In many ways, B2B marketing is harder than B2C. Personas can be harder to pin down and more difficult to reach, the final decision maker is usually somebody different than the person doing research, and the sales process is slower. So, how do you succeed at B2B marketing? Here are a few of the traits companies who execute B2B marketing well exhibit; things we’ve come to know through our own experience and through watching our B2B clients succeed.
1) B2B Marketing Takes Patience and Grit
Getting results from digital marketing takes time. You can read more about why B2B SEO specifically is a long-game here, but patience is required for more than search rankings. It can take 6-12 months to start gaining digital marketing momentum. When things do start rolling, we like to say that one month of results is an anomaly, two months is a spike, three months starts a trend.
Successful B2B marketers understand this and keep on keepin’ on. They have the grit to trudge forward when the needle is barely moving because they trust the program. The alternative is, of course, giving up, and obviously, that will not contribute to any sort of positive outcome.
2) B2B Marketing Takes a Big Picture Mindset with a Detailed Strategy
The most successful B2B marketing programs are created with the big inbound marketing picture in mind. These companies know that successful B2B marketing starts with knowing the personas: who is researching them, who the decision makers are, and how to support both. They use that information to build out a strategy focused on content tying back to research-based keywords and phrases. They focus on the details within keyword variations and how to target them as well the intricacies that make their persona uniquely fit. Successful B2B marketing connects these dots to create a cohesive plan.
At Lake One, we usually start our inbound client relationships with SMART goal setting and creation of an SLA- Service Level Agreement. (Read more about our SLA here.) These two items direct the focus and attention of our work. The Fieldguide, or marketing plan, we create is the map to reaching those goals.
So how does that translate into your B2B marketing? Well, even when companies have grit and a solid strategy, it’s easy to lose focus. New products launch, opportunities in the market arise, pressures from the board tighten on other elements, etc. Set SMART goals allow you to stay focused on them. After all, how will you know if your marketing is successful if you don’t have specific indicators of success?
4) B2B Marketing Takes a Focus on Strengths
Keeping your marketing in-house can be a great choice if you have the bandwidth available and/or budget to hire for specific skills. When making that choice, consider the strengths of your team and where you’d like their focus to remain. If you have a killer marketing manager who is excellent at running internal events and social media but knows nothing about SEO, it’s probably unwise to expect that person to create a keyword strategy. In that case, it might be in your best interest to hire a new member of your team or outsource the work to a digital marketing agency.
So when building your B2B search engine marketing tech stack, where do you start? With our article of course. Here are some of the must-have marketing tools for your B2B SEO stack.
But First, Strategy
We do need to preface this post with a word of caution and Intercom says it well, “a tool is not a strategy”. They go on to say, “you can compare different software packages by their features, but that’s like marrying someone based on their dating profile. The real value marketing software offers is in the strategy and approach it enables.”
So with that being said, start with the strategy and follow with technology. Don’t get lost swimming in the martech ocean of options.
Tech that Attracts & Optimizes
HubSpot’s new Flywheel is the latest and greatest model when it comes to how people think about their businesses. (Curious about the Flywheel? Learn more here). The Flywheel is broken down into three stages: Attract, Engage, and Delight. For this post, we’ll focus on tools that help attract visitors and as a little bonus, many of the tools serve a dual purpose with the ability to help curate data for later optimizations. Technology BOGO.
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation software. The mothership. The big Kahuna. It’s almost impossible to talk about digital marketing technology without at least mentioning it. So what exactly is marketing automation? According to HubSpot, marketing automation is defined as the following:
Marketing Automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions such as emails, social, and other website actions.
In addition to the tasks noted above, most marketing automation software has additional features that can help to attract website visitors, which brings us to HubSpot.
HubSpot is inbound marketing, sales, and service software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Although that definition is somewhat technical, HubSpot really can be a one-stop shop.
