B2B Sales Techniques for a Digital World

The buyer’s journey is changing sales models and how B2B sales teams sell. Sales 2.0 as a sales technique has been around nearly ten years now but still many companies struggle to embrace it. If you are in B2B sales then Forester projects that over the next four years, 1 million B2B sales people will be replaced by self-service e-commerce. Those that want to have a long term career in sales will have to up-skill and move away from transactional selling while companies will have to embrace a sales model along with sales processes that adds value to the buyer’s journey.

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One Million US B2B Salespeople Will Lose Their Jobs to Self-Service e-commerce by 2020

The reality is (and numerous research proves it) that increasingly B2B buyers prefer to research solutions online plus then conclude the cycle by buying the products and services via the web. How many companies still insist buyers to engage with their sales teams as part of the buying process? Maybe it’s time for sales leaders to transform the historical sales models, one which facilitates a highly social, seamless buying environment where maybe the website and not the sales teams are at the heart of how companies procure and sell.

So are B2B sales dying? Absolutely not but it does mean we have to recalibrate our view of the sales process and what it means to be a sales professional. The sales funnel is no longer being calibrated and decided by sales as the buyers decides where they are in the process. The good news is that a company’s potential customer base is bigger than ever, thanks to social media, the web and accessibility of communication paths to buyers.

Sales needs to rethink where and how to add value in the buying process, when and with what should sales people engage with the buyer so it improves the buyers journey are critical questions coming down the line. The old sales methodologies of marketing bringing in leads for the sales funnel where sales would then commence the process to qualify prospects based on some internal criteria to narrow down the focus to the most likely to convert to customers is disappearing.

It just does not work like that any more. Buyers are not travelling a journey prescribed in some sales manual or CRM system; they are taking their own journey and leaving sales models in the rear view mirror. But the key message for sales here is NOT about catching up (more sales training anyone) with the buyer’s journey but where along the road can we add value. It is about the buyer needing information, resources, guidance, advice and help depending where they are on the journey,

Below are some suggestions on what it will take to be successful in sales for the road ahead and to add value to the buyer in their journey

b2b-buyers journey

CONTENT TIMING IS VITAL AS BUYERS MOVE ALONG THE ROAD.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements

A recent report from Forrester showed that over 33% of B2B marketers acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to deliver relevant content to specific buyers when the time is right. I recently wrote about “How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way” which may be worth reading.

IF OVER 66% OF THE BUYER’S JOURNEY IS DIGITAL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE WELL ROAD SIGNED.

If you read up on new sales methodologies or social selling, you have probably read that 67% of the buyer’s journey happens before sales ever get involved. Well this does not have to come true. Yes buyers are doing research online before contacting sales, so smart sales teams should position themselves as helpful signs or stopping of points along the way. Social selling, credible social presence, inviting and quality (even personalised) content will help flag you to buyer’s as they travel in search of solutions.

BUYERS TRUST OTHER TRAVELLERS ALONG THE JOURNEY, SO SALES CANNOT BE STRANGERS HITCHING A LIFT AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.

Research shows that only approx. nine percent of B2B buyers trust vendor content especially when it comes to data and claims. So they look for independent signs and also they trust information that comes from people they trust: valued social influencers, social network connections, ex-colleagues and friends. Sales has to work hard to get trust by offering valued contributions, staying in touch with existing buyers and sharing information that helps even when it’s not your own. Avoid the big neon signs about special offers, free coffee for everyone and buy today. Seek first to understand (where is the buyer on the journey) and then let the buyer be understood (what do they expect). A socially engaged sales mentality is a must.

INVITING THE BUYER IN WITH GENUINE HOSPITALITY WILL BE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE.

This is not an outbound V inbound argument, outbound sales will always have a place, it’s just about deciding where to place it! Day was when only cold calling and mass broadcasting was the only way for companies to talk to buyers. Sales 2.0 along with social media have flipped this on its head. In an Aberdeen Group report, they found that on average, the most successful sales firms got sixty percent of marketing leads from outbound marketing, while forty percent came through inbound efforts. However the inbound leads converted at a higher rate. The lesson here is these firms used content and not sales pitches to invite the buyer in regardless of whether outbound or inbound. Be a trusted, helpful resource to the buyer along the journey and not interrupting them is the way to get the attention of buyers.

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SALES AND MARKETING ALIGNMENT

Finally, one last thought. On the buyer’s journey, sales, marketing and customer service are seen as a single entity. The term “Smarketing” has been thrown into the mix as a means to convey that sales, marketing and customer service have to collaborate more closely. All departments working as one will create a deeper understanding of the journey a customer takes to engage with your company.

In the socially connected, social media business world, everything moves at a faster pace and this is driven by the buyer. Any business that hopes to get the attention of the traffic on buyers road then they must understand where the potential buyers are coming from, what they demand along the way, and be wherever they need you to be with the right service.

B2B Marketing Strategies

In the world of B2B marketing strategies, CMO’s and marketing leads are finding out that there is allot more to them than just content and SEO.

Social media marketing companies seem to trot out the well worn lines of, you must create a library full of content, recalibrate your SEO, share the content on the social networks, and HEY PRESTO. Your business will have a flow of low cost inbound leads from buyers interested in buying your product or service. The logic around a content lead strategy for lots of businesses stacks up as the lower cost of an inbound lead against an outbound lead is sizeable, making it attractive to invest in SEO, articles, blogging and content.

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So it can be easy for any marketer to assume that we all use social media. Most marketing people are active on the social networks as it forms part of marketing tactics and we also have to be up-to-date on latest trends. However, this is not the case for lots of senior business people and buyers. I have worked with lots of CEO’s who do not have profiles on LinkedIn or Twitter. Others in senior positions are not actively engaged with social media to get a result on trying to build awareness for your brand or even social selling tactics.

