How Multi-Channel Marketing Enables Dialogue With Sales
Business-to-business sales cycles are long, arduous journeys. Compared to marketing to consumers, the B2B buyer path is a marathon.
Long before social media and digital marketing disrupted everything, B2B marketing was all push. The more that companies pushed their sales pitches outward, the bigger and better their sales pipelines became. Then came the Digital Tidal Wave. Nothing has been the same since, no matter how much we pretend it’s still “business as usual”.
The Digital Evolution Has Changed Everything
Companies that only push out traditional marketing communication are missing out on new opportunities because today’s B2B buyer is more digitally savvy than ever before. Multi-channel digital content can be the deciding factor between showing up in a search and making the shortlist. When content is shared across multiple channels with relevancy and consistency, it creates a unified customer experience that makes a big impression with prospective buyers. Not only that, every sales professional knows it takes multiple impressions from multiple sources to resonate with buyers.
By now, many business professionals have read that the average customer had completed 57% of the purchase decision-making process prior to engaging a supplier sales rep directly. At the upper limit, that number ran as high as 70% (CEB research, 2012). In other words, more than half of the buyer’s path is completed before vendors are contacted.
That means B2B buyers are making use of many traditional and digital channels together when doing their homework for their next big purchase. Yes, they still go to trade shows, read whitepapers, and talk on the phone, but they also have more digital content at their disposal than ever before – content like infographics, webinars, videos, demos, social networks, etc, are available instantly on any device. For the first time, buyers have more control over the buying process than vendors do.
The Company That Publishes Together Sticks Together
Although content continues to be the elephant in the room for most B2Bs, more companies are recognizing that good content builds trust and helps buyers make informed decisions. Large corporations like SAP and IBM, for example, have invested heavily in building content-centric ecosystems supported by dedicated staff and external resources. These companies understand that sharing content in many forms improves the chance of showing up, nurtures leads along the buyer path, and more importantly, enables dialogue with Sales.
Good content creates the stickinees every sales team dreams of. When you don’t show up, your sales people have a much steeper hill to climb.
But beware! Content is a team sport – one person, one department cannot do it alone. It requires a collective effort from key subject matter experts and internal and external resources to get the stories out in ways buyers seek.
The fundamental implication is clear: companies that fail to “show up strong” in this context are underserving potential customers and at risk of losing mindshare and, ultimately, sales opportunities.
– CEB, The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing, 2012
The Multi-Channel Multi-Challenge
Publishing relevant and meaningful content is not easy. It’s the same challenge for every company no matter how big or small. For example, according to the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, 54% of large enterprises and 71% of small businesses are challenged with a lack of resources and the inability to create content.
So where do you start? How do you tackle these challenges?
- Strategy First. Always start with a plan. Know where you are headed. What is the goal for your content? What do you want it to do? How do you intent to make an impact? How will it convince and convert potential buyers? Who will be responsible for what and when? These important questions need to be addressed prior to diving into tactics.
- Foster a Content Culture. Silos are not social. One person or one department cannot and should not do it all. Content is a company-wide responsibility because subject matter experts can be anybody, from management to the colleague working heads-down in the corner. Do you have dedicated staff for producing the content mapped out in the step above? Have you shortlisted potential agencies to help with planning and execution?
- Expand Your Network. Insight depends on good network connections. The better your network, the better your insight. And the better your insight, the better your content. Decide on what content your team can produce internally and what should be outsourced. What heavy lifting are you will to do yourself? What heavy lifting are you willing to pay for? Reach out to professionals that can help you create the content your buyers are looking for.
- Be a Social Business. Your potential buyers are social and mobile. That’s never going to change. Therefore, your business needs to be just as social and agile with the content it shares. Listen to conversations and monitor the dialogue. Once you have a good sense of where your buyers hang out and what they talk about, join the conversations using the corresponding social platforms and share your insights accordingly.
- *Publish Useful Content. Content takes on many forms, from short sound bites (tweets) to longer interactions (webinars, whitepapers, etc). Creating useful content starts by first mapping out your company’s content ecosystem and then mapping each content bucket with the key nurturing stages of your buyer path. The objective is to create content that you can manage and grow as your content team grows. If you are a small business, take small steps.
- Listen, Monitor, and Respond. Once your content engine is fueled and humming at a decent clip, use online analytics and automation tools to monitor how your content is being used. Listen, watch, and then respond accordingly. Use digital channels to improve customer service and engagement. The more responsive you are the more your customers and potential buyers will love you.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Making Mistakes. Mistakes will happen, accept that fact now. If you screw up, admit it, and correct it immediately. Never deny, procrastinate, or remove a mistake. That will destroy trust in a nanosecond. Mistakes are what make us human. People will respect and trust your company more when you quickly fix an error. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want from the companies we buy stuff from? The more human companies become, the better the experience for all.
* I recommend reading Don’t think like a publisher. Think like a publishing start-up. Forrester’s Ryan Skinner shares valuable insights to help any business implement a successful content publishing mindset.
What do you think? How is your company adapting to the Digital Evolution? What multi-channel marketing strategies are you developing to publish the content your buyers are looking for? Share your thoughts and sound off in the comments below or on Twitter (@SterlingKlor).