A pipeline full of hot leads is the only indicator of an active and successful B2B business. B2B sales unlike B2C products require much research and evaluation before the actual purchase. How can B2B businesses engage with prospects online and turn them into leads?
Apart from the usual business networking, B2B companies have been using traditional channels like telemarketing, DM and email. But these marketing channels need a considerable investment. Therefore, B2B marketers have started using alternative marketing methods that need much less investments compared to the traditional methods. These tactics involve attracting potential clients by creating and sharing content that interests them and then following up with those who engage with it – an approach popularly known as content marketing. Here are top 5 inbound marketing tools that I feel are most constructive in building decent traffic to your website, hence contributing to a healthy pipeline:
Write blog posts that answer customers’ questions
We know that our customers have lots of queries. Write blog posts that highlight your knowledge and understanding of inherent industry issues. Share customer cases (you could withhold names and just mention the industry) where you analyzed the problems and implemented solutions. It’s always great if you share the results achieved in specific numbers or percentages. The more blogs you publish and share on your social network profiles, the more keywords your blog posts will rank for in search engines; the more referral traffic you will get from other websites and the more online audiences will get to read your views and know your company better.
According to research done by Salesforce , B2B companies that blog regularly generate 67% more leads per month than those that don’t. Other research shows that number could be higher if you’ve got a strategy behind your blogging. Earlier this month, Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute shared that his organization’s latest study found that, “84 percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing said they have no documented strategy. B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).”
By publishing as much content as possible and maintaining top quality, you’ll better educate your prospects. This is especially effective in industries where most companies typically don’t blog very openly. You can really differentiate yourselves from your competitors by sharing your knowledge, and demonstrating expertise through your blog.
Organize webinars that capture and hold audience
Webinars have become the most popular and effective online method for inexpensively communicating new ideas to large audiences. To use them effectively, select topics specific to your target audience and keep titles that are easy to understand and click immediately. They could be hosted by one speaker or be presented like discussions but it’s it’s important for the presenters to be compelling and charismatic who can captivate the audience despite the lack of face-to-face interaction.
Remember not to use too many jargons and have a recorded version for posting later. These could act as additional content on your site, plus you ensure that those who could not make the live event can still see your webinars. While delivering the presentations, make sure to ask questions after every 6-8 slides that are direct and meaningful that every participant can respond to. These frequent “engagement” questions help you gauge their level of engagement and interest. Give participants sufficient time to respond, summarize, or discuss one or two responses, and then move on.
Ensure a glitch-free experience for every attendee — and that means testing every element of the webinar process before you show up for the real deal. You could run participant surveys (tools are typically available to do this) and record them as well. At the end you will have the contact details of all participants – ready to use leads, and an excuse to get back to them with survey results and a copy of the proceedings.
Share white papers that exhibit your strengths
White papers are clearly not blog posts; so they are a lot more serious in tone, very descriptive in nature and discuss problems commonly faced in your potential customers’ line of business while providing successful, effective strategies for success. White papers are a great opportunity to create an image of expertise and insight that will help your readers. Therefore, give them something of value by filling your white paper with useful tips and information.
To catch their attention, it’s imperative to captivate them from the very beginning. Pique their interest with a summary of your white paper and an organized list of topics at the beginning that will clearly prepare them what to expect and what they’re going to accomplish by reading your white paper.
Finally, as shared by Contently, White papers are great tools for generating credibility. Customers respond better to informative write-ups than they do to blatant ads. The trick is to make sure your white paper is organized and well thought out so that you will create a natural and genuine interest in your services.
Upload valuable Slideshare presentations
Slideshare is an online resource for viewing of thousands of informative presentations. Again pick a subject relevant to your target market, and create a presentation which shares some genuine knowledge. Ensure also that the title uses relevant search keywords as Slideshare performs well in search rankings. Host the presentation on Slideshare, but also on your own website or share their links on your website. Some more points for great presentations include:
1. Use fonts, color scheme and themes that go well with your line of business. It’s best not to use more than two fonts in your presentations and use headlines in bold.
