Power has shifted to the buyer. B2B buyers are more knowledgeable, self-directed, and have more access to information than ever before.
This has changed the seller-buyer dynamic.
Eighty percent of a consumer’s decision to buy your product is often already made before you know that they exist. Before a prospect is known to your company, they’ve read reviews, talked to their peers, visited your site, and researched your competitors.
And, buyers expect contextual interactions with both human and digital resources across a consistent but non-linear journey. And, by in large, they want their experiences with marketing and sales people to be high-value or frictionless.
Today’s sales process is fluid and it involves marketing, sales, customer support, and leadership. It also happens on and off your site and outside of your knowledge.
This new B2B buyer demands a lot from today’s marketer. Your brand has to be “on” all of the time and distributed across channels, supporting in-person and online marketing experiences.
For small to mid-size companies with small budgets, this can seem an impossible expectation to deliver on, especially if your competitors have bigger budgets. But there are ways you can still meet the needs of today’s buyer, affordably.
Here are five suggestions for extending your reach and connecting with today’s B2B buyer, even on a small budget.
Focus on Consistency & Frequency
Without a big budget, you need to be invested in the long-term. Commit to consistency and frequency over a long period of time to build relationships and trust with customers and prospects. I recently read this line in Seth Godin’s latest book, This is Marketing:
The market has been trained to associate frequency with trust. If you quit right in the middle of building that frequency, it’s no wonder you never got a chance to build that trust.
– Seth Godin
If you do what you say you’re going to do, if you show up consistently and frequently, you will build trust. Trust breeds customers and customers feed your business.
The idea is simple enough, but I’ve seen companies fail at this over and over. If you post an article every week and you have 15 subscribers it’s easy to think, “We’re busy this week, let’s not post, no one cares, we only have 15 subscribers.” But what we’re overlooking when we make these seemingly slight concessions is that we’re signaling to those 15 subscribers that we don’t even think we matter, so why should they think we matter? And, if they don’t, then why should anyone else?
Here’s a basic approach to show up with consistency and frequency:
- Share your ideas – post to your blog twice / week, every week.
- Repurpose all of that great content. If you publish a case study, re-use it as a blog post. If you publish a guide, re-use it as a blog series. You might think that it’s duplicative, or that you risk sending the same information to your subscribers twice, but I guarantee you they won’t feel that way.
- Distribute all of your content through social media, an email notification to your subscribers, and to industry media. This might seem obvious, but I’ve seen companies publish great content only to never share it with anyone.
- The graph below from the 2018 B2B Buyers Survey shows how impactful advertising can be during the sales process. 49 percent of buyers noticed vendor ads and it positively impacted their view. Spend as little as $500 / month on remarketing to re-engage with people who visit your site.
Make Sure Your Brand Is on Review Sites and in the Media
Gartner recently published findings from a survey on B2B buying habits. One of the primary findings was that researching independently online is where B2B buyers spend most of their time in their vendor search. To make sure that your brand is where your prospects are doing their research, focus on two areas:
There are dozens of sites dedicated to aggregating vendors and vendor reviews to support buyer research. Sites like Capterra, G2 Crowd, GetApp, etc. are central repositories for software product information and customer reviews.
They are heavily visited by buyers, actively used in the selection process, and they probably have a higher ranking on Google than your brand. Make sure that you are on these sites, that your product information is accurate, and that reviews are responded to by your company.
Once your review site listings are updated, turn your attention to a second distribution channel:
If you’re producing content, you have something to share with the publishers and media companies in your industry. Include them on your distribution list when you publish a new article, share a new resource, or announce company news and you can improve brand recognition with the people covering your industry. It’s also good to check and find out if they have an ongoing syndication feed that your brand can be included in, so that when you publish new content, it automatically gets shared with readers.
I’ve found that many people are intimidated by the media industry, but you shouldn’t be. PR is much different than it used to be. It’s not nearly as formal and the gatekeepers are no longer needed. You are just as able to reach out to a reporter as any PR expert, especially an industry reporter. As long as you approach them professionally and respectfully, with relevant stories, they usually respond positively.
Engage With Prospects, Through New Channels
Email marketing was so hot when I started using it in 2005. Response rates were fantastic. For a long time, direct marketing through email was the best channel. It used to be that when you had a new guide to share, you could blast it to a list of emails that your company received through a partnership or an event and you actually received a response.
Not anymore. People are protective of their email inbox and marketing through this sacred channel, to people who aren’t expecting to hear from you, is the equivalent of knocking on the door of someone who has a sign that says “No Soliciting.”
Email isn’t an open channel anymore. It’s intrusive and disrespectful to abuse it. Instead, expand your efforts into new channels. Here are three ideas:
I am a huge fan of live chat. You can read more about why here. Why wait or force someone to fill out a form when you can share a resource with them or start a conversation the minute they land on your site? That’s the beauty of live chat. Chat connects you with prospects, leads, and customers faster than ever. It’s a must for the modern marketer and super easy to get started with tools like Drift.
LinkedIn is constantly improving its advertising capabilities and with just a few hundred dollars, you can target a highly-segmented group of LinkedIn users to send them a message through the InMail format. Paired with the Lead Gen Form tool, you can engage with prospects and provide them an opportunity to opt into communications with your company. I’ve seen great results through this channel. It’s awesome because it’s affordable, highly-targeted, and doesn’t require the user to leave LinkedIn to provide their information.
However, if you have a bigger budget and you’re looking to extend your reach and relationships in the industry, I suggest…
Publisher Lead Generation
Almost all industry publishers have a newsletter or dedicated email placement that advertisers can pay for placement in and share a new resource or promote an upcoming webinar. What’s great is that the recipient, the publisher’s subscriber-base, has opted-in to receive information from them, so you have the permission, a broader reach, and you get the added benefit of brand association with the publisher.
This can be a bit pricier, but if you can make an investment of a few thousand dollars, this is a much better bet than a standard display campaign with an industry publisher.
Publish the Information that Buyers Are Looking for
As I shared above, by the time a buyer lands on your site, they’re already 80 percent of the way to a buying decision. In order to get them across the finish line, to the sale, make sure you have the information they are looking for readily available on your site.
According to the 2018 B2B Buyers Survey, the content below is the most important during the buying process.
My two recommendations from these findings:
- Create and publish information by buyer persona or industry to ensure that visitors can easily understand how your product supports their role.
- Make your pricing easy to find. Many companies try to hide their pricing. This only holds up the buying process and can be a potential deal-breaker. Publish your pricing.
If you’ve already satisfied these two recommendations, here are some other types of content to create and publish:
All of these are great lead generators and sales tools. Which brings me to my final recommendation…
Sales Needs to Serve as a Trusted Advisor
Buyers aren’t looking to be sold to. They are looking for a partner in their buying process – a coach who is invested in their success.
According to the 2018 B2B Buyer’s Study by Demandbase the most critical time in the buying process is between months one and three. And, it is more common that buying teams are formed to support the vendor assessment. These teams have up to six people on them.
This makes the buying process complicated for the primary buyer. They have to drive consensus across the group. They need someone they can trust, who is responsive, and understands their business.
Make sure that your sales team is educated and armed with the right resources to provide advisor-level support during the buying process. It also helps to put rules in place to make sure everyone understands how critical response times and follow up are.
Andrea Steffes-Tuttle is a marketing and technology enthusiast and the founder of Think Better Marketing. She has spent her career as a member and leader of marketing organizations in B2B software companies.