THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO B2B ONLINE MARKETING
When people began to think about the customer journey over 100 years ago, the famous AIDA formula was born. AIDA: Attention, interest, desire and finally action – which marketing expert does not know this principle?
But in the last decade of the last century, what you as a CMO know today as digitization has manifested itself: In order to support customers as best as possible on their customer journey, new channels and touchpoints are constantly being added to the marketing mix.
B2B ONLINE MARKETING AND ITS DIVERSE POSSIBILITIES
A customer’s decision-making process is much more complex than in the past and presents the company and you as a CMO with completely new challenges.
The term B2B marketing or business-to-business marketing refers to the marketing of products between companies or organizations. Basically, the same rules apply to B2B marketing as to B2C marketing, although the decision criteria are quite different. While B2C marketing is about emotionality, companies are more likely to be motivated to buy on the basis of rational criteria.
THE MODERN B2B CUSTOMER JOURNEY IN B2B ONLINE MARKETING
The decision-making process of a customer is therefore much more complex than in the past and presents the company and you as a CMO with completely different challenges.
There are different interpretations of the customer journey that represent a different number of phases. However, such a customer journey does not work like a blueprint, as the individual phases are often very different.
How do I recognize the customer journey of my own company?
Just like the B2C customer journey, the B2B customer journey is also part of the customer experience. The buying process is more complex and therefore not just linear. The original AIDA formula therefore looks completely different – depending on the product and company. The usual journey of a potential buyer is roughly divided into five phases:
In the awareness phase the customer becomes aware of his problem or need, in the consideration phase the customer searches for possible solutions and weighs them up. In phase 3, the conversion phase, the product is finally bought. In the retention phase, the customer is enthusiastic about the purchased product and, in the best case scenario, even buys it again. In the last phase, the advocacy phase, “the customer takes sides for the company” and recommends the product or company to others.
So get to know the customer journey of your customers. This works best with data analysis.
The web analytics data is one of the most important sources for this. A central tool at this point is Google Analytics with its free tools for collecting various data. The acquisition report, for example, is suitable for finding out how visitors get to your website. If you want to know where in the buying process your users are jumping off, funnel visualization is a great option.
In addition, internal company sources should also be used: Your customer service. Interview the employees because they are close to the customer and can best reflect their needs. Through a personal survey, you not only give customers the feeling that they are an important part of the company, but you also create an emotional level of customer loyalty.
The next step is the definition of the customer type, the so-called buyer persona. The needs and interests of your target group are determined on the basis of an analysis. In this way you can address your customers even more specifically. This buyer persona serves as the basis for developing the customer journey.
This is followed by the third step, which is to define the different phases or steps of the customer journey map that the customer goes through on his “journey”. For a better visualization, it is advisable to record these steps graphically. While these steps represent every change in customer behavior, the interactions with your company take place at the touchpoints. Which brings us to step four: The touchpoints are relevant to determine when and where the customer comes into contact with your company in order to be able to react better to them.
The touchpoints and steps define the channels through which the buyer persona comes into contact with your company during their customer journey. Ideally, your company is present with a channel in all phases of the customer journey in order to interact sustainably. The common channels that should be used by the company include (in addition to social media and Google Ads), of course, good findability (SEO), successful storytelling and blogging on the various channels (or the website itself), possibly also print ads, Recommendations, etc. Try to find out the emotions of the buyer persona in this step. With this assessment, you will be able to deal with possible frustrations on the customer’s side and to avoid them in the future.
In the fifth step, you should assess which steps are experienced by the potential customer as particularly formative or intense – in both a negative and a positive sense. Here empathy can help the company to collect plus points with the buyer persona.
The visualization of the customer journey map is helpful and in any case important to get an overview. You should always try to look at your company from the customer’s perspective. If you succeed in this, you are well on the way to identifying unsatisfactory processes and taking appropriate change measures.
In an article by the management consultancy McKinsey, three important key factors of customer satisfaction are mentioned. The so-called customer journey consistency, which describes the importance of standardizing customer processes. In order to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction, a congruent strategy in dealing with customers across the company is required. In contrast, “emotional consistency” is about emotional customer loyalty, which creates a relationship of trust between the company and its customers – through customer trips that are experienced positively. The third “C” of the key factors is “communication consistency”, which attaches great importance to a company’s uniform communication policy. Promises to the customer should be kept under all circumstances.
THE B2B MARKETING PLAN FOR SUCCESSFUL B2B ONLINE MARKETING
The buying process of a customer – especially from the B2B sector – has changed significantly in the last few decades, especially with the start of digitization. This is also because the majority of today’s buyers are millennials who grew up as digital natives. Millennials are the generation who were born around the turn of the millennium. The previously so important selling on the phone no longer works for this generation – in contrast to the generation before them, millennials no longer know what to do with these cold calls.
