A lot has changed in the past couple years, including the way people respond to marketing. For both B2C and B2B marketers, the same old, same old marketing strategy of the past just doesn't cut it anymore. In fact, it's becoming increasingly apparent that B2B marketing is following many of the same trends as B2C marketing. Research from Gartner for 2022 shows that B2B buyers are following many of the same patterns as B2C buyers, engaging with channels such as social, video, and customer reviews before making purchasing decisions.
Perhaps since more people are working from home, they've become more protective of their space. Perhaps the changing dynamics in social and economic trends are making prospects less tolerant of uninvited outreach. Or perhaps, per the above Gartner report, it's just that more people are online more often, which is creating a change in online engagement practices. Security concerns could certainly add into that equation.
Whatever the cause, it's clear that people are less interested in receiving unsolicited sales emails, content, and calls and are more willing to act on their disdain for it.
The FTC reported a 25% increase in complaints in the last year and more than 2.8 million additional people registered to the "Do Not Call" list.
Buyers are turning to more self-serve options, word-of-mouth and reviews, relationship and connection building through social and communities, and entertaining or educational content consumption to lead their purchasing decisions.
So what can you do when you find the marketing channels and content you're used to just aren't working anymore?
You make a change too!
What's Dead and What Isn't?
First, understand that cold calls, texts, and emails; salesy content; and misused gated content are dead. People are not responding well to it anymore, and per the above communication complaints stats, may even respond negatively.
Gating Your Content
Putting gates and long forms on everything is hurting your reach and customer experience. A study of 1.5 million users revealed only 16.5% fully completed a form, while another revealed 81% of people have abandoned a form.
The appropriate places to use gates include webinars and event registrations, community and forum subscriptions, "contact us" forms, appointment scheduling, and product purchases.
Best practice is to keep forms short and sweet, with only 2 to 5 necessary fields, and to offer something of value as a trade-off. Ensure to include voluntary opt-in options before using the personal info to contact form submitters. Also, avoid asking for phone numbers unless absolutely necessary, like a support request, as this will significantly increase abandonment and complaint rates. Just because a visitor is interested in specific information, doesn't mean they're ready to be bombarded with sales calls.
Organic vs Paid
When it comes to making a purchase, buyers turn to search results to inform their decisions first, followed by social media. But don't rely only on paid channels to rank your content because organic reach majorly outperforms paid ads, and paid channels only account for 14% of Google traffic. Meanwhile, studies have shown that 70-80% of users will actively avoid paid ads.
Keep Using Email
Emails, however, are not dead. It's about the substance, not the medium. There is a record of 4.03 billion email users in the world today. Over 90% of internet users in the US are there to use email, followed closely by browser searches and video viewing. Over half of consumers prefer brands contact them via email, and B2B businesses report around $45 ROI on their email campaigns (converted from £).
What people are averse to is the "cold" outreach, i.e. uninvited and irrelevant content and sales-focused touchpoints. The best ways to ensure your emails are meeting receiver standards is to send them only to addresses from people who have confirmed they want them through valid subscriber options like newsletter sign-ups and permission options on profiles; not through gated content or coerced information collecting, and definitely not from purchased lists. Also, make them value content focused, personalized, relevant, informative, and follow best deliverability practices. This includes not sending emails too often. Every day is way too much.
These resources can help you manage your deliverability practices:
Below are 4 ways to transform your content strategy and create more engaging and relevant content for your search, social, video, emails, and other channels. While it's not an exhaustive list, it will certainly send you down the right track.
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Tap into Your Customer Insights
The good, the bad, the ugly... they're all useful and important when it comes to customer reviews. But a common trend with B2B businesses is the temptation to avoid them. They're operating with the fear that if they reach out to customers for reviews, they'll get bad ones.
But this is a backwards logic.
Firstly, what is going on in your business that makes you think you'll get bad reviews? The first rule of good branding is integrity. If you're aware of issues in your services or products that would instigate bad reviews, fix them - immediately.
