Q. "Is B2B old media advertising dead?" - Patrick
A. I know some “inbound” agencies claim old media is dead. Judging by the dyslexic trade pubs we see today, there’s good reason to say they’re right. Yet thousands of magazines are still in business…on and off line. Pat, it seems to me that both have a place at the table. Inbound marketing is largely passive…informational not “salesy”… waiting for unsuspecting buyers to get caught up in your website. Old media is proactive. It’s disruptive. It’s competitive. I’d say many B2B marketing situations call for that.
Q. "How important is website search engine optimization? " - Christian
A. Very important. Most marketers don’t realize how critical it is. In fact, I’d say only 5% of B2B websites have an SEO program. So you can see what an amazing opportunity that is for brands that do. Buyers on the prowl on the internet find you.
Q. "Hey, Joe. How important is website usability testing? " - Boris
A. I say very important. An old computer saying was “junk in, junk out”. Well, building a website without knowing how your customers want to use it is about the same thing. Websites are all about servicing customers…present and future. Most times, companies know what they want to say and what they want to get out of their site. Not so many know what the customers want and what they want to get out of it. Usability testing provides answers.
Q. "How is digital marketing different from inbound marketing?" - Robert
A. Digital marketing is a much broader term. By virtue of its name, it covers everything you do on your computer, your smartphone, your website, the internet, and in the cloud. Inbound marketing relates to specific software systems and practices for attracting and nurturing leads on your website.
Q. "Our CEO wants proof that marketing is worth the cost. What do I say?" - Carolyn
A. Well, Carolyn, every situation has its own metrics. Assuming you have a plan to produce the results your CEO accepts, you need the means to measure it. That’s always been a chore in B2B companies where most of the sales are the result of…well, salespeople. Relationship management software companies have been making great headway in closing the gap between marketing and sales…particularly in the area of analytics that measure marketing performance. Companies like HubSpot and Salesforce have made great strides in metrics that drive top line revenues. Of course, there’s much more to marketing than sales support. For example, marketing’s job to build a preferred brand speaks more to bottom line profitability. But that’s a topic for another day.
Q. "If I'm working with a constrained marketing budget, what should I focus on?" - Lynda
A. Good question, Lynda. You use the word “focus”. That’s a good start. My experience is that too many B2B marketers spread their budget around too thinly. Their focus is on breadth of exposure (the widest audience) rather than depth of exposure (number of impressions) on the prime audience. Here’s the simplest answer that has worked for me: fully fund the media that works best before moving on.
Q. "Is inbound marketing good for any size B2B company? " - Mike C.
A. In a word, yes. Inbound is all about leads, leads, leads. It focuses your marketing on its sales support objective. What size company doesn’t want more leads? Inbound is being used to attract buyers to your company website. More importantly it follows a web-centric process and then converts website visitors to qualified “ready-to-close” sales leads. Smaller companies in particular find this very attractive. But it isn’t free. To be effective it takes an investment of time and talent to keep the “magic” going.
Q. "Is there really much difference between a B2B and a B2C agency? " - Justin R.
A. Of course there is…for a hundred reasons. Let’s be plain. Business buyers are not simply consumers at work as a B2C agency might jocularly tell you. When we are at work, we change. We become business buyers. We think like business buyers and follow our company’s buying process. From the B2B marketing side, the way companies sell or distribute to businesses is so different from the way they sell to consumers. Marketing the company brand becomes as important as marketing the product. B2B companies must deal with layers of people with various buyer personas who get involved in the purchase. The way the internet and websites are used is so much more complex too.
Q. "Why do I need a B2B-specific agency? " - Max
A. Well Max, I don’t know if I can convince you, but here are a few important ideas to chew on. We live in an age of specialization. We don’t just hire a lawyer. Lawyers practice a hundred different specialties from divorce to malpractice to intellectual property to tax law. The same goes for doctors, travel agents, restaurants, you name it. Specialization such as B2B provides an obvious advantage. Consider that your competitors use that advantage to compete with you and win your customers. Why give them the advantage? Level the playing field; if your company sells to businesses, consider an agency that specializes in marketing to businesses. If you sell complicated technology-based products, consider a B2B agency that specializes in technology. Make sense?
