As companies plan their 2018 marketing strategy, they face the same key issue that loomed last year: there is no magic bullet in marketing.
Every business has its own unique set of challenges, its own unique set of objectives and its own unique selling propositions. For all companies, especially ones that are B2B and reliant on marketing to support sales, there is a finite number amount of channels that can be used to reach prospective customers. That number shrinks quickly as they face the challenge of having a budget. While there is no one marketing plan that applies to every company and scenario, for B2B companies there are certain marketing assets and channels that serve as a foundation upon which every marketing plan is built.
We recently developed our own research, in partnership with market research firm Researchscape, to understand which marketing channels actually influence decision-makers at large and mid-sized businesses as they consider a vendor for their company. As a result of the study, we’ve identified three core channels that are essential for any B2B marketing strategy and should serve as the foundation within any campaign.
There were few universal truths within the research, but the most important one is that your website can make or break the decision to be chosen as a vendor. Nearly all executives (85 percent) said that a company’s website influences their decision to consider a vendor.
Redesigning a website is a herculean task, which is why it’s often overlooked or shied away from. But if, within the first 30 seconds of visiting your website, it does not provide useful information to your prospects or prompt an action to transact, then a redesign should be your top priority in 2018.
You might have just conducted a redesign or love the snazzy bells and whistles on your website. You may be thinking, "We’ve got a brand spanking new website. I’m skipping to the next section." STOP. The reality is that while your website may be aesthetically pleasing, it’s quite likely that it is not structured towards your prospects.
This is vital. Without a website that is built towards an actionable transaction with prospects, the rest of your marketing plan will fall apart. Your website is the cornerstone of your owned media strategy, and in today’s marketing landscape in a fragmented world, owned is paramount.
Did I mention that owned is paramount? Overall, owned media should be prioritized over earned and paid campaigns. An essential part of your owned marketing mix, as would be expected, is email. In fact, 75 percent of executives say that email influences their decision to engage a vendor. While that number might not be shocking, 41 percent say that they receive at least 10 emails a week from vendors. We all know how easy it is to unsubscribe from an email list, but it is important to remember that prospects want to receive emails from vendors.
The key is proving that your emails provide useful content. Not just because of the unsubscribe button, but because email is the key to making your other content successful. You can only get the true value out of certain marketing channels like webinars and public relations (i.e. media placements) if the fundamentals of your email campaign are perfect.
Our research has shown that decision-makers rank industry events, conferences and trade shows high on the list of marketing channels that influence purchasing decisions. Only 62 percent said they attend more than four events a years, but of those who did attend events, 97 percent said they were influenced by an event in a recent purchasing decision. Though events happen infrequently, decision-makers are thinking about the information and experiences that receive at events during their daily workday. That means there are marketing opportunities leading up to and following these events.
What’s the catch? Events, similarly to analysts, vary widely in the influence they exert. Therefore, it’s important that you’re selective with the events that you attend and that you have clear strategies for pre-event marketing, in-event marketing, and post-event marketing. And be conservative about about your event presence. If a single attendee can accomplish what an expensive booth would, then register a single employee for the event, and target attending prospects with a scalpel.
One last thing to consider: budget
A million bucks may seem like a lot, but it’s not when it’s your entire marketing budget. It’s important to be both discerning and strategic with your approach. Often, that means shoring up your marketing fundamentals rather than investing boatloads in impressive, hi-tech marketing tactics. That’s because a lot of marketers suffer from shiny object syndrome. It’s better to be lean and structurally sound than boast an impressive array of tactics. If you make sure these three channels have a solid base, you’ll be better off than most of your competitors.
Elliot Schimel is the CEO of Mission Control Marketing.