Do you remember the first time you came across an online ad for a company?
AT&T was the first to have a display banner ad featured on HotWired in 1994. The display ad was small, designed keeping 13-inch black-and-white screens in mind. However, it was considered “state of the art at the time.” AT&T, a juggernaut for its industry back then, spent $30,000 to feature the display ad on HotWired for three months.
Trying to advertise online was a tedious process for most company marketers during the 1990s. They would have to research websites relevant to their industries to determine which they thought their audience would frequent and then purchase advertising space on each site.
Around the same time, those at AT&T also sent brochures out to their audience members and gave people the option to request additional information via fax. The fax machine, used to disseminate information to those who requested it, was a tool also used to track metrics. Combine that with cold calls, referrals, and face-to-face communication at trade shows as well as other events, and that was targeted marketing at the time.
What’s changing in marketing?
As the B2B market space continues to shift, it’s important company leaders understand what’s changing and how they can leverage it to their advantages.
According to Google, nearly half of business researchers are millennials, also known as digital natives. A solid marketing strategy for any company should include content targeted to those in this generation. It’s important marketers recognize their knowledge and use of digital media because it influences the types of content and marketing efforts that resonates with them.
A few years ago, it was acceptable to create marketing strategies that catered to C-suite or other senior-level executives. Now, research is showing that non-C-suiters have the most influence when it comes to purchasing decisions. If marketers are only targeting high-level associates, they’re overlooking other important decision-makers when it comes to selling their products or services.
Keep in mind more than half of the researchers involved in B2B buying processes already have an idea of what they are looking for before they interact with a specific website or provider. Many do not even reach out to potential providers “until 57% of the purchase process is complete.” This means researchers are using branded and category searches to find products or services — not companies.
Buyers use curated content, often disseminated through social media platforms and other sources, to make informed purchases. Marketers trying to reach buyers should tailor content — videos, white papers, blogs, case studies, web copy, emails, social media posts — to their target audiences. Digital marketers whose content supports companies’ overall marketing strategies should coordinate their offerings across all digital outlets, including websites, organic and paid searches, social media platforms, and other online communities. And while these inbound marketing tactics are can be highly effective — they aren’t enough to ensure a company stands out.
To go the extra mile, company leaders need to understand relationship building is another form of important inbound marketing. It’s not enough to sell great products or services; buyers today often want to buy based on the face — or faces — behind the brand as well. And the best way to build relationships in this digital era is through social selling. It allows company personnel to not only help expand reach through sharing and engaging with company messaging but to also build rapport through more personalized interactions.
Marketing today is more targeted than ever. For those hoping to gain an edge in the B2B space, it’s important to understand the significance of informative, valuable content and pair it with relationship building.