At Lake One, we’re big fans of HubSpot and not to mention, we’re also a HubSpot Gold Agency. However, admittedly, HubSpot is an investment in time and in most cases, money. Pricing varies from free to paid based on different services and Hubs.
Why we love it: We love HubSpot for its multi-use features that allow our marketing activities to stay connected in one platform. A few of our HubSpot favorites that further B2B SEO efforts are:
Landing pages: HubSpot makes it easy to create and duplicate landing pages that are optimized for conversion.
Forms: Forms are a must when it comes to capitalizing on the traffic you drive (whether paid or organic) to your website
Reporting: Although this doesn’t directly impact SEO, it sure does when it comes to optimization and measuring the effectiveness of your efforts. You can see where traffic is coming from and how visitors are converting (or not converting) on your site.
If you are hesitant to make the leap and purchase marketing automation software, rest assured that there are other tools out there to help you with your SEO objectives. Read on dear reader, read on.
If you’re an avid Lake One blog reader, you know we love data-driven decision making. The same rules apply for B2B SEO and especially, keyword research.
Ahrefs is a well-known tool for backlinks and SEO analysis. You can audit your website, research competitors, and explore keywords and content. For keywords specifically, you can see top questions, new keywords, and keyword suggestions.
Why we love it: Among other things, Ahrefs gives you insight into how many backlinks it would take to rank on Google’s page one. We can plan our goals and outreach efforts accordingly with their additional insight.
Google Analytics gives you a birds-eye view of your organic traffic but also allows you to drill-down into specifics like channel or by segment such as audience, behavior, and conversion reports for your organic traffic segment.
Why we love it: It’s a time-tested, reliable source- it’s the Granddad of web analytics. We also love that we can set up goals to track traffic as it moves through specific funnels as a means to monitor how audiences navigate through the site.
Unbounce is a platform that allows you to quickly create, launch, and test-high converting landing pages, popups, and sticky bars without developers.
Why we love it: If you decide to go sans HubSpot or another marketing automation software with landing page capabilities, this is the next best thing. You can easily create customized landing pages and have insights into the data for optimization.
Digital outreach and backlink building are critical, yet manual, components of SEO. If done right, outreach should be personalized and tailored to each opportunity. As you can imagine, when it takes several earned backlinks to make an impact on B2B SEO, digital outreach can be time-consuming.
BuzzStream helps automate some of the outreach processes through researching influencers, managing your relationships, and conducting outreach that’s personalized yet efficient all in one single platform.
Why we love it: Especially as our team continues to grow, it’s critical we have outreach housed in a visible platform for the team at large to access. It takes outreach out of the depths of our inbox and puts it in front of our team.
Don’t mistake tools as a strategy. Lead with a strategy and tools and technology should follow.
Marketing Automation Software like HubSpot is awesome, but not necessary to achieve your B2B SEO goals.
Content tools that help you easily create and optimize landing pages are a must.
No matter what tools you use, you can’t forget about the linkage! Digital Outreach can be time-consuming, but critical.
It’s a common story. Inbound marketers do their diligence developing buyer personas; cultivating content plans informed by keyword research throughout the buyer’s journey designed to attract and convert B2B leads. We launch our campaign to the world. Check for form notifications. Hours go by. Days. *DING* WE GOT ONE! – oh, wait… it’s a guest blogging service in Croatia.
Well, shoot. Here’s the deal: it’s not that the inbound research is necessarily wrong. But the content and conversion paths are a long game. Driving B2B leads with content can’t always rely on the grit of our organic and earned efforts. Especially in the short term. Take this data from Hubspot for example:
It usually takes 3 – 6 months before we start seeing the blogs we’re posting today really start picking up steam in attracting the contact volume that can start to scale our business. It takes 12 months to really go crazy.
So what’s a marketer to do? Help crush your B2B lead gen goals with some help from the social network built for B2B. LinkedIn. If you sell B2B, you should already consider LinkedIn marketing. What we’re going to look at today, is sponsored content.
