This previously-published article was updated on December 4, 2017.
Ah, December. The most
insane wonderful time of the year. And also that time of year when we scramble to finalize next year’s budgets and plans.
Whether you’re feeling that pressure in between salting the sidewalks and holiday shopping, or just looking for some fresh ideas to drive business in 2018, we’re here to steer your marketing and lead generation strategies in the right direction.
Do some of this stuff right in the new year and you won’t have to worry about a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club for your holiday bonus next December.
Ditch the print ad. Invest in online content.
Print ads are rented space. They live for a week or a month and then the lease is up. Digital content on your site lives forever. And if it’s good, it can even gain momentum over time. In three years, we quintupled web traffic for an industrial coatings manufacturer. How? High-quality blogs addressing their target audience’s biggest pain points.
We wrote about lots of topics relevant to their target audience like:
- Intumescent coatings vs. cementitious coatings.
- Is a 100% solids epoxy or urethane the right product for your job?
- Water-based coatings vs. solvent-based coatings.
These SEO-optimized blogs drove qualified traffic to the site — and premium content like white papers and product catalogs converted the traffic into leads by requiring contact information on download. Here’s the impact our blogging strategy had on their online lead generation:
As these leads have turned into paying customers, we have been able to trace the ROI back to specific content pieces on the site. Because you can measure the performance of each digital content piece, you gain invaluable insights into what works and what doesn’t. Traditional advertising doesn’t offer the same insights or potential for long-term growth.
But if you really want to run a traditional print ad in a trade journal, make sure you’re thinking about how you can tie it back to ROI. A good way to do this is by asking print readers to visit your website, where you can track engagement. Set up a unique tracking URL used only on the ad, so you can separate normal web traffic to your site and traffic generated from the ad. That way you can track how many people who read the ad visited your site and, further down the sales cycle, converted into leads.
For example, we might run a print ad sending readers to this page. But instead of using its normal URL —gorilla76.com/11-B2B-marketing-ideas-for-2018— we would send it to a tracking URL like gorilla76.com/2018-ideas. That way we can tell how many people came to our site —and, eventually, converted into leads— as a result of the print ad.
Gather real data instead of making assumptions about your audience
As you can see, it’s pretty difficult to measure the impact traditional marketing has on lead generation. But that’s not the case with online marketing. Start by installing Google Analytics on your website. Already installed? Great. If you’re new to it, carve out a little time to watch this series of short videos on Google Analytics fundamentals. Then learn how to make use of the data it gives you.
Mastering Google Analytics allows you to use data to answer a lot of questions about your target audience. What types of content do they like to read? What are they searching for when they land on your site? Why are —or aren’t— visitors converting into leads? Which pieces of content are pushing visitors further along in the buyer’s journey?
Then make adjustments accordingly. Look at the data, learn what’s working — and what’s not. If, for example, a large portion of your qualified leads can be attributed to a specific blog post or guide, that might be a topic worth pursuing more in the future. To influence the industrial buying process, you’ll need to learn how to rely on data about what types of content attracts and converts qualified leads for your business.
Schedule a consultation with a marketing automation software company
HubSpot, ActOn, Pardot. There are plenty of solid marketing automation platforms out there at this point that let you track the behavior of individual leads on your website, harvest lead intelligence and integrate your marketing and sales processes. Ultimately, the right software will provide your sales team with greater intelligence around the pain points and needs of your potential and existing customers.
We’re partial to HubSpot at Gorilla and recommend starting there. Schedule a free consultation with them and at the very least, become informed. You owe it to yourself to spend an hour learning what’s possible. Ideas will spark. I promise.
Define and know your audience
Results-driven marketing isn’t about attracting any and all leads — it’s about attracting the type of qualified lead who will be a profitable customer. Before starting any marketing campaign, you need to nail down who your target audience is and what they care about. In the industrial sector, this means defining your ideal client at both the company and the individual level.
