The start of a new year brings with it opportunities to make positive changes. In our personal lives, we make resolutions to better ourselves and help others. Sometimes it takes perseverance to keep these resolutions, but once fulfilled, the reward brings great satisfaction and personal growth. A new year also gives businesses a chance to make resolutions by implementing new initiatives, processes and technology to help grow their business. Topping the list of 2017 resolutions for the B2B marketplace is developing a better content marketing plan. For years distributors and manufacturers have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in content marketing, but studies show a weak online presence only creates less sales opportunities and more distance between you and the competition. According to Demand Metric, content marketing is actually a quite cost-effective method to drive sales. They claim it costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.
With B2Bs experiencing these kinds of results, many are committing more time and resources to their current efforts while others are deciding to make the leap into content marketing. If your business is looking to improve its digital marketing tool set this year, be sure these three content marketing tactics are on the top of your resolutions list:
1. Create more content
What kind of content should you create? That’s up to you, as long as it is relevant to your business, products or services and adds value to your audience. It’s not enough to just sell your products online; today you need to engage and educate buyers so that they are more inclined to interact with your company – whether it’s to ask a question, request a quote or make a purchase. There are many types of content you can create that will help attract people to your site and provide added visibility. Employ a few or all of the following content methods, but make sure you do it on a consistent basis to keep people interested.
- Blogs and white papers – Publishing regular blogs or white papers on your site is a great way to relay industry news, business insights and new products or services. A steady stream of blogs and articles can help you become a trusted and valuable resource for buyers to turn to before they make a purchase. Mattermark and Drift, providers of apps and tools for customer marketing, published a 2016 sales and marketing study of the 50 fastest-growing B2B companies. They found that 40 of the 50 companies surveyed maintain a blog or other form of online publication. Of these 40 companies, more than half include calls-to-action (CTAs) to download content or contact them for more information regarding their products or services.
- Infographics – These visual images provide a more interesting way to inform an audience. Using a series of simplistic charts and diagrams, you can present information like statistics, surveys and trends in a more aesthetically pleasing manner for readers. Experts say businesses that incorporate infographics as part of their content marketing campaign see a 12% increase in traffic compared to those that don’t.
- Video – Another way to attract visitors is through video. Short-format videos are becoming popular forms of communication in the B2B marketplace. Post them on your website, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media platforms to promote new products by highlighting features and showing in-use applications. More powerful than a one-dimensional brochure, a product video can bring a product to life. Videos are also great for promoting your company; try using employees and customer testimonials to help tell your story. Videos are not difficult to produce, but be sure you enlist the help of a professional to ensure their production value meets the expectations of your audience.
2. Personalize the user experience
Consumer retailers have been personalizing customer experiences for years. So much so that buyers have developed similar expectations from B2B companies with which they do business. In a 2016 survey by Demand Gen Report, 69% of B2B buyers said the biggest influencer of a company’s website is content that speaks directly to their needs. So why isn’t your business doing more to make your buyers’ online experience more personal and relevant? Anyone with an eCommerce site has a wealth of data available that can be used to personalize the user experience, but many are not taking advantage of the insight and opportunities that data can provide.
- Connect the dots – Leverage data from your buyers’ purchasing history, online searches and their interaction with service and support to predict and recommend solutions that are best-suited and relevant to their business. Big data can help determine if they are looking to upgrade equipment or if they are in need of additional products to round out project needs. Buyers are more likely to purchase from a business that provides customized recommendations, which can be marketed to buyers online in the form of related items and product suggestions, or via a focused e-mail campaign.
- Measure your campaigns – Don’t just assume your personalization efforts are working; instead, continually measure your marketing campaigns to see if buyers are interested in the customized content and experience you’re offering. Are they downloading targeted content or clicking on suggested pages? Are their levels of engagement higher because they’re staying on your site longer or converting their search to a sale? Are your e-mail campaigns providing leads and sales opportunities? There are plenty of analytics tools out there that can pull this important data and provide answers to all these questions.
- Make shopping easy – Since B2B buyers are making purchases for their business, they want their experience on your site to be quick and painless. By offering a customer portal, your logged-in buyers have the ability to see a relevant catalog of products with their contracted pricing, as well as past product purchases. If your buyers have contracted purchase terms or agreements, that information is reflected when they go to transact. A streamlined and customized buying process increases the chance of seeing repeat purchases and gaining loyal customers.
3. Be a part of social media
If you’re going to make a dedicated effort to develop more content, then why not distribute it to more people with the help of social media. Once considered a channel just for personal or consumer use, social media platforms are now gaining popularity in the B2B marketplace. Direct Marketing Association’s recent research found that 94% of B2B marketers are using LinkedIn to distribute content, while 88% are using Twitter. Facebook is the third most popular platform for B2Bs, with 84% using it as a marketing channel. Marketing and technology services agency, Regalix, found that 27% of the B2B companies it surveyed consider social media an “indispensable” channel for content distribution, ranking it as high in importance as website and e-mail marketing channels.
- Optimize your posts – While posting on social media allows you to inform your audience and promote your business, the ultimate goal is to get them engaged by including a CTA that encourages a follower to click for more information. If your content has value and is relevant to readers, chances are they’ll like your page or make a comment. But if you continue to post worthwhile content that drives them to act, you could see more site visits and potential sales.
- Track your engagement – Remember that social media platforms offer plenty of data which can also be collected and analyzed to measure engagement and effectiveness. You’ll be able to gain insight on which platforms are working better than others, which topics resonate more with your audiences and how many people click your CTA links.
Create new opportunities for your business by making a content marketing initiative a part of your New Year’s resolutions. Many B2B companies are still behind this growing marketing trend, so get a jump on the competition and beef up your digital marketing tool set with the addition of content, personalization and social media. The results will make your 2017 a very happy new year, indeed!