I recently did a presentation to a group of managers called Marketing: The New Normal, in which I discussed what marketing action must be taken in the “new normal.” Here’s what I believe B2B marketers need to do to attract qualified buyers and retain existing customers.
1. Understand the paradigm shift from a seller’s world to a buyer’s world. Because of the disruptive technology of the Internet, the power has moved from the seller to the buyer. Buyers have access to more information, to more sellers or vendors to compare, to more solutions for the problems and issues that they have. They don’t want to be sold to, but when they have a need they consult their friends, peers and industry experts to find the right solutions. This means as marketers, we have to stop selling , start listening and provide content that helps our target audiences.
2. Do the research and analysis required to know yourself, your customers, and your markets and opportunities. There are three tools I like to use for this: SWOT Analysis with Action Items; Industry Competitive Positioning Analysis; and Customer Surveys.
SWOT Analysis with Action: I know that SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analyses are out of favor with some business advisors, but I like them because they are easy for business owners to understand and act upon (they are not necessarily easy to do, especially if you own the business). You can view the SWOT with Actions on one page. The challenge with a SWOT analysis is being honest and open – transparent – about what is good and bad about your business. To get an honest perspective, involve some stakeholders in your company who may not have as much invested as your top management (vendors, consultants, distributors) . (Read more about SWOT Analyses in my recent post, 1-Page SWOT Analysis with Action Items.)
Industry Competitive Positioning Analysis: Use a matrix to chart your competitors based on key industry drivers. A common way to look at competitors is Price vs. Performance. Use the chart to look for changes in the industry as well as opportunities or uncontested marketspace (“Blue Oceans“). (See the example in my previous blog post, Why B2B Marketers Need Blue Ocean Strategy)
Survey Your Customers: Never before has surveying been more easy. Find out what your customers need by sending online or mailed surveys at regular intervals or immediately after the customer buys a product or receives a service. Visit your customer’s site and spend hours if not days observing their business. Interview customers in detail to uncover unspoken needs and wants.
3. Analyze Customer Touch Points: This is an easy but time-consuming process. Write down every point where you have contact with customers. Analyze each point and assess if customers have a positive experience or have problems. I.D. what you can do to resolve or improve each point of customer contact. Then, take action and make your customers’ experience not just better but excellent.
4. Create Marketing Personas: Marketing personas are tools that take demographic and psychographic details about your customers to the next level. A marketing persona tells a story about each customer type you serve. Each customer type (or segment) gets an actual name and persona that brings them to life. The value that I’ve seen with these stories is that they put business owners in their customer’s shoes and help them understand how they think and feel. Marketing personas bring customers to life so that businesses can better communicate with and serve them. (Read more in my previous post, Why B2B Marketing Buyer Personas Rule.)
5. Integrate Social Media into Your Marketing Plan. Social media is not a panacea, but it is essential to B2B marketing success. Social media sites have some of the highest adoption rates ever – 95% of companies now recruit on LinkedIn, use of Facebook has more than tripled and videos on YouTube have gone from one to two billion in the last year. You need to establish a presence where your customers engage and communicate. Another reason to establish a social media presence is that the search engines weigh social media activity heavily in serving up search results for keywords and phrases. A strategic social media presence is key to getting found online.
6. Optimize credible and valuable content – everywhere. Understand what your target market needs and wants online and then make sure you add content with keywords and phrases so that it’ll get found. It was all about quality and volume content in 2010, and now it’s even more so in 2011. (See my previous post, Why Marketing Content is Key to Getting Found Online.)
7. Track, measure and analyze results. Online marketing offers great marketing analytics, allowing B2B marketers to better measure the results of their marketing investment. Measure baselines for customer interaction, customer satisfaction and other performance indicators and track your progress. Now more than ever it’s critical to measure marketing results and reduce unnecessary expenditures for tactics that don’t produce positive results.