What lots of social media agencies will never tell you is that an inbound strategy does not work for all market sectors and can be in fact a waste of money, resources and time. For certain B2B companies operating in certain markets or industries, the reality is the target buyer audience can be too small or the products or services too specialised to be worth over investing in SEO, Google Adwords or Content Marketing. If your business is a new or disruptive product then maybe buyers is not yet doing keyword searches on Google for the solutions you sell.

You see most inbound marketing tactics try to hit multiple keywords or topics to engage buyers. Most of these tactics really are inexpensive to tee up and implement but the audience engagement is not an exact science (you can’t stop anyone reading your articles). So it does take some time to refine your tactics to narrow down sell-to leads.

When articles or blog posts are ranked in search engine results, the relevancy to the topic is mainly down to the keywords it has been optimised for. If your target is HR directors in the banking industry in Ireland then content and even paid advertising cannot be specifically targeted at them(you cannot control who reads or clicks). There are exceptions like social selling tools like LinkedIn or Connectors Marketplace where you can specify buyer profiles.

Let me be clear, I am not for one second suggesting B2B marketers should discount social media as part of their marketing strategy. The thing to remember is to keep the purpose and goals in perspective, don’t get carried away by stories, statistics and advice that may or may not be relevant to your business proposition.

To make social media pay, you should:
• Evaluate the social platforms for their fit to your marketing goals
• Can you feed them with quality content and informative articles
• Train up the sales team in social selling so they can use social media to nurture relationships

So when does inbound marketing have limited returns?

  • The buyer is a specific person within that company: If one buyer has the authority to purchase your product with little influence from other stakeholders as it is not a critical purchasing decision (e.g. paper) then it is a challenge to engage this person with inbound marketing alone.
  • The target market is small: When the target prospects are defined by location, company size or a single buyer (see above) in a company, the list of prospects can be very small. My own rule of thumb is if your prospect list is less than 1000 companies then a heavily weighted inbound strategy may only be helpful to raise awareness as the buyer will probably be targeted via sales calls.
  • Disruptive technology or products: Where inbound excels is when the buyer is on a journey of self discovery (reading articles, whitepapers or engaged with social conversations) and where they understand the problem and the solutions. When a product is disruptive in nature a business may have to create demand as few buyers will be seeking out information. Inbound marketing does NOT create demand, it harvest levels of buyer interest based on keyword nets thrown out by marketing content.

The reality is that for some companies, the keyword net on Google searches and the social networks is simply too small to gather enough sales leads. This leaves options like outbound sales and referrals to harvest leads. We know referrals have a high conversion rate but this is not a repeatable sales process. So this leaves outbound selling (combined with social selling) makes for a repeatable, scalable sales process.

As someone who champions inbound marketing, social selling and good old fashioned sales techniques, I have to be frank and say if your products or services meet any of the criteria I wrote about above, then inbound marketing alone as a lead channel will have limited success. So contrary to what lots of social media gurus preach, inbound marketing is only part of the solution and it may not be a lead generation machine to feed sales.

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So what marketing and sales strategies will work?

Marketing and sales leaders spend endless hours asking and answering this very question, “Where and how do we engage the right prospects?” The good news is there are still lots of options when it comes to reaching B2B prospects.

Embrace outbound prospecting: Hire in sales people who can pick up the phone and prospect AKA cold call. A business can now subscribe to automated lead generation platforms to give you large lists of prospects based on titles, industry and location with full contact details (email and telephone numbers) including social media profiles for social selling engagement. This works great for SaaS companies and companies with defined sales processes.

Still some life in events and trade shows: Attending events can be another way to connect with your target prospects and meet them in face-to-face. This can be a very personal approach that creates trust and builds relationships. The big barrier  is that events cost money, have higher cost per lead, take time to plan and are they cannot scale in any major way.

Industry Webinars: If your own marketing reach is too small to make hosting your own webinar an option, then maybe consider trying to find a market research company, an industry publication or forum or a contact where you can piggy bank on their webinars to get access to their audience. It does take effort but can be a great way to grow a prospect list while providing valuable content to generate more awareness.

Customer Referrals: Some businesses do manage to generate a large portion of their leads via customer referrals and word of mouth. But a note of caution, this tactic is difficult to forecast and scale. Also from a sales process, it is hard to have a programmatic approach to word of mouth referrals. Even formal referral programs usually have low level of leads in certain B2B sectors.

Exposure in publications: Online and print publications are a B2B marketing channel worth exploring. Product reviews, news and interviews can be a great way to reach an audience and connect with prospects

We must all accept that the buyer’s journey is changing. Yes, social media marketing agencies are right when they say business buyers are increasingly relying on social media, social conversations, social reviews and other content as a means of gathering information about vendor solutions. But regardless of what B2B marketing strategy you pursue to generate leads or sales, there is still a huge place for direct human contact via well trained sales people. In the sales process there will always be a place where questions will best be addressed in a personal way especially in higher value deal sizes.

Social Media Marketing Strategy

This is a seven step guide to creating a social media marketing strategy to reach more customers and drive greater on-line awareness for your brand or product. For a business to really capitalise from social media, it needs to build a clear strategy that takes into account what are the goals, what are you trying to achieve, who are the target customers are and what is the competition is doing.

Social media marketing can be defined as the use of blogs, articles and content marketing, white papers, video and images to share on social networks to raise awareness to pull in the web traffic and prospects

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1st Step; Understand your social media goals

As with any planning in business, the first thing anyone needs to do when creating a social media marketing strategy is to understand what you want to get from it?. What are the goals (traffic, leads, likes, buyers, SEO) so you know the purpose of your social media efforts. For some businesses it is to do with creating or raising awareness of a brand or product. For some companies the focus will be on generating leads, increasing sales or driving website traffic. Larger companies many look to social media to build customer loyalty, increase community size or use as a communication channel. The key point here is the goal for your social media strategy has to go beyond simply gaining Facebook likes and Twitter followers.  The above examples are only a few areas a business could focus on, but depending on your resources a business should ideally focus on one primary or one secondary goal. Remember if you do not have goals, targets and measures of success then in all likelihood you are not going to accomplish any meaningful results from social media activity.

