The array of options available to B2B marketers is staggering. It can be difficult to keep everything straight. Yet many times we keep doing what we know how to do, and we don’t branch out in new directions. This list is designed to provide a few useful ideas (along with some foundational ones as well) as you think about your next steps as a business to business marketer.
1. The best way to learn a market – or any topic for that matter – is to immerse yourself in it. Success rarely comes by accident or by stumbling onto a solution. There is no place in business where this is more true than in B2B marketing. In business to business marketing, we are marketing products and services that people don’t necessarily encounter every day. (We are not B2C marketers marketing hairspray.) Understanding and explaining is probably going to take some serious effort on your part.
2. Read and study everything you can get your hands on relating to your market. Make a note of important articles, and re-read them later. Read about your industry and products in your space. Read about what other B2B marketers are doing and where they’re having success.
3. Read up on your competitors and keep track of what they’re doing. Since competitors come and go, this is an ongoing activity. Keep a list of them, and pin it to your wall. Check back on them frequently. Revise and expand the list over time.
4. Be sure you understand what you’re marketing. The litmus test for this is your ability to describe the product and benefit verbally in 15 seconds or less – the proverbial “elevator pitch.” If you can’t do this, it may not be clear in your own mind.
5. Be clear on how you differentiate yourself from the competition. This should only take 15 seconds or so. Try it. You may be surprised at how difficult it can be, but you’ll be glad you’ve taken the time to sort it out for yourself. I talk to dozens of B2B marketers every week who don’t have the slightest idea how they’re better than their competition. (Actually, they may not be.)
6. Be clear on who your customers are. Again – should only take 15 seconds. Hearing it in a meeting or seeing it in a business plan isn’t enough. You have to be able to articulate it verbally and succinctly. Try it out on a friend who doesn’t know anything about your business. You may be surprised at how difficult it is, but mastering it will pay dividends and keep you on course.
7. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll see instant success. If you’re looking for immediate gratification, you’re probably in the wrong business. Many B2B marketing and sales cycles can be months or years. You’re not going to close new business with a single email or phone call. Sometimes it takes dozens or hundreds of emails and calls just to get the chance to have a good conversation.
8. Don’t expect your bosses to understand what you’re doing. They may be looking for instant results, and you will be caught in the middle. You have to become an expert in lobbying for what you believe is important and what will get results. Get your track record going by delivering on promises.
9. As you evaluate your options, remember that the best indicator of future success is past performance. Act on what’s worked in the past, while continuing to invest time in worthwhile experiments.
10. Don’t assume that what’s worked for others will work for you and the product you’re promoting.
11. Test, test, test, and re-test. If you don’t have the patience for this, develop the skills to be patient, or find a partner who will work with you and keep you honest.
12. Listen to feedback from your sales team. They are talking with dozens or hundreds of customers each week. In many ways, they are your eyes and ears in the marketplace.
13. Keep yourself on track by creating priority lists for yourself – daily, weekly, whatever works. What works best for me is to create a list of stuff I need to get done tomorrow. This way, I can hit the ground running in the morning. Of course, this is not specific to B2B marketing, but should be true of business activity in general.
14. Push yourself by setting goals. Share them with others who can help you stay accountable for getting there.
15. Push yourself by trying something different. Pick a promising marketing technique that’s new to you, and craft some tests around it. Stick with it until you figure out if it does or doesn’t work. If you can, try a different job or try marketing another product or service for a while.
16. Metrics are key. They are the only way you’ll be able to prove the value of your work. Know what metrics are important to your business, and set goals around them. Make sure you have tools in place to measure. If you’re working in online B2B marketing, you have some good options including Google Analytics, which is free.
17. Pick up the phone and call a B2B marketing colleague you haven’t talked to in a while. Compare notes. Ask questions and listen to what’s working and what’s not working. Set up a time to meet in person.
18. Email is a great way to stay in touch with other B2B marketers. Make a practice of sharing interesting articles or stories you’ve heard. Email past colleagues, present colleagues, and people you want to get to know better as a professional.
19. Connect with marketers and other leaders in your segment via LinkedIn. The request to link up should be specific and personalized. Give the person a reason to want to connect with you.
20. Join B2B marketing groups on LinkedIn. There are dozens of them – many of which are specific to markets of which you’re a part.
21. Host a meetup in your city for other B2B marketers or customers. Promote it for free on Meetup.com.
22. Host a virtual meetup for other B2B marketers or customers on Skype. Record it and post it on your website or blog.
23. While you may not have time to hang out 24/7 on Facebook, it’s worth checking in periodically to see how others are using it to network or promote their products. Check out other companies’ Facebook pages as you think about how to create or improve your own.
