author, updated date
Everything's changed. The pandemic is vaccinated. Brexit is done. Trump and Corby are loooong gone. It's time for a huge marketing macchiato: new big ideas on B2B, indeed, B2P marketing.
1. Buyer metamorphosis
In financial, professional and services markets, buy-side and sell-side have changed drastically in the last five years towards online comparison, trust and speed. The emphasis here is online.
The metamorphosis isn't new, isn't even undocumented. Yet, still the majority of financial and knowledge firms are ignoring the change. Ostrich head, sand. Are you an ostrich?
The hallmarks of an ostrich marketing
- the old wordy website
- the dry Linkedin stream
- the 'let's meet' mentality
Your board might defend against an ostrich accusation here with "we're networkers", or "you can't build trust online", or "we don't really need marketing". I've heard it.
Every buyer in B2B - whether investor or intermediary, procurement manager or CEO - would probably disagree with that board defence. Your board will too, when they reflect on the B2B service they last bought.
The 2020 Gartner Buyer Enablement report chronicles the huge gap between today's B2B buyers and suppliers. The huge shortfall in digital sales information:
- 77% of buyers rated purchase experience as 'extremely difficult'
- Bigger deals are three times more likely when suppliers truly help buyers online
- Websites must be relevant, easy, useful and credible to the buying process itself
So, what's really needed is a wholehearted embracing of online buying. For clients, for investors, for investees, for intermediaries, for influencers.
As Gartner shows, all business buyers and influencers have a strong preference for making a larger portion of their decision online. They want more research, facts, comparisons, reviews and insight information - as much as they can get their hands on - to make their decision easier and as swift as possible.
Websites which encourage buyers to simply 'call us' are nearly a decade behind.
- Draw up a list of CTA's that properly reflect buyer intentions - for example: Discover topic x, visit website, compare us, cross-sell or upsell, explore features, see how our clients have succeeded, book a Zoom, compare methods or processes, calculate likely returns
- Build new pages, or create new panels, for each CTA
- Create a short, warm video explainer for each, explaining why this CTA is valuable to the client, reassure them that there's no obligation, and what will happen next
- Find all the places on your website where you ask visitors to get in touch, or to call
- Swap out the CTA's that don't deliver, with your new ones
2. Digitisation in financial and knowledge industries
An interesting example for us all lies in B2B fintechs who have developed an online-only existence, offering their clients apps and experiences designed to work wholly online. Very little happens offline for the client. A decade ago, many of these firms didn't exist, and most traditional suppliers in the market would have been predicting failure due to low trust, or the need for a relationship-only model.
The vital question for most of the rest of us is: how much can we learn from this approach to serving clients?
Meeting and connecting with would-be buyers is no longer a question of setting out text, pictures, or even videos, which promise a client experience as soon as clients pick up the phone. Online buyers today, and particularly B2B services and financial buyers, are looking for tools which will help them in their buying path.
Add at least one of these to your website (they will perform some of your sales work for you):
- Connector: to help visitors identify and establish common ground and see clearly who to talk to, and why - this can be a series of panels or choices, with pop-ups or embedded videos of team leaders or client-facing support, explaining their role in solving your problem
- Recommender: to offer clear options in a particular purchase, based on client inputs - this can be a cluster of columns, or panels, where the visitor can compare or configure their choices, supported with explainer videos
- Simulator: model up your client's future with you as a supplier. A video showing a sequential walk through a year, or a project, is a great way to bring this to life.
These tools may feel like a huge step. But their work is something you already do when selling. You just have to capture the ideas from the sales context and turn them into online content - or better, tools. The core of these will be financial, operational or marketing benefits.
3. Client migration
For much of this year (probably for the next few years), markets and audiences - indeed, marketing itself - is going to feel uncertain and challenging. Where, and who, are my buyers this year? What marketing will work most effectively? We're trying to reach them.
You may belong to the heavy reading school, and you may belong to the trial-and-error school. The latter approach works every time, and is your best friend.
So what are you trialling here? Is it everything? Are you trying to boil the ocean? Is there a quick way to find a smaller set of variables to trial in your marketing, which will lead more quickly to recovery or success?
Short answer: No. However, some use of what's gone before, and the experience of others can provide speed here. Let's dive into that.
