The world of marketing has changed. Especially in the b2b marketing industry. Successful marketing used to be a toolset of tactics that usually revolved around advertising and utilizing space. It was the act of getting your name “out there” so people would learn about you and your services. Then buy from you. The past b2b marketing industry used devices such as publication advertisements, press releases, trade shows, billboards, tv ads, radio ads and many other “spaces” for telling the customer about your organization, product or service. From talking to many advertising and marketing gurus with several decades of experience, they explain that it was that easy. Run an ad in a publication and watch the sales grow. Dump money into a TV ad and watch the customers come running. It doesn’t work like that any longer. That’s not enough. There is a new b2b marketing industry. And it’s time for everyone to adjust.
Today the new b2b marketing industry includes terms like Growth Hacking and Content Marketing. The role and responsibilities of the marketer is less about tactics and more about Product Market Fit, content creation, managing editorial calendars and building relationships with customers. What I’ve observed is a lot of traditional marketers are uncomfortable in this new territory. The rug has been pulled out from under their feet and they are left learning to do their job all over again.
Truly, it’s not that complicated. It all comes down to one thing. Relationships.
The game has changed
In the past the goal was to utilize as much space as possible. Fill billboards, get TV slots, buy ad space, etc. However in the last decade or so the customer has learned that those communication outlets are not always honest or reliable. The customer today knows better. And if they aren’t 100% sure about the brand they turn to Google.
The internet has change the game. Suddenly organizations aren’t the ones with the loudest voice. Everyone has a loud voice. Everyone with an internet connection and an interest. Even if your brand is running millions of dollars into the advertising machine there is always a public voice waiting to offer their opinion or review.
This is now part of the b2b marketing industry. The customers voice and opinion. And other customers are listening. But this is not a bad thing.
So what does that mean?
The new b2b marketing industry is a world full of transparency and information. Brands should focus on building a relationship with their customer. Pull them into your brand by providing endless amounts of content and media. Not ads. Valuable informative content.
This doesn’t mean that you simply need to start a blog. That alone might not cut it. Your building a relationship here. You need to build a media company around your brand and take content creation as seriously as a major publication. Feed information to your customer then engage with them. Find out what they want and what your product or service needs to become to make them successful. To make them successful.
Start with a buyer persona
First you need to understand your customer. Understand them the same way you understand your neighbor, or your high-school friend, or a colleague.
Understand how your customer thinks
What are their likes? Their dislikes? How do they feel about certain topics? What causes them to make a decision? What do they want to know? What do they want to accomplish? What does success look like to them?
Get this information by asking them. Pick up the phone and call your customers. Email them. Connect on social media. Do whatever it takes to interview real customers. It’s also important to know the people that decided against your brand. Why did they make that decision? What pushed them away?
Once you have that information, compile it into a buyer persona. Create a fictitious character that represents your target customer. If you have multiple target customers create several buyer personas. Keep it light. I wouldn’t create more than four at first.
Go into great detail about the buyer persona
Describe your buyer persona in the same manner that an author would describe a character in a book. Talk about their psychology and describe their decision making criteria. Talk about their personal life and how your product/service fits into their life. Talk about how they stumbled onto your brand and why they engage with it. Your making this character up, but the character sketch is based on the real people that you’ve interviewed. You don’t have 100% creative license here. Your buyer persona must be a realistic representation of your buyer.
Once your buyer persona is defined create content for them
Once you’ve defined your buyer persona(s) character begin listing out what types of content or media your buyer persona would use to engage with you. Perhaps they would like a weekly email newsletter with industry tips and tricks. Maybe they want educational videos to help them do increase productivity. Maybe they want informative blog articles that will help them stand out in the crowd. Define what they want and why they want it.
Create the content. Create your media presence
Once you have the buyer persona defined and your list of required content it’s time to start creating the content. Create a list of all types of content required. Think about all the distribution mediums. Email newsletters, blogs, whitepapers, podcasts, videos, etc. How does your buyer persona like to consume content? What do they want from you? Post the majority of it publicly so future customers can easily find it online. Give your best content away for free.
Use social media platforms to distribute the content. Commit to a regular content delivery schedule. For instance, if your brand is starting a blog, commit to launching (for instance) 2 articles per week. One article on Tuesday morning and another on Thursday morning. Now stick to that schedule. Don’t let your buyer down. Remember, they need this content. It’s important to them. Connect with them in the networks where they “hang out”. If your buyer persona doesn’t understand Twitter, don’t waste your time on Twitter. If your buyer persona loves LinkedIn, make sure your brand has a strong presence on LinkedIn. This is information you get from your customer interviews.
You are building a relationship with them. It’s your responsibility be where they are and keep them informed, educated and aware of all your new material.
Create an ethical bribe
Now it’s time to get to know your potential customer. You’re obviously connecting with them on social networks, but let’s dive deeper. We are going to use a standard inbound marketing tactic. Take one (or several)of the gems in your library of newly created content and recreate it as a “product”. This could be a whitepaper, an eBook, a video series or an email newsletter. This is a content based product that requires a relationship for it to be delivered. In other words the buyer must tell you a little about themselves to get access to that special content. Perhaps they must give you their email address, or fill out a form with business related questions. Ask them for information that will help you qualify them as a customer. When you get the information (usually via a webform on your website) dump it into your CRM. Use the CRM to understand all your customers and your relationships. Keep this data up to date and make sure it’s clean data.
You are building an audience
Overtime this collection of customers will grow. Continue engaging with them. Continue feeding them content until they tell you they no longer want it. These people are your audience now. You have a relationship. They’ve learned to rely on you for information. Think of them as your community. As Seth Godin would put it, they are your Tribe.
Now engage with them
Once you have this community not only are you responsible for informing the community, you also need to listen. They will engage with you. They will let you know when and how a product/service needs to be improved. They will give you ideas for new features or which features need to be dropped. Listen to what they have to say and take their advice seriously. As a marketer you may not be used to “Product Ownership”. In the past that was someone else’s job. But in today’s marketing industry it’s your responsibility to listen to and advocate for the customer.
Work with your team to continue adjusting your product and services into what your customer wants and needs. Begin releasing updates and give your customers credit for the ideas and features. Continue building the relationship and let them know that their input matters. Reward them for telling their friends and colleagues. Engage with them. Make sure they know how much they matter. Repeat this process again and again. You’re never done. There is no campaign that comes to an end. This is now your job as a marketer.
The new marketing industry is a brave new world. It’s not the same as it used to be. Absorb this change. By building relationships with your customers and understanding their perspective you can better serve their needs. Provide them with as much content as your organization can create and listen to them when they talk. Take their input, suggestions, critisicms and compliments and use that information to grow. This actually isn’t new. Great companies have been doing this for decades (centuries?). It’s simply a new discipline and it matters more than ever.