2. Make your presentations look engaging and strong with a succinct headline that is both intriguing and direct.
3. Draw audience and hold their attention by balancing text with thoughtful images as well as use charts and graphs for better understanding.
4. Tell a story in your presentations with a well-defined narrative and key takeaways. Lead with a strong cover page that teases the audience and follow it with engaging and relevant information.
5. Don’t forget to put a strong call to action with a link to a lead form at the end.
Use LinkedIn with a planned strategy
There is no better way for marketers to leverage the benefits of social networks than by building their own social-business-communities & groups based around an “interest” or “subject” close to the hearts of your would-be-clients, partners and customers. Businesses need to develop a comprehensive and consistent LinkedIn marketing plan to achieve long-term, sustainable success.
To create a business presence on LinkedIn and enhance your visibility, you first need to build a LinkedIn company page. Use that page as an extension of your business website with focused graphics, information on key products and services and job opportunities. Invite existing employees, clients or customers, vendors and partners to follow your page.
LinkedIn groups are ready-made discussion forums without the hassle of hosting or privacy. To implement a successful LinkedIn group strategy, assign a group manager/moderator to pre-approve discussion posts, ask great questions and determine which members get accepted into the group. Share messages with your group members once a week and engage them in healthy business-related discussions while adding value with compelling ideas and tips. Every new person joining the group is effectively a lead; those that take part in discussions are warm leads.
Which other inbound marketing tactics are you using to attract and develop new B2B leads?
Retailers worldwide are in the process of figuring out how to design integrated technology systems that support a range of physical, online and mobile sales channels.
Global research expert Forrester has speculated that the future consumer will want not just responsive interactions but adaptive ones, with content delivered in a way that best suits them as individuals, and their particular device. Successful omni-channel retail requires a collaboration of IT, marketing and sales functions to support customers shopping in stores and online from computers and mobile computers, such as smartphones and tablets. Let us look at some steps that can ease up the processes where multiple systems can work in harmony to provide a smooth and user-friendly experiences resulting in happy customers.
Use digital to facilitate in-store experiences
Technology is being used globally to make in-store interactions more detailed, offering personalized shopping recommendations. In-store stations can offer customers all product information like their features, manufacturing and expiry details as well as offer suggestions such as clothing sizes, alternate styles, price comparisons and buying history, allowing individual consumers to make informed decisions and get information as per their convenience.
Shoppers love and trust their smartphones, and if they’re in your store, they want to love and trust you too. Proactive retailers are refining opt-in systems that identify you when you walk in and alert you to sales and deals based on your expressed shopping habits. Retailers continue to explore new store formats — typically smaller and with more targeted merchandise — to add convenience and a sense of personalization. Target and Walmart are among the many retailers testing formats that are personalized to geography and neighborhood preferences, and examples like the Brooklyn Walgreens that offers beer tastings to drive sales of its packaged beer show how targeted a single store can be.
Macy’s stores offer virtual mannequins, digital ‘endless aisles’, and in-store cloud computing in an effort to keep customers engaged in a seamless approach to consumer experience through all available shopping channels.
Use past data to personalize each interaction
As shoppers continue to leverage digital tools and channels to research, browse and buy products, they also are beginning to demand more relevant products and offers. With these heightened expectations, personalization is becoming an integral component of retailers’ cross-channel marketing strategies.
Guests prefer having someone remember their buying preferences and being shown what they want rather than sitting through generic sales pitch all make shoppers more likely to buy. Some stores are rolling out apps that help their employees accomplish these things with each customer. Other apps deliver information about in-store sales and events to customers as they shop.
Interior decorating includes extensive browsing, researching and product comparison. As a result, Design Within Reach, a multichannel furniture retailer, is focused on providing cutting-edge tools and resources that will help guide shoppers seamlessly across the browsing and buying journey. Their website includes product suggestions based on past browsing and buying history. Employees have access to past purchase data, as well as current order information, so they can address all customer questions and inquiries. A 3D planner, which is available on the e-Commerce and tablet-optimized sites, helps users upload images of rooms and add/rearrange furniture. This offers a more complete view of room designs and empowers consumers’ product selection.