Are they still there? Are your clients in a market which has collapsed or shrivelled greatly during lockdown? Anything travel, retail or hospitality-related isn't going to be there in anything like the numbers pre-COVID.
Has the market grown, pivoted, or transformed in some sizable way, altering their needs, attitudes, or the way they do business? It's worth making a note of these, especially in your primary market, as you can map out traits and new pain points which will help you to open, and perhaps even change, your offering to them.
- Accept that you have new buyer personas, and adjust your language and your proposition to suit accordingly
- Develop an innovation programme to continually adapt to new clients, new sectors, or the same clients who now have different buying requirements
- Make it your new way, rinse and repeat.
4. Channel transformations
Marketing channels have drastically changed. Many of them become wholly ineffective during lockdown. Some, we predict, will bounce back, and some won't at the end of lockdown when the world finds its new, settled normal. With data courtesy of B2B email experts SoPro, let's dive into a few of those channels now:
- Content and SEO: Inextricably linked, write what your audience wants to know about and traffic will gravitate towards it, as it does with all great content
- Email prospecting: When done well, this channel's ability to identify and engage new prospects is second to none due to its lack of restrictions
- Social Media: Though not always the most productive, there are multiple platforms to use and explore in the digital world for sales generation
- Webinars: Highly effective when delivered well, many businesses have seen huge audience attendance during the impact of homeworking due to increased internet usage
- Your website: Undoubtedly, the most important channel you own to reflect your brand, content and messaging - straight from the horse's mouth.
- Pay-Per-Click: With reduced search volumes in certain areas, you'll likely be facing higher costs for valuable key words. If you can afford one, hire a platform specialist to manage your campaign
- Radio: Reduction in office commuters means less prime-time listeners, and scripted advertising might only appeal to nimble footed businesses in the current climate
- Word-of-mouth: Although hampered by reduced audiences in person and on social media, it is possible to incentivise this channel with partner arrangements.
Not viable for marketing until national vaccination is complete
- PR and awards: Promoting branding and credibility globally through networking events is on pause pending the outcome of extended homeworking
- Direct mail: An option only for small businesses that do not need to rely on offices to remain open during lockdown
- Networking dinners and events: As with PR and awards, while great for building business reputation, it is impossible to replicate online/in isolation
- Outdoor advertising: Unlikely due to travel restrictions and poor public foot fall
- Telesales: Call centres are shut, so outsourcing is not an option. Most calling databases have office numbers. Plus, public mood for cold-calling is glacial
- Tradeshows and exhibitions: Completely offline due to large crowds unable to gather. Technology exists to transition to a digital platform, but solutions take time.
It's fair to say that the channels you own are the ones which are most consistent and helpful to you: social media, your website, zoom, and email prospecting. You have full control over these channels to increase frequency, change your message, and offer new things without care or concern for cost, largely.
One of the most disarming things about revising marketing, or reconsidering channels, markets, or proposition, is its fundamental nature and how quickly we realise how much our old marketing has become obsolete.
This is because marketing frequently changes under our feet and is constantly accelerating away from us. While new firms and companies leverage new ways, we have a tendency to keep the faith in our old ways. Until one day, perhaps today, we discover what we've been doing for the last few years is tantamount to throwing good money after bad.
So, let's be truthful, be honest, about what hasn't worked, and finally put in that measuring system that we've always aspired to, and perhaps never got around to. Not just talking about Google Analytics or HubSpot. Talking about actually using Google Analytics and HubSpot.
Once every marketing asset is created with tracking in mind, it becomes a very helpful discipline to see what works, what doesn't, what's popular, what's effective. And those aren't always the same things. A well read blog, for example, may be perceived as such because students, competitors, and other unnecessaries, are heartily feasting on your words of wisdom. But not a single one of them is falling on the ears of prospects, or would-be clients.
It's not enough to know how many people read the article. It matters more that you have a sense of who read it. And, of course, how many went on to take up your call-to-action at the end of the article?
6. Questions answered
So, how can you go about defining new content? Choosing the right kind, quantity and volume? How easy is that to do?
- Questions that your clients ask: Talk to your sales team. Talk to your senior figures. Ask them which questions they've heard most frequently from clients. These topics are clearly of interest to your audience. And even if they're asked once in a blue moon, these topics will be very much on the minds of your clients and frequently on the fingertips of their searches.