Also, statistics tell a different story. 34% of consumers write only positive reviews, while only 7% go negative. So go ahead and promote reviews. Any negative reviews you get are an opportunity to improve, if you have the right mindset.
But don't just focus on getting reviews, make responding to them a priority as well. An overwhelming 89% of consumers will choose a business which responds to all reviews, while 57% say no responses equals no business. Furthermore, 80% of consumers say a negative experience resolved is likely to result in a positive review! So, open yourself up to a little potential conflict and use it as an opportunity to improve your business and customer service. It will only build your reputation.
You can harness your reviews for creating content directly and also reach out to your most loyal customers to create advocate, influencer, and ambassador relationships. You can also create case studies via video and text, build customer spotlights showcasing both their business and yours as allies, invite them as guests into podcasts or webinars, and invite them to speak at events.
Harness the Skills and Interests of Your Employees
A vast majority of businesses rely solely on their marketing team to source and create content for their business. But with the trend toward community and relationship based engagement, even in B2B scenarios, you could be missing out on a valuable resource with this strategy.
Employees are a company's greatest resource. Consider what the rest of your team could bring to the content table. Do you have employees who can draw or paint, rap or play instruments, are into gaming or sports? Your employees' talents and interests could contribute to creative and engaging marketing content that you may not have considered before.
Not only that, but they have first-hand insights into the various aspects of your business and other areas of interest that may seem unrelated, but can really help to humanize your brand. Perhaps they know a lot about selfcare and wellness and can share their best tips. Perhaps they know a lot about empathy and how to support fellow team members in the work environment. Perhaps they have great remote working tips or know the best cybersecurity practices. These are all opportunities for creating unique content of value for your viewers, while at the same time promoting your brand.
Company events and activities are another great resource, especially with the increasing emphasis on community. Take videos or photos of team meetings, outings, and activities. Document your participation at vendor fairs, round tables, webinars, or lunch and learns and reformat it for social. Participate in community events, sponsorships, and charities and share photos or videos of that as well.
Most importantly, don't ignore the value of your employee reviews. In the past year, 99% of consumers have researched local businesses online. Your employee reviews show up in those results too. Be sure that you're tracking, responding to, and resolving complaints in employee reviews on the same level as your customer reviews. You can use them to find opportunities for content and for areas of improvement in the same way as you do with your customers. Plus, how your employees feel they are treated will translate directly to your customers and potential customers.
Research Industry Feedback Both for Your Biz and Your Competitors'
Customer and employee feedback into your business aren't your only resources for great content. You can look at these same areas for your competitors too! What are their customers and employees saying about them and how can your business be different?
Check reviews, industry hashtags and social posts, and industry keywords being used in customer social comments to find FAQs, pain points, wish lists, and other fresh ideas that you can use to create unique content that speaks to your audience. You can also use Google Trends to see what people are searching for the most and create content that responds to those queries.
Build a knowledge base
89% of consumers in the US expect businesses to offer self-service portals and 79% have used them. Conversely, 28% find it difficult to find the information they're looking for and less than one-third of businesses offer self-service options like knowledge bases.
This is a huge missed opportunity!
Give your audience the information they're looking for by building a knowledge base and detailed FAQs section. Ensure that it's concise, easy to navigate, and pleasant to look at; but focus primarily on adding highly informative content. Put it into a library format and offer search features. Make sure they can find anything they could possibly want to know about your products and services, your processes, your company mission, the way you operate and where, how you got started, your social and economic initiatives, pricing structures, features, how to contact you, etc. Leave no stone unturned.
You can also include all the fun content you're creating for your other platforms.
Today buyers are informed, and the more they feel they know you, the more likely they are to become a customer! Offering personalized, value-adding, relationship building content will take you a long way in making connections that count for your business.
And don't be afraid to use TikTok!