As many businesses start to look at what 2021 has in store for growth, marketing is typically one of the key drivers to fostering that growth. Not only this, the push for awareness, relevant website traffic, lead generation, and sales are all things that live under the marketing wheelhouse.
Rather than looking at a set of trends to watch out for 2021, I want to position this blog post around the following key items:
- Why businesses need to allocate more money and resources to marketing
- How to get a head start with planning your 2021 marketing initiatives
- What specific marketing tactics will actually work, especially in the B2B space
- Why growth hacking shouldn’t be overlooked
Before we dive in, let’s first look at stats that help back up why businesses need to allocate more money and resources to marketing:
- B2B organizations only allocate 5% of their budget to marketing, despite the consistent stream of quality leads and results. In order to hold marketing accountable for revenue contribution, executives really need to start thinking about not only allocating more funds to marketing but doing so — especially if the ROI is there.
- The average MQL to SQL conversion rate is 13%. In my opinion, this number needs to be much higher and what this tells me is that the misalignment between sales and marketing can certainly be costly to any B2B organization. So nailing down processes is going to be a huge win for closing more deals.
- 46% of B2B companies plan on increasing their content marketing spend within the next 12 months.
- 7 in 10 B2B buyers watch videos throughout their sales journey.
- 89% of B2B researchers gather information about potential purchases through the Internet.
- Before interacting with a website, the average B2B buyer conducts 12 different online searches.
Getting a Headstart With Your 2021 Marketing Initiatives
As the saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” No different than if you were planning to train for a marathon, planning your marketing initiatives needs major TLC in order to accurately forecast what success will look like in the new year and how you’ll make it happen.
One thing I love most about the November and December timeframe is that a lot of people tend to take time off for the holidays. This presents a major opportunity for me and the clients I work with. Simply put, the quietness brings on focus and the ability to really get shit done.
Taking 8 weeks to solidify your strategic and tactical plan for the new year is going to give you a big advantage. Rather than waiting until the holiday season is over and coming back to a tidal wave of a million things being the “top priority,” you can set yourself up to get ahead of it all by simply planning beforehand.
Here are key steps to getting this done:
- Present a clear case that is data-backed for your marketing budget in Q3.
- Know exactly which tactics are already moving the needle for you and where you can push the throttle even more.
- Build your marketing strategy off of a template that can easily be edited and refined until approval is made among the entire leadership team.
- Create your marketing campaign and editorial calendar up through Q2 of 2021 so you’re clear on which executions need to take place, along with their associated due dates.
- Stop trying to do everything in-house because you’ll find it difficult to find fluid experts in all of the digital marketing executions needed. Yeah, I’m sure this sounds biased given that I run a successful B2B marketing agency, but you should outsource certain executions because should you choose the right agency to partner with, you will see a huge win with time, quality, cost, and ultimately results.
B2B Marketing Tactics That Work
One of the biggest misconceptions about the B2B space is that every piece of creative, communication, and content has to be professional. You can actually have fun with all of this and make bolder decisions if you realize that people buy from people, not companies.
That’s right, humans are making decisions as to whether or not your product or service is right for their companies. This means that being authentic, showing personality without being too campy or jovial, and direct on the problem you solve is going to help tremendously.
Let’s take a look at the top five B2B marketing tactics that work:
1. Email Marketing
Don’t overlook the power of email marketing, especially because 59% of B2B marketers say it is one of the most effective revenue channels. I typically recommend the approach of being intentional over just busy with making sure newsletters are sent out on time and that follow-ups are as well.
Being intentional with how you handle your email efforts is all about how you execute the strategy and how it will help yield positive business results. This means every piece of communication that goes out is given the thoughtfulness of what the potential customer needs and is looking for. In fact, according to Toast, emails with a single call to action increase clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.
That being said, consider the following that I highlighted in a previous blog post:
- Segmentation by persona. Let’s say you are selling a B2B SaaS product that offers a freemium model, trial, and paid. The way you segment content to each of the personas within these buckets, as well as their lifecycle stage, is going to help you better understand what’s going to make them become a paid customer and what you can do to also help retain them.
- Have a relevant and clear CTA. Personalized calls to action convert 202% better than default calls to action. Don’t use a standard CTA across all emails. Instead, make it relatable and relevant to each persona, by lifecycle stage, and by behavior.
- Diversify your content. Figuring out the path to becoming a paid customer is important and during that process, your content should be valuable and help them along the way.
2. Digital Advertising
In order to make sure your digital advertising efforts are driving qualified leads in the door for sales, you have to make sure that you nail down messaging, creatives that resonate and drive engagement, and you’re testing the different channels you know your target customers are active on.
The success of your digital ads will come from your ability to also break out your goals into bite-size chunks — whether it be by month or quarter, you have a way to tracking progress. Doing so will help you see what’s actually working, what isn’t, and where you will need to improve.
One flaw that businesses make is thinking that they have to advertise on every media channel or that they aren’t monitoring the performance of their ads daily. This can be a costly mistake overtime.
So here are some things you should do when running digital ads:
Leverage Existing Email Lists
One of the greatest things about digital ad targeting today is that you are able to more easily find new prospects by uploading existing email lists to some of these social media platforms. Facebook is the best example here. According to its step-by-step guide, you can upload a customer list in a CSV or TXT file to the platform. From there, you can target ads to that custom audience. Perhaps the more intriguing option, however, is to use that new custom audience as a basis for a lookalike audience, which lets you find new people who share similar behaviors and interests with your current customers.
