You are now reading the second chapter of our #LeadAwayFromCovid 3-Part series, which will be dedicated to helping businesses recover from the economic impact generated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the previous chapter was focused on the conceptual part of recovery, offering background for building an efficient recovery plan, in this part, we are going to discuss how to move from planning to execution.
This article is going to guide you through some of the essential tools and channels you will need to keep your wheels turning despite the critical conditions the world economy is facing.
B2B Digital Marketing Checklist
Previously, we mentioned that an ABM (Account-based marketing) approach grants B2B companies a higher level of sustainability and confidence when resources are limited. While trends are changing, there are at least two features of B2B marketing strategy that are here to stay despite all the radical shifts.
“…personalization and humanity are here to stay…When it comes to building personalized human-like communication with potential clients, there’s nothing more suitable than account-based marketing (ABM).
Only the ABM approach that will enable your B2B marketing strategy to develop and nurture long-term relationships, growing Lifetime Value (LTV) of each current and prospective client.
Shifting your focus to ABM practices should enable you to build more meaningful B2B communication, instead of wasting a ton of budget on customer acquisition.”
Ok, using the ABM approach sounds reasonable, but what does it actually mean?
Running an account-based marketing strategy means building a consistent and personalized communication with every prospect, taking into account their personal information, as well as the temperature of their relationship with your brand.
To build such a communication, it is crucial for you to have the right theoretical and technical elements in place. Here’s a checklist of the most essential elements you need to start promoting your products through digital channels:
Let’s begin with the theoretical elements of this checklist.
As we are looking to build a consistent meaningful communication with every prospect (which is especially important in B2B), it is crucial for us to understand two basic concepts:
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This is the core of your B2B marketing communication. By defining your USP, you will get a clear understanding of how your product is different from and better than all the others in your segment.Due to the ever-growing tempos of the decision-making process, communicating your USP has become the thing you communicate right after you find out if your prospect is problem-aware and qualified to buy your product.
- Buyer persona. Defining who buys your product, will help you do a much better job building your communication in accordance with your target audience’s needs. Being a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, buyer persona not only includes basic demographics, but also takes a step further into prospects’ psychology, outlining their pain points and desires so you can speak to them in everything you do.
When defining your USP and Buyer personas clearly, you will gain much higher levels of confidence in your marketing decisions, make sure they hit on your target audience’s pain points and be able to rationalize the ‘why’ of every marketing activity, meaning that you are free to move on to more actionable parts of the checklist.
Let’s review the must-have technical aspects of your digital B2B marketing mix:
- CRM system. The name speaks for itself: a client-relations management system is a piece of software that allows you to gather, organize, and synchronize data about all your prospects. Without CRM, it would be merely impossible for you to build personalized communication on a large scale (which is often the case when running an account-based digital marketing campaign).Having your CRM well-running and integrated into the workflow with other tools, will enable you to differentiate your B2B marketing efforts depending on what TA segment you are processing.
- Website & Social Media presence. One major difference between the B2B and B2C buying process is that the latter tends to be more impulsive, thus having a much shorter conversion timeline.When it comes to B2B, even if your sales offer is super attractive and is delivered to the right person, they wouldn’t start interacting with you before they find out more about your company, the services you provide, and the track record you have.To fulfill your prospects’ need for research, you need to have a decent digital presence. And the bare minimum you should have a well-functioning and attractive website and be constantly updating relevant social media channels.Not sure which social media do you need? Find a more detailed guide on the best social media platforms for B2B at the end of this article.
Ok, so it seems like we have both the conceptual and technical parts covered. What’s next?
Well, the next stage of this checklist is a tactical one. Here are the two most crucial B2B marketing activities you need to have covered during your recovery campaign.
- Content creation. According to the latest HubSpot report, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.We’ve been facing a growing trend in content marketing for the last 3 years and if you are not publishing your own content yet, today’s a great time to start. In fact, we highly recommend you invest in content as part of your crisis recovery plan.According to CMI, only 48% of B2B marketers frequently craft content based on the specific stages of the customer journey. Of the most successful content marketers, 74% do.
- Email marketing. The other B2B marketing activity that seems to withstand the test of time is email marketing. The reason for that is that in the ever-growing B2B environment, email is still the primary communication channel.Hubspot states that 99% of consumers check their email every day. The same report suggests that “More than 50 percent of U.S. respondents check their personal email account more than 10 times a day, and it is by far their preferred way to receive updates from brands”.
In fact, email marketing has much more going for it than a couple of statistics can express.
We interviewed our very own email-marketing rockstar, Vlad Besstrochnyi, to give you a better idea of how you could benefit from using email, what you need to start and the best tools to use.
Email Marketing 101: Interview with an expert.