Get to Know LinkedIn Sponsored Content
LinkedIn Sponsored content is the promotion of a post from a page that appears natively in the LinkedIn feed [psst, here are some post ideas.] You can include a link to your site or landing page or build a lead generation form within LinkedIn that lets LinkedIn users request content, information, or other contact from your organization with the click of a button. The form will automatically populate with information from their LinkedIn profile.
Because it behaves like a native post you get the benefit of the engagement functionality resulting in brand awareness via the social nature of the network. This reach is extended beyond that of your company page with the assistance of an ad budget.
Setting up Sponsored Content
Getting your sponsored content campaign up and running requires a LinkedIn advertising account. For a complete guide to doing that, check out the Getting Started with LinkedIn Advertising chapter in our LinkedIn Marketing Guide.
Some things to consider as you plan your advertising strategy.
LinkedIn, like most online ad platforms enable total and daily budget parameters. Bids can be set per click or impression if sending InMail. Because of the niche element of LinkedIn (focus on work) costs are generally higher than you’ll see on other networks.
There’s a multitude of options for targeting ads from audience development around LinkedIn profile parameters like job title, professional interest, industry. etc.. But another powerful tool is combining LinkedIn with your own data whether using matched audiences like those who visit your website or for account-based targeting. All of this is covered in depth in our LinkedIn Marketing Guide.
Aligning Sponsored Content with Inbound
The LinkedIn B2B lead generation goal crushing comes in when LinkedIn sponsored content aligns with a well crafted inbound marketing program. If your marketing plan and website is built to be a lead gen machine, give the machine some extra horsepower by plugging in another channel.
First, look to your personas when you build out your audience targeting in LinkedIn advertising. Structure campaigns around them, their stage in the journey, and use the LinkedIn Insights tag to create audience groups for people who engage with content as they move through the funnel, adjusting the content you show them during their journey.
Second, make sure that the audiences are aligned with the timing delivered in your email nurture sequences. The goal is to create a multi-channel soft touch to attract and nurture your prospects along their journey.
B2B SEO is important if you want your site to be found through organic search. We can all agree on that. The “how” of it can be kind of fuzzy, though. Thousands of experts all say different things. While we let the big dogs in the marketing space duke it out over whose theory is the best, our experience and success have led to these B2B SEO do’s and don’ts.
On the Topic of Your Audience…
DO: Write for your Persona
Your persona is the fictional representation of your target audience. In B2B, it’s important to write for and support the persona who you know is likely to do the research. While the CEO might execute a buying decision, the human resources manager might be the one researching your company. If that’s true, gear your content and SEO strategy to their needs. Find the keywords the HR person is likely to use to find you.
If you’re just writing for Google, you’re not writing for your persona. Google is a means to end; it is how your customer will find you- not your persona and not your buyer. So, how is your persona trying to find you? Leverage Google in that way. Use it to understand your personas and what problems they are actively seeking solutions to solve. By structuring your SEO around answering those questions, you’re naturally appeasing both your audience and the search powers that be.
On the Topic of Strategy…
DO: Have a Strategy
As with most things, having a strategy will typically lead to better outcomes than not. A B2B SEO strategy will help you formulate the structure of your content, allow you to be precise and measured, and direct you toward a specific end goal. How do you create a strategy? We’re glad you asked.
DO: Your Research
There are so many (free) SEO research tools out there that you’d be pretty remiss not to do research to create a strategy. By digging into the search volume for certain terms/phrases, you can find niche areas for quick wins. These wins are usually lower volume but have less competition. For example, while something like “Marketing tips” has thousands of searches every month, unless your HubSpot or Forbes, you’re probably not going to start ranking for that search volume. By researching, you can probably find a niche to fit into your strategy. Something like, “Marketing tips for the construction industry” might turn up as low volume, low competition and is, therefore, a much more attainable goal to try and rank for on page one.
