Much of the talk within the practice of digital marketing tends to focus on consumer brands and B2C companies, with good reason: there are over 1 billion consumers connected using Web 2.0 platforms, worldwide, of which over 50 million are from India. However, there are also a few millions of businesses, in India, that need to sell to other businesses, and this blog focuses ways these entities can leverage digital marketing for their business objectives.
Indian businesses have been pretty forward-looking with respect to utilizing digital marketing platforms to assist in lead-generation and, accordingly, digital marketing activities most commonly undertaken are establishing a website, SEO, and email marketing. However, there is more to digital marketing than a website and SEO, even for B2B entities.
Before embarking on the next phase of digital marketing, a B2B entity will need to define the objective behind the programme: visibility for the brand/business, leading to enquiries, and subsequently to sales (lead-generation); or, generating buzz for the brand/business, leading to top-of-mind-awareness among decision-makers and reinforcing brand/business value propositions, for future requirements (brand buzz).
Well-established businesses tend to focus on buzz, since they are anyway assured of enquiry should a requirement arise; while new or niche businesses focus on lead-generation, especially in newly-established or fast-growing product categories, as they need to register themselves on the perception radars of potential customers.
A couple of recently conducted studies on B2B digital marketing, in the USA, reveals information that Indian B2B entities can learn from:
Apart from the expected benefits of a website, SEO, email, and PPC advertising, other sources for traffic and leads were social media and referrals.
In fact, in terms of conversion rates, referral was second on the list, topped only by email.
In social media, although Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were respectively the first, second, and third, in terms of generating traffic to B2B websites, Twitter vastly outperformed the other two platforms in terms of generating leads.
There was a significant level of dissatisfaction (over 60%) with the efficacy of the content generated by B2B entities
These companies spend 33% of their marketing budgets on content marketing, and more than 50% plan to increase this outlay. Despite this share of spend, and the planned increases, the main challenges B2B companies face are producing enough content and producing engaging content.
Content distribution mainly happens on four social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube)
Assuming that most B2B businesses have some activity happening in SEO and email marketing, apart from having established a website, what insights can a B2B entity, planning an extension to an existing digital marketing campaign, draw from the above information?
Keep Experimenting with New Channels
If a B2B entity has reached a plateau, in terms of the traffic inflow resulting from the traditional digital marketing activities, it needs to look at new channels: social media platforms - LinkedIn and Twitter, to start with, followed by Facebook, YouTube, and Goggle+; blogs; third-party sites such as online magazines, product fora, online review sites, Special Interest Group (SIG) sites, etc.
Keep abreast of new channels generating interest in the online world, such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Vine, and study whether the unique capabilities of such platforms can be used to deliver a stronger and wider-reaching communication.
Focus on Content Marketing
Remember that for each new channel a company debuts on, relevant content needs to be generated: posts generated for Facebook may be usable, with minor modifications, on Google+, but not necessarily on Twitter and LinkedIn, and most certainly not on YouTube, Pinterest, and Vine.
If content generation is a bottleneck, limit the number of channels the company has exposure to, with the focus being on the quality of content rather than on the volume of output. Given the SEO-focused antecedents of many B2B companies, there tends to be a focus on the volume of content (generated in order to create backlinks) rather than quality.
Another useful tactic, with respect to generating quality content and being present in as many of the channels as possible, is to generate content specifically for the most difficult channel (say a video for YouTube) and then customizing it for the others (say, a snapshot of the video with a post for Facebook/Google+, a Twitter feed to the YouTube link, an edited copy of the video for Vine, and embedding the video in Pinterest).
Build Deeper Connections on Social Media Platforms
Do not limit the company's social media presence to just a brand page. On LinkedIn, actively canvas for connections (while always obeying the rules of the platform), join industry and functional groups, and explore the utility of native advertising. Similarly for the other social media platforms.
In the case of third-party sites, the B2B entity should identify the top independent content sites for its product category, and consciously participate in posting articles on these sites, posting comments to articles (wherever relevant, linking back to the company website), and linking to relevant content on the company's website.
Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC)
Generating content and registering a presence on multiple online channels are important steps towards the objective of creating a thriving digital property, but there is one more step that needs to be taken before a thriving digital property becomes self-sustaining: user-engagement. Provide as many opportunities as possible for users to interact with the content created/generated by the company: a "Comments" section on the blog; comments/shares/retweets on the social media platforms; encouraging sharing of interesting content posted on the website, to other sites and channels; etc.
As critical as user-generated content is, both for SEO and for building an engaging digital property, so is the necessity to monitor UGC and respond to user comments, complaints, and feedback. There is nothing more effective in creating a negative image of the company as lack of response to user queries.
There is no thumb-rule to success, in the online universe. Fortune favours the brave, and insofar as digital marketing is concerned, the highest visibility and buzz accrue to the B2B entity most willing to experiment.