Fifteen years ago, business-to-business companies could reach their target audience simply by using brochures and trade shows. But these days, they have dozens of marketing tools to choose from. Which ones will work best for the people your firm wants to reach?
There’s no standard formula for effective B2B marketing. Different tools work for different products, services and audiences. Still, there are a number of basic tools that vast numbers of B2B companies aren’t using, but should.
Some of the B2B marketing tools I’m recommending aren’t used extensively because they’re relatively new, such as search engine optimization and lead nurturing. And for the other tools, most B2B companies didn’t make marketing a high priority in the past, so they stuck with very basic tools such as brochures and trade shows. The great thing about the five tools I highlight below is that, although they’re fairly easy to implement and inexpensive, they can be remarkably effective in delivering your message to the people who need to hear it.
Tool No. 1: PR
Got expertise? Share it! PR isn’t hard to do, doesn’t cost much and can deliver excellent results both in building brand awareness and generating sales leads. Lots of B2B companies have a compelling story to tell, and there are trade magazines and websites out there looking for interesting, relevant content. But most B2B firms don’t even give PR a try.
The key is to get a few press releases out to print and online media that cover your target industry or profession. It’s not enough to issue just a single release. But if you stick with it, continuing to send releases to the media outlets that reach your prospects, and if you have a story that would genuinely interest these outlets’ audiences, you’re likely to get media pickup. That coverage is one of the best ways to get your company’s name into your target customers’ heads.
Tool No. 2: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Many companies haven’t changed their approach to marketing as fully as they need to given the vast amount of business that’s now being done online. Merely having a website is no longer enough; it’s also essential to use SEO to build a critical mass of traffic to your site.
If, like so many B2B firms, you’re not doing SEO, you’re missing a big opportunity to get the attention of your target market. Chances are good that some of your competitors are investing in SEO to ensure that potential customers searching online for solutions to their challenges will find their websites, not yours.
Tool No. 3: Video
If a picture says a thousand words, a minute of video speaks volumes. For B2B companies with a complex product or service offering, videos can communicate a lot of information quickly.
You don’t need to be Steven Spielberg, or hire him to produce your video. Although you don’t want your video to look bush league, neither does it need stellar production quality in order to be effective. And whether you shoot the video yourself or hire a production company to do it, today’s low-cost video technologies mean you don’t have to spend a ton of money to craft an engrossing video that explains exactly what you do in less than a minute.
Tool No. 4: Free Trial Offers
If your prospects can try it, they’re more likely to buy it. Allowing your potential B2B clients to use your product or service for a free trial period is a proven sales tool. Yet, in my experience, only a minority of companies do so.
Granted, this approach doesn’t work for every product or service. But it’s ideal for products such as software or small-ticket items, ones in which a positive initial experience gives the prospect the assurance he or she needs to make the decision to start paying for your offering.
Tool No. 5: Lead Nurturing
I know this seems like a really obvious tool, yet I’m struck by how many B2B firms don’t undertake a systematic series of contacts with their sales leads. Marketing research shows that it takes seven customer touches before someone will remember the name of your company and say, “Yeah, I think I’ve heard of these guys.”
The best way to manage those series of customer touches is by using lead-generation software such as InfusionSoft or HubSpot. These automated programs let you send emails, newsletters, video case studies and more at pre-determined times to ensure that you get on your prospects’ radar and stay there.
You don’t have to blow your budget in order to do effective B2B marketing. There are plenty of smart, simple tools that offer proven ways to reach prospects and imprint your company’s name on their brains for the next time they make a buying decision in your product or service category.
So, the next time you’re planning your marketing budget, keep these five tools in mind. You don’t need to implement all of them, because each is a stand-alone tactic. But the more the better, because in B2B marketing you typically generate a better ROI if you integrate several tactics.
Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.
More columns by Lisa Shepherd