2nd Step; Create measurable targets and objectives

The second step is to now set clear targets and objectives based on the goals you have set. Remember the “S.M.A.R.T” method, so make sure your social media goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based.

Let us take the example of a business with a social media goal focused on increasing sales, then you might decide that the target is to generate an additional fifty on-line leads a month via landing pages, whitepaper or eBook downloads. If on the other hand, the goal set is to create brand awareness, then a target could the number of times your brand is mentioned on the social media networks per month. Also worth noting at this point, your goals, targets and objectives for social media should be directly tied to overall business goals, and they should be achievable. Goals without targets, actions and activities are just wishful thoughts. It is important to make sure the objectives are time limited. For example, you need to achieve a 100 percent growth in on-line leads generated within the next six months, not at some vague point in the future.

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Now that you have set the targets and objectives you need to make sure you can measure them. There are lots of social media tools to track and analyse activity and quantify your progress. These tools like Klout, Google Analytic, TweetDeck, Buffer or Social Mention to name a few, can let you know when your progress plus they will also help you to identify any trends early and adjust your activities if you have to.

3rd Step; Customer targeting – who do you sell to

So now, the goals, targets and objectives have been set so now you know where you are going, so all set, right?, well no because you still do not know how you are going to get there. You see a successful social media strategy is all about customer targeting, reaching the right people with the right messages. To do this, a business needs to understand “who do you sell to”. For example, there is no point in targeting everyone who has an interest in sport if you really want to target only those who are cycling enthusiasts.

The best way to do this is to draw up a buyer profile. What does the profile of your ideal customer or buyer look like? Make it personal and give them a name. Where do they work? How old are they? What social networks are they likely to be on? What is their income? How often do they cycle (as in above example) Do they have children? What brands do they like or dislike? What motivates them? The list of detail goes on. If you find that you have more than one ideal customer or buyer profile then create a persona for each.

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4th Step; Monitor the competition

As social media activity is mostly transparent, monitoring your competitions activity will tell you a lot about what works and what does not. After all, you are all targeting the same customer set. By constantly monitoring the competition, you have a fantastic opportunity to learn from their activity and actions.

This fourth step involves researching your competitors, maybe select ones your own size, in similar locations and some of the big ones. Find out what social networks they are active on, study their content (articles, case studies, whitepapers, videos, promotions, links). Is it direct or educational? What kind of industry references do they use? Do they talk about their product, markets, industry or brand and what if any other things do they focus on (events, discounts, and webinars)?

If for example you sell bicycles, do your competitors talk about how their bicycle brands perform in races or do they post cool cycling videos that just happen to include their bicycle range? Now see how well each competitor is doing on the social networks (followers, connections, mentions, comments, shares, likes) they get on their social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. This should give you a good insight into what social strategies work and which ones do not.

5th Step; Develop your content marketing messaging

OK, now that you have an ideal customer or buyer profile plus insights on your competition, next up on the list is to start developing your social media messaging. This is your top line titles and key messaging you want to share (writing the detailed content comes later); a list of key messages that you think will create awareness with your customers or buyers based on the profiles you have created in step 3. A suggestion is to target three or four buzzwords or better still “Keywords”, then break each keyword down into longer tail keywords so you build up a messaging plan.

Based on monitoring your competition a lot can be gained from adopting some of their successful messaging ideas and blending them with your own unique messaging that sets you apart — this has the effect of creating a unique voice in social conversations. Be creative, daring, controversial and educational as social media activity should be exciting, not dull.

6th Step; Select the social media channels

Depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C you will need to choose the right networks that are worth investing in for the products or services.

Most of us would agree that LinkedIn is a good platform to target for business buyers or business type sales while Pinterest would be better if a business is involved with retail or fashion. Some of these channels are obvious when you look at your buyer profiles and competitors but see if any other social media channels could pay dividends like Blogger, Scoop.it, Tumblr, Plurk, and Instagram.

As part of this exercise you should identify social influencers, these are the people who can help reach your target audience. Social influencers and respected bloggers have high levels of trust in their followers or readers and can be indispensable in creating social chat buzz around your brand.social-media-networks

7th Step; Build a content writing and sharing plan

The last but critical step is you need to develop a strong content writing plan based on your target keywords, you need to write and share (not just your own) engaging material. The content needs to align with your overall marketing messaging as in step 5 and be relevant to the social channels you will use. Content marketing is more than promotional blogs or product information; it has to add real value in the buyer’s journey to create awareness and consideration for your business within the audiences. Also if possible try not just stick to one type of media or theme, mixing videos, helpful guides, research papers,  images, info graphics, news and other formats will engage your potential customers far more effectively.

A golden rule to go with your seven step social media strategy is “Content marketing has to be constant” meaning a constant presence with great content across your chosen social media channels. Heed this note, every social media strategy can only be successful if you have an ongoing presence on social media networks, and that entails sharing fresh engaging content on a regular basis.

Social Media Marketing Plan

A social media marketing plan should not pose any major challenges to a small business. As in any growing business with a great product or service, the marketing team or person is most likely to be working on different tasks at different times and these tasks can change rapidly depending on the business needs. However, even with taking this into consideration, social media is now so vital to business success there are some tasks that need to be planned as part of the daily marketing routine.

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Set the social media goals and objectives.

Every article, news release, research or whitepaper are assets in a social media strategy to serve the goals that have been set. As with any business strategy you must know what you are working toward. Is it drive brand awareness, customer acquisition, generate new sales drive traffic, build up your network, reduce the cost per lead. Whatever of any or all of these you need goals and associated objectives clearly defined.

