization and customization. They expect to receive emails and marketing messages that are relevant to their needs and interests. They expect easy-to-use, helpful and mobile-friendly websites. The bar has been raised and your audience is now expecting marketing from you that is helpful and adds value to their lives.
It’s now a pull strategy
In light of all these changes, innovative marketers are responding and adapting. So what we’ve been seeing for the last few years is pretty substantial—a fundamental shift in how companies approach sales and marketing. It’s moving away from primarily a push strategy and more toward a pull strategy. Instead of the typical “Hey, look at me” marketing approach, pushing company-focused messages and content to prospects, you actually communicate in such a way that they’re attracted to you.
Prospects now seek you out. They give you their time and listen, because what you’re saying has value to them. And this is really the heart and soul of what content marketing is all about—publishing content that focuses on the prospect and customer and what they are actually interested in, as opposed to talking about your company and what you sell.
Changing tactics and shifts in budgets
And with this shift, marketers across all industries are shifting their budgets away from traditional methods (such as purchased lists, cold calling and promotional advertising) that have been the bread and butter of their marketing plans, and they’re moving towards more innovative and customer-centric methods (such as content marketing). The goal is to create marketing that your prospects and customers find relevant, useful and helpful—leading to increased sales and customer retention.
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So how is your B2B firm’s marketing efforts adapting to the realities of the new marketing ecosystem? If you’re not on top of these changes and not adapting your marketing efforts to meet the demands of the new marketing ecosystem, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. And your firm is slowly being written off and passed over for more relevant firms.