Q. "Which social media platform should I use for my business?" - Derwood J.
A. LinkedIn targets the business audience, but business people are everywhere. They tweet on Twitter, build a following on Google+, and share on Facebook. Depending on your age, you might or might not know what I’m talking about. Our experience is that we’re in the first or second inning of social media. As a business marketer, you have to stay in touch with emerging social media opportunities. If competitors are making noise on social, you can’t just let them have a free run. If they are not, even better. You get first dibs to gain the top dog position. Our clients use all of the above plus Meetup, SlideShare, YouTube. They post content and drive traffic to their website.
Q. "How do I measure my social engagement?" - Arris
A. Arris, hope you’re having fun. Your top engagement analytics are re-tweets, mentions, and shares. There’s a caveat. It’s important to take into account whom the engagement is with. The top value ranking goes to those that pertain to key media and other key market influencers.
Q. "What are Chatbots?" - Sharleen
A. Wow, Sharleen, you’re out for the new new thing. AI in social media may be big yet but it’s coming on strong. Think of it as Apple’s Siri in a bot. Chatbots eliminate the need to download apps for everything.
Q. "How long will a digital marketing program deliver sales results?" - Steve
A. Steve, let’s get on the same page. Results from any marketing effort digital or otherwise, can never be a guarantee of sales. Sales results are achieved by the right offer from the right vendor to the right audience at the right time. That said, implementing inbound digital marketing best practices is the fastest way to the B2B promised land…sales. Inbound digital works to multiply the value of your website investment. Ironically, inbound digital marketing is 100% sales-focused while being “non-salesy.” Digital encompasses much more than inbound. Think social media. Think search. Think key word advertising. Think SEO. Think integration with proactive outbound initiatives.
Q. "What role should PR play in a modern marketing program?" - Ryan
A. It’s one of the leads, Ryan. I hope you’re thinking beyond news releases…thinking beyond trade publications. PR is credible. It can tell the brand story everywhere offline and online in so many ways from social media to special events and sponsorships, from TV to trades shows. A good mantra to follow is “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”…with PR. Ryan, don’t sit back passively waiting for the world to discover your brand and knock on your door (website). Make success happen.
Q. "Is social media worth doing?" - Bob R.
A. Bob, for B2B marketers that’s one of the $64,000 questions. Niche B2B audiences can be really small. Let’s say you have a product that offers a simpler way to produce micro-particles…one of the new new things in pharmaceutical and electronics industries. Innovative solutions always command interest on any media. It’s the stuff viral videos are made of. Social would be one of the great tools to begin the conversation. Social gives you a way to take the lead. Share your ideas on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Snapchat. These heavily trafficked social channels are too important to ignore.
Q. "I’m old school. Why all the noise about content?" - Alicia
A. It’s the internet, Alicia. You as well as your B2B competitors have been empowered to self-publish content. No third-party media is required. Competitors are taking this seriously. How about you? Here’s the thing. Content drives search. Websites with the best content will snag B2B buyers on the prowl for solutions. Internet winners are companies with great content on their websites. Of course attracting buyers to your website is a key part of your marketing program. Alicia, ask yourself what your buyers want and what they are looking for. Don’t rely on them discovering your products and how they are “perfect.” Show them with great content – verbal, videos, and animations.
Q. "We have a social media dilemma. Does it pay? " - Frustrated
A. Cheer up, “Frustrated.” I know social media performance analytics are difficult to quantify. B2B success (ROI) on social depends on how many followers you can attract on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Building a massive audience for your tweets takes time and commitment. You didn’t say if you are playing social media offense or defense. The important thing is that your buyers are on social media and as a B2B brand leader, you want to be part of the conversation. Social has a place in your integrated digital marketing plan. In fact, you want to lead as the respected authority in your technology niche.