Think and act social to drive sales
Social media interactions are one of the quickest and most effective ways to tell your stories. Brands can carve their individual niche on social media and connect with users through their unique ideas, discussions and recommendations. Topshop recently launched a campaign where shoppers received a free styling and make-up session and were invited to create a digital ‘Wish you were at Topshop’ postcard using Instagram. Once the postcard photo had been taken, they were given a copy to take home and were also able to upload it to Facebook and the Topshop gallery. To date it has generated 640 blog posts, with a reach of 1.4 million, as well as 5.3m views on Facebook and 2,000 comments. That’s a year’s worth of its usual Facebook activity in just four days. And as a result, it has become the number one fashion retailer on Instagram.
Retailers can create interesting conversations around their brand. Social media can create an influential marketing channel, build brand goodwill and provide an insight into the ‘voice of the customer’. Social is definitely part of an omni-retail shopping experience as experiments in stores prove (for instance, displaying ‘likes’ on small screens near the actual products). Another reviews are powerful advertising tools are reviews and customer recommendations. People tend to trust the experiences of their peers more than any amount of advertising. Retailers are now sharing user reviews and customer feedback while the customers look through the merchandise to help them make purchasing decisions. Being able to read reviews and see detailed product information while shopping creates a comprehensive buying experience that can help drive sales.
Customize email marketing campaigns
According to National Pen case study, segmenting customers and executing email marketing campaigns in an automated and seamless way has helped in better conversions. Within three months of implementing the Responsys system, the brand executed three automated email campaigns that generated approximately $15,000 in additional revenue. Their emails carry dynamic content according to individual customers’ needs. National Pen has tripled open rates since launching an email welcome series. The program, designed for new consumers, is multi-stage and offers a variety of educational and promotional content. In addition to email and site personalization, the company will be testing more retargeting via display advertising, and are using data to make social media strategies more relevant for consumers.
More and more retailers are working to create more tailored and relevant customer experiences across channels. We need to connect all channels of sales and marketing to offer our customers seamless experiences where they start their journeys on one channel and complete it on another. Do you think personalization and seamlessly consistent customer interactions can significantly increase convenience and engagement and therefore impact bottom-line results? What do you think?
Content marketing has become one of the key marketing vehicles for brands in different sectors, with budgets ranging from zero to many millions!
This revolution and realization has come into effect when businesses saw that connecting with customers is not different in B2B set-up than in a B2C set-up because we are essentially dealing with like-minded people. For any brand to click with potential buyers, it needs to speak their language – it could be a local salon, a health-club or a real estate agency, the first and foremost requirement to get the business rolling is to connect!
It is important to develop the relevant content, to use the right media vehicles and support it with perfect visuals and videos! Let us discuss it in more detail.
Increased focus on content marketing tactics
According to some research findings shared in a recent blog post by MarketingProfs, most marketers (71%) plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2014, as per a recent report from Curata. The report was based on data from a survey of 502 marketers conducted in fall 2013, with 53% of respondents focused on B2B marketing, 12% on B2C, and 28% on both.
Respondents see content marketing as being most effective in the upper part of the customer acquisition funnel—especially for awareness-building and customer engagement. However, its impact on the lower part of the funnel is also quite significant, with nearly two-thirds of marketers indicating they’ve seen an increase in lead quality and quantity due to content marketing.
The ideal desired content marketing mix for 2014 consists of 61% created, 27% curated, and 12% syndicated content which is not very different from the content mix desired currently.
Add value and eyeballs with curated content
Do you think curation is easy? It is a tedious task that involves going through large amounts of information and filtering key elements, arranging them and publishing them in proper channels. Content curators pick the best content that is important and relevant to share with their community. Marketers are slowly starting to like curated content as they feel it helps increase their brand visibility, thought leadership, aids in search engine optimization and increased web traffic at the same time improves customer and buyer engagement.
As explained by Beth Kanter, Content curation is a three-part process: Seek, Sense, and Share. Finding the information or “seeking” is only one third of the task as Mari Smith points out in this video about why curation is important and some tools for doing it. Making sense of the information is just as important. Sense making can be writing a blog post using the links (like this post) or summarizing the key points in a presentation. However you create meaning, but it has to support your organization’s communications objectives. Finally, the sharing – is about giving the best nuggets of content to your audience in a format that they can easily digest and apply it.
