The first quarter of 2014 has demonstrated strong investment in B2B marketing. In fact, organizations involved in the B2B industry saw revenue rise to nearly $7.1 billion in the first few months of the year, reflecting a 4.5 percent increase over the same period of time in 2013 (1). While event marketing continues to represent the largest segment of B2B marketing, digital- most commonly recognized as Web-based media – witnessed roughly a 20 percent jump in revenue during the first quarter. Meanwhile, print advertising continues to see a steady decline in return on investment.
The signal being sent to many business-focused companies is that online marketing is growing in importance, not only in regard to creating a strong cash flow but also in reaching out to more customers. Digital technologies have invariably changed the way people consume information and challenged the role of marketers in lead generation. In fact, 8 percent of marketers have devoted fewer resources to traditional marketing channels, such as direct mail (2). Instead, businesses are putting more support behind Web-based lead generation tactics, which commonly fall under the umbrella of content marketing.
Content a key part of lead generation
One strategy that many B2B marketers have traditionally used to reach out to potential buyers is the use of industry reports, which continue to be important for many decision-makers to feel that they can trust a specific company. However, white papers have started playing a more important role in lead generation. Between 2012 and 2013, 70 percent of B2B customers indicated they rely more on content to make informed choices (3). At the top of the list are white papers, with 83 percent of buyers reporting they used this resource to make purchasing decisions over the past 12 months.
Like physical reports, white papers are thoroughly researched content marketing tools that give customers a clear understanding of either a particular product or industry, highlighting the strengths of the publishing company. The advantage for businesses arises in the fact that they're published online, which makes them more accessible and convenient for leads to read. At the same time, organizations can easily use lead generation forms to gather contact and other detailed information about buyers before they download the document.
Coming in second behind white papers are webinars. B2B buyers conducting research about a potential partner or service provider can take advantage of these resources that can, in some respects, replace the need to attend an event if it's held in a location or at a time that's inconvenient for a customer to attend. Interested individuals can get a detailed tutorial or demonstration of a product while the company explains features that may be attractive to a buyer. It's a smart idea to use a lead generation form to gather important information about webinar attendees so you can follow up after the presentation finishes.
Ensure strong online experiences
One of the most important insights about B2B buyers is that they most often begin the researching phase of their purchases through a Web search. Accordingly, search engine optimization is critical component of any content marketing strategy aimed at generating stronger leads. While a significant number of buyers go to a company's website directly, 75 percent use search engines to find relevant content.
Once they reach your site, you need to ensure potential buyers have a positive experience. To help move customers through the sales funnel, it may be necessary to provide support. One possibility that enterprises have invested in is a live chat function, which helps to answer questions that buyers may have while they're navigating a website. As customers decide to make a purchase, 42 percent have a question about a product or service (4). The extent to which a business can address the concerns of a lead can have a profound effect on whether the company converts the sale.
1. B-to-B media industry revenue, up 4.5 percent, tops $7 billion for first quarter 2014
2. 3 Big Shifts in B2B Marketing
3. Trust is a Make-or-Break Issue for Today's B2B Buyer
4. The Connecting with Customers Report: A Global Study of the Drivers of a Successful Online Experience