4 Predictions for B-to-B Marketing in 2013

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

It’s that time of the year when observers can’t resist making predictions about developments on the horizon. I hereby take up that tradition, offering up four random prognostications for where B-to-B digital marketing is headed in 2013. My topics include Facebook, content marketing, personal branding and data hygiene—certainly an eclectic mix. I encourage readers to add their own.

Facebook Is Ready, At Last, for the B-to-B Prime Time
It took a while, but Facebook (FB) marketing is now ready for mainstream B-to-B, in support of branding, lead generation and customer relationship marketing goals for enterprises of all sizes. There are several reasons for this—FB’s universality being one of them. But the critical driver is the recent arrival of the Facebook Exchange (FBX) ad platform, which will allow banner ad bidding and retargeting to specific individuals, based on data matching.

So, while I used to argue that Facebook should be at the bottom of a B-to-B marketer’s to-do list, I am revising my view for 2013. Talking to my pals at Edmund Optics, where I serve on the board of directors, I am hearing confirmation of these developments. Edmund’s target audience is optical engineers and others interested in science and technology. Years ago, I would have advised them to ignore FB and focus on more targeted social networks.

But now, EO has turned its Facebook page into an effective environment for engaging these guys, with weekly “Geeky Friday” offers, and the enormously popular Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide at Halloween, where engineers were invited to design zombie-blasting tools using Edmund products. Facebook is now a top referring source for EO’s website, up 60 percent from last year. I stand corrected.

More and Better Content
B-to-B marketers were early to the content marketing game. In fact, I would argue that B-to-B has been a leading force in this area, in recognition of the importance of prospect education and thought leadership in the complex selling process. B-to-B marketers will continue to excel at creating valuable materials—digital, paper-based, video, you name it—to attract prospects and deepen relationships.

How do I know this? A new study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, which says that 54 percent of B-to-B marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2013. Their biggest content challenge for next year? Ironically, it’s producing enough content.

Personal Branding as a Way of Life
Business people and consumers alike are realizing that their online personas have a growing impact on both their everyday lives and their professional careers. Rather than letting their personal brands evolve organically, individuals will make more proactive efforts to build and manage their images online, benefiting from the guidance of an emerging community of personal brand experts like William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson. This means establishing unique brand positioning and developing a set of active and consistent messaging across Internet media, especially social networks, to explain who they are and what are their capabilities. Personal branding is no longer just for celebrities or the self-employed; with the rise of social media, it is for everyone.

Renewed Interest in Data Hygiene
Whenever I give a seminar on B-to-B marketing, I ask attendees to take out their business cards and look at them carefully. Then, I say, “Raise your hand if anything on the card is new in the last 12 months.” Invariably, 30 percent of the hands go up.

The high rate of change in B-to-B—whether moving to a different a company, a new title, even a new mail stop—is obvious. But only recently has it begun to sink in that addressing people incorrectly, or campaigning with undeliverable mail or email addresses, not only wastes marketing dollars, but also means lost business opportunity. So enough about big data. The focus in 2013 will be clean data.

And if you want some tips on how to keep your B-to-B data clean, have a look at my white paper: “Our Data is a Mess! How to Clean Up Your Marketing Database.”

So, those are my predictions. I hope readers will add some of their own. What do you think we’ll be seeing in B-to-B digital marketing in 2013?

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

A New Way to Net B-to-B Services Sales With Social Trust

Oh no … not another article on how important building trust is with social marketing. Please I can’t take it anymore! I admit we hear too much hype about the importance of trust but behind all the blather there’s a powerful new approach emerging in B-to-B services sales forces. This is the exact system you should be using to exploit social marketing programs that tap LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, video, etc.

Oh no … not another article on how important building trust is with social marketing. Please, I can’t take it anymore! I admit we hear too much hype about the importance of trust, but behind all the blather there’s a powerful new approach emerging in B-to-B services sales forces.

This is the exact system you should be using to exploit social marketing programs that tap LinkedIn, blogging, Twitter, video, etc.

This foundational method has traditional roots. It’s based on what works—amplifying concepts that have always worked. It’s just re-tweaking them for our hyper-networked, always-on world.

A Buyer’s Decision Model
Selling B-to-B services in the past looked like this. It’s a selling process:

  1. Lead qualification
  2. Presentation
  3. Objection management
  4. Close
  5. Buyer’s remorse (sometimes!)

The new buyer-focused decision model (forced upon us by the Internet) looks like this:

  1. Cognitive thinking
  2. Information gathering
  3. Divergent thinking
  4. Convergent thinking
  5. Evaluation

For years now we’ve been hearing “it’s not about how we are selling, it’s about how customers go about buying.”

Well duh! Realizing this means nothing. Acting is everything. Building practical B-to-B social marketing strategies that create leads and sales is a must. That’s what this post is all about.

From Messenger to Trusted Advisor
A buying decision model is different than a selling process. Herein lies the emergence of an entirely new industry that hot new companies ranging from point-of-sale messaging firms like Corporate Visions to software-based lead generation companies like HubSpot are set to exploit.

So what’s in it for you and your brand?

In his book, “Putting the Win Back in Your Sales,” Samurai Business Group’s, Dan Kreutzer reveals this decision-making model and quickly elaborates on putting it to use.

“This model provides a framework for how buyers make decisions and, ultimately, how sales people can build trust by helping buyers make effective buying decisions,” says Kreutzer, a 25-year veteran of building winning sales organizations on an international scale.

Think about that for a minute. As social marketers, what if our job is actually less about messages and email “blasts” and more about guidance and education? In this context the buyer decision-making model comes into clear focus.

Social marketing suddenly makes more sense.

What If?
What if you could bring marketing and sales together by helping customers:

  • Engage in critical thinking and situational analysis—placing less strategic emphasis on qualifying leads and coming up with killer content marketing messaging?
  • Move toward or away from your services—gaining confidence in decisions they’re making thanks the trusted, needed advice we provide.
  • Determine ‘best fit’ by publishing powerful (“transparent”) and overtly honest truths—helping customers evaluate all options available to them through useful decision-making tools and education.

What if “the doing of” all these things resulted in creative, effective brand messaging, better quality leads and shorter sales cycles? Well they already are for some organizations.

In weeks ahead I’ll be profiling companies and diving deeper into the subject of using this B-to-B buyer-side model to make social media sell for you.

What do you think?