Express distinct points of view to draw feedback
While sharing content, you can produce original content along with curating existing content by other authors and/or marketers. Adding your distinct points of view to curated content can add an extra edge to your content marketing strategy and could work very well in drawing out people’s opinions and feedback making it more like a discussion instead of a monologue. This is especially appropriate when a brand may want to “bundle” three or four articles in a package and then, perhaps, write a short post contextualizing these articles with an opinion. Or, the brand may want to provide a complete “event” as a bundle and package it as a microsite. As Beth states you could also storify your content. It is a way to add context to content collected from various social media vehicles. You could use social media data such as tweets, photos and videos and collect and use individual elements into your story. You can re-order the elements and also add text to give context to your readers.
Empower and engage audiences
The CMI/Marketing Profs study shows that 52 percent of marketers “want to produce the type of content that engages”. Content marketing needs to be done in the context of the user by creating experiences for users informed by the terms they type into a search box, their previous purchases, even their social network history and preferences. It’s about connecting with users exactly where they are comfortable instead of pushing generic messages onto prospects. And that requires creating a personalized and engaging experience.
To cultivate engagement, Coca Cola has re-launched their corporate website, Coca-Cola Journey, as a highly visual, sharable digital magazine. Featuring content themed around pop culture, social media, brand history, marketing campaigns, recipes, career advice, and more the website presents content that resonates strongly with its core audience.
Brand stories like background on marketing campaigns, historical stories about Coca-Cola, or information on the jobs people have within the company, all generate a high level of readership, proving that company specific stories still have a relevant place on the new website. Strategies like these are paving the way for future communication with more about the customers and less about the brand. After all, brands are people first.
Let visuals do all the talking
Image-based updates have engagement rates that are many times higher than posts that contain only text and video content is close behind. This gap is only getting smaller with time. Whether it’s infographics, GIFs, still images or video, visual content is driving brand interactions online. This is not to say that text or other content types aren’t worth sharing, but visually appealing posts are likely to become the bread and butter of content strategies.
Visual content isn’t just for the visually based social networks, such as Pinterest and Instagram, it improves your interaction rates on pretty much all social networks. For example, simply attaching a photo to a Facebook update generates 53% more likes than the average post, and this can be done simply by sharing a link to a blog post or news article and uploading the image from the post along with the text update. Instead of creating a text-only status update, upload the photo or video from the post, and then include the post title and link as a description of the photo/video.
By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled. In case you don’t have the time or resources to regularly post photos and videos on social media, then at least shoot some simple product videos or videos of your store, some team events, etc. and if that seems difficult then you could add a few photos on your website’s landing pages (generally pics from your actual operations or products have more impact). Landing pages with a video increase average page conversion rates by 86%. While photos don’t produce results that are as dramatic, but landing pages with pictures still do better than ones without any visual content at all.
Which content marketing strategies are you using and what kinds of returns have they produced? I shall look forward to hear about your content marketing experiences.
While following this concept, companies have shifted their focus from short-term profits to pursuing long-term milestones that ensure great health of their customer relationships. Customer lifetime value is an important number that can lighten your expenses help you in deciding:
- Which market segments to prioritize
- How much you should be willing to spend to acquire a new customer
- What types of customers you do not want to spend money on
- How much you should spend to retain existing customers
- Which types of current customers you may want to dispense with
The longer your customers stay with you, their value as a business multiplies over time. For instance, as a loyal customer to my preferred salon twice a month, in over a year, I will contribute over $800 to their revenue. If I stay a loyal customer for years, that’s easily thousands of dollars. Wouldn’t it be nice to have hundreds or thousands of customers who contribute that kind of revenue to your business?