Interviewee: Vladyslav Besstrochnyi (V), Email Marketing Manager at Respect.Studio.
Interviewer: Taras Prystatsky (T), Content Marketing Strategist at Respect.Studio.
T: Hey Vlad, thanks for finding some time for this interview, I know that you’ve been doing profound research in order to find the best email marketing tool. What are the main insights have you gained so far?
V: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. I have actually developed an evaluation system that enabled us to assess every tool very quickly. Using this framework, we’re able to know if the tool is suitable for what we need within the first week of using it.
When it comes to the main insights, I would stick with the statement: “The tool has to be chosen according to the level of expertise of a user”. It isn’t necessary to buy sophisticated tools for someone who would not be able to use it to its full potential.
T: Wow, that’s impressive, I would love it if you shared this system a bit later. Right now, let’s do a quick intro here:
According to Content Marketing Institute report, 79% of B2B marketers find email to be the most successful channel for content distribution. Could you give us an idea of why email marketing has such lasting popularity in B2B?
V: First of all, it’s all about versatility. In fact, email has the potential that goes beyond regular content distribution. This channel can be effectively leveraged for drip campaigns, follow up campaigns, re-engagement campaigns, whatnot.
To put it simply, email is a marketing channel that has the capacity to meet various goals throughout the sales cycle. And the main argument would be its cost-efficiency.
Compared to other channels, email needs from little to no initial investment to start using it. I mean, if you already have a domain and a G-Suite subscription, it’s enough to start sending messages directly into prospects’ inboxes. Obviously, you would need to invest more if you want to scale, but you can launch an email campaign with merely zero investment.
T: Got it. So let’s assume I would like to launch an email campaign. Where do I start?
V: The first thing would be the database of recipients. The key here is to have a clean database, meaning that you are sure that the emails on the list are real and still active. You have to be sure that you’re sending the right messages to the right people. If you fail to do so, you risk ruining your domain credibility by generating low open and reply rates, making it even more difficult to succeed later.
The next one is the content. Yeah, everyone’s saying that content is king and we’re all kinda tired of that. But that’s still true. As soon as you know who your audience is, you have to make sure you are sending relevant messages. And for that, you need proper content that has been created specifically for that target audience.
And the last one would be an email tool. There are numerous options here and you need an option that at least automates all the routine processes (there are a lot of those in email campaigns) related to sending emails to large lists. Besides that, a proper tool would enable you to track progress, so you are able to adapt to what you send to improve the results.
T: Awesome. Speaking of tools, could you share which are the best, according to your research.
V: First of all, there are no “best” tools. There are only “the most suitable” ones. And to figure that out, you need to be 100% aware of your current goals, budget, the expertise level of your email-marketer, and the workflow aspects you want to automate (like list segmentation, custom content, tags, etc.).
To come up with an answer that can fit everyone’s circumstances, I’ve created a generalized classification of email tools.
These are services like MailChimp, HubSpot, GetResponse, and pretty much every other tool you can find on the first page of a Google search. These tools offer all the necessary features and beyond to make your email marketing campaigns efficient.
Among their main advantages are great stability, packed in an intuitive UI, that can be powered by a wide variety of integrations with other tools from a CRM to the calendar. And if any of those seem not to work properly, the Big players’ support teams will do their best to fix the issue ASAP.
However, there are a couple of major disadvantages such platforms have. First of all, they are usually very pricy, ranging up to $150 per month with limited number of contacts. Secondly, big ships are the ones that are difficult to turn. I mean that such solutions are usually inflexible and almost impossible to customize. The company has decided what’s best for you and you just need to take it. And the last disadvantage is long waits for updates. Big companies usually make sure that every change is well-tested and stable, which takes a lot of time to implement. That is why users need to wait for a big pack of updates for a really long time.
These tools are usually adapted to serve goals of a particular industry, covering specific pain-points that only people from such industries have. Because of better focus, these tools are able to understand users’ needs way better, addressing them with a respective function.
For example, tools like FreshMail are awesome for eCommerce users, as they enable them to create captivating email designs without HTML knowledge. Users can also track audience behavior in real-time, which is crucial if you want to increase conversions in eCommerce.
Such tools also have more focused integrations. Usually, there are fewer options, compared to Big Players. However, such companies offer native CRMs and Analytics, creating an all-in-one solution that works in a more stable way than custom integrations.
Among the main disadvantages of specific solutions is their prices, which can go up to $200/month, making it more difficult to build a cost-efficient email campaign.
These are the startups, whose tools are not 100% done, still trying to bite the big chunk. They usually have the ambition to become a killer for more popular solutions, stating that they have all the same features but better optimized and for a lower price.
