Part One: Critical Strategies
Most startups today know that they need marketing, but don’t have the time for it. Moreover, many of them don’t know where to start and initially don’t have the budget to hire an expert to light the way.
Plus, it can be a little frightening at first if you’re thinking from an ROI standpoint— how does marketing drive your bottom line? Is it really worth it to market at all? Yes, it is worth it. That said, you have to be careful about it the first time you design and implement a strategy, or risk your marketing efforts falling completely flat.
Here are some tips for designing a good marketing strategy:
1: Pick One Thing, Do It Well
So you want to dive into social media, get started on content marketing, design an email campaign and A/B test your website? Sounds like a good plan— if you’re hiring a full marketing staff to manage it.
In the more likely event that you’re working without a professional marketer, choose only one marketing activity to start and hammer down. Really nail it.
The Common Mistake: Many small businesses try take on too much at one time, which results in poor quality. They’ll send out a few tweets, write a few blogs, design simple emails, and a few months later be screaming, “This isn’t working!” Of course it isn’t. Dedicate your energy to one marketing effort instead of trying to be a superhero and falling short.
2: Automate Everything
This cannot be stressed enough. There are tons of cheap tools that can help you streamline your marketing efforts. For example, Buffer will help you schedule all of your tweets for the week, and MailChimp’s free new automation features can help you simplify your email marketing.
The Common Mistake: “We don’t have the budget for that. I know it’s only $10/mo but these things add up.” Look at it like this: what are you worth? If even one hour of your time is saved each week, it’s worth it. Don’t be so blinded by your budget that you can’t see the real benefit of optimizing your marketing.
3: Define Success Upfront
How can you set goals if you have no idea what outcomes you desire? Start small. If you’re concentrating on social media, define a number of viable leads you’d like to gather during your first month. Make sure your marketing goals are directly tied to your company’s goal: to make money.
The Common Mistake: Marketing without clear goals is the #1 most common marketing mistake. During your marketing efforts you need to constantly be asking yourself “Is this working?” and without set goals in place, you’ll have absolutely no clue.
Part Two: Inbound Marketing
LAUNCH YOUR FIRST B2B MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Whether you’re a one-person business or a company with a small marketing department, getting your first inbound campaign off the ground won’t take long if you follow these four steps:
STEP 1: CREATE THE CONTENT OFFER
What matters to your prospect? You should be able to answer this question without batting an eye.
Is your prospect a CEO in need of inspiration? A small business owner in need of actionable information? Whoever it is, do they have a short attention span? The answers to these questions should be used to dictate the type of content offer you create.
A CEO in need of inspiration might enjoy an eBook filled with big-picture ideas. A small business owner that’s ready for action probably wants a checklist or guide. A prospect with a short attention span would appreciate a 30-second video.
- Know the value of your time and outsource any part of the process that you’re not comfortable with.
- Don’t go overboard. Have your initial content designed by someone on a relatively inexpensive platform like Fiverr before spending tons of money on an expert!
STEP 2: PUT THE CONTENT ON YOUR WEBSITE
Put your first offer right on the front page of your website. Take a screenshot, pair it with a contact form and you’re ready to start generating leads. If you don’t know how to do this, someone on Fiverr, UpWork or many other outsourcing sites will. Here’s an article on how to make your website great, too!
- Know what and what not to “gate” (put at the forefront of your content). Don’t gate a sell-sheet, or an eBook bragging about your company—it’s not going to serve your purpose.
- Your prospects will just be annoyed if they open your content and find that it’s primarily promotional instead of educational.
STEP 3: PROMOTE YOUR CONTENT!
Making sure there are links to your content all over the web is super important for fruitful inbound marketing. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Take advantage of social media. LinkedIn is a fantastic place to promote content. Put the link in a status update, or better yet, write a related blog and post it using LinkedIn Publisher. Utilize Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram for Business—really anywhere you have a presence.
- Leverage voices in your industry. Quote someone popular in your industry in your content and ask them to share it with their networks. Link to a related article and ask the source to return the favor.
- Head over to Quora. Quora is a fantastic resource where you can research your industry for future content inspiration. You can even write content based on the questions people are asking there, and later post a link to your content!
- Email your contacts. If you have an email list or even just a few industry prospects, send your content their way.
- Don’t just plant links with the title of your content; make sure your promotion is relevant and thoughtful.
- Make sure you craft your messages to feel personal so that they don’t come across as spammy.
STEP 4: GENERATING PROSPECTS
Once you’ve completed your first inbound marketing campaign, make sure to continue promoting your content! Keep it fresh for the best results— this requires updating it every 6-12 months. Just like everything else online, over time you’ll have diminishing returns if you fail to update, optimize, and refresh your content. Good B2B marketing content is never done, it just matures.
Part Three: Social Media Marketing
You’ve probably been wondering how much, if any, of your energy and budget should be applied to social media marketing. Your uncertainty is totally reasonable— social media is still a new and evolving marketplace, and it may not be the #1 best way for you to reach your target audience.
That said, there are still several reasons why you should include social media in your online B2B marketing strategy.
