Roughly in order of popularity, here are five marketing FAQs I hear at Straight North in my role as Director of B2B Marketing. (In terms of importance, I’d probably rank them the other way around.)
1. How can we use social media?
This is a tough question, because the answer varies depending on a wide range of internal and external factors. Social media may make sense for a B2B if its target audience uses social media for business purposes, if the firm has an internal champion and internal day-to-day resources, and if it is patient enough to spend a year or two building a community and slowly moving from “soft” conversion goals (such as acquiring “Likes” and “retweets”) to hard conversion goals (such as order placement on the company Facebook page or Twitter-only coupon redemptions). Generally speaking, social media is not the best Internet marketing option for a small or midsize B2B.
2. Do we need a responsive website design?
Yes. Because the use of tablets and smart phones for Internet access has exploded, a B2B cannot blithely assume that its customers and prospects will use a desktop or laptop to access its site. From a lead generation standpoint, mobile search volume is growing rapidly; a responsive site delivers the best experience to prospects who find a B2B through a mobile search. The good news is, B2Bs still have time to redevelop their sites — mobile adoption is most pressing for B2Cs, as these mobile stats suggest. Nevertheless, even for B2Bs, a responsive site will be as necessary as a telephone number within the next couple of years.
3. What’s the deal with SEO?
SEO has always been confusing to B2B firms, but never more so than now. Over the last few years, Google has radically changed the rules and is now hiding keyword stats that traditionally drove strategy and ROI calculations. Keeping it simple, there are two aspects of SEO a B2B needs to attend to: onsite SEO and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO is fairly straightforward, because Google Webmaster Tools tells you exactly what needs to be fixed for your site to optimally communicate with Google. Offsite SEO is boiling down to authority-building and link acquisition through the marketing of original, high quality, relevant content. Google wants to give high search visibility to content that is extremely relevant and useful based on the searcher’s intent — work backwards from that premise to build an editorial calendar and you’ll be on your way to an effective offsite SEO program. (BTW, forgive the sales pitch but my department is really great at this if you are looking for outside help.)
4. How big should our marketing budget be?
As usual with marketing, it’s hard to give a straight answer because there are so many variables. But here are three helpful ideas for establishing budgets. First, consider soft and hard marketing benefits of a given marketing program. For example, the value of a monthly e-newsletter shouldn’t be determined strictly by the number of inquiries or orders it generates — there’s also value in terms of brand awareness and customer retention. Second, some marketing activities require a critical mass of expenditure to get results. For example, a pay-per-click marketing campaign with a $500/month budget might be totally worthless, whereas a $3000/month budget using the same strategy could be terrific. Finally, if you feel your Internet marketing could be better, it’s a question of talent, strategy or budget, or a combination. Until you carefully evaluate all three areas, you won’t know whether you’re spending too much, too little, or the right amount on the wrong things.
5. How can we make our website perform better?
Usually when I hear this, one of two things is happening: either the company feels its terrific value proposition isn’t being conveyed, or it isn’t generating any leads. Of course, the first problem may be causing the second, but not always. In terms of the first issue, messaging, B2B sites often go wrong by being too wordy, too inwardly focused, too technical and too hard to navigate. Cleaning up those issues will go a long way toward building user understanding and interest. In terms of the second issue, conversion, B2B sites often go wrong by not having concrete, useful and appealing conversion offers on their site. Free PDF downloads, no-obligation consultations, free webinars and e-newsletter subscriptions are just some of the options a B2B can employ to establish and maintain contact with prospects. Of course there are many, many other factors that play into site performance, from page loading speed to imagery to lead tracking functionality to color palette. For that reason, conducting a comprehensive site review every year or two is a valuable exercise.