Work on the content strategy

When it comes to marketing the product or service, social media marketing success depends on the content strategy a business decides upon. Prior to writing, commissioning or publishing any content, a business needs to understand, what audience(s) are going to be  targeted?, What type of voice (expert, commentator, industry) will you use to communicate? Who are you trying to influence? What specifically do you want to achieve (leads, likes, traffic, views or authority)?  Allot of strategy answers are to be found in questioning the content strategy so everyone involved in the marketing and sales efforts need to know the why, what and who, understand it and is always in their minds. Content marketing strategy can then be tweaked and optimised as necessary.

Make sure there is new quality content to post

Fresh, quality, informative and relevant content is at the core of every social media campaign to reach target audiences and ensure engagement. To be seen as an influencer and sector expert it is vital to share new content consistently and regularly. New content when well written (not self- promotional or product articles) and engaging can propel a business forward. This is why the person in charge of the social media plan needs to make sure there is always some new content ready to be shared. There is no hiding the fact that writing content does take time and continuous effort so it needs to be planned.

Set up a content sharing schedule

The social media plan needs to have a schedule when content will be shared so all social marketing activities tie back into other marketing events or business plans. Also a schedule will take account for any external events, key word targeting, launches, promotions or seasonal trends that impacts your industry. This is why the content sharing calendar is so important for deciding what social media activities are in the pipeline. While not all content can be created and planned for weeks in advance of sharing, the core, and keyword targeted content pieces that demand more care and effort should be.

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Sharing sector Expertise

Selling is not sharing. Share your sector expertise on a regular basis in terms of marketing, insights, research, social stories and commentary to establish your business, product or service as an influencer. For every 1 self-promotional content pieces shared, share 4 quality “industry relevant” articles, also share insightful articles from other authors, comment and add value (not plugging your own business) on forums and groups.

Generate new content ideas

As stated above the value a great, insightful and quality piece of content can bring to a social media campaign cannot be overstated. This is why a business needs to spend the time brainstorming content and article ideas. Every business should always allocate time for it on a weekly basis. The reality is that without interesting ideas on content your goals and results will suffer in the long run. Content needs to be kept fresh, up-to-date and interesting in order to continue engaging an audience. An easy way of generating content ideas is to track your competitors and other influential blogs to see what content is working for them.

Following news for current and relevant content

As with most companies, some of your content marketing will be focused on industry news and events. This is why keeping informed of relevant news and events means you will be able to react quickly and creatively to opportunities which can boost your on-line exposure. Many social media managers monitor several different keywords, hashtags, social group and Twitter in order to keep up the date and in the know on trending topics. When the opportunity presents itself, it is vital to be ready to respond.

Include images, video and design

Social media is also a visual channel where images, video and good design can give an added edge in the awareness stakes. Using nice imagery or videos and a visually stimulating way of presenting content is far more likely to reach and engage a large audience. As the volume of content rises across social channel, great content should be complimented with visual impact. A business should working with a designer in order to produce visual elements like photos, infographics and video.

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Run social advertising

To add to organic reach on social networks, depending on your social media goals and business then social advertising on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may be a consideration. Running a paid social campaign might help get the content out to a wider audience and more relevant readers.

Communicate with all stakeholders

Whether you are a social media manager working in an agency or working directly for a company, you will need to work with all the stakeholders (management, sales, product, marketing and service) in order to agree on the content to be shared. This is why social media marketers should be spending time with the all the stakeholders to plan for the future as part of the marketing daily tasks. Meeting all concerned can help gain more insights into deciding what type content to create, what upcoming events are there in the pipeline, launches or news that may be of interest and any other ideas to use content to engage the target audiences.

Reporting

Finally but as important is the reporting on social media actions, activities and results. Whether you work for a company or an agency, it is vital to report on the social networks achievements and the upcoming plans in place. This is done by setting up and agreeing on regular reports that monitor the KPI’s or metrics you have agreed on with the stakeholders.

For more social media marketing tips, read the marketing category on The Bitter Business.

Inbound Marketing Strategy

Every business today needs an inbound marketing strategy. In the digital world nearly all marketing efforts are focused on actions like growing web traffic, increasing visitors, gathering sales leads, driving up conversions and securing buyers and customers.   Inbound marketing strategies deliver on all the same marketing goals but in a different way. Traditional marketing or push marketing  is really about interrupting buyers, trying to get their attention with TV or radio ads, online advertising, cold calling, direct mail to name a few.  Whereas inbound marketing is focused on “pull marketing”, devising marketing tactics to get buyers permission to share information as to add value to the buyers journey when researching products or services.

Every business will most likely use a blend of inbound and outbound marketing tactics to deliver the targets. Every marketing focused company including marketing automation companies like Hubspot, Marketo, Oracle and SAP all use both outbound and inbound marketing tactics. Indeed  outbound marketing activities like cold calling and lead generation by sales teams is nearly a forgotten weapon in customer acquisition as too many companies (especially newer technology focused companies) rely too heavily on inbound marketing to drive the sales pipeline.

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As a percentage of traffic and sales leads, inbound marketing is now the main driver in getting a brand into the buyer’s awareness and consideration steps when looking for a product mainly due to the non-interruption aspect of inbound marketing efforts.

Listed below are some inbound marketing tips to compliment the marketing strategy in pulling in buyers to a business. The golden rule of inbound marketing including social selling is that is it about sharing not selling, help not hype.  A business of any size can deploy inbound marketing with some good content and a few whitepapers to start but be aware that inbound marketing will take time to take hold however once traction starts happening , inbound marketing will deliver better qualified and less expensive sources of sales than outbound marketing.

The cornerstone of nearly all inbound marketing strategies is “Content” and sharing quality content alone on social networks will go a long way to increasing traffic and leads to a business or website.  But like all great strategies there is more to inbound marketing than just publishing content; inbound marketing should also include whitepapers, research publications, social stories, social selling, article sharing, social conversations, reaching social media influencers, article seeding and participation on the social networks.