DO NOT: Toss Around Keywords For the Sake of Having Them
If you have a strategy, fully vetted by research, use it wisely. Those keywords are precious. Sprinkling them over every piece of content like a three-year-old with a shaker bottle of glitter can actually hurt your case. Google is onto that game these days. And they don’t like it. Google will actually lower your rating for the unethical treatment of keywords. Let your keywords build the content that your personas want, and write for humans. Nobody wants to read a blog when obvious keywords are literally in every sentence.
On the Topic of Relevancy…
DO: Build Links
Link-building is one of the best ways to build relevancy to your site. Having links in and out of your website (known as backlinks) tells Google that you’re legitimate. In general, the larger and more credible your backlink source is, the more beneficial it is to you. For instance, a backlink from Neil Patel is going to help your site’s ranking a great deal more than BillyBobsMarketingBarginShop.com who gets 10 site visits a month (mostly from his mom). This is simply because Neil’s site has more authority- Google ‘knows’ the site. Google does not know Billy Bob yet.
So how do you generate backlinks? Reach out to sites to do guest blogs, list your site in related indexes and registries, ask your partners/vendors to include a link to your site somewhere on theirs, etc. Feel free to get creative and put your brand out there. Here are some additional ideas for building a backlink strategy.
DO: Make Sure Your Content is a Match
Another thing that gives your website authority is how relevant users (and Google) find it. Google wants to know that your content is what it says it is. They favor sites that answer the question the user was looking for initially. They look at bounce rates, entrances, time on page, etc. to determine this. This holds true for landing pages, ads, and backlinks, so make sure that if you’re trying to rank for “B2B SEO Do’s and Don’ts” that your content is actually going to answer the question of things to do and not to do when it comes to B2B SEO. If your content doesn’t match or answer the question the user was searching for, they are likely going to bounce off your site immediately. That behavior will ultimately hurt your ranking.
DO NOT: Generalize Everything
Continuing off those last two points, don’t keep your SEO at a generalized, high level if you can help it. It takes time and effort to write the content that carries out your SEO strategy, so high-level, most important keywords/phrases are the best place to start. But once that has legs, get into the nitty-gritty and what your persona wants. Enter: the pillar page. Pillar pages are long-form pieces of content that dive into the details of specific content verticals. These pages answer several frequently searched questions on related topics in one keyword-packed, helpful place. These pages are an opportunity to not only be an authority on a subject to your persona but to also culminate your strategy.
Key Takeaways for B2B SEO Do’s and Don’ts:
Write for your persona: the person likely doing research to find you
Have a strategy and let research dictate it
Your strategy should include answering the questions your persona is searching
Build relevancy and authority on your site through backlinks and related content
It’s easy to find advice on SEO. Not surprisingly, the companies that are best at it are able to get their pages to rank highly. When you do a search for B2B SEO, you’ll get a ton of results to sift through. You may notice rather quickly that you will see different guidance from one page to the next. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Here are three B2B SEO myths we’ve debunked to set the record straight.
Myth: B2B SEO Needs to Target Top-Level Executives Only
Truth: Executives often appoint other people to perform research for potential purchases and then present detailed options.
Executives are busy people. They probably don’t have time to spend hours sifting through features, calling for pricing, and comparing products. So, they tend to assign someone else to do that work and bring back information for the best options.
The decision-making process within B2B companies typically involves a few players. There are decision-makers (usually the executives) and then there are influencers (no, not like the ones on Instagram). An influencer within a decision-making process is a person that is involved in the research phase, like an admin assistant or lower level manager, and although they may not make the final decision on their own, they have a lot of power to influence by providing specific recommendations and suggestions.
Really, your B2B SEO efforts should target the influencers that would be doing the actual searching for your product or solution rather than just the executives that are most likely involved later in the decision making process.
Myth: Mobile Isn’t as Important for B2B as it is for B2C
Unfortunately, many B2B websites are behind the times in design and SEO, even for the desktop, but especially for mobile. A large percentage of B2B sites either have clunky mobile sites or don’t have a mobile version at all.
