Marketing a small or medium size B2B operation has always been a tricky balancing act. You're forced to make the most out of a limited marketing budget, often without the help of a full-time marketing team. In the past, small and medium business owners could only look with envy at the marketing power of large corporations. The good news? We're not in the past.
The increasingly digital nature of the world is leveling the playing field in marketing. Small and medium business owners now have access to tools that were either financially prohibitive or non-existent in the “traditional media” era. Your marketing budget can stretch further than it ever has before, if you know how to use it.
Marketing automation is one valuable option that's worth your attention. There's a misconception that automating some marketing process means automating all of them. In truth, automation is one part of a successful marketing plan, and it's a great way to guide prospects through the sales cycle. It generates qualified leads, without you or your employees spending all day cold-calling or canvasing the internet.
Small business marketing automation offers tremendous potential, but the results depend on how you choose to use it. Follow these three killer B2B strategy tips to get the most out of your automated marketing services.
Automation Is a Tool, Not the Whole Toolbox
Think of automation as a supplement to your other marketing efforts, not a replacement. It's a big, important supplement, though. Lead generation is such an important part of sales that sometimes you forget how much time it eats up. Automation streamlines that process so that you can spend more time converting leads, and less time trying to find them. It also helps keep existing customers on the line, allowing you to send targeted, automated content based on their demonstrated interests.
Make sure your employees understand the full scope of any marketing automation software or services that your company uses. That requires some front-end research by you or your marketing leader, but the payoff is worth the time spent.
No two automation services are exactly the same, so be sure to track down resources related specifically to the platform you're using, in addition to conducting general research.
Once an employee understands automation, they'll be able to alter their daily routine to take advantage of the time-saving and relationship-building benefits automation has to offer.
Automation isn't about sending content to B2B customers and prospects just for the sake of checking off a box on your marketing to-do list. For the process to work effectively, the content you offer needs to be of high quality. That will mean different things to different businesses, but usually it requires sharing your expertise in some way. When you're planning content, consider multimedia options in addition to text.
The first step is understanding what your prospects want. What are their pain points? What brought them to your web presence in the first place? What are they reading and sharing through social media? The answers to these questions provide a firm starting point for your automated content marketing strategy.
Sending the right content to the right person at the right time is the foundation of B2B marketing automation. That means turning prospects into customers by catching them at the right point in the sales cycle. It also makes your content more likely to be shared, ultimately generating referrals.
Focus on the Individual
What sets inbound marketing automation apart from earlier digital marketing tools is its focus on unique buyers, or sets of buyers. Instead of sending the same email blast or social update to everyone on your list, automation allows you to target different prospects with different content. This is especially important in B2B marketing, where getting your content in front of the right member of an organization often makes all the difference.
Creating totally unique content for each target would ultimately defeat the streamlining purpose of automation. Instead, think about individuals based on their position in the target company. Who does the solution you're offering appeal to? Content geared toward high-level executives will naturally differ from content destined for an HR or marketing department.
Buyer personas are a great resource for creating individualized content, even when you don't know many details about a specific individual. A buyer persona helps you and your marketing team understand the pain points and key characteristics of your most important targets, so you can plan accordingly.
In the end, automation is a way to enhance the marketing practices with which you've already had success, not replace them. Converting sales still takes legwork, but automation puts you ahead of the game. By the time a prospect is ready to engage directly, your marketing will have cleared the path for a positive result.