Let’s start with the type of company you’re trying to attract. Think about the type of companies who are the most profitable for you to work with, and the companies that let you do your best work. What are their shared characteristics? Consider things like industry, budget, company size, company values and the types of clients they serve. Then use this information to create an ideal customer profile — a laser-focused profile of the type of companies you’d like to target with your content marketing efforts.
Once you’ve established the type of company you’re trying to attract, you need to determine who within the organization will be involved in the sales and buying process. In the complex and long industrial buying cycle, it’s likely more than one person will be involved. And to close the deal you need to have content tailored toward each of these individuals’ concerns. Write down their job titles, level of authority, pain points and potential objections to your product or services — these are your buyer personas.
Defining your audience at the company level (ideal customer profiles) and individual level (buyer personas) will allow you to attract and convert the kind of leads that will transform into long-term, profitable business relationships.
For more information on how to clearly define and document your target audience, check out the short video tutorial below:
Answer your five most common customer problems with short written solutions and post them on your website
This is 2018 – not 1993. You need to be sure your prospective customers can find you online. And when they do find you, you need to have helpful content to answer their questions and solve their problems.
First, spend some time educating yourself on the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). Read the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’ll take you a couple hours max. Every marketer today needs to understand how search engine optimization works. Familiarize yourself with the concepts and at the very least, explore how they might make a difference for your B2B company.
Then use what you learn to turn your website into a source for helpful, educational information for your industry. 2018 is the perfect year to stop telling the world how awesome your company is. The world doesn’t care. At least not until you’ve earned its trust. Instead, the world (specifically the part of it made up of your prospective customers) cares about itself and the jobs it has to do every day.
Write down the five most common questions your sales team hears during new business meetings. And then answer those questions in 500-word, SEO-optimized articles on your website. This will help you break through the clutter and earn attention. And then trust. And then leads. And then new customers.
Hit refresh on older pieces of content
Over time, even your best blogs will become outdated and slip in search engine rankings. With a quick facelift, however, once-successful blogs can again become traffic-generating machines — and with less effort than starting from scratch.
About four and a half years ago, we wrote a blog about why we don’t write website RFP’s. When we first published it, it ranked first or second for the keyword “website RFP” and generated tons of traffic for us. Over the years, though, it became stale and outdated and slid off the first page on Google and stopped bringing in as many website visitors.
In October 2017, we re-wrote it. We removed outdated information and added about 800 words to the original post. Not only are we ranking on the first page for RFP-related terms again, but the new blog contains much more useful information than the original post.
When it comes to content marketing, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every post. Look at the data to see what’s worked in the past, and build on that.
Nurture leads with email marketing
Just because a website visitor downloads a guide to commercial carpeting does not mean they’re ready to pick up the phone, whip out a pen and sign a contract. Far from it. But they have told you a lot about themselves and the questions they need answered.
Email marketing is a great way to take that cold lead from their initial conversion (downloading the guide) to wanting to get on the phone with a sales rep. Automated workflows and segmented email lists are effective because they deliver your leads all the information they need to progress further down the buyer’s funnel.
In the example above, you might start with a quick thank you email. Include the guide they downloaded, and suggest additional resources about carpeting that they should look into. Then turn up the heat and send them content geared toward the next phase of the funnel. And so on until the lead is ready to request a quote or talk to an expert.
Supplement inbound marketing with account-based marketing (ABM) tactics
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a great strategy to use in tandem with inbound marketing. They run on the same principles — defining your ideal audience at the company and personal levels, and creating educational content geared toward helping that audience — but the funnel is flipped.
Inbound is about attracting your ideal customers to your site through targeted, educational content, and converting those visitors into qualified leads. ABM starts with identifying qualified companies. Then you work backward through the funnel, engaging with and educating those ideal prospects until they’re ready for a sales conversation.
To identify those perfect-fit companies, start with the ideal customer profile (ICP) you made when developing your inbound strategy. Think about your ideal characteristics: company size, industry, geography, values and how much they’re willing to spend with you. Then find companies that match those characteristics, and gather contact information for key decision makers.
