Three Ways to Attract Today's B2B Buyer
I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about the current B2B buying process this year.
The B2B buying journey is longer and more complex than it’s ever been and sellers have less ability to influence customer decisions directly. Buyers collect information when they are looking for a new vendor, in all kinds of places and ways that aren’t owned by you, the seller.
As a marketer who works with companies with small budgets, I’ve had to figure out how to expand reach and frequency the leanest way possible in order to make sure that our clients are being considered in the buying process. I’ve found three affordable paths for extending brand awareness that I recommend any B2B company invest their time and a little bit of money into.
Distribution & Syndication
As seen in the Gartner data (based on a recent report on B2B buying habits), Researching Independently Online is where B2B buyers spend most of their time in their vendor search. While that might take your mind directly to SEO—which is definitely valuable, but takes months and years to see results from—I’d like to suggest a channel outside of your owned media.
There are dozens of sites dedicated to aggregating vendors and vendor reviews to support buyer research. Sites like Capterra, G2Crowd, 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 have a higher ranking on Google than you likely have right now. Make sure that you are on these sites and that your product information is accurate and that reviews are addressed.
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. The reality is that the news and publishing industry is strapped for time, resources, and things to talk about. They are looking for articles and news to share with and provide value to their readers. Simply 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 among the people covering your industry. It’s also good to check and find out if they have an ongoing syndication process that your brand can be part of, 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 and the editors that run the show, but you shouldn’t be. As someone who has worked in news / media, I can tell you that reporters and editors are hungry for stories and if you approach them professionally and respectfully, they can be an excellent ally.
Lead Generation, Not Through Email
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 for response. 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 haven’t asked to hear from you, is the equivalent of knocking on the door of someone’s house who has a sign that says “No Soliciting. Guard Dog on Premise.”
Email isn’t an open channel anymore. It’s intrusive and disrespectful to abuse it. Instead, find other direct response channels to use. Here are two ideas:
LinkedIn is constantly improving their 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 to attract and engage with prospects. 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 to take over to 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.
Consistency & Frequency
This is a drum I’ve been beating for a long time. If you don’t have a lot of money to throw at a short-term problem, then you are playing a long-term game and you need to behave accordingly. You need to 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.
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? And, if they don’t, then why should anyone else.
Our clients who are committed to consistency and frequency, who are invested in doing the work (or paying us to do the work) are the ones that grow. Those who don’t think it matters, have a much tougher time growing.
Here’s a basic approach to show up with consistency and frequency that we’ve seen have big results for our clients:
Share your ideas—post to your blog twice / week
Gather subscriber information and make sure you notify them when you have a new article
Distribute that content to industry publishers
Spend <$500 / month on remarketing to re-engage with people who visit your site, drawn by those articles
It’s a small investment, but a worthwhile one.
If you invest in these three approaches, I guarantee that you will find yourself in more sales conversations. By leveraging owned, earned, and paid channels, 3rd-party affiliation, and consistency and frequency, your brand will build trust and awareness in a way that many of your competitors won’t and that will make a positive impression on your prospects.