In the past, first contact with a potential B2B buyer relied on traditional outbound tactics such as email and telemarketing geared toward education. Times have changed. Today, for example, a buyer for jet engines or enterprise servers would review search and social tools before any contact with sales. By the time the buying team indicates interest, they have prepopulated their vendor scorecard with comparative feature analysis and even talked to reference customers they’ve met on social networks. They largely ignore outbound marketing messages in favor of online self-education.
This new reality is why tactics such as B2B inbound marketing are now mainstream for B2B marketers and one of five techniques to focus on in 2016, noted Adam Sarner, research vice president, Gartner for Marketing Leaders.
Here are five important B2B marketing techniques for 2016:
- Leverage Account-Based Marketing techniques, including relationship management
B2B marketers are on the hook for generating leads and closing new deals — activities traditionally associated with the upper part of the marketing funnel. However, keeping current customers and growing revenue within existing accounts is lower-risk and often a higher-reward activity.
B2B Approach: Apply the same levels of discipline, rigor and effort spent on new account prospecting to expand existing account revenue. Use account-based marketing techniques — in-depth knowledge of prospects and customers — to cross-sell and upsell within existing accounts.
- Use predictive lead scoring
B2B marketers have more access to data than ever before and use advanced analytics to drive action. Traditional lead scoring uses demographic and behavioral attributes to calculate a lead score.
B2B Approach: Predictive lead scoring techniques use data models from traditional data sources (CRM, salesforce automation, etc.) and third-party sources (such as programmatic advertising) to determine the propensity to buy based on intent. Gartner clients reported substantial revenue increases within the first two years of applying predictive scoring.
- B2B inbound is mainstream
Business buyers aren’t as reliant on marketing and salespeople as in the past. Traditional B2B marketing’s outbound approach requires a reorientation to align with how customers learn, buy and build trust with their suppliers.
B2B Approach: Leverage the natural synergy among relevant, authoritative content, search and social media to better engage business buyers, even if it challenges the structure, style and tone of your existing marketing collateral.
- Borrow from B2C
Gartner predicts that by 2018, companies that consumerize (e.g., Amazon) their B2B digital commerce sites will see market share gains and revenue increases of as much as 25%. Business buyers are bringing consumer shopping behaviors to the workplace and expect digital commerce experiences comparable to what they encounter as consumers.
B2B Approach: Assess and adopt B2C tactics as needed, such as easy-to-use mobile websites and apps, effective on-site search, integration with social channels and personalization.
- Use advocacy programs
Customer references represent a trusted source of information with no agenda and play a pivotal role in mitigating a buyer’s perceived risk in high-dollar value purchase decisions.
B2B Approach: Use customer references to mitigate the risk of a purchase decision and provide an effective alternative to costly proof-of-concept studies. Customer references comprise one of marketing’s most valued assets and represent an important potential for future digital business.