More than ever, the B2B buyer journey from ‘stranger’ to customer is a digital one. The vast majority of a potential buyer’s research, awareness and eventual direct interaction with your company is now carried out over online channels. What is more, digital marketing actions should be tied closer than ever to sales goals. This means it’s vital to reach the right prospects, with the right messaging, over the right channels, at the right time in the buyer journey.
The classic buyer journey proceeds as follows:
In response, there are essentially four phases of digital marketing, each aimed at meeting the needs of the prospect in each phase of the buyer journey. Digital marketing helps move the prospect along from being a stranger to your offering, through being attracted by it, to being converted to an opportunity, and then nurtured to becoming a customer – as shown in the illustration below.
While it’s natural to think of the buyer journey as a straightforward linear process, this is rarely how it works these days. Buyers tend to bounce around between the phases, gathering different input and perhaps adjusting their requirements as they move towards a decision, as this recent report from Gartner makes clear.
As the Gartner report says, “B2B buying doesn’t play out in any kind of predictable, linear order. Instead, customers engage in what one might call ‘looping’ across a typical B2B purchase, revisiting […] buying jobs at least once. Buying jobs don’t happen sequentially, but more or less simultaneously.”
However, this does not change the way digital marketing needs to be tailored to meet prospects’ needs as they move between these phases of the buyer journey.
Phase 1: identify
Digital marketing action: plan
Perhaps the most important phase in digital marketing – before any content get produced, or any ad campaigns get booked – is the planning phase. Having a solid campaign plan is crucial in defining any marketing strategy, and should be at the heart of every decision you make in building a custom campaign and content program.
The planning phase includes:
Go-to-market message development – all good marketing activities start with a relevant value proposition message that can engage an audience, demonstrate relevance and spark interest. This involves gathering input from all key stakeholders to ensure the messaging at the heart of the digital marketing program is aligned with their needs, your customer needs, and overall business goals.
The result should be a series of message story blocks that tells your story in multiple ways – a long version, a short version and versions tailored to your different audiences, wherever they are in their buyer journey. These will be your go-to every time you write a new proposal, attend a meeting or kick off a new marketing campaign.
Content creation – successful marketing involves getting the right message to the right person at the right time. Two out of three of these can be covered by ensuring your content addresses your audience’s issues and highlights effective solutions. The best content targets specific audiences, and allows you to deliver effective, targeted messaging that drives leads and delivers sales.
This phase involves reviewing, editing and updating existing content – and creating new content where needed – to ensure it focuses on each of your audiences’ problems, and how your product provides the solution. Targeted content for digital marketing campaigns typically includes a mix of:
Phase 2: research
Digital marketing action: attract
The digital marketing ‘attract’ phase is all about building your audience’s brand awareness to support lead generation. It’s important that the people and companies you are targeting are interested in the products you offer; better targeting drives better results. This phase therefore involves implementing a healthy data-build strategy to support your business growth and revenue targets.
One of the most effective, and measurable, ways to build your audience and drive brand awareness is through various forms of paid digital advertising. These include:
Search advertising – paid search advertising tools such as Google Ads provide a highly targeted way for businesses to connect directly with customers and prospects. You create an online ad, provide Google with your keyword plan and who you want to reach, and the search tool serves your ads based on people’s search terms. Such pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns provide a good complement other marketing activities and offer measurable results almost immediately.
Social media advertising – there are several options for building brand awareness effectively through advertising on social media platforms.
For example, LinkedIn ads allow you to connect with the world’s largest community of business professionals by serving ad content to site members through a variety of products and platforms.
With more than two billion people using Facebook every month, it’s a near certainty you will find whatever audience you want to reach on the platform. You can advertise to people based on their age, interests, behaviour, and location.
Display advertising – with a high-quality B2B dataset, digital display advertising, including banner, native and video ads, provides a highly effective way of delivering your brand message to your target accounts. By monitoring impressions, you can manage optimization across the best-performing content, audience and sites.
Phase 3: evaluate
Digital marketing action: convert
The next phase is to build on the brand awareness you have generated and convert it into solid leads; so-called ‘demand generation’. This relies on having great content and high-quality data. With these in place, you can drive inbound leads from potential buyers through:
Syndicated content – content syndication enables you to reach the most influential individuals within target companies. It involves publishing your content – blog posts, videos, infographics or eBooks – on third-party sites and linking back to your own website to generate qualified leads.
The bChannels syndication program, for example, leverages a network of B2B sites that connects with nearly 300 million individual businessperson profiles around the globe.
Account-based marketing (ABM) syndication – this provides a way to accelerate your pipeline by identifying, prioritizing, and engaging your top accounts. It focuses ABM efforts on the right people within your target accounts – the ones most likely to buy. This involves engaging your target accounts with a set of marketing tactics to identify the key influencers and decision-makers, and then building a custom campaign to raise their awareness of your brand.
Digital events – online events such as webinars provide you with an opportunity to target and educate a specific audience about the benefits of a specific offering or approach. They help establish credibility and increase brand awareness.
Phase 4: decide
Digital marketing action: nurture
Once you have qualified leads, it is important to nurture these opportunities and remain engaged with prospects through the final phases of the buyer journey to becoming a customer.
This involves focusing marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need – as well as ensuring your brand stays top of mind. This takes two main forms:
Email nurture – using introductory and follow-up emails, with links to relevant content, to progress sales conversations and track leads as they move through the pipeline.
Telemarketing – while not strictly digital, telemarketing provides a way to find out immediately if your prospect is about to become a customer. It creates an instant sales dialogue and builds better relationships. By targeting the correct prospective customers, you should be able to generate valuable business interest in your products and services.
Where to start
Getting started on a digital marketing campaign can seem a little daunting, especially if it’s the first one you’ve attempted. However, bChannels has helped many channel partners get going with successful digital marketing campaigns over the past couple of years. As described in a recent blog post "Top 5 Through Partner Marketing Digital Campaign Tactics in 2021 and What They Might Mean for 2022" , the popularity of certain digital marketing campaign types has grown over recent months, reflecting their relatively low barriers to entry and success at generating good quality leads. Content syndication and engagement with B2B-focused social media like LinkedIn have grown substantially in popularity as effective ways to get a digital marketing campaign up and running.
bChannels helps partners plan, create and deliver digital marketing campaigns through its Digital Partners service. To find out more contact us.
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