Here is a list of inbound marketing tips that will hopefully improve Inbound Marketing results for you

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  1. Develop a complete inbound marketing plan. Inbound marketing includes blogging, articles, whitepapers, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and social media conversations. Which of these tactics can be improved?
  2. Implement all inbound marketing tactics. A business should never rely on one or two tactics even if you are getting good results from current inbound marketing tactics, implementing all tactics will drastically improve desired results.
  3. Don’t forget the “awareness phase”. Social media using content as the lead is where people become aware of your business and they delight in the quality of the content being read. The awareness phase is where you engage customers and prospects for future purchases and opportunities, even in B2B marketing. A business needs to have blog posts that delight, social media content that engages and messaging that keep customers or clients coming back. Before you get a lead or a sale, you need to build awareness.
  4. Share the content. Simply posting a new article or blog post and then leaving it to chance that it will be picked up by search traffic or prospects are wasted opportunities. Social media networks opens up the ability to immediately collect traffic and leads based on a new article published not to mention the long tail SEO impact. There is more to sharing content than posting to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Sharing content takes time and effort, share across all social networks, forums, groups, while seeding the article on relevant sites like Reddit, Scoop.it etc.
  5. Love your social media accounts. Spend time attending to all your social media account, yes they are fantastic broadcast channels but also more importantly a place to build relationships. Have a constant presence and it need not take a huge chunk of time. Share content from other sources, like other articles, reply to messages, engage with conversations and give regular updates.
  6. Stay tuned in as Inbound marketing, social media marketing and SEO are in a constant state of change. What is the latest social platform, the coolest social network, what type of content (words, images, videos) are best of which audience? To keep inbound marketing firing on all cylinders, marketing teams have to stay on top of changes and make sure to adjust to new opportunities while refining old ones.
  7. Embrace analytics and reporting- The numbers produced from marketing tactics are the key to what is working and what is not. Data and numbers should be checked against goals on a regular basis be it daily or weekly. Ensure all the metrics and KPI’s are in aligned to goals, actions and activities. By viewing the numbers, a business can see where it needs to make adjustments to improve results.
  8. Solicit feedback. Chat to customers, other departments (sales), prospects and industry peers about inbound marketing. Where do they go to be made aware, what delights them, and why do they consider one over another? Also sometimes we can fail to understand how integrated inbound marketing can be with other aspects of the business, from outbound marketing campaigns to sales calls to social selling and customer retention for future purchases. How else you can use inbound to get great results?
  9. Write quality content. Content marketing in the inbound marketing mix is the main conduit in bringing in search traffic and leads. While content will bring in a level of traffic regardless of the content quality, the bounce rate will be high and the consideration rate low. In a digital marketplace where everyone is sharing content, every blog, article or whitepaper needs to be specific, well researched, well written and above all informative. Search the web for blog ideas and to see what social influencers are reading (and interview them to get in-depth information for future social posts)inbound-marketing-terms
  10. Commit time and resources. Inbound marketing takes time, if it is a real marketing strategy for your business, then investment in time and resources to make it happen is a must. Do not let other activities take priority. Every business that is successful with inbound marketing takes the time to follow through on all tactics, methodologies, strategy and implementation; otherwise inbound marketing contribution to the business is just a wish.
  11. Give to get considered. Once awareness levels rise (traffic, reads, likes), start to give more to get into the buyers consideration phase. Offer more giveaways, free trials, deeper white papers, studies and reports. Make it easy for them to consider you, use landing pages, webinars, free samples, and contact us forms so you can move the prospect to a qualified lead.

So as you can see, there is more to inbound marketing than a simple promotional blog and posting it on Blogger. Words sometimes can be hard and time consuming to craft, but words are powerful, fun, enlightening and engaging. These words constructed into quality content and shared as articles across deep reaching social networks will drive your whole marketing and  inbound marketing for today and into the future.  Inbound marketing works as you HAVE READ this article right DOWN TO THE END.

Brian

The Bitter Business.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is the process of generating leads, traffic and attention while reaching influencers using social media networks. Social media marketing encompasses activities such as social selling, content marketing, audience reach and status updates.
Social media marketing also impacts on SEO or search results as content marketing (articles, blogs, whitepapers) and status updates (news, press releases, stories) when shared or published leads to search engine discovery around a set of keywords or a title. Research also shows that people also search on social media sites like LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Facebook etc. to find relevant social media content. Social connections who share a company’s social media links can also impact the position they show up on search engine results for keywords, whether within a social media network or on Google.
In marketing, harnessing the power of content marketing, social selling and social influencing can deliver big increases in traffic, audience and customer engagement. Before a business talks about marketing automation, social bookmarking, social sharing or social data they should discuss how to get the fundamentals of social media marketing right. Whether your social media marketing is designed to drive traffic, generate sales leads or reach a wider audience, following these ten simple rules will help lay the foundation to serve your marketing, customers, brand and business better.

social-media-marketing

#socialmedia rule 1. Listen
Listen to the sounds, chatter and conversations on social networks. The success of social media and content marketing efforts follows the rule of more listening and less talking. No point talking about what has been talked to death. Read your target customers and competitor’s on-line content, join social discussions in a meaningful way (not for self-promotion) to learn what’s important to them. Only after listening and hearing what is being shared can a business create content and ignite conversations with well-crafted words that add value not clutter to people’s lives.

#socialmedia rule 2. Be a hedgehog
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In social media it is better to specialise on topics you know than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A focused social media plan and content marketing strategy will be more successful in engaging a target audience and help build brand awareness than social media activities that attempts to be all things to all men.

#socialmedia rule 3. Quality counts
Quality over quantity. The beauty of quality words will be remembered long after the promise of a low price has faded from memory. It is far better to have 100 influential social connections who read, share and talk about your content to their own network than 1000 connections who disappear after reading your sales pitch.

#socialmedia rule 4. Be patient
Patience allows content the time to fall into place and make an impact. Social media results and content marketing success will not happen overnight. Quality always stands the test of time, social media requires time to filter around so have the patience to work steady and focused to achieve results.

