Source: 5 Actionable Trends to Make Your B2B Marketing More Impactful in 2017 | Michael Brito | Pulse | LinkedIn

No one can doubt that purchase behavior has changed over the last few years. Most searches for a technology provider start online. It’s a fact. B2B decision makers get as far as two-thirds through the buyer’s journey before they reach out to a vendor, if the vendor meets the entry-level technical requirements.

But reaching B2B decision makers is difficult. They are sophisticated, well-educated, and extremely skeptical about marketing. They rarely pick up calls from sales, they don’t read press releases or company web site, and they avoid any type of human connection with a business until they decide it’s time. We can’t blame them because they are the most marketed to segment online today. Every technology company with a marketing budget and a brand message is trying to reach this same audience.

As you think about tackling this challenge in 2017, here are a few things to consider to make your B2B marketing more impactful:

1.   Examine your B2B audience

Whether you are trying to reach a CIO or an enterprise architect, you cannot just launch a campaign on the fly and expect to make any business impact. You must gather as much intelligence about them as possible. Audience intelligence is critical because it takes out the guess work. Technology applications like People Pattern and NetBase can give you the ability to build panels that provide insights into your specific audiences across multiple platforms and data sources.

Creating an audience panel isn’t too difficult but it’s the most important step. If you get this step wrong, your data will be flawed. The key is to use a very specific set of criteria when building the panel:

  • Self-identified IT decision makers (CIO, CTO, Enterprise Architect, Data Scientists or Engineer).
  • People who follow technology companies or industry media sites like CIO.com.
  • People who share IT-related content or use certain trigger words when having discussions online (e.g. app development, programmable web, protocols, data science, machine learning, Hadoop, etc.)

Once the panel is created and it’s done the right way, there will be several actionable insights that can help inform your marketing program:

  • Which media publications is the audience sharing – CIO.com, Forbes, Dark Reading
  • What kind of language and jargon is the audience using when talking about technology
  • What keywords and phrases do they use and in what context?
  • What hashtags do they use the most—and why?
  • What are their interests and characteristics that make this specific audience unique from everyone else?

This intelligence will help you tell your technology story better than your competitors and break through the clutter at the same time.

2.   Shifting from planned content to opportunistic media

The days of managing an editorial calendar are over. The IT community moves just as fast as marketing, so it is vital to keep your hand on the pulse of what’s happening right now, in real-time. Content planned for next week will not be relevant to your audience any longer and trying to shove it in their face will prove to be unsuccessful.

Uncovering real-time technology pain points and trending discussions within the audience panel is critical to this strategy. Doing so will give you the opportunity to create content and share a point of view about a discussion that is happening in the moment. The concept of opportunistic media has been around for a few years now. Some call it real-time or agile marketing. Whatever you decide to call it, it is a methodology that’s proving to be more valuable than ever because it will fuel your content with relevancy.

3.   Spend more on paid

Organic reach in the social networks is gone, and we should accept that. To put this in more context, we did a small test late last year to determine the impact of paid social on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

For starters, we posted for one week organically and then followed up a few weeks later with almost identical content and small paid budget ($100 per post on Facebook, $100 total for Twitter and $100 per post for LinkedIn). The total investment was $1,100. Here were the results:

The data here suggests that it’s critical to have paid media budget secured in 2017. This should be viewed as an opportunity instead of a challenge. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all have very robust targeting capabilities so you will know exactly who you are targeting with your content, and you can be more efficient with your paid media investments at the same time.

4.   Leverage employees as media

B2B decision makers trust other B2B decision makers. Data for the last several years from reputable sources have proven this to be true time and time again. Therefore, it’s critical to find internal influencers within your company, train them to be content creators and unleash them into the market.

Also known as employee advocacy, this method will allow you to flood the market with relevant, value-add content and influence B2B decision makers down the purchase funnel. Technology applications like Dynamic Signal can help you operationalize and scale employee programs across regions, business units and language. We partnered with them last year and launched Employee Activate, which is our proprietary methodology for launching, managing and scaling employee advocacy programs.

5.   Think integrated: Look beyond the content marketing buzzword

Unfortunately, we get so caught up with content marketing as a trend that we forget how critical all marketing is in reaching your audience.

Everything you do from a marketing perspective should be grounded in analytics – web site copy, press releases, blog posts, social content, media relations, etc. This approach will ensure you are visible in organic search with industry and branded terms. It will also help you determine which keywords to bid on for paid search & paid social based on the language your audience is using in the market place. It will also help you be more strategic when reaching out to the media (journalists and influencers) and where you decide to seek byline placement.

Following these 5 trends will ensure that you surround sound your audience with applicable content and help them make educated purchase decisions. This should be your marketing plan for 2017.

Michael Brito is the Head of US Digital Marketing for LEWIS Global Communications. He’s is a published author, TEDx speaker, and an Adjunct Professor at San Jose State University. His latest book, “Participation Marketing: Unleashing Employees to Participate and be Brand Storytellers” is set to release in 2017.

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