B2B Marketing: Time to Bring the Digital + Physical Worlds Together?
If you were to listen to the siren songs of the social media charlatans, you might think that conventional B2B marketing tactics are dead in the water. But – as a recent study by the widely respected CSO Insights organisation demonstrates – traditional tactics still have an important role to play. The challenge (and the opportunity) lies in intelligently integrating digital and physical marketing…
In their 2010 Lead Generation Optimization study, CSO Insights surveyed 635 firms, asking them to identify “what programs are generating the best ROIs as a function of the highest quality and quantity of leads generated?” With multiple answers permitted, here are the top 5 responses:
- Email Marketing (61.5%)
- Live Events/Tradeshows (45%)
- Web Site Registration (32.6%)
- Webinars (31.1%)
- Telemarketing (28.5%)
Notable absentees from the top 5 were SEO/Paid Search/Google Adwords in 6th position (26.2%) and Social Media in 10th place (12.1%).
Of course, these rankings will inevitably vary depending on the market and other factors. But there’s a clear message here, and we need to take account of it in B2B go-to-market, customer communication and sales enablement strategies.
Align Your Media Choices to Your Prospect’s Needs
There isn’t one single best option, and that’s because your prospects will prefer to use different types of media at different points in their information gathering and buying decision processes.
At some points in their process, your customers will value the rich interaction they can get from live events or from personalised one-to-one conversations. That’s why telemarketing (when performed by intelligent and motivated inside sales people rather than call centre robots) remains such an effective tool for lead generation, and why live events with a high education content and scope for peer-to-peer interaction remain a popular and effective choice when the circumstances are right.
At other times – for example when an issue is already on the prospect’s radar but they are not yet ready to start actively evaluating solutions – nurturing emails and on-demand, educational webinars can be highly effective. Or they may value the simple self-service convenience of visiting vendor websites, downloading materials, and reviewing them at their leisure.
Multiple Media, Consistent Messages
As CSO Insights point out in their report, the real benefits come from intelligently blending digital and physical media and through delivering consistent materials and messages across multiple platforms. That’s why it’s crucial that companies break down any silos between different marketing methods and insist – if they employ separate specialists or use different agencies for direct marketing, events, telemarketing, the web, etc., that they work together around a single integrated communications plan and exchange information and share the latest learning on a regular basis.
B2B marketers also need to consider what media is best suited to deliver which message, and take deliberate steps to repurpose materials across common media – for example offering on-demand webinars and educational white papers to support a key theme addressed during a live event presentation. Using thoughtfully chosen search-friendly tags and keywords, they need to ensure these materials are easily findable by their target audience.
A Systematic Process
So how ought B2B marketers organise themselves to take advantage of the integration of the digital and physical worlds? Implementing a structured, systematic process can pay tremendous dividends – and help to ensure that the right messages are delivered to the right audience through the right media.
The process starts by creating ideal prospect profiles that define the common characteristics of your most valuable customers and prospects. It includes defining buyer personas that describe the issues, concerns and motivations of key decision makers. And is also involves mapping out the BuyerSphere – the web of influence that surrounds your prospects and which guides and informs their decision-making.
You’ll want to identify the issues, trends and trigger events that cause them to start searching for solutions. You also need to identify the key stages and milestones in your prospect’s buying decision process, to establish the most important players and roles at each stage in the journey, and – most importantly – to anticipate their interests, motivations and concerns and need for information at each step along the way.
There’s an important role for on-going research and smart analytics to ensure that you track and where necessary tune your prospect’s patterns of information consumption.
Taking a research-led, evidence based approach enables B2B sales and marketing organisations to ensure that they are indeed delivering the right messages to the right audience through the right media – and allows them to make informed choices about how their digital and physical marketing assets can be most effectively combined and aligned.
By the way, If you’re wondering where to start aligning your digital and physical marketing strategies, I’d like to suggest that you download our latest guide to the D3ARE framework – a systematic, evidence based approach which encapsulates all we’ve learned over the years about improving B2B sales and marketing performance.