This previously published article was updated on December 18, 2018.
Ah, December. The most insane wonderful time of the year. You’ve got holiday shopping, holiday parties, the in-laws — the list goes on and on (and no, I’m not checking it twice, my beard isn’t that white). To top it all off, there’s the end-of-year scramble to finalize next year’s plans. Which means you might need to go ahead and come in on Saturdays.
Whether you’re feeling the pressure of 2019 approaching or you’re looking for fresh ideas to drive business in the new year, we’re here to steer your marketing and lead generation strategies in the right direction.
Utilize these B2B marketing ideas in 2019 and chances are you won’t have an epic meltdown of Clark Griswold-ian proportions next December.
Ditch the print ad. Invest in online content.
Print ads are rented space. They last for a week or a month before the journal gets tossed out in the recycling. Then, your lease is up and somewhere someone plays “Taps” at your ad’s funeral. On the other hand, digital content on your site lasts 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 that addressed their target audience’s most significant pain points.
We wrote about several topics relevant to their target audience including:
- 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 search engine optimized blogs drove qualified traffic to the site — and premium content like white papers and product catalogs converted that 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 valuable 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 aligning it with a digital campaign and thinking about how you can tie it back to ROI. An easy way to do this is to include a call-to-action on the print ad encouraging 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 from the traffic generated by the ad. That way you can track how many people who saw the ad visited your site and, further down the sales cycle, how many of them 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-2019— we would send it to a tracking URL like gorilla76.com/2019-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.
Understand the basics of SEO and implement it in your content strategy
It’s 2019 – not 1999. The internet isn’t an option for your company — it’s a necessity. You need to ensure your prospective customers can find you online. And when they do find you, you need to have as much helpful content as you can to answer their questions and solve their problems.
First, spend some time educating yourself on the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). There’s a lot of misinformation about SEO out there, but luckily there are also plenty of valuable resources that can help clear things up. If SEO is new to you, familiarize yourself with its basic concepts by reading Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’ll take you a couple of hours max. If you already have some familiarity with SEO, try Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to SEO in 2019 for a more in-depth breakdown of the latest trends. In today’s digital age, every marketer should understand how both on-page and off-site search engine optimization works. Understand the concepts and explore how they might make a difference for your B2B company.
Then use what you learn about SEO to turn your website into a source of helpful, educational information for your industry. Stop telling the world how great 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. Your job is to help them with their jobs.
Write down the five most common questions your sales team hears during new business meetings. And then answer each of those questions with five short articles (approximately 500 words each) that follow best SEO practices to generate traffic to your site. Once you’ve done that, try five more, and five more after that until you answer all of the common questions and offer solutions to all of the common problems that arise. This will help you break through the clutter and gain attention. And then trust. And then leads. And then new customers.
Hit refresh on older content
It’s not enough to simply publish high-quality articles and then forget about them. Over time, even your highest-ranking 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.
Take, for instance, this very blog you are reading, which we initially wrote a few years ago. When we first published it, it ranked among the top results for several B2B marketing idea-related keywords and generated tons of traffic. But over the years, its content became stale and outdated, and the blog slid off the first page of Google. Predictably, that drop in rankings resulted in a significant drop in website traffic attributable to that article.
So in December 2017, we re-wrote it. We removed outdated information and added new ideas to reflect the latest industry trends. It worked. Not only did we see a significant increase in traffic as the blog started ranking on page one for relevant terms again, but the new blog contained much more useful information than the original post. And, to ensure the information is up-to-date, we rewrote it again in December 2018. Which means that if you’re here because you saw this post near the top of your Google results, you’ve seen for yourself the positive effects of a content refresh.
When it comes to content marketing, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every post. Look at what’s worked in the past and build on that.
