Now we are well into 2018, B2B marketers will have reviewed their efforts over 2017 – what worked and what didn’t work so well. The next step is to look at statistics and emerging trends that will give them the edge, and inform a more effective B2B digital marketing strategy for 2018. The best tactics for lead generation will be under scrutiny, and keeping up with an ever changing technology landscape is a key focus.
When it comes to B2C, trends seem to be more obvious and easy to follow. Luckily for B2B marketers, there are some great resources out there for gathering the facts and figures that inform decisions on where to allocate that precious marketing budget. One great example is The Most Important B2B Digital Marketing Statistics for 2017, created by Bubblegum Search, which they also compiled into a handy infographic.
More Important than Offline Marketing?
One standout statistic is that whilst 58% of B2B marketers use offline marketing methods, only 24% found it effective, making it the least useful in terms of paid methods. Whilst traditional marketing methods such as print advertising, direct mail, exhibitions and printed literature should still form part of the mix, they clearly no longer hold as much weight when it comes to B2B. Therefore the proportion of budget spent on them should reflect this.
Clearly a number of factors are at play here. Firstly, the changing demographic within businesses – as more Millennials find their way into the workplace, and then into senior decision making positions, effective ways of reaching out to and engaging with this audience will be paramount. Secondly, even researchers and buyers of an older generation are fully embracing the use of mobile technology for work purposes, with 60% of Baby Boomers (aged 52+) feeling that mobile usage is essential in a B2B industry.
In order to adapt, businesses will have to acknowledge that the way researchers and buyers are finding their products and services is changing. The influence of this audience will only increase as time passes.
Paid or Unpaid – Social Media or PPC?
One great advantage of B2B digital marketing has always been the ability to reduce costs in relation to the level of exposure. Instant publicity and global reach are combined with tangible results and measurability at our fingertips. Whilst paid social media marketing is more popular than pay per click advertising as a method, effectiveness would appear to be slightly less, at 50% for social and 54% for PPC. Whilst Google AdWords is still the dominant force when it comes to paid ads, Bing’s share of the market is growing, and should not be ignored.
When it comes to social media, Instagram is the fastest growing platform and has the highest interaction rate, yet LinkedIn is the clear favourite for B2B marketers. The options for paid advertising through social media itself are constantly evolving, so a balanced approach to both paid and unpaid should lead to better brand exposure, and reap rewards through increased traffic and lead generation. Using tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer, managing and measuring results across various social media accounts and platforms has never been easier.
With both paid social promotions and paid search engine marketing proving relatively effective for B2B marketers, a balanced approach would seem best. Nonetheless, neither are going to be of much use unless a business has a website that is optimised for mobile users, bringing us on to the next point…
The proportion of web traffic on mobile passed the 50% mark some time ago. With the emergence of Google’s mobile first indexing, having a website that only works on desktop is a big no-no. In fact, even having a desktop site that has been tweaked slightly in order to be responsive for mobile users is by no means an optimum solution. In some areas of B2B industry, the proportion of desktop traffic is still high, but given the changing demographics and use of technology mentioned above, the pendulum is not likely to swing back.
Mobile first indexing means that search bots will index the mobile version of a website first, and will undoubtedly lead to search engine penalties for those that are not optimised. Ideally, content should be the same and equally accessible for both mobile and desktop users. Web design is increasingly being approached from a mobile first perspective, with desktop users coming second.
This also has an implication on SEO – with a smaller screen meaning fewer results are displayed. When 71% of researchers start their research with a Google search, can you afford to ignore mobile as part of your 2018 strategy?
Content and Distribution
Content and its utilisation as a lead generating tool is an increasingly important aspect of B2B digital marketing. In fact 89% of B2B marketers reported that content forms part of their digital marketing strategy. Despite this, only 6% see their usage as “sophisticated” and 21% see it as successful or extremely successful. Predominantly, this comes down to distribution method and measurement of results.
Too often businesses set out with lofty ambitions for content, then end up with a news or blog section on their website that is gathering dust. Equally, whilst email is the most popular method for content distribution, 54% of emails are opened on a mobile device. This means that being mobile friendly extends to emails as well as websites. Video content works great on mobiles, so should not be ignored as part of a content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is a longer term solution, and response rates should be analysed to refine both the content itself and the method of distribution. Using it as part of an inbound strategy to draw prospective clients in, nurture these leads, and finally convert them into customers, is a valuable part of the mix.
5 Top Tips for a Tip Top B2B Digital Marketing Strategy in 2018
1. Mobile – the problem is the solution.
If your website, content or emails aren’t optimised for mobile, then make sure they are, and soon! Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous, so use them as a tool to get your audience engaged with your brand. Strong calls to action are great, because the potential client is already using their phone. Get them to give you a call!
2. LinkedIn – the most effective B2B social media platform.
This doesn’t mean ignore the other social media platforms. However, LinkedIn gives you the ability to reach decision makers in B2B industries organically and cost effectively. By building a network and posting relevant, interesting content you can easily reach potential clients and generate sales leads.
3. SEO – the king is dead, long live the king.
This one crops up regularly. SEO is not dead, it’s just evolving. While machines need to search and index the Internet, there will be a place for Search Engine Optimisation. I can’t see that changing soon. By keeping abreast of the changes in algorithms and following best practise, there is no need to be afraid.
4. Videography – if a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth?
Sometimes neglected when we think of content marketing in B2B industries, video can be an extremely useful tool. When you think about the changing demographic (TL;DR), and the increasing use of mobiles in the business environment, video content can be authentic and credible. Videos lend a human touch and some individuality to a business.
5. Results – by measuring and analysing you can level the playing field.
When developing a B2B digital marketing strategy, it is important to measure results. If it isn’t working, why? If it is working, keep doing it! A well formulated strategy means that a small business can punch well above its weight in the digital arena.