Jacqueline Dooley — July 1, 2020
The top 3 digital marketing channels to grow your B2B scaleup
At Ocean.io, we know that one of the best ways for B2B scaleups to grow is an approach that combines account-based marketing with your own CRM data. Our platform helps businesses market to the most viable prospects by deploying an AI-based algorithm to identify companies within specific SaaS categories that match your existing customers and your most lucrative deals. We call this growth intelligence.
A large percentage of our customers are scaleups who are focused on growing their businesses. So, while the first step in a growth intelligence approach involves identifying in-market prospects, the next step involves leveraging marketing channels to generate inbound and outbound leads.
When planning what digital marketing tactics to include in your B2B-focused campaigns, it’s extremely important to understand what today’s modern B2B buyer looks like.
Millennials are the new B2B technology buyers
In January, Forrester predicted that digital marketing spend would reach nearly US$150 billion by 2023. This growth is driven by both B2C and B2B sectors, with millennial buyers influencing the explosive growth in digital ad spend.
More than 45% of B2B buyers are millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 and this demographic is involved in over 70% of B2B buying decisions. Gartner identified some key traits of millennial buyers that should be considered when selecting marketing channels for your growth strategy.
B2B buyers who are often part of larger buying groups are skeptical of sales reps and prefer data-backed evidence over seller claims.
Buyers have more high-quality information available to them than ever before. This can be more overwhelming than it is helpful.
B2B buyers access information via multiple channels, but the majority (over 70%) rate the information as highly inconsistent across channels.
B2B buying teams are increasingly more diverse, with members of the buying team spanning a wide variety of roles, teams, and locations.
B2B buyers engage in what Gartner calls “looping” — visiting and revisiting every component of the buying funnel. Gartner calls each point in the funnel a “job” which starts with problem identification and ends with creating a shared consensus as the below graphic illustrates.
Once you understand how modern B2B buyers move through the purchase process, from discovery to solution exploration to the final decision, it’s much easier to identify the top three digital channels to reach these buyers.
The top three B2B marketing channels based on ROI: email, search, content
From an ROI-perspective, the top channels that B2B marketers are using with the most success are email, search (including paid search and SEO), and content marketing.
Is content a channel? There are good arguments for and against but, for the purpose of this post, we’ll include content since good quality content is integral for effective inbound lead generation.
Chief Marketer’s 2020 B2B Outlook Survey revealed that digital channels including email, search, and content Marketing netted the highest ROI, as illustrated in the following chart:
Source: Chief Marketer
Let’s break each of the top three channels down, starting with email.
#1: Email is effective, but with a couple of caveats
Email remains the number one digital channel for generating B2B leads, but it does pose some challenges including a low open rate of around 21%. Even so, email marketing has been linked to increased revenue and effectiveness as an overall channel by businesses who use email as a primary means to communicate with customers and prospects.
Email is also used as a method of revenue generation, with more than 70% of respondents in a 2019 Smart Insights survey indicating that this is a key objective of their email marketing initiatives.
Other email objectives include: building brand awareness, communication with prospects, and capturing data on subscribers.
To increase email effectiveness, marketers must employ advanced technologies that include segmentation and personalization. Over 70% of respondents in the Smart Insights survey use email personalization, while 52% use subject line optimization. Another way to optimize your email performance is to do A/B testing and leverage AI technology to assist with optimization, targeting and analysis.
#2: Search marketing
Most B2B buyers start their discovery process with an online search. On average, B2B buyers make around twelve online searches when looking for a new solution, so it makes sense that search remains a top tactic for B2B marketers in 2020. eMarketer listed search engine optimization (SEO) as the top priority for high-growth companies in 2020 at 47%.
From an organic (SEO) perspective, an effective B2B search strategy is tied closely to content (#3 on our list of top channels). But, like everything else in the realm of digital marketing, search is much more effective when employing new technologies such as enhanced optimization using AI, audience targeting, and personalization.
Paid search is less reliant on content for effectiveness, since it enables you to bid on keywords and craft ad copy and landing pages that match user intent. but paid search will also more effectively drive qualified leads that contribute to growth when it’s optimized and targeted to the right audiences.
This is where a growth approach is most effective because it combines audience and segment targeting with the most effective B2B growth channels.
Keep in mind that search isn’t just about Google anymore. Some of the top online searches in the B2B space occur on websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube. Additionally, new technologies and trends should be considered when creating a search marketing strategy — voice search and visual search are both growing in popularity, as is the use of IoT devices.
#3: Content marketing
Good content is the foundation of a sound inbound marketing strategy. As noted above, B2B buyers are accustomed to reviewing high quality information from vendors. Consistent, research-backed content draws buyers in and gives them the confidence they need to make big purchase decisions.
Buyers expect a wide variety of content from vendors that include top content types such as technical specs, case studies, videos, white papers, and infographics.
Good content fuels your outbound channels too, by providing essential content like webinars which can become lead magnets motivating prospects to provide their content information. In addition to helping with overall search engine rankings, your content can be shared via paid ads or organic posts on social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Consistency is key, regardless of channel
Regardless of the channels you select for your B2B marketing campaigns, make sure the information you share and create is consistent. Keep the buying process as simple as possible so that, when buying teams meet to discuss your solution, they are confident that the information about your product is correct and up to date.
Today’s millennial buyers tend to be platform and device agnostic, meaning they are more focused on the information they obtain versus how they obtained it. Buyers access information in a variety of ways, including on their mobile devices. In fact, a study going back as far as 2018 found that 80% of B2B buyers use mobile at work and more than 60% of buyers reported that mobile played a significant role in a recent purchase.
The growth approach to B2B marketing is a cohesive approach. It ensures that you are identifying your most viable in-market prospects well before you plan out which channels to include in your marketing plan.
It also requires that your sales and marketing teams collaborate to create the most relevant, high quality, and personalized content with the goal of making the B2B buying process as streamlined, consistent, and friction-free as possible.
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