In 1958, McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. released a print ad addressed to B2B companies. The ad, created by Gilbert Morris, would soon become “the best B2B advertisement of the 20th century,” an unofficial tag given by many industry experts. It’s not difficult to see why many B2B marketers relate to it:
More than four decades later, the ad still rings a bell to many marketers. The moral of the story is, clients will only buy from you if they know you. Do they know you? Here are five ways to increase your visibility in the digital landscape so when you knock on prospects’ door they’ll say, “oh, it’s you.” You may also find some more good B2B marketing ideas here and broaden you possibilities even further.
1. Take advantage of B2B review sites
Aside from the Google study that revealed more buyers today read product reviews, CompUSA and iPerceptions reported, too, that 63% of consumers say they’re likely to buy from a website with product ratings and user reviews. Moreover, a review site often ranks high in SERP (search engine results page) for two main reasons: it’s rich in constantly updated content (reviews uploaded by both the review panel and users); and its high user usability (many users rely on the site to search for products). Both factors are a major search engine algorithm that gives sites priority search ranking.
B2B review sites, for example a very popular platform FinancesOnline, can help you leverage this buyer behavioral shift. Although a review site takes on an independent editorial stance when assessing products, you can increase the chances of a favorable review by encouraging your happy customers to write their positive experience about your software in the review site. But don’t make it sound as self-serving; rather, explain to them that their review will help other buyers to know if your software is a perfect fit, or their opinion will give you more insights about your customers’ needs.
Moreover, you can help the review site’s editorial panel to get a better perspective of your product, including your value proposition, unique features that need to be highlighted, and its uses for specific situations. Send the review panel your product’s specs, case studies, and highlights, and also good screen images; otherwise, the reviewers will rely on your website that may lack the details. By assisting reviewers, you know that your software is being assessed on the right merits.
Of course, if all your competitors are doing the same tactic, it’s more difficult to stand out in the crowd. In this case, you can take advantage of the review site’s premium plans. For instance, FinancesOnline offers a marketing plan for vendors that includes premium positions for your review on their site, including suggesting your product as an alternative when users compare your comeptitors’ products. Lead generation campaigns from FinancesOnline are also really efficient. Most vendors can expect a conversion rate of arond 10% and if you have a really strong brand it can even exceed 20%! You can also be distinguished with their Verified Quality Seal, and a wide range of awards and quality benchmarks that will help you to sand out from the crowd even further. Tools like these can be that small but critical factor to a buyer for choosing your software over the competition during the moment of truth: when he’s comparing products on the review site. If you want to start promoting your software you can easily request a review of your product here.
2. Project thought leadership
Thought leadership isn’t about impressing others with what you know or that, in fact, you know a lot. It’s about having the answers to the pressing questions that your buyers are thinking. When people associate you with those questions, you can claim to be a thought leader for that specific area. You earn brand affinity that can increase your top-of-funnel leads, in short, you can capture B2B buyers who are searching online for answers to issues that are relevant to your product category. Take a look at some of famous thought leaders: Neil Patel for SEO marketing; Brian Solis on social media marketing; and Seth Godin for viral marketing. They focus on specific areas like doctors would specialize in particular body systems. So, too, must you focus on your product’s specialization to capture organic leads.
You don’t have to be a best-selling author or maverick entrepreneur to gain thought leadership. In fact, it may be difficult to attain such stature; instead, you can project thought leadership in your category by delivering content that is valuable to B2B buyers, content that doesn’t sell your product, but answers the biggest questions about your category on the minds of prospects. If you’re selling a CRM solution, what are the issues, obstacles, and challenges that bog down CRM marketers and users today? You should know the answers to most of these issues; your product is the solution (or ought to be).
Here are three effective ways to project thought leadership:
- Conduct webinars – either your own or as keynote guest in an industry-held online event. The rule of thumb is to talk about issues not products. To leverage exposure, talk about issues that your product can solve and you gain brand affinity. You can also use the webinar to gain opt-in subscriptions and drive subscribers into your sales funnel. Likewise, you can post past webinars on YouTube and embed these clips on your website. Google is known to prioritize in search results YouTube videos that match the search keyword.
- Be a contributor to business and technology media sites – Many top media websites and blogs invite contributors who are expert in niche subjects, such as, B2B marketing, cloud or SaaS, and project management. Big media like Huffington Post, CNN Money, and Forbes.com are open to contributors, especially those with industry-insider perspective. That could be you. As CEO, executive, or senior manager in your company, you are likewise aware of the issues that surround your industry category. Use this insight to write articles that journalists would not have easily known because they’re an outsider. In exchange, these media outlets usually grant a backlink to your website, a valuable lead channel.
