Month: February 2014

Use Inbound Marketing to Generate Hot B2B Leads

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?

pied-piper

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 whitepaper iconcommonly 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 Linkedin-groupscustomers. 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?

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Top Omni-Channel Retail Strategies

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.

Beautiful woman smiling with her digital tablet and shopping bags

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.

macy's in-store virtual mannequins

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.

Design Within Reach

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.

wish you were at topshop

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?