This article is the first in a series in which we’ll cover our vision on B2B marketing and present a pragmatic 3-step model for B2B marketing success.
Like a lot of B2C companies, many B2B companies are undergoing a so-called ‘digital transformation’ with the intent of fully embracing the role of digital (marketing) in their organizations.
Although the gap in digital maturity between B2B and B2C companies is still very visible, we can see that this gap is starting to dwindle. The road towards full digital maturity (should this exist in the first place) is still long, but the B2B marketing industry enjoyed huge growth in maturity in recent years. Today, hundreds of tools and technologies are at our disposal to automate marketing flows, streamline lead qualification, build segments and audiences, and so on.
This is definitely good news. The opportunity is there but in turn, so is the complexity - marketing officers can easily get lost in the plethora of tools, tech, and features that get pitched to them on a daily basis. The main question that pops up: how can a B2B marketing officer take advantage of this digitalization and focus on growing their business?
One challenge lies in building a coherent tech stack that is focussed on building synergies and enables marketers to reach their business goals. However, a good tech stack doesn’t guarantee success. Indeed, it all starts with a sound methodology and framework guiding marketers and their teams forward. With that in mind, we advise focussing on two main elements:
- Implementing a sound framework and methodology: there are many good methodologies that help you set goals and define your ideal approach. We’ll present ours in this article series, so we won’t expand on this here.
- Implementing the right data architecture: within this track, you’ll need to be able to answer questions such as; what does your technology architecture look like? What tools and technologies are you going to set up? How will these tools ‘talk’ with each other? What are the synergies you can build from the different tools? This topic won’t be expanded on during this article series, instead refer to the following articles in this series to get started.
Having a vision on the above will drastically increase your chances of success from a B2B marketing POV.
B2B vs B2C
Before we deep dive into our model, we have to highlight a few B2B marketing specificities. This will help us understand the challenges, how our model addresses them, and how it streamlines the processes. Correctly applying the model should guide any company with B2B services on a path towards marketing success.
Specificity #1: The audience. Within B2B marketing, we are targeting the needs, interests, and challenges of individuals who are making purchases on behalf of, or for, their organization, thus making the organization the customer. In B2C marketing, we are targeting consumers who are making purchases on behalf of, or for, themselves, thus making the individual the customer.
In contrast to the classical B2C marketing approaches, where branding plays an important role, the B2B approach rarely focusses on the latter. Apart from the odd airport billboards, we see very little ‘branding’ effort done by B2B companies around us. There’s a very simple reason for this: within a B2B context, mass-market advertising comes with huge spillage and waste. Luckily, within a digital context, we can be a lot smarter with our tactics and much more targeted.
The challenge, however, remains on making sure your audience can be targeted in the first place. On Facebook, for example, not a lot of people fill in their job titles. So you don’t have a lot of job title targeting volume. Knowing this, we have to make certain adjustments in how we attract audiences into our marketing funnels.
Specificity #2: The end KPI. Within digital B2B marketing, we are more often than not in the lead generation business and not in the sales business. We don’t buy or sell $100,000 air compressors via a Shopify store (yet). Instead, digital B2B marketing aims at getting prospects to ask for an online quote and have the sales team turn those leads into sales. A robust lead qualification process is the key to success here.
Specificity #3: The user journey. While the typical user journey of both B2C and B2B customers can fit into a classical ‘awareness-consideration-conversion’ framework, the actual interpretation is vastly different. Once a lead is generated, a different approach is needed to turn this lead into an actual sale; sales and marketing teams need to collaborate in order to activate the leads.
Looking at the above specificities, we can build our model around three main pillars:
- Attract: how do we attract the right people and generate leads?
- Qualify: how do we qualify the leads?
- Activate: how do we chase and activate the qualitative leads into sales?
We’ll cover these in slightly more detail in the section below and deep dive into each pillar in the coming articles.
The 3 step model: from Attract to Activate
A good understanding of your (online) audiences is key. Who do you want to target? What are their characteristics? What websites and apps do they frequent? Building an audience blueprint that serves you throughout your digital campaigns and funnels is a powerful tool.
Once a clear vision on the audiences and their behaviors is established, an acquisition approach needs to be built. What channels and tactics will you use to reach and attract your audiences with the right message? The end goal of this pillar is lead generation. Focus on what drives the most leads at the lowest cost/lead.
The second pillar looks at segmenting the leads gathered in the Attract phase into clusters. This process is what we call lead qualification.
There are many different ways to go about this. The most popular and effective methodology is one where leads are scored based on a number of variables: demographics, industry and behavioral. Each lead that comes into your systems should be scored based on these variables.
Depending on the lead score, different approaches are taken: the leads that receive the highest score can be funneled into your sales team’s prospect list for immediate follow-up. This is what’s called a sales-qualified-lead (SQL). The leads that fall short of being high potentials but remain of value can be taken up in your marketing automation funnels and paid media campaigns (MQL or marketing qualified leads). The leads that receive a (too) low score should not be a focus for your teams.
The last pillar looks at turning the acquired leads into sales. This is where a smooth collaboration between the sales team and marketing teams becomes very important. Within this step, you’re going to connect activation funnels to the right segments.
Indeed, the most important/hot leads should be immediately chased by your sales teams. These should be contacted on a 1 on 1 basis to ensure the highest chance of closing the deal. On top, the marketing team should chase the hot leads, but also reach out to the ‘medium-hot’ leads through a series of marketing tactics. Successful strategies include email funnels, remarketing flows, etc. A more in-depth insight will be provided in the following articles.
Digital B2B marketing really comes down to structuring your marketing flows from lead generation to sales activation. This is in strong contrast to classical B2C marketing where a single good campaign can push the user from ‘I don’t know that brand’ to ‘I will buy that brand’s product’. This user journey can go from start to finish in a matter of minutes - think about all the dropshipping marketing mainly driven by Facebook ads. In B2B, this is very different as there’s an obvious longer and often more complex user journey where more specific tactics are warranted.
We believe the Acquire, Qualify and Activate model hits the nail on the head and is able to streamline your (digital) B2B marketing efforts towards business success.
The following articles will deep dive on each of the three phases.