Let us understand an easy way to understand and calculate Customer Lifetime Value for a small business. The 3 components used to arrive at CLV are:
- The average length of time a customer stays your customer
- The number of transactions that an average customer will have with you during that time and
- The average dollar amount he spends per transaction
Customer Lifetime Value is the number that you will get by multiplying these 3 together. But it is essential to input correct data to arrive at a metric that is accurate for successful contribution in strategy decisions. Once established, you can use your CLV as a benchmark for developing a realistic customer acquisition and/or retention budget. For example, according to your data, your average customer:
- Stays with you for 6 months
- Visits your store 2 times per month
- Spends an average of $2 per transaction
In this case your average CLV would be $24. Based on this, it would be foolish to spend $15 to gain one customer you will hardly earn anything from him and might incur losses depending on your margins. On the other hand, your customers may hang in there for 24 months, spend $20 per transaction and purchase from you a greater number of times. Since your CLV would be much higher, you could afford to pay more to gain a customer.
Example of an ecommerce business:
While calculating CLV for an ecommerce business model, the following formula is used: (Average Monthly Revenue per Customer * Gross Margin per Customer) ÷ Monthly Churn Rate
The numerator represents the average monthly profit per customer, and dividing by the churn rate sums the geometric series representing the chance the customer will still be around in future months.
For example: $100 average monthly spend * 25% margin ÷ 5% monthly churn = $500 LTV
Calculating CLV to understand customer retention:
CLV (customer lifetime value) calculation process for customer retention consists of four steps:
- Forecasting of remaining customer lifetime (most often in years)
- Forecasting of future revenues (most often year-by-year), based on estimation about future products purchased and price paid
- Estimation of costs for delivering those products
- Calculation of the net present value of these future amounts
Forecasting accuracy and difficulty in tracking customers over time may affect CLV calculation process.
Retention models make several simplifying assumptions and often involve the following inputs:
- Churn rate, the percentage of customers who end their relationships with companies in a given period. One minus the churn rate is the retention rate. Most models can be written using either churn rate or retention rate. If the model uses only one churn rate, the assumption is that the churn rate is constant across the life of the customer relationship.
- Discount rate, the cost of capital used to discount future revenue from a customer. Discounting is an advanced topic that is frequently ignored in customer lifetime value calculations. The current interest rate is sometimes used as a simple (but incorrect) proxy for discount rate.
- Contribution margin, the dollar contribution per unit divided by the selling price per unit. “Contribution” represents the portion of sales revenue that is not consumed by variable costs and so contributes to the coverage of fixed costs.
- Retention cost, the amount of money a company has to spend in a given period to retain an existing customer. Retention costs include customer support, billing, promotional incentives, etc.
- Period, the unit of time into which a customer relationship is divided for analysis. A year is the most commonly used period. Customer lifetime value is a multi-period calculation, usually stretching 3–7 years into the future. In practice, analysis beyond this point is viewed as too speculative to be reliable. The number of periods used in the calculation is sometimes referred to as the model horizon.
Here are some of the key benefits of calculating CLV:
- It gives a new paradigm to customer relationships by terming them as the assets of organizations and therefore, gives a new focus to all business functions.
- It helps monitor the impact of management strategies and marketing investments on the value of customer assets, e.g.: Marketing Mix Modeling simulators can use a multi-year CLV model to show the true value of an additional customer, reduced churn rate and product up-sell efforts.
- This metric helps define the optimal level of investments in marketing and sales activities to achieve maximum ongoing returns.
- It refines the focus of marketers by targeting the long-term value of customers instead of investing resources in acquiring “cheap” customers with low total revenue value
- This metric enables implementation of sensitivity analysis in order to comprehend incremental returns of spending extra dollars on each customer.
- It is a good basis for selecting customers and plan specific communication strategies for different consumer clusters.
- Measures various denominations of customer loyalty like proportion of purchase, probability of purchase and repurchase, purchase frequency and sequence etc.
The disadvantages of CLV generally stem from incorrect data used while creating the CLV model or from its incorrect application.
How do you calculate your customers’ lifetime value and use this metric in your business investment decisions?
Marketers have their eyes peeled for the brand new year, offering immense possibilities and an online landscape that is getting tougher by the day. Every day is a new learning with new tools being thrown in the game. Businesses are playing hard to catch up with their new and existing customers while trying to keep competition at bay. So, which technologies and trends will beat the rest and call the shots this year. I have been reading up opinions of industry experts and wanted to share some of those with you. Let us see which online marketing strategies are the veterans betting on this year?
