First things first…
Before we begin it’s important to make the point that your choice of channels is of slightly less than **** all importance if you do not have a sufficiently ambitious and imaginative content strategy feeding into it.
One of the worst traits of the modern marketer is her tendency to think “channel first”. Nail the content, and the channels will all but take care of themselves.
The search engines
I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that I ran an SEO agency for several years before it evolved into a broader digital offering, so please to treat my bias with the scoop of salt it deserves, but my first instinct is always to lay the foundations for a healthy relationship between the website and the search engines. After all, for most B2B companies this is likely to be the strongest source of targeted traffic, and unlike social media or advertising, we’re developing an asset that’s going to grow in value over time.
Furthermore, despite what I hear so many people say, it’s still absolutely possible for relatively young websites to rank for really important terms, assuming they know exactly who their audience is and develop their landing pages accordingly.
Alongside their website, the only other digital asset a business owns is their email list so this comes in at number two.
Email may be the grandad of digital, but don’t be fooled by his lack of style and glamour; he carries more commercial clout than all of his social media grandchildren put together.
Building this asset should be one of the primary objectives of any B2B campaign – whether you are in the manufacturing or recruitment industry. Not only is it going to drive sales leads, but it’s also going to nurture relationships and extend customer lifetime value. It’s your best route for distributing content and an unparalleled tool for establishing yourself as a thought leader. With the right content strategy feeding into it, there is not much email can’t achieve.
“Offline” is an unhelpfully broad description that could mean anything from a handwritten postcard to an event. The reason why I group these together is that they all have one thing in common – they are unfashionable. And that is precisely the source of their power.
In a world of “Digital first”, the biggest opportunities are unlikely to be found online. After all, that’s where everyone else is busy investing their time and money. Paradoxically, the greatest opportunities are likely to be found in neglected channels. Partly because there is less competition, but also because traditional channels incur a greater cost than their digital cousins. And that cost conveys meaning.
The most effective piece of marketing I’ve done in the last couple of years was write handwritten letters to CEO’s and Managing Partners of law firms inviting them to an event. Over half accepted. One even responded with a handwritten letter of their own. Try to replicate that with a LinkedIn inmail!
Personally I find it hard to get excited about webinars. Conducting them comes with all the stress of delivering an event, but without the gin and tonic.
That said, there is no question that they are a powerful tool in many B2B markets for progressing Marketing Qualified Leads (data and permission to be contacted from people that fall within your target audience) to Sales Qualified Leads (have an explicit need) and in a post-Covid world, they’re only going to become more important.
Even if the person doesn’t attend (drop out rates are often frustratingly high), by signing up to a webinar the person has made a significant mental investment, which means they are far more likely to open your emails and accept your phone calls.
Finally, we have social. The set of platforms that somehow achieves 80% of the attention whilst delivering less than 20% of the value.
The trouble with social media is two fold:
- You don’t own these platforms – you are building someone else’s asset. If something goes wrong (account deleted, cost of advertising becomes too high, new GDPR regulation inhibits targeting, etc) you can’t do anything about it.
- There is little compound value. Often the content is ephemeral and new content is only as impactful as the advertising budget that propels it.
It’s not all bad. Social media is hugely important for communicating the culture of your organisation (so important for B2B) and with the right media plan it can be a scalable route for feeding your other channels, particularly your email list. You just need to be clear on what you’re using it for and how that performance will be measured.
Clearly the above is a horrible generalisation and while I hope there are some useful points and principles communicated, I also hope that you know your audience well enough to understand that the right arrangement and prioritisation of channels will be utterly unique to them.
And above all, don’t even consider your channels until the overarching content strategy is so audaciously ambitious that your little part of the world can’t help but take notice.
Until next time,