B2B marketing for a mobile audience

The ever-present, always on nature of today's mobile culture is part of B2B marketing. There's little merit in arguing over whether purchasing decision-makers in most companies use their smartphones or tablets to research their next buys. However, there are nuances to the discussion that can significantly influence the strategies marketers put in place to target a B2B customer market. Do all generations equally embrace mobile as a research tool – and potentially a way to make purchases? Do the high-tech promises of geo-location targeting pan out in all circumstances? How can marketers approach mobile and make the best use of their budgets?

There's likely no single way for businesses to implement a mobile marketing strategy that will be applicable to every industry. Yet, by looking at advertising spending totals over the past few years, it's clear that mobile is assuming a larger role under the digital marketing umbrella. In fact, U.S. advertising expenses going toward mobile marketing have risen exponentially since 2011, when spending hit $1.6 billion (1). The following year, the figure reached $4.4 billion and nearly doubled in 2013 at $8.5 billion. An upward trend suggests businesses are anticipating they'll generate greater return on investment from mobile channels, and smartphone and tablet use will continue to grow.

Meanwhile, it's important to look into the unique aspects of mobile marketing and get a clearer picture of the B2B audience who will be the ones exposed to the marketing messages.

Mobile a more comfortable purchasing tool
The channels B2B decision-makers have traditionally used to get more information about potential purchases have been offline, such as trade shows and industry publications. These still remain popular today, but as more people become comfortable using digital technology to research and purchase items, the more common it is to see buyers using smartphones and tablets. In fact, 44 percent of corporate customers have researched an item to buy using their smartphone and nearly one-quarter went ahead and completed a transaction using the same device (2). Tablet use is slightly less common among B2B buyers for research – at 37 percent – but roughly an equal number have used this technology to purchase an item for business needs.

Skewing younger
Not all B2B buyers fit the same mold. Especially with demographic changes occurring in the workforce, marketers need to adjust their approach to influencing customers. In particular, younger decision-makers behave differently with respect to mobile usage. Those identified as members of the millennial generation – individuals between 18 and 25 – are more likely to use purchase items through their mobile device (3). Among buyers who are 45 or older, just 19 percent have used a smartphone to make a purchase, while 35 percent of millennials have done so. At the same time, mobile use is also influencing the sales funnel in many ways.

Taking control of the purchasing cycle
A big trend among B2B buyers is the fact that more individuals are prepared to take control of the sales funnel. Ten percent of purchasers prefer to do their own research into products and services and then buy items without getting a sales rep involved. However, 32 percent want to take the discovery and fact-finding phase into their own hands but also discuss concerns with a company representative on the phone. What should marketers do in this case? Instead of holding B2B buyers' hands every step of the way towards a sales conversion, digital marketers should be prepared to leverage search engine optimization and pair it with a mobile channel to provide guidance to decision-makers.

Online marketing must be mobile ready
Because of the reach mobile has among buyers and the influence it's exerting on research and buying habits, B2B marketers need to come prepared to meet buyers' needs. One critical step is optimizing the organization's website for mobile use. A mobile site's URL and title tags should include keywords that make the page discoverable via search engine queries. From a design and functionality standpoint, having a search box helps break down walls between the purchaser and the information he or she needs to make a better decision (4). Considering the smaller screen size available on smartphones in particular, visitors to a mobile site may not have the patience necessary to scroll through a lot of content to find the solution they're looking for.

It's also important to include a contact number on a mobile site not only to give buyers the option of reaching out to a business directly, but also for call tracking purposes. With click-to-call integration, business can place dynamic and unique numbers on a website that helps identify where the buyer came from, whether it's through paid ads or organic search. This can help an organization better track ROI when it comes to online marketing spend to drive more traffic to a mobile site.

Mobile B2B marketing is increasingly important. Decision-makers are using their smartphones to take control of the purchasing cycle in different ways than before. Technology is also transforming how buyers discover items and access information. Marketers need to ensure they have a plan in place to be a resource and guide the discussion to help drive more conversions.

1. "Mobile Marketing: Building A Digital Asset To Get More For Your Money"
2. "INFOGRAPHIC: 2014 State of B2B Procurement"
3. "How Younger B2B Buyers Are Making Mobile Matter"
4. "10 Best Practices for Mobile Optimized Websites"

Sheila Kloefkorn (1031 Posts)

With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.