- Content. Here, you need white papers, research reports, position papers, product videos, ROI calculators, press releases and e-books. However, there are two basic challenges to creating winning content. First, the people who know the most about your customers and product sales and product engineers are terrible writers. Second, your audience has no time to read. You can't outsource the first challenge. The reality is, you need a person on your team who understands your product, calls on customers, writes clearly and has the time and interest to create content. This is not a marketing communications person who knows about brand guidelines, copywriting and layout. It's probably a product engineer or customer support person who also is an amateur photographer, minored in literature and enjoys going to art exhibits. You need to find/hire this person and give them three to six months to get up to speed. The second challenge—your audience has little time—is easier to address. Be brief, be brilliant, be gone. Try to make one point and make it well. Lay out the copy with bolded headings for easy scanning. Use lists and bullet points. It's about clear, concise communications.
- Outreach. Your salespeople can tell you what they are hearing from their prospecting calls, the issues that are top-of-mind, the business initiatives under way and the strategic shifts on the horizon. Take those insights and turn them into content nuggets—one-pagers with common themes. Use those one-pagers as part of a drip communications program. Create videos but don't overproduce them. Handheld digital cameras are fine. Then post your videos on your own YouTube channel, paying careful attention to titles and search tags. Also, create webinars and podcasts; and invite people to on-demand viewings. Most important: Make sure you have documents that can be easily downloaded, emailed (small file sizes), printed, read, noted and filed for future use.
- Response. Too many campaigns point people to corporate home pages or product Web pages that make the visitor feel like they are starting all over again. A strong inbound marketing site automatically collects basic profile information, welcomes visitors with tailored messages and guides them to other valuable content and interactive tools. We must orient how we sell around how our customers buy, which involves (in order): awareness, research, evaluation, selection and purchase. The content and design of the site should be based on that buying process. The site will delight visitors by helping them recognize where they are in the buying process, presenting content that fits that stage and inviting them to go to the next stage.
- Engagement. Much of b-to-b marketing supports enterprise buying decisions that have strategic value, operational impact, relatively long buying cycles (12 to 18 months) and significant budget requirements. To be successful, you need to engage these prospects through interactive dialogue that builds a trusted relationship. The most important aspect to engagement is “the ask.” Every time prospects have valuable interactions with you, either online or in person, you have earned the right to ask them questions. You should learn about them, their purchase intent and, of course, you should ask for the business.
Emma Hall on 03.26.2015