When it comes to sales, there isn’t necessarily a “right approach.”
Sales is about people and often tactics and messages will need to vary to appeal to the people you are speaking to. This is even more important when attempting to grow B2B relationships, to stand out from the crowd by delivering a targeted message to a valuable group of contacts.
This is where we get the basis of Account Based Marketing.
In this article, we will take a more general view about how you can use these principles to create long lasting, valuable B2B contacts.
Step 1: Identify the objective. What are you hoping to achieve with B2B?
Before implementing any strategy, you need to know what it is that you want to achieve; something you can refer back to throughout your plan, that will also make it measurable.
The typical outcome will likely be revenue increase. But rather than filling the pipe with “quick wins” and short-term prospects, if done right, B2B activity can result in a more valuable long-term customer base.
Let’s think about a travel brand, who’ve just entered the market – ZazzleAir! Here is a look at a possible objective which will also translate itself into a more detailed brief.
“ZazzleAir” is currently focused on the consumer market, offering tailor made package holidays across the UK, Europe, America and Australia. They are looking to increase their service offerings by branching out into business travel, allowing them to stand out in an already crowded market place.
Focusing specifically on business-to-business organisations, ‘ZazzleAir’ aims to become the main provider for business travel needs using their current expertise to organize flights, hotels and expeditions entirely for business travelers.
The primary objective for ‘ZazzleAir’ is clear. They want to position themselves as exclusive business (Read more...) experts, in addition to the consumer holidays they already offer.
They want to achieve the following:
- Highlighting the increase in service offering
- Speaking and appealing to a wider market
- Standing out against competitors in an already crowded market place
Step 2: Form the strategy and identify a target market
To accurately identify the pain points and accompanying remedies for your desired audience, your brand needs to put in a high level of ground work. This will create a detailed list of potential customers that are far more likely to engage with you and actually want to use your services. But what steps do you need to take, to make this a success?
Build a picture of your audience
In the case of ZazzleAir, we already know from their objective that they wish to target larger organisations across sectors such as finance, technology, recruitment; brands that tend to operate both locally and globally to warrant a need for business travel.
Once you know who you want to speak to, you can begin to identify the ways to get in front of them. Networking, speaking engagements, and industry events will give you a better idea of the pain points that key brands in specific sectors experience, whilst putting you in front of the companies themselves.
Match your audience with solutions based on the services and abilities of your company
Sources such as Business Events and EventBrite will detail approaching events.
Moving on to more informed research will help to determine the specific companies to form relationships with. Platforms such as LinkedIn offer a wealth of information with very little input. This can include;
- Company name and general overview
- Company size
- Employees, including positions within the company
- Team structures
One of the targets for ZazzleAir could be Hitachi Capital (UK) Plc, who provide financial solutions to businesses across the UK and global markets; prime candidates for the business travel offering… An initial LinkedIn search offers information including company size (employees) website address, location and specialties.
Drilling down further and taking a closer look at employees will likely create the list of decision makers that could be targeted.
An obvious tool during the research stage and afterwards, should be a company’s website. This should offer insight into who they are, what they do and even possible pain points, giving the opportunity to further tailor your specific sales and marketing message.
Social media like LinkedIn also creates the opportunity to understand the content that key influencers digest.
Decision makers such as MD’s, marketing managers, business development managers and so on, will likely share content and insights, giving a better idea as to the type of online resources they use. This will help with the distribution plan for your sales-based content and allow you to directly target the right audience.
For example, the publications that ZazzleAir may wish to distribute to include businesstraveller.com in order to raise their profile amongst the target audience, whilst also focusing on industry specific sources such Reuters and CrunchBase.
Step 3: Deliver the strategy
Any good marketing strategy focuses on people and the delivery of a message that will resonate. One of the best ways to do this is through informational and digestible content that targets the right consumer, before using inbound marketing techniques to really draw them in.
Again, you need to be mindful of the people you are speaking to, the type of content they prefer and where in the buying cycle they are likely to need it, and therefore consume it.
To speak to the right audience, ZazzleAir need to offer insightful content that is specifically tailored and has the ability to be deployed across a number of relevant mediums; including online resources, publications and social platforms.
A great example of this was carried out by Concur — they created an infographic on booking behavior, partnering with the Global Business Travel Association to offer digestible stats and facts on UK business travel.
The Global Business Travel Association also released their own report, ‘Booking behaviors; Helping business travelers book smarter’.
Finding an angle that appeals to your target leads will set you apart from competitors. By sharing this on socials with a targeted audience (expect to pay for this though) you are building your brand awareness by positioning your brand at the forefront of the audiences mind.
Using the content, you can get their attention, and this piece of content has to include calls to action throughout (so should each piece of marketing content), willing the customer to make contact.
Step 4: Measure success
Thinking back to objectives – how are you going to prove your B2B efforts have worked?
Generally speaking, the aim is to increase brand engagement ultimately delivering increased sales. However, depending on your objectives, you should think clearly about how you will measure success, and you should not expect to achieve widely varying results, but it is better to be realistic and specific.
Five ways you can monitor your B2B activity’s effects:
Inquiries (including contact forms)
It will become clear quite quickly if the number of inquiries begins to increase. It is important to carefully attribute the exact source of leads during the initial contact stage, something that could be factored in on things such as contact forms, or when engaging in conversation.
That way, you will have more insight into the success (or not) of your marketing efforts.
An obvious measurement, but if your business is starting to increase in clients that appear to be coming from the target industry, and revenue as a direct result of the newly targeted approach, and the marketing costs are being covered, then this is clearly the right approach to take.
This is of course not an overnight measurement or result and is one that can take time particularly depending on the length of your average sales cycle.
As mentioned, ABM principles tend to encourage long term relationships of value as opposed to short term wins. Again, this is not an overnight measurement but is one to monitor closely.
You’ll know it’s working because every interaction you have with your clients and target audience will be valuable and encourage them to come back to you time and time again, for work or for advice in the form of content. (In this vein, you can also monitor the amount of returning visitors to certain pages of your site.)
Length of sales cycle
It is suggested that with more accurate targeting the length of the sales cycle should shorten as you are delivering the right message to a network that have the ability to make decisions. You are offering a solution to contacts that have a problem which should speed up the sales process and conversion rate.
The best way to really measure if your content strategy is working is to determine whether the number of prospects converting into retained customers is increasing. Provided you can attribute them to your sales and marketing strategies, this is the ultimate measurement of success.
The level of research and input that is needed with a B2B strategy can be daunting. But it is this level of detail that is at the heart of a successful campaign and, if done right, will deliver clients of long-term value.
Your content marketing efforts should complement your sales efforts, uniting them to allow you to deliver a valuable message to specific industries, as opposed to a vague message given to a broad audience who may be unclear on what it is you are trying to say.
B2B strategy, when done well, should see benefit to both the company employing the tactic and the customer, who is given a more tailored experience making them feel valued from the very beginning.
Jess Rasmussen is Digital PR Project Lead at Zazzle Media.