I know far from everything about B2B marketing. However, over the past decade of yielding to the latest demand-gen “hacks,” content marketing trends and cutting-edge marketing tech, I’ve discovered a few rather basic activities will always deliver meaningful results in a big way if you approach them correctly.
While some might see these as stating the obvious, it's amazing how many times marketers forget these tried-and-true techniques in pursuit of the latest shiny object.
1. Automating the Tedious Tasks Before Investing in the Sexy Tech
Unsurprisingly, and like professionals in every other field, marketers tend to look for technology with a sort of “wow me” factor. Amazement often carries more weight than utility. But it’s utility that feeds the bottom-line.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a good example here. AI has consumed B2B marketing, and for good reason — it’s scientifically intriguing and has great potential for increasing efficiency. What amazes me, though, is that while the entire industry (marketers, trade shows, publications and tech vendors) has its ear to the AI ground, most marketers continue to manually perform the most mundane, time-consuming tasks, such as lead processing and lead source management. In fact, after recently surveying 15 companies, I was shocked to find that, on average, they spent 51.9 hours per month manually processing leads alone. That is greatly inefficient.
It’s insane to think B2B marketers are ready for artificial intelligence when most are still sifting through Excel files to ensure “Mickey Mouse” isn’t injected into their nurture track. It’s like recommending a smart refrigerator to a homeowner who doesn’t yet have a dishwasher (or even electricity). Much like smart refrigerators, AI is pretty awesome, but it’s not going to provide the utility needed until the fundamentals are automated. And right now, B2B marketers need all the utility they can get.
2. Conversing Regularly With Customers and Prospects
Whether you’re conducting interviews for an article you're writing or trying to gain insights for a research report, regular interaction with prospects and customers provides several benefits. First, these conversations often unveil new ideas, angles and counterperspectives that help you hone your message. And anyone who has spent significant time as a content marketer knows that coming up with new topics to write about is no easy obstacle.
Second, such conversations support brand loyalty among prospects and customers, who will appreciate the fact that you value their insights and opinions. Often this results in expanded reach, because when you quote someone in an article, they’re more likely to share it. Plus, it’s just a good way to gain new friends to drink with at events (the real reason we go to them).
3. Collaborating With Complementary Companies on Content
Despite the disgusting amount of alliteration in this one, collaborating with other companies produces benefits beyond the effort it takes. I often struggle with this step because it does require adding extra steps (and headaches) to the already time-strapped job of a B2B marketer. But I’m rarely disappointed with the results.
Much like conversing with prospects and customers, working with other companies on a common project provides new insights that you wouldn’t have gained otherwise. More importantly, it often gives you welcome access to target accounts and individuals you haven’t yet successfully engaged. It’s like being invited to a party where a lot of people you’d like to meet will be.
With this opportunity, however, comes a greater responsibility. Make sure you carry your weight regarding the workload, or you risk burning a bridge with a valuable partner. Further, use the opportunity to put your best foot forward in front of the new audience, which means great content and timely follow-up.
4. Moving Down-Funnel With Marketing Metrics
B2B marketing is continually evolving, and the way we analyze performance must evolve as well. Think of the book and movie "Moneyball" — changes in how baseball teams recruited, traded and paid for players necessitated a change in the way they evaluated player performance.
In B2B marketing, we’re currently seeing the same thing. Lead volume used to be the gold standard of marketing performance, but top-performing marketing organizations are now focused on marketing-attributed opportunities or even revenue. And I’m sure we’ll find these metrics becoming even more nuanced in the future.
Keeping the big picture in mind is essential. Lead volume only matters if the leads convert to opportunities. Opportunities only matter if they convert to revenue. And revenue only matters if it can scale faster than the resources needed to produce it. Thus, as our ability to measure evolves, so must our resolve to identify and analyze the most important metrics.
5. Switching Effortlessly Between Sales and Marketing Mindsets
Sometimes it’s best to avoid the instinct to sell. For example, when I’m writing a marketing report or guide, I avoid any inclination to sell our product, because I want to display a certain amount of objectivity and provide as much value as possible to our audiences.
Other times, however, such as when I’m working the booth at a conference or writing an Integrate case study, I try to channel my inner Alec Baldwin and pitch Integrate’s software. The difference is knowing when your audience needs you to be a sales rep.
This seems basic, but I often see marketers struggling with the sales-marketing toggle. When someone downloads a guide titled something like “How to Prepare for GDPR,” they don’t want to read all about your product. Instead, they seek objective, educational content that will help them. Yet, if that person comes up to your booth at a conference and asks how your product can help them with GDPR, they expect you to make a sales pitch promoting your product.
None of the above activities are groundbreaking. Rather they’re tried-and-true methods of moving your B2B marketing initiatives forward. Before jumping head-first into any new “hack” or purchasing an expensive new MarTech system, make sure you have the fundamentals in place. Shortcuts and tech won’t fix bad strategies — but they can amplify the effects of good ones.