Most executives and many mid-level managers have company-issued smartphones or tablets and they regularly use them to conduct business, especially if they are on the move a lot. Not just for calls, but also for online research and sometimes even to make purchases for the company.
Myth: I Just Need a Ton of Content, As Quickly As Possible
Truth: Content for B2B SEO strategy should focus on quality, not quantity.
Content is an extremely important piece of the SEO puzzle, and there are many rumors and untruths around what works and doesn’t. Some believe loading up a ton of mediocre content packed with keywords is all it takes to win. This tactic may have worked one point in time, but random keyword explosions all over your website isn’t a winning strategy anymore. [Read tips on selecting your targeted keywords here.]
B2C relies on making quick, personal connections and triggering emotional responses to get people to purchase on the spot. The goal of an SEO content strategy is usually to rank highly and get in front of as many eyes as possible to raise the likelihood of people making a purchase.
B2B is less personal because the product will typically be utilized by a company instead of a specific individual. SEO is less about getting in front of as many eyes as possible and more about really trying to find the specific sets of eyes that need your product or service the most. Keep in mind that B2B isn’t an overnight win, for B2C or B2B.
With the extended length and complexity of many B2B sales cycles, the focus for content should be to provide a ton of value and educate your searchers on how your product or service will solve problems for their company. The primary goal of your B2B SEO content strategy should be to build trust in order to generate and nurture leads to eventually speak to your sales team.
Historically, construction and engineering companies have been known to heavily utilize one-way advertising including TV and radio ads and billboards, as well as offline face-to-face interactions and word of mouth. These may still work to an extent, but they are limiting in how far they can reach.
An active social media presence allows construction and engineering companies to reach a wider, more receptive audience than traditional marketing. Consumers are spending the majority of their time online. When they are looking for project ideas, answers to questions, or firms to partner with, they are turning to their online communities to find information and engage in conversations. Make sure your firm isn’t overlooked by putting the following social media marketing ideas for construction and engineering companies to work.
1. Build Lasting Connections by Being Engaged in Industry Conversations
The construction and engineering industries are constantly evolving. The professionals involved have great stories to tell whether they’re about exciting industry innovations, successes throughout projects, or admirable firm culture. There are many ways to engage with your industry and your target audience using social media; here are a few.
Regulations are constantly changing in the construction and engineering industries. Social media is a great medium to have discussions on how to best handle those changes. Make an effort to become actively involved in Groups on LinkedIn or Facebook that address regulations specifically.
Once you’ve started to build a reputation as a thought leader in your Groups, begin creating educational content such as blogs, videos, and infographics that will help others address the regulatory compliance issues your team has conquered. Share these resources in your Groups as well as across all of your social media channels in order to spread their potential impact to a wider audience.
Show Off Your Successes
Your clients and prospects want to know exactly how successful your firm is when it comes to completing projects and staying ahead of your competition. In a way, social media was designed around the idea of showing off a bit, and it’s a great medium to demonstrate your full capabilities. Here are a few ideas to get your humble brag motors turning:
Display beautiful photography of your finished work on Instagram, Pinterest, and Houzz
Boast about your team’s diversity and inclusion efforts on Instagram
Do “sneak peek” walkthrough videos of completed projects for Instagram and Facebook
Demonstrate how your firm is innovating using exciting, new tech on LinkedIn
2. Get Creative with Video Across Different Social Channels
Video is one of the most powerful marketing tools of our time. It helps draw in new followers and is an exciting way to provide valuable content that actually gets viewed. If you aren’t currently using video in your social media marketing, here is what you are missing:
Video content is the best performing content type on social and can help to increase brand awareness, interest, and conversions. (SocialMediaToday)
Views of branded video content increased 99% on YouTube and 258% on Facebook between 2016 and 2017. (Wyzowl)
On Twitter, a video Tweet is 6x more likely to be retweeted than a photo Tweet. (Wyzowl)
Video production doesn’t need to be extremely technical or time-consuming.According to HubSpot, 56% of all videos published in the last year are less than 2 minutes long, which happens to be the sweet spot for maintaining viewers until the end. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started with video marketing on your social channels.
Live Stream to Provide an Inside Peek at Your Operations
Outsiders probably don’t know what the day to day looks like in construction or engineering. Even your current clients that meet with you regularly may not fully understand how you make decisions and problem solve. Construction and engineering can be quite technical in nature so providing a raw, real-time inside look gives it a human touch and makes it more relatable.
Live stream content is not only interesting but also beneficial to your curious clients and future prospects as it increases transparency and builds trust with your brand. It is a great way to get useful information to your followers in a way that is easily digestible.
There are many platforms to choose from for streaming. It may be worth it to diversify across several to target different types of audiences. Between four of the major players, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Periscope, there areover 1.1 billion hours of video watched each day.
On several platforms like Facebook and Youtube, when you start a live video, automatic notifications are sent out to pull in followers as you are streaming. A good practice while streaming is to have a moderator prepared to keep an eye on the live chat and respond in real time to questions or comments.
Easily Start a Vlog (Video blog) on YouTube Reusing Your Blog Content
80% of people now prefer videos over blog content and social media posts. All of those people may be skipping past the wealth of information in your blog simply because they’d rather watch or listen to it than read it.
This effort can be as simple as recording someone reading the information out loud. This is a bit more like a podcast because there isn’t a lot of visual value and will be a quick effort but doesn’t take full advantage of the power of video.
To really add value, you could bring in a designer to create a simple but engaging animation that demonstrates visually what is being said in the audio. Another popular strategy is recording a person explaining the content (memorized snippets of the blog) along with intermittent animation overlays to help demonstrate specific points.
3. Amp Up Your Social Media at Expos & Trade Shows
Trade shows and expos can be a powerful marketing and sales channel that allows for informative face-to-face interactions with current clients and potential prospects. In fact, 88% of exhibitors participate in trade shows to raise awareness of the company and its brand.
The key is getting attendees to not only notice your booth amongst hundreds but to be interested in what you have to say or offer. You can use social media to create a buzz and keep people informed throughout the show.
Use SnapChat Geofilters to Draw in a Crowd
You don’t have to have the biggest, most expensive display but everybody knows the booth at the show with excitement and a crowd draws in even more curious people. At your next trade show, utilize a SnapChat geofilter. This can create interest and draw people already at the show to your booth.
You can set your filter for the timing of the show and confine it to the specific location in and around the venue. You can utilize several pre-made SnapChat templates, or if you want to make sure it’s fully branded have your designers create a custom filter. It just needs to follow SnapChat’s custom creation guidelines.
Include your recognizable branding and your precise booth location so people can easily find you. Provide a reason to come to your booth, such as a free t-shirt or some other kind of swag. Most importantly, make sure when people do come to your booth, you help them take pictures using the filter and share to their networks.
If your business will be doing a live presentation or giving a speech, a Live Tweet Q&A is a great way to wrangle questions from your audience while also making them aware of your presence on Twitter.
This will require a well-advertised hashtag for questions to be submitted; make sure it is discussed prior to the speech beginning and is visible throughout the entire presentation.
For a smaller audience, you could have the speaker keep an eye on the hashtag and try to catch questions coming in real-time and work them into their presentation. But, this can be quite distracting for someone who isn’t well-versed at multitasking.
Another option is to have a moderator keep an eye on the incoming questions, they can sort them into categories, get rid of duplicates, and choose the best questions to be addressed at specified times throughout the presentation.
Pair this Q&A effort with a giveaway where a winner is chosen randomly out of new Follows from the audience throughout the presentation.
As you can see, there is a multitude of ways to creatively engage with and market to your target audience using social media. The most important thing to remember is it is all about making and building upon connections and being present, so don’t go in halfway. Committing to being fully engaged on one channel is better than being partially present across several.
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