If your firm has not yet embraced digital marketing, I’m willing to bet a large amount of money that there is a gnawing feeling in your gut telling you you’re late to online marketing and you’re probably losing a significant amount of business to companies that have already made the switch.
If so, you’re not alone. There is any number of business owners and managers out there who are complacent when it comes to online marketing. But inertia’s a tough thing to overcome. Even so, it has to be hard watching your competitors eat your lunch and grab more market share as demand for your goods or services continues to slow.
Here’s the hard, cold truth: studies by Forrester Research reveal that online searches are executives’ first course-of-action (just like any consumer) and 74 percent of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Any business without an online presence at this point is well on the way to irrelevance.
If you or someone on your management team still needs some convincing, here are several things to consider:
A study by international public affairs consultant Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications shows that over 60 percent of consumers feel better about and are more likely to buy from a company that delivers online custom content.
Worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company’s research found that B2B companies optimizing their online presence generate 8 percent more shareholder returns and a revenue compound annual growth rate (CAGR) that is FIVE TIMES greater than firms lacking digital strategies.
Coca-Cola no longer hires traditional advertising agencies, instead relying on a collaborative approach using online content marketing (more on that in a minute) and “storytelling” instead of old-school mass media ad campaigns.
So what’s the best way to approach digital marketing and incorporating online into your overall marketing strategy? Here are three best practices that can help you jumpstart your digital marketing efforts:
1. Make a strategic commitment to online
It’s not enough to simply make your website mobile-friendly or add a sales-based call-to-action to it. Management must be dialed into the fundamental idea that digital marketing is the future for any firm looking to grow sales and revenue – especially your own. If you have a large enough enterprise, consider naming a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) tasked with driving a digital initiative across all sales and marketing programs. Content is the key to effective, ongoing digital marketing, providing you with the informative tools you need to persuade prospects to engage with you at every stage of the sales and marketing funnel. Helpful content is what creates value for your firm in the eyes of prospects, turning them from leads into sales and finally into loyal customers.
2. Create a seamless marketing experience across all sales channels
B2B buyers who interact with multiple channels – say, responding to an email campaign, talking with a sales rep, visiting your website – generally spend more than buyers using a single channel. Seamless cross-channel integration is key to creating a positive buyer experience. Develop an integrated selling model that provides a familiar, common interface, regardless of whatever channel the buyer is in. Once your new digital strategies are in place and shared by marketing and sales teams across all platforms, prospects will see a uniform engagement model both online and offline, making purchasing easier and more enjoyable.
3. Make the most of Big Data and Analytics
Top-performing B2B companies use advanced analytics to dig deep into the Big Data produced by email campaigns, website contact forms, call-to-action results, content requests, and online surveys to track and address market trends, customer and prospect preferences, and more. Data-enabled digital marketing practices can help create more meaningful, highly-targeted campaigns that yield better results. Digital marketing methods are measurable at every level of the marketing and sales funnel, giving you the information you need to assess the performance of every marketing action.
Approach digital transformation the way you would approach new product development
Businesses should approach their online activities in the same way they approach new product development — by understanding the competitive environment and addressing prospect needs. An online content strategy is a good place to start.
All businesses have competition. And marketing online expands that competition globally. One example is the disaggregation of the building renovation market — national renovation brands now market across multiple regions but localize installation. What was once a locally competitive environment is now regional or even global. This means that every business must improve their online marketing in order to compete in their own market.
This regionalization and globalization cannot be ignored. Competition is now everywhere. Organizations of all sizes must take action to revamp their marketing and go digital to effectively market their business online while differentiating their brands from their local and global peers. Online marketing is no longer a question of “should we?” It’s now a question of “when will we?” And the sooner, the better.
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