Millennials have a high affinity for social media and only decide on a product after thorough research. In most cases, the desired information is searched for online, several offers are compared and weighed before a specific decision is made. Only then does the potential buyer contact the company. At this point, more than half of the buying process has been completed.
The customer journey in B2B online marketing
In addition, the buyer’s journey is becoming increasingly multi-dimensional, i.e. more people are involved than was previously the case. Decision-makers are no longer just members of the upper hierarchical level of a company, but also other employees. Why? The hierarchies in companies are becoming flatter; Especially in young companies, decisions are becoming increasingly “democratic” because more opinions are involved.
This means that the buyer journey is no longer linear, but chaotic, i.e. it is switched from one level to another. Around 20 years ago, the buying journey of classic B2B customers looked different because there were fewer opportunities to obtain information, the purchasing processes were more predictable and fewer people were involved. The buyer was therefore more dependent on the information and knowledge of the supplier.
The difference between the B2B customer journey and the B2C customer journey is getting smaller and smaller.
Just like with a purchase by the end consumer, the purchase decision no longer necessarily depends on the price or the conditions of the offer, but on the purchase experience and the overall customer experience. Companies, therefore, have to rethink their previously rather conservative strategies and also offer their customers a digital experience.
B2B ONLINE MARKETING – HOW SHOULD YOU START?
The purpose of lead generation is to attract specific, qualified new customers who will provide your company with sufficient contact information to build a successful relationship. These leads are then very likely to become customers who select, validate and build consensus for your company’s product or service.
In the process of permanent customer loyalty and customer recovery, the company has more or less got back to where it started: generating demand.
ELEMENTS OF A B2B ONLINE MARKETING PLAN
Generating demand comes before generating leads. This means that potential customers must first be made aware of their existing problem so that they can search for solutions – and in the best case find your product.
Demand generation includes various measures such as content marketing, SEO, video and social media marketing. They all have a common goal: building a long-term customer relationship. The most important thing, however, is a good and consistent content marketing strategy.
It is therefore important to carefully analyze your own target group in advance in order to avoid channels that are not used by your potential customers.
Social media is also likely to be an increasingly powerful tool for generating demand as many B2B buyers use social media in their decision-making. The content of social media posts should be in the professional field, i.e. Technical articles, webinars or news from the industry. This content can then be conveyed to the customer in many different ways.
Blogs in particular are great for storytelling in order to build an emotional bond with potential customers. A good, technical sounding article can work wonders – especially when shared by customers. Similar content can also be packaged differently, e.g. as short videos because they also play a role in many customers’ buying process. It is important to always keep an eye on the target audience and their favorite channels.
High-quality content is crucial, because studies have shown that buyers make their purchase decision largely dependent on the content of a company or are significantly influenced by it. On the other hand, this also means: bad content = fewer customers → less sales. Companies need to be clear about the needs of the prospect in order to be able to deliver in-depth information through the appropriate channels.
Lead generation in B2B online marketing
As soon as the demand for a product or service is generated by a prospect, leads can be generated from it. The question is which strategies can be used to generate specific leads.
In lead generation, a distinction is made between offline and online strategies. Offline marketing particularly includes advertisements in print media and events. The latter are still proving to be the best way to generate leads. In personal contact, customers are usually more willing to give their data.
B2B online marketing, on the other hand, includes all digital measures that are used online and is used to attract customers. The described content marketing for generating demand is also suitable for generating leads through press articles, testimonials and content about the corporate identity of your company. Here, too, it is important to pay attention to the quality of the content. This is the basis for a customer’s trust.
In addition to content and event marketing, SEO is of course primarily in the foreground. Without good SEO, it’s impossible to find a website. So don’t save at the wrong end, instead focus on good keywords that are relevant.
Marketing automation enables the use of software to automate and optimize workflows in marketing. It begins with the generation of a lead and includes the creation of a profile and the evaluation of its degree of maturity, the so-called lead scoring. In addition, such marketing automation software can also be helpful when sending e-mails and publishing content. In addition to the classic functionalities, there are also systems that include the creation of landing pages, the optimization of conversion rates and the creation of content.
Possible process in B2B online marketing
The process could look like this: Thanks to very good SEO, the interested party will find you on the first page of the organic search results. The interested party clicks on the link and finds himself on your YouTube channel, where he is watching an informative video. At the end of the video, he would like to receive more information and click on the link in the video that will take him to your landing page. After looking around the landing page, the customer enters their contact details in a form. By submitting the form, the customer either agrees to be contacted by your sales department, or they receive an e-book or something similar – depending on what you specify.
In this way, the potential customer has qualified as a lead, lands in your CRM database and can be further subdivided by your sales department with regard to interests, companies and products, etc. In this way, high-quality customer lists can be created that you can use for further marketing activities – with minimal wastage.
LEAD QUALIFICATION IN B2B ONLINE MARKETING
The purpose of lead qualification is to evaluate the quality of the leads generated. This is particularly important for the successful course of the purchasing process.