24. Go to conferences. (Yes, this can be expensive.) Make an effort to attend a mix of sessions. Don’t only go to sessions on topics you already know. Push yourself by attending sessions on topics that are new to you. Take notes and share them with others.
25. Present at a conference. As you develop confidence in your segment of choice, try your hand at presenting. People always want to hear about success, especially in areas that may be new or emerging. Do this enough and do it well, and you’ll start to develop a name for yourself.
26. Present at a conference with a colleague. Look for individuals who will complement your knowledge and presenting style. This is a great way to get to know other professionals, and you may form some lifelong relationships along the way.
27. Create an email newsletter to keep customers and prospective customers up to date not only on your products and services but also on your marketplace in general.
28. Send personalized one-on-one email to prospective customers. (You don’t have to be in sales to do this.) If you keep at it, you will develop a library of templates you can adapt for specific situations, speeding the process of sending more personal email.
29. Do email blasts with a 3rd party. Seek out reputable publishers who’ll support 3rd party email blasts using your creative and call to action. The key here is to find a good fit between your target audience and the list you’re going to blast. Think about how you do your own emailing, and remember that a single email (unless it causes harm or fails miserably) probably isn’t enough to tell you whether it’s going to work with a particular publisher or not.
30. Better yet, seek out vendors who support tight filtering, e.g. by company size, geographic area, industry, title, etc. This will help get your message to the right people fast.
31. Create an email sign-up page on your website, and promote it everywhere you can. Remember you have to offer something valuable in exchange for the email signup. This could be an e-newsletter, a webcast or webinar, etc.
32. Improve your copy writing skills. The more compelling your email copy, the more interest you’ll drive, and the more valuable your efforts will be.
33. Use a dedicated 3rd party email sender to send emails to your house list. Providers such as Constant Contact and others were built specifically for this task. They also manage opt-outs and conveniently provide analytics relating to sends, opens, clicks, and more.
34. Send email through programs supported by your existing web host. Many web hosts now support robust emailing as part of the monthly hosting package. A few also support customizable email and e-newsletter templates as well as list rental.
35. Purchase a 3rd party list and email it. This is a big no-no in many circles, but many others swear by it. If you try this, be careful about getting blacklisted. It’s a slippery slope. Many opt to do email list rentals through a 3rd party instead, where subscribers have already given permission for the mailer to be contacting them with 3rd party offers.
36. Build your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) skills and put them to work for you. Keep up with the industry on sites like SearchEngineWatch.com.
37. Take a live SEO course or online SEO training program if you need to come up to speed quickly. Remember that SEO is a moving target (since search engine algorithms are changing all the time, and competition is fierce among publishers and marketers), so you’ll need to brush up frequently.
38. Investigate linkbuilding. Linkbuilding refers to getting links from other websites. A link from another site to your site is like a vote in Google’s eyes. Remember that not all sites and pages are created equal. The more authority a page has, the more valuable the link to your page can be. Techniques here include link baiting, direct request, link exchange, and others. Know what black hat SEO techniques are, and avoid them.
39. Build SEO into your website redesign, rather than putting it off ‘til later, when it may be too difficult or expensive to optimize.
40. Better yet, pick an SEO friendly website platform such as WordPress, keeping in mind there are ways you will need to configure it to to get the most out of it – for example, by using plugins such as All in One SEO Pack.
41. If you are migrating from an old web site and the new one will have new URLs, remember to use 301 redirects to preserve the Google juice of the old page.
42. Develop your PPC (pay-per-click) search marketing skills by reading and attending seminars or training. This area is still dominated by Google Adwords, so focus here to start. Craft some tests, and get started. You will need a landing page or pages to collect the leads you’re going to generate.
43. Use free credits from web hosts you’ve signed up with as a way to get started with your PPC program.
44. Test a variety of terms and landing pages as part of your PPC campaigns.
45. Use the Google Keyword Tool tool to help with brainstorming and planning (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal). This tool works well for identifying target terms in your SEO campaigns as well.
46. Develop relationships with leading bloggers in your market. Comment on their blogs, link to them, email them directly, interview them.
47. Create a free blog on WordPress.com or Blogger.com and start blogging about your product. This is a great way to help you solidify your own thinking about your marketing, and it’s a great way to get some extra Google juice and get some added visibility around your efforts.
48. Comment frequently and meaningfully on other blogs, not just the ones by leading bloggers. Over time, you yourself will become a leading voice.
49. If you want to go a step beyond a free blog, and get some flexibility, create a hosted blog with a cheap web host or a vendor specializing in small business web hosting. Most support 1-click installation of WordPress and other blogging/web content management platforms.