#socialmedia rule 5. Publish often
Social media is not a one hit wonder. The article may be a masterpiece but one swallow never made a summer. Publish quality content regularly to build the on-line audience of followers and fans, quality content published at regular intervals is far more likely to be shared on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and on other blogs.
The network effect of the sharing content or article links on social networks and the discussions that follow regarding the content will tap into search engines like Google, so the content will show up for keyword or phrase searches. These links could grow from ten to hundreds or thousands, reaching out to connect you with people searching on-line.

#socialmedia rule 6. Connect with social influencers
Social influencers can be a conduit to spread your content to a wider range of people who could be interested in your products, services and business. Seek to be and connect with social influencers, spend time building relationships with them through the power of words. If a blogger or brand is seen as an authoritative, interesting source which shares really useful information, the likelihood of your content getting shared with social influencers follower’s increases, which can put the business message in front of a huge social audience.

#socialmedia rule 7. Be a teller not a seller
Craft and tell great stories to get people to listen, too many businesses believe social media marketing is about promoting their products and services. This has the effect of people switching off. Create content that adds value to social conversations. Jumping in on existing social conversions has limited value, better to be known as who creates amazing content. This is what really develops and builds relationships with social influencers. In time, those social connections will become a powerful channel to spread the word on your business.

social-media-networks

#socialmedia rule 8. Build ties even weak ones
Social networks ties people together for shared interests and conversations. Building relationships and connections is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person including weak ties who reaches out to you or favours your content as six degrees of separation means that everyone is just six steps away by way of introduction from any person in the world.

#socialmedia rule 9. Remain constant
Apart from publishing content on a regular basis, you need to be available and have a constant presence with your audience. You need to participate in conversations, share other people content, get involved, and be seen to be engaged and active. Eaten bread is soon forgotten and social media followers can be fickle. They or your competitors will replace you if you are not seen on social networks for weeks or months.

#socialmedia rule 10. Share and show
In social media there is always room to share for a story that is not your own. Show people you care about the industry by sharing content, it is unrealistic to expect others to share your content and talk about you but you won’t do the same for them? So, plan to have a portion of your social media marketing showing content published by others. Showing you value content, articles and social conversations that are not your own will make you a social influencer.

Why Customers Buy

Customers buy solutions to problems or solutions for outcomes they need to make their business or lives better. While pricing is important it usually ranks 3 or 4 on buyer’s criteria. Too many businesses rely on the assumption in the era of digital self-education that the most important thing to a customer is price. But buyers and consumers are moving away from the traditional purchasing funnel to a more enlightened decision journey that uses the Internet to change the way they research, value and buy products. If sales and marketing plans have not changed in response to the new buyer-driven decision journey, it better start soon.

So why do customers buy?

Before we answer that, the first thing to understand is that every customer has a “decision journey”. This journey has pre-purchase and post-purchase steps. The pre-purchase journey can be described as Awareness Consider Evaluate Buy.  The post-purchase journey is Reflect Feel Decide.

In this article we will discuss the pre-purchase customer decision journey. Understanding the customer journey and its steps as to why customers buy can speed up the sales cycle improve conversation rates and drive revenue.

decision-journey

Awareness.

They say the goal of marketing is to reach potential customers within a specific market and influence their buying choices by making them aware of their brand or products. Today, buyers are so well informed and knowledgably thanks to the explosion of social media and digital channels, they can create a buyer “consider list” without the company ever having a sales conversation or contact.  Marketing has to align itself to the awareness part of the decision journey. To raise awareness companies need to focus on buyer-driven marketing of which the internet is at the core. Pushing out brochures, advertisements or media buying as part of a company-driven marketing plan is still relevant but buyer-driven marketing is about creating digital properties that pull buyers towards the company, digital properties like whitepapers, product specific informational web sites, content marketing, customisable content, free product interactions, social selling, tools to engage people on social conversations about your industry and products, comment posting and world of mouth interactions, context marketing, etc. So buyer-driven marketing is about raising awareness to buyers who are already most likely engaged on the internet for your products and services.

Consider.

This is the part of the decision journey where consumers and buyers narrow down their buying funnel and start to consider what companies, brands or products they would contemplate purchasing from or not.  Has the buyer-driven marketing plan got the business into the consideration phase of the journey? This can be measured by trigger events like web traffic, sales leads, inbound enquires, white paper downloads and via social media channels like twitter and Facebook. This is where marketing, sales, customer service have the tools to cover all the buyer touch points to make it easier for the buyer to move to the Evaluate step.

Evaluate.

This part of the decision journey is where buyers add and remove companies or brands as they further narrow (and qualify) their buying funnel. General evaluation leads on to active evaluation where information gathering, sales conversations, meetings, presentations, proposals come into the mix. Research shows during the evaluation phase buyers look for ease of use, ease of implementation, product offering and ease of connection to company (multiple touch points). This is also where buyer-driven marketing pays off as buyers now start to “pull” information from the internet, information like product reviews, white papers, and previous buyer ratings while also pulling insights into the company and product via free trials, proof of concept, face-to-face, phone or web interactions, customer references and company policies.

Buy.    

Commitment to buy. Where the buyer selects a brand to do business with and makes the decision to purchase. This is where the company ensures all steps are kept to a minimum, whether its clicks, paperwork, compliance, set-up, downloads, configuration and payment.

Smarketing – integrate all customer-facing activities

The shift in buyer-supplier selling process and the buyer decision journey means that marketers and sales leadership must adopt and view this change as an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time, giving buyers the information and support they need to make the decisions. Sales and marketing have to be one where every touch point from customer facing activities, web sites, PR, leads generation, customer awareness and sales is everyone’s responsibility.

