Back-to-Basics for Business-to-Business Marketing
It takes more than a sturdy name and solid reputation to generate business. And while business-to-business (B2B) marketing is a sure-fire strategy, it can also be hard to break through the noise.
No doubt, getting the attention of potential customers can be tricky, especially in the days of social distancing, contact-free communications, and industry-wide challenges. This is as true for the wood manufacturing community as it is for any other.
The upside is there are ample B2B channels and online resources that can help get your name to the top.
Content marketing (aka inbound marketing or sponsored content) means creating engaging and informative content that positions your company as a specialist in its field. For wood manufacturers, this could be blogs discussing the various benefits of using wood over other materials for kitchen cabinetry, articles explaining manufacturing techniques, or videos that narrow in on specific industry issues.
“In content marketing, the content is the ad,” says Brian Rotsztein, president of the Canadian Internet Marketing Association. “Great reviews, informative videos, positive interactions on social media platforms, and other types of content all come together to promote brand awareness and make your company look trustworthy.”
“People want to buy from genuine sources,” he adds.
When it comes to B2B marketing, don’t discount the classics. Email marketing has been an effective tool for businesses of all stripes for several decades. Granted, this technique has been abused by marketers over the years, but it can still have impact with the right approach.
“The key is getting your name and story in front of these retailers, designers, and anyone who actually makes the actual product orders,” says Trevor Stewart, founder and CEO of Let’s Get Optimized. “Your message could be something as simple as ‘Hey, we’re a small or medium company that’s making a smash in the industry’ or “Here are a few clients that have moved over to our new product line,’ followed by product images that sell themselves.”
The idea, he says, is to break through the inbox clutter by telling your story and what makes you different.
Adds Rotsztein, “Email as an ongoing tactic tends to be useful because you can tailor it to new and old customers and potential buyers. Just make sure email newsletters add value and don’t waste people’s time.”
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram … The list of social media platforms is long, and each offers a unique opportunity to connect directly with potential customers. First, you need to give followers a reason to stop scrolling and see what you have to say.
“Don’t treat people on social media platforms as individuals who are there to be marketed to. Social media is about communication, not marketing, so treat them like friends you’re trying to help, not as dollar signs,” says Rotsztein.
YouTube and Pinterest are also part of the ‘social media’ mix. And while you may think buyers in the woodworking space aren’t on these platforms, think again.
“YouTube and Pinterest may not be where your customers are shopping for new wood manufacturers, but the people behind those decisions still like to watch videos on and get ideas from those platforms,” says Brent Clifford, manager partner with OKD Marketing.
Programmatic advertising is the technique of using data analytics to “track” where your potential customers are looking online and placing your messaging/ads in those exact locations.
“We have access to so much data right now, and that means access to a wealth of customer insights,” says Harikrishna Govindarajan, programmatic campaign manager with MediaEdge. “When you can use that data to find where your prospects are online, what content they’re consuming, and how often they’re consuming it, that’s when you can create targeted campaigns that put your company in direct view of the people who are most likely to react.”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means spending time and effort to ensure your company is among the first things people see when searching online for related products and services. But while there’s value in being seen, try not to outshine your potential buyers.
“If you’re trying to sell to the same sellers you’re outranking, they may feel like you’re trying to dominate their space, and that may not go down well,” notes Stewart. “SEO optimization is valuable, but like everything else, you need a strategy.”
Making it stick
B2B marketing can move the needle for any business. The key is being consistent, having a strategy, and knowing your audience.
“You need to clearly define your target audience so you aren’t wasting any of your budget,” says Clifford. “Figure out who they are, where they are, what they like, and what they do online, and then you can build a targeted and efficient marketing strategy to reach them.”
Rotszein adds that the B2B journey can take many paths, but the trick is to look at the big picture. “Email, social media, and content marketing are all tactical options that work together, but only use what makes sense for your specific strategy.”