I just spent the morning preparing for this post by reading all the predictions from all of the so-called experts on what will happen in B2B marketing in 2009. The number of BLOG posts and predictions is endless, but taking the time to read them is worthwhile. I listed the best below, but just google "2009 B2B Marketing Predictions" and you can have a field day!
Why read them? Because it provides insights into where the various experts in all aspects of marketing feel things are heading. More importantly, I find that the predictions are more of a precursor to what B2B marketers should be focusing on to succeed in what will easily be the toughest market in my life time.
Rather than take the predictions approach, my list will focus on where B2B marketers should place their bets in 2009. I already weighed in on this topic with Andrew Gaffney in last week’s issue of the DemandGen Report in an article entitled, “Demand Gen Experts Suggest Shifting Campaign Strategies to Create Prospect Dialog in 2009”. It is clear that marketing budgets are being reigned in as the recession takes hold which creates the challenge of how to do get greater results with less funds and resources. Believe it or not, that goal is not so hard to attain if we are clear on our strategic goals and match our marketing investments accordingly.
So here goes:
So here goes:
- Demonstrate Thought Leadership – B2B Marketers continue to rely far too much on product promotion over web content and campaigns that emphasize the key issues your buyers are most interested in. In the coming weeks I will write more on exactly what thought leadership is and how it should be constructed and delivered to your target audience. Suffice it to say that your target audience is most interested in hearing from industry experts who share new thinking or ideas around business and technology issues – not product pitches.
- Emphasize Lead Nurturing Campaigns over Lead Generation – Chances are your marketing database is full of leads generated in the past 12-24 months who showed interest, but were not ready to buy. Over 75% of all leads generated are NOT sales ready. They are in the market, but are in education or issue awareness mode. Well crafted thought leadership content that is delivered through multiple channels (on and offline) and via multiple ways (white papers, webinars, client case studies, BLOGs) will keep you top of mind with your target audience.
- Think Community, NOT Soap Box -The success of your lead nurturing process lies in how your education process invites your audience to participate in the issues discussion. It is very important to give your audience a way to provide feedback and to read and respond to others in the audience. Time to let go of the illusion of control in your marketing programs and be completely open to what others have to say. This means blogging and implementing a forum for clients to talk about their experiences, both good and bad. This is the best way to learn what your audience values in the way you solve problems for them and for your followers to share their learnings. B2B marketers can learn a lot of B2C retailers in their use of forums and user reviews to drive the buying process and build loyalty.
- Focus on the Process – Analyze your lead generation and qualification process and identify where the process flows to move interested suspects and where it is lacking in converting contacts into sales ready buyers. This requires “thinking” like a buyer rather than a seller and analyzing your various campaigns to ensure that each step in the campaign is supported by relevant and interesting content. Content should be easy to find and access and be totally self-service to avoid making a potential buyer wait for anything. And I emphasize self-service. Buyers want transparency to separate the real experts from the wannabes. This self-analysis requires a lot of testing and follow up to get it right.
Now more than ever, buyers of technology solutions and services are only interested in hearing from and speaking with experts for the problems they are most interested in solving. Without exception, all of companies I deal with have expertise that buyers value. The problem for many is to develop and deliver that expertise to a target audience in a meaningful and differentiating manner to capture that audience’s attention.
Now is NOT the time for knee-jerk reactions where you pull back from marketing programs that clearly deliver results. Phil Lay at The Chasm Group Advisors wrote one of the better pieces on turning the current downturn into an opportunity. Phil states that, “these are times when, to echo Warren Buffet’s famous saying, sound – even contrarian – thinking can guide you to strategy that differentiates your company from its closest competitors, while most of them are still taking refuge in the bunker.”
What I have seen in the past 90 days is many B2B marketers have pulled back and reduced the number of campaigns, while the smart and committed ones have actually increased their lead nurturing campaigns to existing leads. I believe that buyers are trying to figure what they should do more of and less of during the recession to deliver results to their bosses and companies. Now is the time for B2B marketers to ensure they have strong thought leadership content delivered online that emphasizes repeatedly their expertise and how they deliver value in solving their audience’s problems.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and for you to share how you plan to combat the effects of this recession.
Here are links to the top posts on 2009 B2B marketing predictions: