Marketing Trends for B2B Businesses

September 1, 2011

Marketing Trends: Running Forward not in Circles

We’re often assaulted from all sides by the newest marketing trends and for many companies, there’s just not enough time to sift through and work out the worthwhile. It’s all too easy, then, either to stick with the known or to jump into the newest trends without much thought or research.

As a marketing consultant, I spend a lot of time reading up on the latest techniques and also trying to make assessments as to what has worked, and not worked, for my clients. I’d like to share some recent thoughts based on both my own experiences and research.

Workable Marketing Trends for B2B Businesses

1. The website. OK, we all know that you need a website, but I’m really talking about a constantly evolving, compelling website that knocks the socks off the competition. Dedication to Search Engine Optimisation strategy, good writing, excellent design and links to the right kind of social media sites.

2. Networking. This is critical to any B2B business and should involve strategic networking with potential clients and industry influencers. It can include conferences, seminars, networking events and online networking using social media tools such as LinkedIn. Don’t believe me? A recent study created by Citrix Online showed that events and breakfast meetings were ranked as the highest scoring strategy at 37.8%, with public relations running shortly behind.

3. Public Relations. Never, ever underestimate the impact of your company’s name in print or online. Get there first, make your opinions heard and this will put you ahead of your competitors. There are also secondary benefits to mentions of your company URL in terms of the links it will provide to your website.

4. Social Media. The impact of social media is growing. We are now seeing a real online community developing, and as time goes on, I really believe that it will be better managed and more closely mirror the offline world. So for example, whereas we sometimes need to ignore badly run LinkedIn groups or vacuous Facebook pages for business, increasingly we will see a higher level of scrutiny and approval by the online community. Essentially, as people become more confident and familiar with the online world, they will be become more demanding and start to filter those that they do – and do not – want to hear from. Social media of this decade will be about utilisation of fewer channels and a higher quality of communication. Remember the dross that used to pop up on internet searches? Notice how the search engines have refined search results? Watch this happen now with social media.

5. Multimedia. Video is the new photo. We really will see a great deal more use of video and interactive media to illustrate points and promote companies. There are SEO benefits here too.

So those are my views on future trends. Let me know your thoughts on the way that marketing is heading.

Why SEO Your Website?

December 15, 2010

SEO is a Key Component of B2B Marketing

Recently some clients have challenged me on the point of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) at all. The argument, phrased recently by one of my American clients, is as follows:

“We’re a B2B marketing business. Our clients know who we are, so why should we spend money on Search Engine Optimization improving our organic search listings?”

Here are some good reasons to reconsider this position and using SEO, or natural search as it is also known.

1. In the area in which you are most established, your main clients and contacts may know who you are. But what about the new areas that you’d like to mine for business? Your profile will not be as high in these areas.

2. Companies constantly hire (and fire) employees. The contacts you believe you have in key organisations can change at the drop of a fedora. How confident are you that everyone in the company – now and in the future – knows your company name?

3. Do your existing clients know every single service or product that you offer? If you sell denim but also poplin, it would be pretty sad if one of your biggest denim customers bought their poplin from another company simply because they didn’t know you offered it. This would also be a great opportunity for your competitor.

4. If you’re not doing SEO, your competitors might be. If a journalist wants to write a story on your industry specialism, where are they likely to do their research? Yes, the internet. OK, so Fritz from Glassblowers Weekly might have known you for years, but what if a new, younger reporter was tasked with covering the story?

5. Are you are as well known in all countries as you should be?

6. If you ever wanted to sell your company, where would investors look? It’s very likely that they would see how you compared on the search engines with your competitors. At this point it’s worth stating that poor web performance cannot be fixed overnight.

Quite simply, the internet is too big a showroom not to display a well presented, easy to find digital version of your company. If you get the SEO right at the beginning, and build your website right, it is easy to build on. Good use of Search Engine Optimisation will provide you with ongoing leads, PR opportunities and a raised profile that will bring all sorts of commercial benefits. For further thoughts on this, please visit my earlier blog, Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch.

It’s SEO. It’s giving people a map that takes them to your business. Isn’t it worth drawing a map to help people find your digital HQ?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

10 Tips for Planning an Exhibition

November 3, 2010

Good Planning Makes Exhibitions Easier and More Successful Too

It’s exhibition season and this is the final in a series of posts to help you plan your exhibition presence. For further information on How to Buy a Trade Show Display or Designing Trade Show Displays, please consult previous posts.

This article gives some useful tips on areas to consider when planning an exhibition.

1. Consider your target market. Who do you want to attract to your booth and what do you want them to do when they are there? It is important to set clear objectives and ensure that everyone who will be present on the booth understands the exhibition goals.

2. Contact your contacts. Plan activity in advance of the exhibition to notify key customers and prospects that your company will be there. Get the sales team working to set up meetings. Design competitions and offers to draw people to the booth. Use emails and Twitter to keep prospects and clients up to date with your plans.

