Some of the challenges facing businesses that sell to other businesses, often called B2B companies, are different than those for businesses that sell to consumers: the process until the transaction is closed is longer, there are more people involved in the decision on the customer’s side and there is a need for a deeper dialogue and a greater understanding of the customer’s needs.
Even if there are many parallels between digital sales for B2B and B2C, for example the expectation of a good, intuitive interface and the possibility to place an order 24/7, there are specific digital challenges for the B2B segment.
But which digital trends do we see for B2B companies this year and in the future? And what should B2B companies focus on, for example in their content marking initiatives and during the buying experience up until a potential customer officially becomes a new customer? And, is it enough to produce relevant and inspiring content for the target group?
Five digital trends for B2B
In this autumn’s second webinar, we were visited by Malin Sjöman, Marketing Manager at the B2B marketing bureau, Hägvall & Sjöman, which has a long history in B2B marketing. Malin shared five digital trends and five digital opportunities for B2B companies. Malin explains that 90% of all B2B purchases start online, which even more strongly enhances the value of following digital trends and recognising digital opportunities.
1. From company blog to content portal.
Many companies have a blog and produce regular content even if the blog isn’t always updated as frequently as would be preferable. According to Malin, the current trend among the companies at the forefront is that they are developing their blogs to start to look more like traditional sites that do not publish their content in chronological order but rather in categories (for example, Sport, Culture, and Entertainment). The idea of working by category is borrowed from the publishing world and weaves together different types of content so that good content does not disappear just because it was not published most recently. This makes it more of a portal than a traditional blog.
2. The helpful Internet.
Avoid dead-ends for the user – it is not enough to transport traffic from the first page to subpages if the visitor hits a dead-end. After every step the visitor takes in your website, there should be one or several paths forward, for example by linking to more related content, like when e-retailers link to related products, and offering the possibility to download detailed guides or utilise free trial periods for your product.
3. Give to get.
Offer content but gather email addresses (although not too much more information – no one wants to fill in long questionnaires at an early stage in the buying experience). Offer your visitors something with value in order to get something back, so you can both continue to communicate directly with the visitor and build up your contact list. BUT! Remember to really offer good content. It is not enough to have a good cover on a guide and then follow up with too little content or too much of a sales approach too quickly. The content you offer must be just as good as your product; this is where you build your brand.
4. From newsletter to inspirational letter.
Malin says that nothing is more important in a B2B marketing department than your contact list of customers and future customers. Still, these lists are often held at arm’s length, and not many people find it fun or stimulating to update them. Show your contact lists the love they deserve, and when you then use them, for example to send a newsletter, show the activity the same amount of love and commitment. No one wants a newsletter written from a one-sided, inside-out perspective or at great haste.
The secret is to strive for inspiration! The content must be relevant for your customers’ and potential customers’ needs and buying experience, and, as mentioned before, the content you offer must be as good as your product. If you create regular, good and relevant content, there will always be good content to put into your mailings.
5. Marketing Automation gains ground.
When you scale up your focus on content marketing and want to work smarter with content and distribution of your content, you transition over to marketing automation, which is quickly increasing in popularity. It is quite simply a very good tool for nurturing and building relationships with potential customers who are not yet ready to make a purchase; a tool where you can gather and control everything from forms and landing pages to newsletters and mailings with smarter content depending on what the potential customer clicked on and read or was previously informed about, for example. It is possible to follow each individual during the customer experience, and your sales staff can use this information when it is time to make contact.
The conclusion from the five digital trends that Malin presented is that it is not enough to produce engaging and relevant content for your target group. You need to commit at least just as much effort to the activation, i.e. distribution of the content.
And as Malin Sjöman says in a discussion about marketing automation: “It is the fine-tuning that is the key”. There is no doubting the truth in this statement: working with inbound marketing, regularly producing good content and nurturing and developing new contacts in a marketing automation tool are not something that just happen on their own. They require considerable commitment and constant fine-tuning to achieve the maximum effect.
Our next webinar will be held on 18 September on the theme “Make sure you are paid – and focus on your business”– sign up here for the next webinar (in Swedish)