These are awesome for newbies, as they are usually wallet-friendly, often offering 100% free plans with limitations up to 2000 contacts/month, which should be more than enough if you are only launching a campaign. Besides that, such tools often offer flexible billing, depending on the number of users or the number of emails sent.
Unlike the Big Players, these teams do their best to implement new features quickly, and you can even influence the development process by sending a request. If the implementation is possible – such a startup will do their best to satisfy your request, so you are having a custom solution for a really low price.
Among core disadvantages of such providers is the lack of stability – while trying to implement everything at once, they fail to make sure every feature works properly for everyone. Besides that, they usually cannot afford proper customer support, so whenever you have an issue, be ready to wait several days for a reply. Another problem with such providers is the absence of company-owned servers, which can severely damage delivery rates, basically leaving you without the core function of such a tool- making sure that your prospect receives the email.
T: Well, that’s super-informative! I guess it’s time for you to finally share your evaluation system so we can tell what criteria you should to identify a proper email marketing tool.
V: Sure, here’s the table I used during my research. You can see that there are some core features like A/B Testing, Automation, Segmentation, and Lead Scoring. Those are essential for pretty much every campaign, so you don’t want to neglect them.
And there are some additional possibilities that might need an introduction. First of all, there are Integration Possibilities. The most popular integration platform is obviously Zapier, so having a compatible tool might enable you to do some sophisticated automation, saving you a lot of time.
Then there is a Delivery Optimization, which is usually done by the tool itself. Basically that means that your tool will be able to adjust sending times according to the timezone of the prospect. This AI-based feature will analyze when your audience is most active and adjust sending times automatically. It’s a great painkiller for international companies.
NOTE: The most successful days to send an email are from Tuesday to Friday, peaking on Wednesday from 9 am to 3 pm.
Multiple Domains feature has a lot to do with the DNS settings, which is an initial part of every email campaign. Without a proper domain setup, any major email service won’t let your email to inbox, so it is a crucial thing. The multiple domains feature is especially good for agencies that want to run several campaigns at a time without wasting a lot of time of setup.
The reason why we have paid so much attention to email marketing is that it’s among the oldest, most effective and most reliable digital marketing channels, and this is exactly what you are looking for when recovering from a crisis.
You should definitely consider adding other channels to your mix, but email seems to be the safest option. Here are some numbers to prove the point.
Email VS Social Media
Ok, so we’ve figured out that email marketing is an activity you definitely want to stick with when recovering from a crisis. However, a good B2B marketing mix is really more than a set of highest ROI channels. While email marketing is a cost-efficient channel, the long-term profits are generated by building a community.
But here’s the thing: to build a community you have to think from your clients’ perspective. By just being present on the same platforms as your clients are, you gain better a understanding of their preferences and pain points.
Here’s the list of social platforms that we find to be the most suitable for B2B marketing:
LinkedIn is really the bread and butter of every B2B marketer. With more than 40 million companies and counting on its platform. LinkedIn presents a clear opportunity for precisely-targeted B2B lead generation. In fact, a properly built system can generate up to 40 SQLs during just the first month of a leadgen campaign.
With the world going digital, B2B communication is becoming more and more personal. Developing a personal brand has become an essential part of any B2B marketing mix that goes beyond generating short-term profits.
And if you want your personal brand to showcase your expertise, Quora will be the best solution. To top it off, Quora can generate hundreds of thousands organic views monthly and satisfy your prospects’ needs for research. What’s not to adore?
Despite that only 13% of B2B brands rank it as “very important” or “critical”, Instagram is really handy for community-building and brand-building purposes. Prospects love an inside look at who you are as a company. It also allows precise community management, so you might want to consider including it.
We usually don’t include Facebook in our strategies, there is no doubt that it is the biggest social platform. Nowadays, Facebook algorithms have developed to a point when it’s almost impossible to generate rapid organic growth without spending on ads.
However, it’s not that they’re not worth it. Facebook’s filters are precise enough to run a campaign with an impressive ROI, given the fact you have enough budget to outbid competitors.
Just like Facebook, Google Ads are not the cheapest channel (especially targeting B2B audiences). However, Google’s merely unlimited reach, powered with a sophisticated targeting engine is something that’s really hard to beat. Where else does your prospect do research but Google?
Overall, it’s about creating what we call the Perfect Storm; it’s never just ONE thing that works in generating leads and sales, but rather the perfect mix. This perfect mix allows you to build a community around what your company believes in and what you sell, generating the perfect alignment that leads to success.
I hope you liked this second part of our #LeadAwayFromCovid series. The next article will cover selling during crisis, where you will learn:
- how to develop your authentic voice to stand out,
- which tools you need to sell online efficiently,
- and how to generate leads on LinkedIn.