Gather real data instead of making assumptions about your audience
As mentioned above, it’s pretty difficult to measure the impact traditional marketing has on lead generation. But that’s not the case with online marketing. Start measuring data by installing Google Analytics on your website. It’s a fairly straightforward process, but if you need any help with the installation, here’s Google’s getting started guide. Analytics already installed on your site? Great. If you’re new to it, carve out a little time to go through the Google Analytics for Beginners course in the Analytics Academy. Then try Google Analytics for yourself and learn how to make use of the data it provides.
Mastering Google Analytics allows you to use data to learn more about your 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?
Look at the data, learn what’s working —and what’s not— and make adjustments accordingly. If, for example, a large portion of your qualified leads is attributable 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 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 more information regarding 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 the software’s capabilities. Ideas will spark. I promise.
Define your audience and score your leads appropriately
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. Google Analytics and HubSpot can show you who your site is attracting, but those visitors and leads mean nothing unless they are the right fit for your company. The data they provide helps you understand who your audience currently is, but you need to know who you want your audience to be.
Before starting any marketing campaign, you need to nail down your target audience and understand exactly what it is that they care about. In the industrial sector, this means defining your ideal client at both the company and the individual level and then creating an inbound lead qualification process to weed out the unqualified leads.
Let’s start with the type of company you’re trying to attract. Think about the 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 (ICP) — 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 long, complex industrial buying cycle, it’s likely that more than one person will be involved. And to close the deal, you need to have content tailored specifically for each individual’s concerns. Write down their job titles, level of authority, pain points and potential objections to your product or services — these are your buyer personas (which come in handy when generating content ideas for your website).
For more information on how to clearly define and document your target audience, check out the short video tutorial below:
Once your target audience is clearly defined, you can use your marketing automation software to screen website leads based on desired criteria before confirming and qualifying leads on your own. This keeps you from wasting time and resources on leads who likely won’t convert or who aren’t ideal for your company. Defining your audience at the company level (ICPs) 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.
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 shown interest, and they’ve told you a lot about themselves and the questions they have.
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 carpeting resources 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 ideal customers to your site through targeted, educational content and converting those visitors into qualified leads. ABM starts with identifying qualified companies, then working 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 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 on your services. Find companies that match those characteristics and then use tools like Prospect.io to gather contact information for the key decision makers at each company.
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 of your ABM campaign, more key stakeholders at the companies you target 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 itself is not a new concept, there are several new technology platforms available that can enhance the tactics of old. These new tools allow you to be laser-focused in who you’re targeting down to each person’s IP address. However, it is important to remember that these tools don’t do the job for you — they just make things easier. One of the key characteristics of a successful ABM campaign is its personalization. Getting that right takes time and commitment. But in the end, your efforts will pay off with a portfolio of clients you’re proud of.
Explore a hyper-targeted paid media campaign
Bass Pro Shops runs commercials on ESPN. Frigidaire sends a reminder in the mail to order a new water filter, right around the time when that yellow “order filter” light shows up on my fridge. These companies use the information they have to target their audience. Retargeting takes that concept to another level — in an online setting. When qualified 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 the conversion rate on your current website before worrying about building a new one
Everyone thinks they need a new website. But in reality, what they usually need are higher-qualified 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 to improve the conversion rate on your current site (the percentage of visitors converting into contacts). We helped a national construction company increase their website contact generation by 650% in just two years. How? By 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.
Optimizing your site’s conversion rate ultimately comes down to following basic on-page SEO practices to drive people to your site, and, more importantly, improving your site’s user experience (UX) so those visitors will convert. If 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 would by blowing everything up and rebuilding. And results are excellent 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 site, 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 learning more about SEO and ranking factors, you’ll have learned that inbound links from credible, industry-centric websites tell Google your site is also credible. And Google only wants to list credible sites in its search results pages because they know the content will be helpful to the searcher. 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 informative, well-written and fits the publication’s audience profile, they’ll likely accept it. Ask for a link back to your site with relevant anchor text (the visible, clickable text), preferably in the article’s content but in the author bio works too, and you’ll be on your way to SEO success.
For more advice on how to prioritize your marketing spend and maximize ROI in 2019, 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.