The debate has raged in the business press about the merits of digital marketing techniques in B2B.
B2B companies predominantly sell product and operating a sales driven approach, so it is not a surprise that some if not most continue to use unsophisticated marketing methods to drive interest, stimulate enquiry, convert, and remain in long term dialogue with their customers.
Sales teams want material that supports their presentation of the business, positions the product, helps handle objections, compares with competitor products and closes the sale. This in itself gives some context for why communication problems are created when companies try and introduce a marketing led approach to a sales focused business. Marketing techniques, including digital, are aimed to drive enquiry, work 24-7 and when done well keep your sales teams busy.
Companies in B2B can be slow to adapt digital marketing techniques for several reasons.
1/ Information skills gaps mean there isn’t always someone who sufficiently understands the technology or is able to argue the case for its use at a senior level, contributing to a general reluctance within the business to embrace it.
2/ The fear and cost of change (including the cost of hardware, software, training, resource and maintenance and upgrades) puts some companies off.
3/ The challenge of converting from legacy paper based systems to digital can be process obstacle to overcome.
4/ The bewildering selection of database, CRM, eCRM, types and styles of website can put off important decisions.
5/ The emergence of social media and with it an era of direct communication and engagement frankly scares many companies. They have also spent years building lucrative distribution relationships to secure market penetration and don’t want to risk upsetting business partners by entering into it.
So where does this leave us? Most B2B companies operate limited database and communications systems, do not maximise customer relationships, do not leverage prospects, have underperforming websites and limited awareness online.
But the benefits of embracing digital marketing techniques are vast (and will be covered in an entire series on digital marketing in April 2010). Every click, enquiry, visit, recommendation, connection, friend, fan, follow, email, advertisement can be tracked, measured and evaluated in ways offline marketing techniques can only dream of.
As a minimum, consider putting in place the following:
- A hosted database/eCRM package – like Project Sales Achiever.
- A website with a contact form, news and email opt in subscription and RSS feed.
- Encourage (and incentivise) 1-2 passionate employees to start blogs about what you do.
- Register an email address with Google and set up the following
- Google Reader – to keep on top of industry news without increasing the amount of email you receive
- Google Analytics – to monitor traffic to each and every page of your website
- Google Adwords – even if only £5 a month, create a presence in customer searches
- Have an expert assess the SEO functionality of your site, these guys are my pick www.latitudegroup.com
- Create a Linkedin profile for yourself, join relevant groups and create a company profile and encourage your staff to join it
These are small steps but they will give you additional exposure on the web, raise your profile and give your credibility a shot in the arm.