Consider and Evaluate – connect the dots for the buyer

What the buyer is looking for during these steps is Value. If a buyer cannot see the difference between two products, then price wins. If sales and marketing do not address the customer question “How will I benefit from this product or service?” in their buyer-driven and connect the dots for the buyer then the buyer will remove the company from the decision journey or go for lowest price solution.

Remember, people buy because they have needs, a problem needing solving, a goal that needs fulfilling, a situation that needs to be remedied, something that affects their life or  business, and needs solutions.  In the Consider and Evaluate steps buyer preferences usually fit into three main categories, known as PPI:

Productivity – efficiency, ease of use, outputs

Profitability – ROI, making money, increase revenue, improve profit margin

Image – brand, style, reputation, approval, desirability (this is mainly consumers)

Buyer-driven marketing is focused on the buyer priorities with messaging on Productivity, Profitability or Image. Buyer-driven marketing also answers the question “WWFM or what is in it for me?” So why do customers buy?, most likely because a company and its people understand the customer decision journey, created an awareness link to the buyer and then sales, marketing, customer service and product working in unison took the buyer through the Consider and Evaluate steps with a systematic approach based on insights and relevant information

Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a series of tactics that deliver agreed goals for the business

First thing for any small business to note is that marketing plans do not have to be a complicated fifty page document. Marketing plans and go-to-marketing strategies may get more advanced and complicated as a business grows but for the vast majorities of companies a simple, effective marketing plan will suffice. Do not write a marketing plan to please an investor or bank manager, write the marketing plan as your best bet to get customers interested into what you are selling.

marketing-plan

Most small businesses will usually find one key marketing tactic that produces a consistent return on investment (ROI) plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together allows the business to grow revenue. The key marketing tactic can range from trade-shows, SEO, PPC, inbound marketing, social selling to advertising. The key marketing tactic selected is the marketing foundation and it needs to be solid, deliver consistent results and removes any fear of the marketing plan failing.

Don’t panic if your business is new or it has not found one yet, please read on.

A great tip to identify what type of marketing plan is right for a business is to ask this question “What is the lifetime value in profit of a customer we sell to?”

I suggest you then assign your business into one of these three customer lifetime profit value categories

  1. Sub €200 profit
  2. Sub €2000 profit
  3. Above €2000 profit

This is important as it defines your cost of customer acquisition (what it costs a business to get a customer to buy from them) and how much a business can afford to pay for clicks, traffic and a sales lead. The business should also figure in customer churn, do not over calculate how often or how long a customer will stay loyal to a business. Depending on the business model, the marketing plan also affects cash flow, because you pay for marketing upfront with a lag over weeks or months to get an ROI on the tactics.

  1. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €200.
    The products or services sold may cost €50 to €200 or higher AND as a business if you sell to that customer two, three, four times over a three year period, the profit on that customer would be less than €500. An example of this could be an online florist. A bouquet of flowers costs €55, but the customer is probably going to buy two or three times a year means the likely profit from that customer is less than €200.
  2. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is LESS than €2000. The vast majority of businesses fall into this category. The premise here is that the product or service costs an amount that will generate a €2k profit, OR the average customer buys more than once over a period of time with the total purchases adding up to more than €2000 profit. An example here is an online SaaS software company. The average monthly subscription is €50. That is €600 a year over three years = €1800. With a 60% profit margin this comes to €1080 for the lifetime value (profit) of the customer.
  3. The lifetime value (profit) of the average customer is ABOVE €2000.
    This category usually applies to large one of consumer purchases or a B2B sales environment. The calculation here is that the sale or number of sales over a period of time (36 months) will generate in excess of €2000 profit for the business.

So, now that you have assigned your business to category 1, 2 or 3, here is some suggested key marketing tactics as the foundation to drive the business growth.

If a business is a 1 – Referrals/Local/AdWords

The key marketing KPI here is can you generate leads/traffic/enquires for less than €1 and the cost of customer acquisition (getting a sales or purchase) is no more than €10. A simple marketing metric is the business sold to 100 customers in a month and spent €100 on marketing, so the cost per sale was €1.

Maybe distribute flyers door to door with special offers, advertise locally online with free samples, and optimise your website for local target keywords. Ask customers for referrals to add to your email marketing newsletters. Send OUT newsletters to your existing customers. Attend local events and business organisations. Find one key marketing activity that generates enough customers where it costs the business as little as possible to get a sale.

If a business is a 2 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media

In this category the sales cycle could be longer or need sales intervention. The business will need to generate a high enough volume of leads to generate the ROI needed to be successful. SEO work can be critical here but this should be part of an inbound marketing tactic. The use of social networks for social selling and content marketing to influence buyers should be considered. A good email marketing solution and a resource to work on social media campaigns is probably a must. Budgets permitting, Google Ad Words will deliver the quickest bang for your marketing buck alongside social media tactics.

If a business is a 3 – Inbound marketing/PPC/Social Media/Events/Sponsorship

Depending on your market segment, where customers generate a profit north of €2000 usually involves more lead nurturing, heavier buyer influence, bigger social media reach and plans for a more guided sales cycle. I have seen companies successfully use events as their key marketing tactic even if the sales cycle and cost per lead required more investment. The biggest success tactic from a marketing activity now used in this category is content marketing. Maybe consider putting a lead generation person on social selling to generate customer interest. A business needs to invest in resourcing the writing and publishing of well executed articles and whitepapers to set the business as a thought leader in their industry. While the cost per sales lead and cost of customer acquisition can be higher, the marketing plan tactics needs to deliver more solid leads or higher qualified customers as the marketing investment in this category can seriously impact the cash flow of a smaller business.

social-media-planning

Regardless of 1, 2 or 3, the key to making a marketing plan work is to be: CONSISTENT.

Plans take time, for a plan to work it must be implemented with both the heart and the head.  Every marketing plan has to have KPI’s and metrics. Implement, stick with it and adjust where necessary. Do not adopt the “give it a whirl” approach or alter course before the data supports the decision. In a digital world, social media marketing has overtaken sales and even brands as the core business driver. The buyer-supplier relationship has moved on, fast, the marketing plan needs to address how to deliver a consistent return on investment (ROI) via a key marketing tactic plus two or three secondary tactics which when added together matches the business strategy for growth.

