As a marketing leader, there are constant pressures to improve your B2B marketing strategies for better results, from lead gen to conversions to revenue growth. In order to combat these demands, one of the best approaches marketing leaders can take is to ground their efforts in proven, surefire tactics – also known as “best practices.”
We know these methods well and have seen firsthand how they’ve earned their title. At the end of the day, best practices should be at the core of B2B marketing strategies, whether they’re big or small. However, in reviewing current best practices, we discovered there was a way to take them a step further, primarily through alignment with developments in the B2B buyer landscape.
As a result, this article covers how to assess your current efforts and identify opportunities for improving your B2B marketing strategies, as well as four strategic beyond-best practices that you can leverage for better brand experiences, and ultimately, better revenue growth.
Benchmarking Your Current Efforts
Buyer developments are always a wise place to start when it comes to benchmarking your current marketing strategy and understanding where you want to take it moving forward. B2B buyer behavior has experienced three core shifts that will inevitably shape how you engage buyers with your marketing:
An increasing amount of self-education
CSO Insights found that more than 70% of B2B buyers fully define their needs before engaging with a sales rep, and almost half identify their specific solutions before reaching out. In turn, prospects are becoming savvier and more educated about their own challenges and solutions. Demonstrating consistent and captivating messaging that gets to the heart of what buyers are looking for should be a high priority for your organization to capture their attention.
A renewed preference for B2C-like experiences
According to research by Salesforce, 67% of B2B buyers have switched vendors for a more consumer-like experience, opting for companies that can address their unique needs and pain points immediately and authentically. This shift promotes more personalized user experiences, straightforward buying processes and pricing models, as well as seamless interactions across channels.
More widespread digital adoption
Recent research from Accenture determined that 61% of B2B transactions start online and 58% of B2B buyers use social media as a research channel. As organizations look to meet this trend, it’s important to not only prioritize a strong digital presence, but to keep that presence consistent with unified messaging and branding elements.
In an era of widespread digital adoption and self-educating buyers with more consumer-like expectations than ever before, integrating best practices throughout your efforts is critical. However, in order to truly elevate your B2B marketing strategies and deliver a uniquely memorable experience for customers, there are five “next” practices we recommend.
#1: Substantiate Solution Messaging
Strong messaging is a best practice in and of itself. Without a reliable foundation for communicating with prospects, it’s impossible to break through the noise of competitors and foster a compelling connection with customers. Taking your messaging one step further, however, requires a deliberate shift from product-driven messaging to solution-driven messaging.
Rather than just focusing on the features and functionalities of your offering, your messaging should evoke the value and benefits prospects and customers can expect from your solution. Taking your messaging beyond the narrow focus of your product will prevent a fragmented approach that is susceptible to messaging mistakes over the long term.
In order to substantiate your messaging in a way that resonates with and engages your audience, start with an aligned internal stakeholder team that amplifies the voices of team members involved in the entire customer experience. Then, validate that knowledge with target audience viewpoints straight from customers via channels such as surveys, customer check-ins or focus groups. With these messaging points in place, you can cultivate solution-driven messaging that is authentic, straightforward and addresses your customers’ pain points in a value-driven way.
#2: Maximize Product Launch Impact
Launching a new product or service is no easy feat, considering the wide range of expectations to manage, from external prospects to customers and even your internal team. Without a well-thought-out plan to support your efforts, important but easy-to-miss details can slip through the cracks and leave you scrambling as launch day approaches.
As a best practice, a launch plan should combine research, marketing and messaging to ensure that every aspect of promoting your launch is cohesively executed. This thorough approach will also bring to light the true market demand for your prospective new product or service. In setting the stage for a successful and sustainable future for your new offering, it can be equally valuable to learn if considerable shifts might be needed, so that time, money and energy are not wasted.
To take these launch best practices one step further, it is essential to understand how to best leverage outbound and inbound marketing efforts when promoting your new product or service. We dive deep on inbound and outbound strategic must-haves in this blog, but in short, outbound marketing tactics will commonly serve as awareness drivers for launch, while inbound strategies will typically offer an element of value to prospects and customers designed to address the individual’s problems, needs and questions. Ultimately, finding synergies between these respective B2B marketing strategies can amplify brand and product awareness and cultivate an engaged audience on launch day and beyond.
#3: Centralize CX in Digital Marketing
To address buyers’ propensity for self-education, particularly through digital channels, a solid digital footprint should be a top priority for B2B leaders. A successful digital marketing strategy will not only meet buyers head-on in their research journey, but it will also successfully intrigue buyers to how your business can deliver value to theirs.
In building a foundational presence, keep your channels clear and consistent, especially when it comes to branding and messaging. Be it a company website, social media platforms or online ads, make sure your language and visuals are easily recognizable to users so they can begin forming a memorable brand identity of your company. This will also help keep your organization top of mind when it’s time for a purchase decision.
To take this a step further, we recommend centralizing customer experience (CX) design to optimize your digital efforts and provide the best user experience. Consider what buyers will want from an interaction with your company online. How can you deliver a user-optimized experience for them? When you apply a customer-centric lens to all brand touchpoints, it will encourage the seamless, personalized B2C-like interactions today’s buyers crave.
#4: Unify Sales and Marketing
Over the years, we’ve seen time and again how prevalent of a struggle sales and marketing alignment can be. However, it’s also a foundational component of any business – both marketing and sales need to openly communicate and have a shared understanding of the ideal client profile, their needs and pain points, as well as how to define each stage of the funnel. Because it can be such a critical difference-maker for your organization (good or bad), we wanted to highlight best practices for fostering alignment, as well as next-level strategies for creating long-term synergy.
To create an initial loop of transparency between these two teams, there should be agreement on three primary steps in the sales funnel: what actions a lead must take to move from one stage to the next, what marketing and sales’ responsibilities are at each stage of the funnel and how to go about the lead notification process so leads move through the funnel efficiently. Each of these processes should be defined as a team so all parties are privy to the frequency and definitions of notifications across teams.
When you’re ready to solidify next-level alignment, closed-loop communication is key. Sales will need to report back on the success of marketing activities, marketing will need to solicit feedback from sales on new initiatives and both teams should seek to improve activities for customers’ evolving needs and goals. One way to do this is to deliver a cohesive set of goals for both departments. Not only will this create a more united task force within your company, but aligned teams will ultimately help achieve your revenue growth goals for lasting success both as a company and as a team.
Want to learn more? Check out our webinar, “Linking Sales and Marketing to Boost Bottom Line Impact”
Reaping the Rewards
Placing customers and prospects at the heart of your strategic marketing efforts is essential for delivering more seamless, consumer-like customer journeys. By following specific, methodical best practices for your B2B marketing efforts, you can build a solid marketing foundation that is supported for years to come.
However, best practices are just that – foundational. Following the guidance in this article will help elevate your B2B marketing strategies beyond best practices for a truly distinct brand experience that helps your company stand out to prospects and customers. By pinpointing ways that you can improve and evolve your messaging, product launch prep, digital presence and sales and marketing alignment, your bottom line will reap exponential improvement.
Looking for more ways to elevate your B2B marketing results? Contact one of our marketing experts today for a free 1-hour consultation.