Q. "We don’t have an integrated digital marketing plan. What are we missing?" - Becky
A. Becky, in my view, a lot. IDM takes your goals and lays out a comprehensive roadmap to reach them. Plans get bypassed because in B2B tech marketing is always changing. Understandable but all the more reason to plan, plan, plan. How do you apportion your budget to the many tactics available? What problem(s) are you trying to resolve? Is your need nurturing, selling, positioning, or branding? Are you launching new products? Competing in an established market? Market share and competition are key drivers in what you do. What is your overall mission vs. the latest fire someone wants you to put out? Planning requires deep thinking about your brand, your competitors, your buyer personas and what will make you stand out. In sum, I’d say don’t go to market without it.
Q. "What do I do to win the website SEO game?" - Mel
A. Well, Mel, the first step is to keep score. What is your website traffic volume vs. your competitors’? The analytics are not that difficult to come by. The traffic measurement software is available. This and many other analytics are part and parcel of Hubspot and other inbound software programs. Using your game analogy, winning requires skill, practice, and great effort. Search engine optimization is an ongoing process to move up the competitive ladder. Analytics are paramount each step along the way. What are your buyers searching for? It may not be what you think. It’s really refreshing to have quantitative analytics instead of winging it. We all know that feeling.
Q. "What % of sales should I spend on marketing?" - Steven
A. Steven, I wish there were a simple answer to that question. Surveys like those conducted by Forrester provide averages of what was done in the past and point to variations by industry, economic climate, and the size of your organization. Industrial companies have a much lower spend than fast-moving technology companies. For example, in 2014, small companies (less than $25 million) spent 15% of revenues, while large companies (>$10 billion) spent just 5%. After the recession of 2008, the average spend was cut in half with a gradual recovery since. Technology companies spend 2X or more compared to industrial marketers. However, these ranges don’t tell you what your total spend should be. The answer flows from a reconciliation of bigger questions: what do you want to accomplish, what is its worth, and how much can you afford? Budgeting by objective puts the horse back in front of the cart. It takes an eyes-wide-open realistic assessment of your charter. Steven, think of marketing as driving a car. If you want to go to a distant city, you will need money for gas. How much? As much as it takes. Make sense?
Q. "With the internet, have B2B marcom budgets gone up or down?" - Desperate
A. Obviously, your budget went down. But what was the cause, the media or the recession? There is no doubt that the internet has heightened marketing’s role. So if your budget took a haircut, you will have to rethink your mission. B2B buyers live online. Marketing has to service them there…not sales. When buyers search for solutions, they have to find your brand. Sales doesn’t get involved until later in the buying cycle. Print media budgets have been cut, but you still have to be proactive on the web, so online advertising has worked its way into the mix. There was a day when a $1000 post card could produce 1000 leads. Today, you need a more sophisticated integrated digital marketing plan. Your website plays the pivotal role. Hopefully, your company knows this and knows how to get the most marketing value from it. Ask yourself these questions: Have we really made the digital transformation? Have we converted our website into a lead generation engine? Is our website moving the needle on the marketing Richter Scale? Are we the king of SEO? If not, there’s still time. Make the move.
Q. "Where do I get an SEO?" - Nathan S.
A. Nathan, you don’t “get an SEO.” It isn’t a product. Search engine optimization is an ongoing process to align your website’s content to your market and the search engines’ algorithms. You can’t just set it and forget it. Just when you think you’re on top of your SEO game, Google makes an algorithm change. What successfully moved you to page #1 on short or long form searches doesn’t get you there anymore. Search engines make changes all the time. An SEO program monitors what’s happening and makes changes to keep you on top.
Q. "How long should I wait to redesign my website? 5 years?" - Rachel
A. A website isn’t like a buying a new car. It’s actually a representative of your brand on the internet. Can’t imagine not changing it for five years. If you’re heavy into B2B technology, your innovative brand changes all the time…almost by definition. “Change or die.” So, Rachel, once you have a quality optimized B2B website, updates and enhancements have to be scheduled in on a regular basis.