1) Social Media Can Increase Brand Awareness
A Facebook page or a Twitter account can increase your brand awareness by helping you spread the word about your products or services. It’ll also allow people to learn about the projects you’re involved with.
You may think that your target audience is so specific that it’s a waste of resources to publish content on social media networks. However, even if your niche is ultra-specific, you may be forgetting that your target audience isn’t only current or potential clients— it’s also people that they’re connected to. Social media generates referrals like crazy.
You never know when or where the decision to buy your product will be made: during a family dinner, a commute with coworkers, at the barbershop, or over a drink with friends. Point being, B2B branding has a much broader target than you might think!
2) It Can Generate More Leads
If your online marketing goal involves generating leads, you definitely shouldn’t ignore the ways social media can help in this arena. It might not bring them in directly, but it’s a surefire way to promote your business.
By posting images, videos and other content, you can build an emotional relationship with your audience. Adding strong calls-to-action (CTA) will make your campaigns even more more effective and thought-provoking. You can also post ads on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or get in touch with industry influencers directly through professional platforms like LinkedIn (who can send referrals to your company or even become clients themselves!)
3) Increase Website Traffic
Social media marketing is one of the best ways to increase traffic to your website. Of course, if you post something like “Hi, please visit my website!” you’re not going to see thousands of people come running. But if you offer engaging content, they might click on your post and end up staying a while if you have a decent amount of interesting content on your site.
Users are eager to find valuable, reliable information online that will save them time or money. So, if you have anything like this to offer, they’re bound to click on your link to learn more about you. This should be reason enough for you to invest in social media!
4) Help You Attract Good Talent
Social media also becomes a great resource when you need to contract/hire someone. When you’re on the hunt for some new talent, you can go about it a few ways:
- You can use LinkedIn to search for relevant candidate profiles.
- You can post your job vacancy on whatever social media network you have an established presence on.
- You can keep tabs on people that seem like they’d be a good fit but aren’t currently looking for work (also on any/all social media networks).
Social media can be an amazing resource for finding new employees, but be aware that you might receive a ridiculous number of CVs if you post something too general. Spare this strategy for positions that require specific skill-sets that you can describe in detail!
5) Remember, Your Competition’s There
If nothing else convinces you that some level of social media presence is essential, maybe you should do some research and see what your competitors are up to. You’ll probably find that they’re all at least on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Some of them might even be investing in expensive social media campaigns while you’re unsure if you should go for it at all. So make up your mind while there are still some clients out there for you! You can also take this opportunity to learn how to avoid some common B2B mistakes that might be killing your conversion rates.
Final Thoughts on Social Media
Including social media in your online marketing plan can be challenging for many B2B businesses. Even if you’re an experienced marketer, you might find it difficult to sell the idea to the higher-ups without enough reliable stats to back you up. Yet, you can’t ignore the major benefits, including but not limited to raising brand awareness and website traffic, generating leads and bringing in talent. Do your best to convince whoever you need to that this is a necessary move!
Part Four: Content Marketing
1) CREATE ACTIONABLE CONTENT
Many marketers think that all the content new companies publish should be deep-think pieces, but the truth is your content doesn’t have to be super long or in-depth— it just has to be actionable. How can you craft free content to actually help your prospect?
We encourage B2B startups to think about content marketing with the following in mind:
- What does your product do for your customers? What related content can you create to make their lives easier?
- Could you provide a process checklist to improve a certain process for your customers and their businesses?
- When creating a less actionable type of content (like an eBook) what can you include for your prospects to use in a tangible way?
2) KEEP PROMOTING YOUR BEST CONTENT
So many companies make this mistake: they spend hours creating a content offer, publish it, promote it for a week on Twitter— and move right along to the next campaign.
Good content promotion should take place over a series of weeks, months or even years. Just because the content seems old doesn’t mean it won’t be useful to your prospective clients. This is what it means to keep your content “evergreen.”
3) PARTNER WITH INDUSTRY THOUGHT LEADERS
This is easily one of the most important content marketing strategies. Partnering with thought leaders allows new business owners to connect with like-minded people in their industry, and offers the benefit of free content promotion! The more airtime you can get your content, the more traffic you’ll drive to your site, the more likely leads will get to know your company, and so on.
4) EXAMINE WEBSITE CONVERSIONS
Your website should act as a lead generating funnel. If it isn’t serving this purpose, it’s time to examine the conversion points on your website and make sure you’re giving prospects plenty of places to identify themselves.
Possible conversion points include:
- Calls-to-action (CTAs) on every page with forms.
- A resources page or library to house your content offers.
- Related content offers on every page of your website.
- CTAs at the end of every blog to lead the visitor to a form.
5) ONE STRATEGY AT A TIME
Remember, don’t try to do everything at once! Choose one marketing strategy and execute it fully before moving on to the next one— and make sure to give it time. For example, if you want to try Twitter advertising, don’t just run a campaign for two weeks and give up if it’s not working.
Test these platforms for 1-3 months and compare your results. If you find that your strategy is working, keep at it! If it isn’t, abort! And remember, once you find effective marketing strategies, you should reevaluate them continually to ensure they’re still working.