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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Evolution of B2B Marketing and How it has Changed Sales

Guest Blogger: Jason Plavic
Digital Marketing Strategist, Advance Ohio
In the past ten years or so, we have seen a shift in how B2B buying decisions happen, who the decision makers are in the process, and where these decision makers are getting their information.

Traditionally, marketing was always a linear path - people saw an ad, they were interested in the product, so they went to the store and bought it. What’s changed, is now customers are finding the information on their own. It is now the marketer’s job to pull that audience in by creating a personalized experience that resonates with the potential customers. The path to purchase is no longer linear - it is a collection of moments that influence a customer to purchase your product.

There’s no question that everyone is online these days, including B2B audiences. Buyers are more empowered than ever before: B2B buyers review an average of 10.4 sources on average for any buying situation. More costly or complex purchases require more research and content review. Customers are educated and informed, and are looking for vendors who understand their pain points and are knowledgeable in the industry.

Cold calling and traditional marketing strategies are not as effective in our digital world. Here’s a scary statistic for traditional marketing: 90% of B2B decision makers don't respond to cold sales outreach and only 1% of cold calls convert into appointments. These days, customers are much more comfortable doing research on their own and coming to a conclusion on who they want to do business with based on their research.

These changes in the B2B path to purchase have drastically affected the sales process. Instead of sales people approaching potential customers, buyers are now coming straight to sales people with all the information they need in hand to make a purchase. Customers are being influenced from many different touchpoints, including websites, social media, and mobile, and are becoming more educated in the process. In fact, most customers are already 57% of the way down the path to a decision before performing an action on a website.

This highlights the importance for manufacturing marketers to find ways to reach their audiences through a variety of methods and to be in every place that the audience is searching for a solution.

Below are four of the most important tactics that every B2B marketer needs to add to their strategy:

Content Marketing: Content can be used to nurture customers in every step of their path to purchase - from building awareness of the brand, to improving visibility, to creating loyalty. In fact, content marketing generates three times more leads and is 62% cheaper than traditional marketing.

Great content is more than just good writing. The content on websites, blogs, social media, and emails need to be relevant and engaging to both potential clients, as well as the search engines to capture all prospects. Content encompasses everything from written, to visual, to video, and the type of content companies should produce will depend on audiences. The fact of the matter is that 88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing, and those who aren’t using it to its full advantage will fall short to the competition.

Search Engine Optimization: Internet searches bring more people to company websites than all other digital channels combined. In fact, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. To understand SEO, there needs to be an understanding of how search engines work. Search engines like Google and Bing use complex, proprietary algorithms to determine which websites are most relevant to the words that users type into a search box.

Social Media: While social media has long been a platform for B2C, there are many benefits for B2B businesses to utilize social media as well. In fact, cultivating business relationships on social media could be a key to success in the manufacturing industry.  Social media should be used to fuel the marketing fire by delivering all the created content to the masses. Out of all the networks, LinkedIn should be a priority for manufacturing marketers – 80% of social media B2B leads are generated through LinkedIn.

Data: Manufacturers know the importance of data - they’ve  been collecting and analyzing machine data for decades, long before marketing turned to data. In manufacturing, data is used to improve process, production, and distribution - so why wouldn’t it make sense to use and analyze data on the marketing side of manufacturing as well? Data is important to marketing because numbers tell the truth. Good data allows marketers to identify accounts with similar needs and tailor a specific strategy to follow, which makes reaching customer that much easier. Here’s some numbers not to ignore: two-thirds of engaged data-driven marketers are seeing new customers as a result of data-driven initiatives. Not convinced? When data-driven marketing is done correctly, it can have an average ROI of 224%.

As buyer trends shift more towards digital, it’s time for manufacturers to not just dip their toes into the digital world, but to dive in and embrace a digitally-driven marketing strategy that will distinguish them from the competition. Ready to dive in? If you are interested in learning more about how to develop a personalized strategy to fit your company needs, contact Jason Plavic, Advance Ohio’s B2B Marketing Strategist.

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