Other social media platforms (like Twitter) offer a similar opportunity. If you have a robust email or customer list, don’t hesitate to take advantage of lookalike audience opportunities. They can help you generate a consistent flow of warm leads.
Take Advantage of Conversion Tracking Pixels
This is a simple, yet absolutely critical tool that can inform your future social media ad campaigns. Pixels are essentially small bits of code that you can add to your website and online campaigns. They present you with detailed information about your users’ online behaviors, which you can then incorporate in your future campaigns.
Whether you use a WordPress site or something else, make sure that you are adding pixels to your online properties. They can collect a wealth of valuable data that can ultimately increase the effectiveness (and return) of your digital ad campaigns.
Make Sure to Exclude Irrelevant Audience Members
Much of the discussion in online ad targeting focuses on finding that particular group of warm leads that will substantially increase your conversion rates and sales. That said, equally as important is avoiding audiences that are not going to move the needle for your digital marketing goals.
Similar to my thoughts with email — being intentional is more important than just publishing new content — you can know what will trigger your potential customers to engage with your content assets. Developing an editorial calendar around their needs and pain points is going to yield better results than just creating fresh content for SEO or because it’s what you intuitively think will work.
There are plenty of tools out there ( SEMRush, Moz, Google Keyword, etc.) that you can use to help fill in the gap between your intuition and the data at hand. Use these tools to help you figure out topics that you should be writing about and how each content piece aligns with the lifecycle stages of your potential customers.
That said, here are some ideas you can look at:
- Chatbots — these are a no-brainer IMO. By 2021, $4.5 billion will be invested in chatbot technology. Once someone lands on your website, you give them a way to interact directly with you. Check out Drift to figure out how you can use this for yourself.
- Interactive quizzes — 93% of marketers say that interactive content is a great way to educate buyers, especially when potential buyers will consume content prior and be 70% of the way down the funnel before reaching out to a sales rep.
- Blog posts — nothing new here. Just as I mentioned above, make sure you leverage tools to help you figure out what potential customers are searching for online and how you can position your blog topics to align with their searches. More specifically, companies that have active — as well as relevant — blogs generate 67% more leads than those who don’t.
- Guides and eBooks — these are all about value and going into detail about the problems you solve, as well as positioning your value proposition clearly. Consider adding in stats and actionable insights. A/B test where you can, especially with CTAs.
- Webinars — 73% of B2B marketers say a webinar is the best way to generate high-quality leads. Similar to the content you provide in detailed guides and eBooks, webinars are a great and interactive way to engage with prospective customers on the spot. Plus, you have the ability to be more visual and this will help drive engagement.
4. Make LinkedIn Your Best Friend
When most think of social media, they think about just making LinkedIn connections or direct messaging a prospective customer. Truthfully, these tactics do still work sometimes, but not as easily as they used to. The space itself has become so busy as many are getting inundated with pitches daily. In order to stand out, you have to consider the following methods:
- Join relevant LinkedIn Groups and interact with others in your industry and even those you would target as customers. Be authentic here. It’s not about just sharing your own content.
- Repurpose content via LinkedIn Articles, personal updates, and DMs.
- Get creative and run ads promoting your expertise through your company page, problems you push to solve, and why you’re the best to work with.
- Reshare content assets from your website and tag relevant companies and individuals.
- Be consistent. It can be easy to get discouraged because you may not be seeing the immediate results or engagement you want but know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Consistency is the only clear way you know you’ll see results from the efforts you put in.
Outside of LinkedIn, you can leverage some of these practices with other platforms that you know your target customers are active on, such as Facebook and Twitter.
5. Growth Hack Your Way to the Top
Testing as much as you possibly can is what makes digital marketing remarkably effective. One of the biggest challenges clients deal with when they come to me for marketing help is that many of their campaigns and initiatives are sitting idle. In other words, not much is being tested to see what really moves the needle.
My recommendation here is to make sure that the following happens:
- Identify your KPIs and how they align with overall business objectives
- Designate a clear way to track and measure your KPIs
- Create a testing schedule that is reported on weekly and monthly
- Have a place where you can easily review data sets and even present them on the fly
What makes growth hacking work is the fact that you’re able to isolate variables while figuring out what really makes potential customers tick when they engage with a piece of content, your landing page forms, emails, etc. You’ll discover key messages that work and be able to proliferate that across your entire organization.
Wrapping It Up
It can be easy to get caught up with the newest and coolest trends in marketing while losing sight of what will work. Marketing in general is straightforward, especially when it comes to revenue generation. Of course, it’s great to look hip and cool if that’s the persona you want to give off, but it’s even more important to ensure business objectives are met.
Strike a balance between trying new things while staying true to what actually progresses the company ahead of its competitors and with gaining marketshare. The marketing tactics I listed aren’t the only way to generate engagement, site traffic, leads, and sales, but they are surefire ways to get you going while also scaling enormously beyond the initial goals in place.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. I only recommend products and services that I use and stand behind, and if you decide to try them, I will earn a commission at no cost to you. Doing so helps me run this blog and provide free content for you, my readers.