3. Use all forms of PR and social media. If you’re not using Twitter yet, you should be! Use Twitter to connect with your audience and link up with visitors to the show using the event hashtag. Use LinkedIn and TripIt to ensure people know you will be at the event. Find out from the organisers about promotional opportunities and use any that you can.

4. Use your website. Set up a special page or area dedicated to the show and direct traffic from your marketing directly to this area or page. This will help you assess the results of your exhibition marketing. Make sure there is a clear path from this area to the next stage of asking for further information or speaking to your sales team. Set up this area as early as possible to help with SEO.

5. Design your booth. Design your booth well in advance of the exhibition and use the most cost effective and secure way to ship it to the location. If you are using an existing booth, make sure that all content on the graphics is completely up to date and order replacement banners if necessary. Order any necessary furniture and lighting. Well lit booths always look better.

6. Plan your AV and electronic requirements. Where will you display any video content? Is there enough electricity for your AV and IT requirements? Do you have a countertop or kiosk for your computers? What about internet access?

7. Review marketing collateral. What are you going to give visitors to your booth? Do you have enough copies? Think about brochures, leaflets, DVDs, and business cards.

8. Organise product samples. Do you need to show any product samples on the booth? Are they available? Do you have permission to display them? Do they need any special display conditions or temperature control?

9. Plan your data capture. How will you capture leads? A simple lead form or a data capture wand? These can usually be hired from the organisers. Who will input the data into a spreadsheet or CRM system? Can someone do this at the event for speedy lead followup afterwards?

10. Plan travel and accommodation in advance. These get more expensive and difficult to procure the later you leave it. Be an early bird.

Every exhibition is different, but I hope that the suggestions above help you to successfully plan your trade show presence and achieve successful results. Have a great time – it’s the closest you’ll get to being on stage 🙂

Five Ways to Improve your Marketing

October 20, 2010

Improving your Marketing is Really Very Simple

We are living in times of thin resources, both in terms of time and money. It’s not always possible to have the team of marketing and PR professionals inhouse that you might prefer. So how, with limited resources, can you get better at marketing your company and improve your results?

Here is a guerilla-style guide to getting your marketing in better shape.

1. “My website isn’t performing well on the search engines” This is a common problem with many companies. The ranking of websites on the search engines is now an increasingly professional activity. It needs experts. Call in the experts (you can start with me if you like) and get your site reviewed for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes. This will include a study of the way the website code is written, how the site is structured, the copywriting and design of the site. After this, there will need to be a study of the links to the site from other sites and a plan for how to improve the number of links. This is called Linkbuilding. For more information on this topic, please visit my blog post Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch.

2. “I’m not standing out from my competitors” It’s probably your branding. You may need some work on your branding to help it stand out from the competition. Branding is much more than just the development of your logo, it’s about the essence of who you are as a company. The colours, style and images used for your branding are really only a reflection of a deeper projection of your brand values. This does not mean throwing a bunch of ten pound notes at a wall to see what sticks with an expensive advertising agency, but it does mean developing a coherent approach to explaining who you are and reflecting this in your marketing.

3. “Our competitors seem to be everywhere” That’s probably because their PR and understanding of SEO is better. It’s important to develop an ongoing PR strategy that issues news on a regular basis. Trade press PR should be a monthly activity. Digital PR on websites and blog sites should be a weekly or biweekly activity. Social media (Twitter, LinkedIn) should be a daily activity. Sound a lot? Yes, it is quite a lot of work, but it will certainly help you get new customers.

4. “We need more customers” SEO should help significantly in this area. However, when you are trying to sell business to business services, sales activity is very important. There is absolutely no substitute for metaphorically ‘knocking on doors’, whether this means spending time at the right industry events, responding to online debates, phoning up regular customers and contacts or sending very personalised emails.

5. “Sales are so Patchy” That’s probably because like many companies, sales and marketing are not ongoing activities, but dipped into when business is quiet. Then -bingo! – it all comes at one time. Then goes quiet again. End your own personal cycle of boom and bust and give someone the role of seeking new customers on a weekly basis. Measure their output and performance and give them lots of support and encouragement. Make sure they are searching in different parts of the market and assess which areas are performing best.

It might be tough out there, but there’s no reason to let your competitors steal a march in these easy-to-fix areas. Good luck and feel free to ask any questions on the suggestions raised.

How Google Instant Will Change Search

September 24, 2010

Google Instant Defines Where We Look

You may have noticed the evolution of the Google search bar to incorporate a form of predictive search display. This new technology, known as ‘Google Instant’ may be turned off to the right of the search box, but as this function is controlled by a cookie, if you clear your cookies it reinstalls.

Despite attempts by Google to downplay its significance, Google Instant is likely to have profound effect on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies. Google is marketing this feature as a timesaver but in reality, it’s a process of channelling our thoughts.

Essentially the predictive text element of Google Instant will narrow the search terms that people use to search for goods, services and ideas. This will increase competition for these search terms and the price that they raise on Google’s paid search service, AdWords. This is particularly significant combined with the increased prominence of paid search ads on the Google search pages, making it even more important to rank in the first few natural search listings.