- Write out great client questions: A hundred questions are pretty easy to generate in a one-hour brainstorming session. Spend the first half hour blasting down as much as you can, and the second half culling the list and weeding out repetitions.
- Answer these questions: If you're a great writer, you'll find it easy to put 1,000 to 1,500 words together to respond to each topic, but it's helpful to have structure and a consistent approach to writing answers to these questions. Have a look around on blogs and social content sites to find the structure that you like the best. If you're not a writer, video is a better way to reach audiences with your answers. Better because it doesn't just cover the topic, it also gives you a chance to reveal who you are, what you look like, how you send the kinds of people that you actually are.
Allow the experts to answer
The questions that clients ask are best answered by the operational people, on video. This gives them a chance to shine and, most importantly, gives you the chance as a company to demonstrate the quality, calibre and expertise of people working at lower levels in the company, where detail and the actual business of the work that you do is visible and valuable to your client.
If they're ugly, if they're beautiful, it doesn't matter. In fact, the less model-like, the more credible, the more authentic the answers will be received. If they're not eloquent, yet can explain, they're going to be perfect for short videos answering these questions. You just need a good interviewer to get the best from them.
Sometimes, it's the obvious non-presenters who are far more effective at conveying not just the message but the goodwill, wisdom, capabilities and heft of the company, than our usual senior spokespeople or leaders of the company.
If the project feels too ambitious, set your hearts on producing the top 20 questions that clients ask and giving one-minute answers. Film with your chosen video supplier or even your phone-cam. If rough and ready is the look, phone-cam can be appropriate. If not, your video company can film remotely, to better reflect your brand.
Another educational and surprisingly rich area for content development is writing or filming observations of your team at work. At first glance, this might not look apparently easy during a lockdown, but it's incredibly straightforward to set up a Zoom call, or even a phone call to a colleague, and ask them the beautiful question: what are you doing right now? And why?
These kinds of questions, while editorial or journalistic in nature, often yield profound or very rich answers that clients will enjoy reading or viewing, such as asking Mary: what was the most useful email she's read in the last 24 hours? Her answer might well be critical to some aspect of her operational job, where productivity or efficacy are revealed in an everyday way.
It's these nuggets which can bring a vivid professionalism to the overall story that you reveal to buyers and prospects.
So many financial and professional firms prefer formal language, the passive tense, discretion or deference, which has for centuries underpinned a sense of professionalism. Kaboom - Pandemic, Zoom, Brexit, Trump, fake news. We've sailed from those shores.
Look around you at some of the leading competitors in your marketplace. You'll be surprised by the informality of their language, photography, video and other content.
- This is not about taking your tie off. Ok, that helps, unless you're chair of a TFI. No, this is about shorter sentences, warmth, and understanding the client's needs by empathising with them and describing them
- Your small print can take care of all the formality you can dream of. But when you're talking to clients or prospects today, there's really no excuse for drifting into long complex, or showy language
- Consider a wholesale rewriting of your website if you think it's too stuffy. Try to replace all of your stock imagery if it has a feeling of being older than three years
- Try to replace old stock imagery anyway, with custom photography. The 500 pounds you spent on a stock image portfolio would be far better spent hiring even a middling photographer to get an authentic custom look. It's today's visual currency. See Five surprisingly visual B2B marketing hacks for easing out of lockdown for ideas.
- Review your videos and pull all of the footage where you're saying virtually nothing, where you're making claims without producing evidence, where you're waffling or trying to sound bigger than you really are. It's much better to be authentic, direct, approachable, and informal.
8. What did you do in the war?
If you've not already supported the Pandemic effort, and want to, you could do worse than contribute to Covax - an initiative set up by Gavi. It's a global risk-sharing mechanism for fair procurement and distribution of Pandemic vaccines. They're working to help middle and low-income countries achieve herd immunity.
It's not just buying a badge. It's helping those less fortunate, it's reducing global risk of reinfection and it's demonstrating a particular interest in emerging markets. What's more important than that?
So, now you've considered post-lockdown filming, you've moved towards your goal. Time for a chat about success with video?Book a Video Marketing Demo