Note: the following is a guest post by Jackie Hermes of Accelity; her bio follows at the bottom. If you are interested in contributing please read these guidelines.
Some B2B tech companies, especially in early stages, are eager to make a splash in their respective markets. They’re raring to go with branded content about who they are and promotional materials about what makes their product great. The problem: their audience doesn’t care. The customer’s needs are completely missing from the message.
Why? This type of content simply isn’t relevant to their audience – at least not yet. These companies have only created a third of the content they need to successfully move the reader through the buyer’s journey.
B2B tech companies are on the right track by investing in their marketing at launch, but in order for that marketing to be effective, they need to build a full content funnel for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Then, they need optimized channels to spread their message and expand their reach.
The right marketing strategy is ultimately a lead generation strategy, helping young tech companies win business by demonstrating their value, building their credibility and eventually, building affinity for their brand.
Start with the audience
The first step of building a successful lead generation strategy is knowing who you want to attract. Your audience should always be at the center of all of your marketing strategies and tactics.
The best place to start is by building buyer personas [defined by the author here] based on the types of people you’re hoping to reach. The buyer personas exercise helps you get into the minds of your buyers and understand their background, challenges, motivations and objections. To build a comprehensive profile of your buyer, talk to your sales team, interview current customers and research people on LinkedIn who match your ideal buyer.
Better understanding your buyers allows you to message them around the things they care about, increasing the impact of your marketing (and maximizing ROI).
Meet buyers where they are
It’s one thing to know who your buyers are. It’s another to know where they are in their buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey consists of three stages:
- Awareness of their problem
- Consideration of their options for fixing the issue
- Decision between vendors who can solve the problem using their preferred method
Up to 90% of the buying process takes place before a prospective buyer ever talks to you. This means you need to provide valuable information and make a good first impression long before your buyer contacts your team – or even knows who you are.
Creating content that addresses the buyer’s questions at each stage of the funnel will keep your brand top-of-mind without being pushy. Avoid self-promotion until the buyer is finally ready to explore vendors; even at that stage, always prioritize providing the information your audience cares about—not what you think is most important to promote
Here are some ideas for information to include in your content to help nurture the reader through the buyer’s journey:
- Common buyer challenges, with information about the industry landscape
- Comparisons between solution types
- Customer case studies, testimonials and reviews
- Pricing information
- They Ask, You Answer content—answers to questions frequently heard in sales meetings
By proactively answering your buyers’ questions, you’re sending sales a lead that’s done their homework and is ready to buy.
Build awareness and extend reach
While your content marketing strategy is your primary lead nurturing strategy, it doesn’t do you much good unless it’s easy to find. There are some simple, high-impact things you can do to ensure your B2B tech brand starts making the right impression.
Your content will drive leads to your website, and vice versa. Make sure prospective customers are impressed with a simple user experience seemingly designed just for them.
- SEO. When thinking about keywords on your site, ask yourself, “What are my buyers searching to find me?” and “What are the common questions prospects ask?”Optimize your web pages to ensure that your audience can easily find you. From a technical standpoint, use an SEO tool like SEMrush to audit the backend of your website and flag issues for free. Then, start making adjustments – you’d be surprised how many quick wins you’ll find.
- Messaging. The messaging on your website should complement the messaging you use elsewhere in content and social media. Clearly answer what your company does, who you serve and what challenges you solve. Don’t overthink it—a simple website with a few pages (with optimum SEO) is all you need to get started.
- Conversion points. Make it as easy as possible for a visitor to know what their next step should be. Whether it’s driving them to a pricing page to having them request a demo, it should be clear where to go next.
- Design. Your website is one of the best tools to reflect your brand, so make sure it’s consistent with visual elements you use elsewhere. Additionally, you want the site to be easy to navigate. Run a check-up to ensure your site speed is fast, your pages are mobile-friendly and your site is easy to navigate.
Pro tip: have a friend, colleague or willing potential customer navigate your site and share their feedback on usability.
With credible content and an optimized site, it’s time to promote, promote, promote your content through a myriad of channels.
- Email. Everyone’s inboxes are full these days, so focus your messaging on what’s in it for the reader. Keep subject lines compelling, actionable and brief, and make sure design doesn’t distract from the goal of the email.
- Social. Choose which platforms you use based on where your audience is. Typically, B2B audiences are on LinkedIn, but depending on your industry or location they may prefer Facebook. It’s crucial to post consistently and to engage with your audience, so only commit to the number of platforms you can maintain.
- Paid advertising. There are many digital advertising options available that meet your budget and your goals; however, it requires some experimenting. Monitor campaigns closely and be ready to invest in ad spend to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Again, LinkedIn is typically the best place for B2B-specific audience, though testing on the Google Ads platform can be worthwhile as well.
- Online publications. Share your content on sites like Medium or use LinkedIn’s article feature to further extend your reach. Pitch your content to industry publications to ensure the right people see your message.
Nurture your growing audience
As you build your database of contacts and leads, you’ll also collect more information about them over time. Don’t let your data sit; instead, leverage it to connect with the right prospects at the right time by creating tailored and targeted messages that help you convert.
Use lead scoring to understand how engaged your buyers are. Lead scoring is a system that helps you understand if you have ideal fits in your CRM based on their demographics and engagement.
As you learn more about certain leads – especially those who seem like perfect fits – consider switching your approach from general marketing to account-based marketing for a one-to-one approach. This hyper-targeted method takes more time, but can generate big results by forming a relationship with an important lead.
Don’t stop at half a marketing plan
Promotional materials are important for helping a new company gain brand recognition, but they’re only one piece of an effective marketing strategy. By creating content that nurtures prospects from the point of not knowing if there’s a solution to their problem all the way to deciding on your company, you can ensure you’re helping your buyers every step of the way and building long-lasting relationships.
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About the author: Jackie Hermes is the CEO of Accelity, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based agency that helps software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups get to revenue and grow faster, and a co-founder of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week. Very active on LinkedIn, Jackie sparks discussions about the daily life and challenges of growing a bootstrapped company. Jackie mentors student startups via The Commons, female professionals via Building Brave, is an advisor with Golden Angels Investors, and coaches numerous early-stage startups. In addition to her professional involvement, Jackie is an adoptive foster parent and loves to explore new places with her kids.