You’ll target these companies with a variety of direct communications — hand-written notes, calls, automated email campaigns, mailers, hyper-targeted paid media campaigns or anything else you can think of that might grab your audience’s attention. At each touchpoint, be educational, be helpful and tailor your message to their needs. By the end, more key decision makers at each company will be aware of the solutions you provide, and might even become advocates for your company. If done right, ABM will help you land clients that exactly match your ICP.
While ABM is nothing new, there are new technology platforms that allow you to be laser-focused in who, exactly, you’re targeting down to each person’s IP address. These advances in technology are why we’ve seen a resurgence of B2B companies supplementing their digital marketing strategy with ABM tactics to create a portfolio of clients they’re proud of.
Explore a hyper-targeted paid media campaign
Bass Pro Shops runs commercials on ESPN. Buy Buy Baby sends me coupons in the mail because I have a one-year-old. They use the information they have to target their audience. Retargeting takes that concept to another level — in an online setting. When website visitors leave your site without taking the action you wanted them to take, ads follow them around online to bring them back so they’ll take that action.
Start by checking out the B2B solutions AdRoll has to offer. AdRoll combines account-based marketing (ABM) principles with retargeting technology. Essentially, AdRoll’s B2B solution allows you to run hyper-targeted ad campaigns directly toward your ideal customer profiles and buyer personas. Whether you have a list of 25 accounts you’d like to target, or just a hyper-focused ideal customer profile, AdRoll can set up a targeted campaign using on- and off-line tactics.
LinkedIn is another great place to launch a hyper-targeted paid media campaign.
Your target clients are on LinkedIn. And what’s more, they even specify their job titles, industry and experience level within their profiles. If you’re looking for a way to ensure your ad gets in front of your buyer personas, look no further than LinkedIn advertising.
Create content that’s useful and relevant to your buyer personas, publish it on your site and expand its reach by running an ad on LinkedIn. When setting up a campaign, use your ideal customer profiles and buyer personas (explained above) as your guide.
Optimize your website for conversions before spending six months building a new one
Everyone thinks they need a new website. But in reality, what they usually need are better leads and more customers. There’s often a better path to those kinds of results than investing the first half of your year and a ton of money into rebuilding your website.
A good first step is improving the conversion rate on your current site (the percentage of visitors converting into contacts). We helped a national construction company increase website contact generation by 650% in just two years. How? Leveraging the power of the traffic they already had.
We re-structured the site so visitors could easily find content relevant to their market, desired service and stage of the buyer’s journey. Then we created market- and service-specific guides, which visitors needed to fill out a form to access. With helpful, highly-targeted content placed at precisely the point a visitor might need it, lead generation naturally spiked.
If, like the example above, you can learn to take advantage of the traffic you’re already getting, and convert more of that traffic into hard leads, you’ll likely see results more quickly than you will by blowing everything up and rebuilding. And results are nice ammo for pitching a website rebuild up the chain at your company next year instead.
In fact, your website is just one of the core elements of an industrial marketing strategy. Before you build a pretty website, you need to have all your ducks in a row: brand positioning, your website traffic and lead generation strategy, sales enablement plan and so much more. Here’s an article we wrote on the seven elements we think are most important to your industrial marketing strategy.
Write and pitch your first educational article to an industry publication
After you read Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO, you’ll have learned that inbound links from credible, industry-centric websites to yours tell Google your site is also credible. And Google only wants to list credible sites in its search result pages. So solve a common problem with a short article (like we talked about earlier) and pitch it to the editor of an industry publication as a guest article. If it’s good (and relevant to their audience as well) they’ll likely accept it. Ask for a link back to your site inside that article and you’ll be on your way to SEO success.
For more advice on how to prioritize your marketing spend and maximize ROI in 2018, give our guide to auditing your industrial marketing strategy a read. Download it here.
What did I miss? I’d love to hear your B2B marketing ideas and what you’re planning to explore this coming year in the comments below.