From a marketing perspective this could mean the need to spend more on paid search with Google (we knew there was another revenue model in there somewhere!) and increasing competition for placement within this narrower group of search terms.

It gets even more interesting and esoteric when you start thinking about PR. It is now commonplace to optimise press releases for keyword terms. As never before, it will become important to build brand values around appropriate search terms and build these into our writing and corporate messages. The end of free speech? I hope not. It’s just a case of playing the game.

Planning Search Engine Optimisation from Scratch

September 1, 2010

SEO Planning is Critical

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is critical to your placement in organic search results with the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. But how do you go about planning this kind of work and measuring the results?

Planning An Effective SEO Strategy

SEO should be part of your regular marketing schedule – unfortunately it’s not a project that can be considered as ‘finished’ at any time, although it can of course be divided into smaller projects which can all be measured for their effectiveness.

1) Measure your Current Web Performance

Measurement is really the first milestone in this process. Ensure that you are using a good analytics tool to measure the number of unique and repeat visitors to your website, which pages visitors arrived at, the number and addresses of the pages they viewed and the total amount of time that they spent looking at the website. It is also helpful to understand how visitors view the pages they land on and the process by which they move from merely visiting your site to becoming a customer. If you don’t have software in place, do so before you start to improve your website. You could use Google Analytics which is strong in all these areas.

2) Work on Your Content

Good, relevant content is critical. In a recent survey of SEO specialists by SEOmoz, trusted content was given a 24% weighting in delivering high SEO rankings. Invest in good content and use images and video in addition to copy. Make sure that those assets are properly tagged as well.

3) Ensure Keywords Form the Basis of Your Site

Use Google AdWords or another keyword tool to identify the top 20 keywords for your business. Ensure that you have pages set up in your website for each of these, with the keyword reflected in the URL and the code for each page. Where some keywords seem to be very similar to each other, create landing pages which are only viewable when visitors arrive at them through inputting the relevant keyword into a search engine. These landing pages should redirect to the main site.

4) Write Search Engine Optimised Copy

Ensure that the copy on each page of your site has been written to optimise references to the relevant keyword for that page. Use frequent references to the keyword and include use of the keyword in subtitles down the page. Break up the text with bullet points and sub paragraphs to help focus on the key information. Don’t overuse references to the keywords though. The most important factor is to use the keyword in the title and first few words of the copy.

5) Assess Page Layout

Test different versions of all your webpages, but in particular your homepage. Try experimenting with different layouts and in particular with the positioning of the call to action. This should be clear and there should be a direct link from the homepage. The usability, interface and general experience of a site are definitely clear indicators of good SEO rankings.

6) Plan Your Link Building Strategy

Again, link building should occupy a regular place in your list of tactics. I have already given an overview of why this is so important in my blog Why Link Building is So Essential. Link building involves a variety of strategies and is best performed by a good link building specialist.

I hope that the above points are useful in giving an overview of the first steps in forming an SEO strategy. I’m always happy to share more thoughts, just drop me a line.

Ten Ways to Improve Your European Marketing

August 27, 2010

European Marketing

European marketing is an challenging task for the uninitiated. This blog is devoted to business to business (‘B2B’) marketing, so although we are not delving into the challenges of labelling a chocolate bar in fifteen languages, nonetheless, European B2B marketing has its own complexities.

Here are some top ten suggestions for getting European marketing right.

10 Tips for Improving Your European B2B Marketing

1. Start with the company name –  conduct research in every country in which you wish to operate. Check how it sounds, what it could mean, and whether it can be pronounced.

2. Register your internet domain names in every country in which you either operate or wish to operate as soon as possible.

3. Take a lot of trouble with your website or websites. There should be a dedicated area for each country.

4. Employ search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists to optimise your website for each country. Start with individual keyword research by country – do not just automatically translate your English keywords. Notwithstanding that, take into account that the US and UK use very developed online marketing compared to some other European countries.

5. Translation is not the same as localisation. Have everything rewritten by an specialist translator so that it resonates in each country.

6. Keep a glossary of industry terms, job titles, and terminology for each country so that your communications feel as if they have been written by the same person. Decide on the gender of your company (for languages where this is a consideration.)

6. Empower your local teams but work closely with them too so that they understand the priorities of the business as a whole. For example, they might have a lucrative business line that they want to prioritise when it might be more important for the company as a whole to deliver a small order early to one of your biggest global customers.

7. Ensure that pricing is managed carefully across all your European facilities.

8. Work with a branding specialist to develop branding which is both consistent but flexible enough to reflect local differences.

9. Keep in close contact with your colleagues, sales agents and contacts across Europe. Learn how the business works in each territory and ask their opinion on key decisions. Be prepared for surprising marketing campaigns and social events to be suggested by local staff. Listen to the reasons why they want to do this activity before making a judgement.

10. Roll up your sleeves and get out there! Understand how the business works by meeting local customers.

Enjoy – have lots of fun – and make the company lots of money too!