- LinkedIn article – Post your article on LinkedIn and watch your network connections swarm in with their two-cents. This is a good opportunity to showcase your knowledge, and by extension your product’s, about industry issues. Your LinkedIn network is quality leads waiting to be convinced by you. By sticking to issues that matter to them, you’re actually pre-selling them with ideas that reinforce your product’s strengths. For example, if you’re a SaaS vendor, you can discuss the merits of cloud computing with your LinkedIn network.
3. Create case studies
Vinay Bhagat in his post in Content Marketing Institute argues that marketers should focus more on creating product reviews than case studies. It’s easy to see his point based on the Google study that reported 70% of Americans say they read product reviews before making a purchase. But it’s a case of comparing apples to oranges, when the two can complement each other. Case studies have a formal structure–like in a masteral thesis–that allows buyers to assess your product based on theoretical parameters. This is important, it gives buyers the right frame of mind on how your product solves a problem. By reading product reviews, buyers can gauge how your case study holds up to real experiences. Without a case study as guide, a buyer can easily be swayed by a negative review that assessed your software for the wrong uses or reasons. For example, a reviewer focuses on ranting about your software’s “weak” collaboration features when your product is an accounting solution. So, yes, case studies should still be a major content marketing tactic for your company.
Furthermore, case studies about your diverse clients can be turned into an ebook of best practices, which you can give away for top-of-funnel leads. If you don’t have time to create case studies, you can outsource the project. It’s better to tap a B2B content marketing specialist rather than a freelance writer because case studies also involve content promotion, SEO, and, more importantly, industry insight and expertise. For example, look at a detailed case study that FinancesOnline prepared for Nimble.
4. Niche blog marketing
Did you know that 79% of marketers who blog report a positive ROI for inbound marketing (according HubSpot State of Inbound, 2013)? The study also pointed out that 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a buyer via the blog versus 57% of them who blog monthly. Both stats tell us that blog marketing is an excellent lead channel. If you’re not blogging, or constantly blogging, why would you not want this lead channel?
Make sure to prioritize educational topics over product pitches when blogging. Of course, you can post your company’s milestones or new product features, or your team’s latest accomplishments, but, in general, readers would love to access content that answers their questions or enriches their knowledge. You can publish original or curated articles, infographics, how-to videos, marketing cartoons… the list is only limited by your creativity. There’s the rub, as a B2B marketer or owner, you don’t have the time and expertise to be your own media. As we pointed out in creating case studies, outsourcing your content to a B2B content marketing specialist is a good strategic decision because it saves you costs and it lets you focus on your core task, which is to develop and sell your software. Compared to a freelance writer, a specialist B2B content agency can:
- Help develop a content marketing strategy to leverage your blog
- Research and suggest industry insights as topic-of-interest
- Distribute your content via post in review sites, your social media channels, occasional press releases, outreach to relevant sites
- Conduct SEO in your content to gain more organic search traction
5. Cross-sell, upsell in your free trial mailing list
Vendemore, a global B2B account-based marketing company, noted that less than 10% of B2B customers buy the entire product portfolio. For software vendors that means many value-added add-ons, upgrades, and additional services are largely left untapped by customers. That’s a goldmine of cross-selling and upselling right under your nose.
There are three critical reasons why customers aren’t being maximized:
- Sales reps are new customer-oriented, that is, once a deal is closed they instinctively think of where to get the next customer to meet their lead velocity quota. They’re only being logical because a new customer that gets a package will likely bring in more revenues than an existing customer that subscribes to just an add-on. One way to address this dilemma is to assign someone, perhaps a junior sales rep, specifically just to upsell or cross sell existing clients so as not to disrupt the other sales reps’ lead generation momentum.
- Sales reps are used to keeping a single contact within the client’s organization. This makes sense because sales reps need to build a long-term relationship with this person. However, they miss the opportunity to meet other decision-makers within the organization that may want more features from your software. Remind your sales rep to meet other key persons in the company, also as an insurance should the main contact resigns.
- Poor key message positioning prevents customers to realize your software’s other main benefits. This is easily resolved by getting a professional copywriter to unearth your value propositions and craft the right messages.
Aside from re-orienting your sales team to do more cross-sell and upsell, there’s one channel where you can optimize existing customers: your free trial mailing list. You have their email addresses so why not kick off a campaign to push your value-added services? These are mail recipients who have already allowed you inside their house. You can even create a multi-tiered funnel email campaign, where a customer’s “no” leads him to another campaign conducted on another schedule and so on, until the customer says “yes” to your offer.
Seasoned B2B marketers know that paid advertising is just a slice in the whole pie of selling. In many instances, the B2B marketing ideas above give better results than paid ads. If you need even more effective tips you can get some really interesting SaaS marketing ideas here.