Win with perfectly ironed out content marketing
According to infinigraph.com’s Chase McMichael, “2014 is all about going beyond experimenting, to full content marketing integration and executions.” 2014 will be the year where those who don’t have their content marketing strategies ironed out will be left in the dust. In a blog post on Search Engine Journal, if 2013 proved anything, it was that quality content is now the name of the game and that social shares and user engagement are the new benchmarks of a brand’s success. What does this mean for advertisers and publishers? It means that in order to stay relevant in the near future, marketers must be able to create and share original and compelling content that customers (or potential customers) are likely to read, comment, and share with their networks. Simply put, performance marketing in 2014 will be all about earned media.
David Spark of Spark Media Solutions opines that most brands will realize that paper-thin content offerings such as infographics and listicles only generate vanity metrics and don’t ever truly deliver value to the business’ bottom line. And herein lies the challenge of content marketing—publishers post pieces of “content” such as memes, viral videos, infographics, etc., and see a lot of user engagement via comments, likes, and shares, which is currently being equated to a successful, revenue-producing campaign.
Optimize for multiple screens
According to an article on Forbes, Nielson reported in June 2013 that of all mobile phone users in the U.S., 61% use smart phones. That is a 10% increase since early 2012. The study “Why We Don’t Buy: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandonment,” by Bronto Software and Magento said that 54% of people who buy online daily or weekly own a tablet and 64% own a smartphone. Businesses can’t afford not to have a mobile friendly website in 2014.
For optimal success of marketing campaigns, Google recommends “responsive web design.” In which the website design adjusts the layout or size of the website according to the screen or window size of whatever device or web browser is being used to view it. So whether your website users are using an iPhone, Android, tablet or desktop PC, the HTML code used to render the page is the same for every URL. This eliminates the need to host separate mobile sites at a different location than the main website. Essentially, the main website is the mobile website as well.
A responsive website design has dual advantages; while on one side it provides the best user experience with an optimized page for all visitors irrespective of the device they are using to view your website, on the other side, by showing the same URL to searchers on all devices, it strengthens your brand recall as well as search engine ranking value. Therefore, it is the need of the day to use a responsive website design to better reach users on different devices.
Bring focus on campaigns with paid social ads
Against all hopes of social media putting an end to the era of paid advertising in the online marketing world, many businesses have seen great results from paid social ads due to the deep user engagement and more sophisticated targeting tools on social media, so I expect this trend to accelerate in 2014.
According to Adroll, news feed ads on Facebook generate 49 times more clicks than right-hand side ads. Meanwhile, LinkedIn offers Sponsored Updates, and Pinterest is currently testing Promoted Pins. If these programs show the same effectiveness as Facebook’s, other channels may see this as a great opportunity to cater to business accounts, and smart marketers could use this avenue to effectively promote their top products and services.
Share visuals to attract more visitors
Visual content consistently outperforms blogs and other text-based content. Pinterest boards now generate more revenue for retailers than tweets or Facebook posts. David Langton and Anita Campbell have explained some great practical points in their book Visual Marketing. The book wakes you to novel marketing ideas using pictures, charts and infographics that could be very effective in growing small businesses. One study shows the retention rate for visual information can reach 65% versus 10% for text-based information. It’s hardly surprising, then, that visual media will grab more attention in the coming year.
Visual content is the best way to market your business on social media platforms as it draws audiences by sharing value with pictures of product offers, brand events, training programs, and employee engagement activities. Pictures give a personality to your brand and create real differentiation in the eyes of potential customers. Visual marketing is your chance to stand out, particularly if your company is not popular yet in your niche. And visual content is a great way to share your message in some new and engaging ways.
What other marketing strategies do you think are going to make a difference this year? I shall look forward to hear your ideas and plans.
Wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2014. Check out my blog for online marketing trends, small business marketing case studies and highlights. And practical tips all along to make your marketing efforts count more and help you earn optimum returns on your marketing budgets.
Make your new year more interesting for your clients, associates and friends by checking out Top 10 Marketing Books to Add to Your Holiday Gift List
See you soon!