This is where the lead evaluation becomes important, with the help of which certain criteria are defined. With the help of a lead scoring system, in which the lead is classified according to points, the customer is classified according to his behavior. In practice, this would look like this: content that shows a high level of interest in your products is awarded more points or rated higher than content that appears to be of only superficial interest. Similarly, “negative” behavior, e.g. due to poor customer reviews of your company, lead to a “point deduction” in the evaluation. The higher the score, the more interested the lead is and the more value it has for the company.
B2B online marketing and lead scoring
While lead scoring is about evaluating customers, lead scoring takes care of their demographic information. You can use pre-defined buyer profiles or buyer personalities based on this information to determine which type of lead is appropriate for your product or service. For example, if a lead matches your predefined buyer profile in every way, it will get the highest rating. If there is one point missing that match, the lead will be given a lower rating but will still be qualified.
Put simply, this means that the lead rating is based on the behavior of the lead, while the lead rating is based on demographic data.
Lead management in B2B online marketing
In lead management or lead maintenance, marketing measures are used in such a way that all relevant information is made available to the interested party – and this is precisely tailored to the respective phase of the purchase process. In other words: The aim is to turn the prospect into a customer with whom a relationship has been or will be established, in the best case on the basis of various measures. A functioning lead management system increases the sales opportunities considerably. A well thought-out and well-founded strategy is important so that the customer stays with us in the long term.
For this, close cooperation between sales and marketing is essential. The coordination of these two key departments with each other is the prerequisite for successful and sustainable lead management.
EMAIL MARKETING IN B2B ONLINE MARKETING
What is Email Marketing?
The most important instruments of email marketing are mailings or newsletters. While a newsletter is usually sent out at regular intervals, mailings are sporadic and are more likely to be sent on specific occasions or campaigns. The advantage of e-mail marketing is that it is much more cost-effective than advertising in conventional media and can be evaluated automatically with the help of a program and thus made measurable. A newsletter can be created quickly and sent internally. The big disadvantage of email marketing is obvious and you can certainly understand it: The flood of emails that we receive all the time means that newsletters are rarely read – even if we have consciously subscribed to them. Nevertheless: With the appropriate lead qualification, email marketing is a valuable and established tool for addressing customers with minimal wastage. Unfortunately, all too often only one newsletter is used for all contacts and is not personalized to the target segment.
Use of an e-mail program in B2B online marketing
To send the e-mails, you primarily need an editor in which you can create the cover letter. It should also be possible to check the correct display for different mail providers. It should also contain processes for the automated registration and deregistration of email addresses. “Normal” mail servers are generally not suitable for mass e-mails. You should therefore use a hosted system in which the provider offers all services.
CONTENT MARKETING IN B2B ONLINE MARKETING
What is content marketing?
As discussed briefly above, content marketing is primarily about creating relevant content for a specific target group, which at best offers them added value. So it’s not about advertising, but rather about creating high quality content that makes the company appear competent. This intensifies customer loyalty.
How is content marketing used in B2B online marketing?
Blogs, e-books, white papers, and infographics are great ways to use content marketing in the B2B space. Why? They raise the company to a kind of expert status and give it credibility and competence.
SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING IN B2B ONLINE MARKETING
What is Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is a sub-area of B2B online marketing, but relates exclusively to social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Social media marketing includes certain measures that target the distribution of company messages serve, but also lead to interaction with users and last but not least lead them to the company’s website.
How is a social media strategy established?
Sharing social media posts without meaning or understanding makes little sense – especially if certain goals are to be achieved. Successful social media marketing requires a well-designed, clear marketing strategy. First of all, it’s important to determine how well social media fits your company. Be aware that a well-founded strategy takes time, money and personnel in order to be successful in the long term and to generate customers or to retain them to the company. Social media must be accepted authentically and seriously by the user or potential customer.
First of all, it is important to analyze current social media activity. It must be clarified whether existing channels should continue to be recorded or possibly in a modified form. Then this should be compared to the previous communication strategy – remember that social media channels are usually used on a first come, first served basis, and then consider whether this suits your company.
Also, find out about your resources. Be aware that social media is not just a sideline, but a sophisticated marketing tool that requires intense management.
Then analyze your target group with regard to their demographic structure and whether or where they are active. To know who else is in the market for the attention of this target group: just take a look at your competitors. Take a close look not only at their products, but also at their social media strategy.
Should customer service be supported, should new customers be won or brand awareness built? Communicate with your “Likes” on Facebook or Instagram, be in contact and be honest. Therefore, do not concentrate on too many goals at once, but concentrate on the essentials.
Once the goals are set it is much easier to define the content. Of course, the content also depends on the social medium. The same applies to the frequency of posts. It is best to draw up a correct editorial plan with the content and date of the postings.
Indispensable: controlling. Facebook and Co. provide extensive tools that enable a very precise analysis of the activities. This is the only way you will ultimately know which content works and which doesn’t.