Marketing Plan Template

             Marketing plan template and guide

                           The Bitter Business

A marketing plan will help a business identify the markets, product to market fit, customers and competitors which underpins the strategy selection to make a business sustainable. This marketing plan template courtesy of The Bitter Business can act as a guide through the process of creating a solid, well thought out marketing plan for your business.

marketing-plan

Download the marketing plan template for free here. Marketing plan template and guide

Why every business needs a marketing plan

A good well thought out marketing plan will help the business stakeholders to answer key questions about the business, and act as a reference document to help the team execute the marketing strategy. It will also help develop a structured approach to creating services and products that satisfy the market and customers’ needs.

When writing a marketing plan,  always be clear about the marketing objectives and how the business is going to achieve them. This free marketing plan template can be a guide in setting those realistic and measurable objectives, budgets and action plans with ability to allocate resources.

Business Strategy in a Digital Marketing World

The future of business is digital, so when business leaders start to formulate a business strategy they need to understand that customers, products, business operations and competitors are now digital. Is business strategy being replaced with digital strategy? And do companies have the sales and marketing skills to compete in a digital marketing world?

A business strategy of viewing digital channels or methods as tactics is no longer valid. Instead businesses should see their company as an online ecosystem that connects digital resources both internally and externally to customers in order to compete. To stay competitive a business must harness digital technologies and channels, not just to deliver sales or superior customer experience but to drive operational efficiencies across all aspects of the business.

digital-world

One big question facing business leaders today is “Is our business constructed to thrive in the digital marketplace?

Digital disruption may be the only possibility for future business success as the barriers to market entry are being blown wide open. Competitors both large and small are rushing in grab a share of the market, so every business has to have a strategy in the digital marketing landscape. Bye now, most businesses know that digital is changing the way we do business. Every business must evolve and have a digital strategy that can take advantage of new sales and marketing platforms, data tools, and digital technologies that can get a business closer to customers.

The adoption of digital channels by the markets means a business must change and ensure that agile adaptation can be delivered in all levels of the company, both strategic and tactical. A business strategy for a digital marketing world may be the only option for some companies to survive and move towards a profitable future.

The market is pulling these business changes as the markets or countries with knowledgeable populations, high standards of living and education are demanding companies face up to the challenges in the digital landscape for communication and commerce. The reality is that digital advancement and the associated challenges will accelerate rapidly in the few years. Business leaders must grasp the straw and realise that innovation, flexibility, and speed of execution will be core to thriving in a digital marketing powered world.

Regardless of B2B or B2C, buyers are now highly knowledgeable, tech savvy, and the Internet and social media is their go to source for information. Today, people communicate differently, buy through different channels and expect a different flavour of products and customer support. The result is digital is not an add-on but is a mind-set, a lifestyle, a way of doing business.

Here are some suggested digital strategy priorities.

Integrated digital strategy across the business

While business leaders see that digital is having a strong impact in the area of sales and marketing they should also review customer service, finance, supply chain and human resources. While most companies start the digital journey by adding-on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) they do not integrate these social tools into an integrated business strategy. While the focus on near term activities such as lead generation are positive, to fully maximise the customer experience and operational efficiencies that can contribute to a competitive advantage companies need to expand out the digital strategy to all departments.

Business model evolution

The digital channels have changed customer interactions and expectations, impacted on channels of communication and delivery has resulted in business reviewing their business models. Forward thinking companies see digital transformation as integral to their evolution. Business model evolution is used to innovate and respond to changing consumer preferences including introducing new business models, services and product offerings to drive profits

Develop partnerships

IP, technology lead and more traditional companies can benefit from developing partnerships with outsourced sales, channel partners etc.in order to compete with companies that have grown up in the digital landscape. For the companies that do not have the skill-sets in sales, marketing or social selling, nor the capacity to adopt a digital strategy, it could be more efficient and cost-effective to partner with a digital enabler in their market space or outsource it internationally.  Outsourcing a requirement such as sales via partnerships could speed up the digital strategy while a business is able to harness a partner’s strength while addressing the market challenges.

Focus on the customer experience

The digital channels have seen the rise of faster communication, social news and user generated feedback content. The ability of one to many communication platforms has meant the customer experience is now a critical element for a company to gain a competitive advantage. Relevant in both B2B and B2C companies, the focus in the marketing strategy to a customer approach for content marketing, information dispersal and updates is critical. Companies should strive to deliver excellence across all its customer touch points. A digital marketing strategy should consider what new and innovative services would enhance the customer experience.

Social media engagement

Social media or social selling driven customer engagement can be the disruption agent to drive a business forward. Digital marketing is not just a series of social media tools. While social media tools are a great vehicle to drive brand engagement, companies need to accept “business as usual” is over. The future buyers for products and services live in the digital space, and so will their suppliers. Social media engagement is part of the digital marketing strategy involving content, access channels, audience interaction and ability to influence remotely.

Digital distribution channel

Digital distribution channels need to be explored, defined and redefined as the “4P’s” of marketing are being rewritten. Can a business’s product be delivered or accessed in another way or format?  Digital distribution and ease of customer use may be directly related back to the digital acceptance of the company’s senior team and the company’s ability to execute the digital landscape as a strategic business priority to give it some competitive advantage. Across all regions and market segments of the world, digital disruption to distribution channels is here now. The growing influence of the “Internet Always” population and the impact of digital technologies on the way we conduct business requires business to rethink strategy.

Every business whether start-up or large corporate needs to have a business strategy for a digital marketing world which means to start with acknowledging the changes and then respond accordingly. Remember this phrase “When technology and society change faster than businesses are able to adapt, then the result is extinction” – Karl-Heinz Land.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.