50. Make sure you use sharing buttons so others can easily share your posts on social sites like Digg, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
51. Seek out opportunities to guest post on other blogs.
52. Blog about a conference you’re attending. Describe what you’re hearing, and include your reactions and the reactions of others.
53. If you’re feeling adventurous, conduct some video interviews and post them on your blog. Interview product specialists, industry experts, conference speakers, etc.
54. Create a group blog and invite other experts to participate.
55. As you get proficient at creating new blogs from scratch, start using them as a way to launch mini sites or micro-sites about your specific product or some aspect of it. These can come in handy when you’re trying to get the word out about your product and it’s getting buried in a big corporate website.
56. Create a “top 10” or “top 100” (or “top 74!”) article on something important relating to your industry.
57. Create a white paper. If you can’t write it yourself, find a partner who can write it for you based on your input and direction. It should contain something of value to your prospective customers, and it should avoid being too sales-y. Have a designer make it look nice, and then promote it everywhere you can. Ask for name and email in exchange for the download.
58. Sponsor a webinar that’s hosted by a 3rd party. Many B2B publishers produce and promote webinar series in which you participate as a sponsor. This can help with branding and also lead generation, as in some arrangements you’re allowed to follow up with registrants.
59. Create and promote a webinar yourself. If you’re confident in presenting on topics relating to your product segment, or you can enlist a colleague who is, create a webinar. Promote it everywhere you can – your emails, website, etc. Make sure you get the recording and promote it as a static webcast after the fact. Ask for name and email in exchange for the download.
60. Hire a 3rd party to create a webinar for you. Many 3rd party vendors will create webinars for you that you then own and can promote as your own asset.
61. Create a screencast as a demo explaining your product or service. Programs like Camtasia and Captivate are great for this purpose. This technique lends itself well to online products but can work for offline products as well.
62. Don’t just post this demo on your own website. Post it on Youtube for extra exposure and maybe some extra Google juice.
63. Create a free online course to cement your reputation as an expert in your field. Use an open source learning management system such as Moodle which can help you stay organized and keep your students on track and maximize their learning. Ask them for feedback on what they like and don’t like, and what they’re expecting to put into practice.
64. Create a Twitter account and start tweeting. Follow others in your market and follow other B2B marketers. Keep it light and interesting. Post valuable content, and your tweets will get re-tweeted and spread with the help of others.
65. Create a company or product page in Facebook. You’ll need to promote it by getting people to “Like” it. This you can do through direct messages within Facebook, via email, or via your website and other messaging.
66. Use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote all the valuable content you’re creating.
67. Promote and brand your product or service via display ads on websites and e-newsletters with publishers whose traffic matches your target audience.
68. Don’t forget about B2B ad networks, who can help promote your ad, white paper, or other type of asset to a large B2B audience rapidly. There are also dozens of niche B2B publishing networks that can help you reach a large number of potential customers quickly. (It may take some research to find these in your market, but the effort could be well worth your time.) These networks may not be as visible as the big ones, but they may have a strong subscriber base in a particular segment, such as IT, Healthcare, etc.
69. Sign up for a shared lead program with a 3rd party publisher or lead generation vendor. These can help you build a base of targeted in-market and near-market leads for your sales team.
70. Go old school and get on the phone in a big way. There are growing number of opportunities to get more targeted with lead generation via B2B call centers that help reach customers you may not be able to reach otherwise.
71. Once you have your leads in Salesforce, Sugar, or other CRM, you’re going to need to devise a program to keep in touch with them. If you’ve done your job well, your sales team probably won’t be able to keep up with all the leads, and you’ll need to find a way to keep them up to date on your offerings and provide them with other valuable information.
72. Become an expert in Salesforce or Sugar. What? I’m not a sales person, you say. But sooner or later you’re going to have to know your way around these CRMs in order to craft and execute your B2B lead nurturing campaigns.
73. Create interesting online surveys, then invite leads in your CRM to respond. Try using a free survey platform like SurveyMonkey to host your survey. Make sure you’re asking interesting questions (not just ones that are self-serving), that can be the basis for future communications and provide something valuable back to your customers. For example, if you ask about what’s working and not working, do it in such a way that result will lend themselves to an article about what’s working for customers in your area. People love to read about what’s working for their colleagues and competitors.
74. Give your customers special treatment. Create an email newsletter specifically for them. Present them with special offers and tips not available to anyone else.
There they are: 74 ideas for B2B marketing. Not all of them will work for you. Some may already be familiar, but I’m hoping at least a few are new (or at least jog your memory) and help generate business for you.