B2B Marketing (As We Know It) Is Dead — Here’s What Works TodayHard Truth About B2B eCommerce Podcast
In this hard-hitting episode on the B2B eCommerce Podcast I shared my thinking about why the Sales Funnel no longer exists, and other truths about modern B2B marketing. We discuss how the buying journey has been completely fragmented and the way that community building can help marketers retake control of the discovery and demand generation process.
- Some of the best B2B referrals are the ones you don’t know about — untrackable online social interactions or “dark social.” Your marketing strategy must account for these blind spots by employing new tactics.
- In 2022, building community needs to be a part of your B2B marketing plan, and creating content regularly is an integral way to engage community members weekly.
- A community’s enthusiasm for your content multiplies its impact. By focusing on your community members’ level of engagement, you can expand the community’s overall reach.
Twenty years ago, the vendor was in control of the B2B sales process.
If you worked for a major company like Cisco or Dell and were rolling out a new networking product, all you had to do was look at your sales funnel and start making phone calls. Getting the appointment with a major B2B customer was relatively simple.
Customers knew they likely needed what you were selling, and were more than happy to have you come in and answer their questions.
Today, contacts from those same companies won’t even answer the call. They’ve already surveyed the market, and you won’t hear back until they’re ready to make a move.
The sales funnel used to work because we knew where to find customers who were at a certain stage in the buying process. For marketers, that meant using the right tactic to reach clients at the right time.
On an episode of The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce podcast, I explained why the buying journey is completely fragmented, and how you need to adapt now that buyers are in control of the discovery process.
What you don’t know can help you.
I’m a member of a marketing group called Peak Community. The membership is primarily chief marketing officers and other marketing leaders who are all striving to become 1% better every day. It’s a world-class group of professional marketers.
There are daily conversations within Peak Community about the tools of the trade. Members want to know what CRMs their peers are using, and people in the group are more than happy to share that information.
Yet none of the brands have a clue that they are being discussed and recommended. But these conversations are influencing the buying behavior of group members. If I sing the praises of a marketing automation platform to someone who’s about to purchase another solution, I just know they’re going to get a demo of the solution I told them about before they make their buying decision.
These untrackable, unattributable dark social interactions between peers and buyers are driving buying decisions in the B2B space.
Become a strategic community builder.
While dark social interactions can’t be tracked, marketers can create the communities (such as a LinkedIn group) that foster these conversations.
And content creation needs to be the centerpiece. This strategy isn’t going to work overnight, which can be frustrating if you’re impatient. But acting on that impatience will lead to failure.
Building a valuable community does require the right investment of time and resources. Once somewhat established, you can see all of the interactions that would otherwise be invisible.
You can even take it a step further. Maybe you notice that a number of your group’s members are clustered in a geographical area. By arranging a meetup in that area for local members, you allow them to deepen their ties to the community you’ve created.
By increasing the depth of the connection with that community you’ve created, you’re also increasing the community’s reach. The core audience becomes more engaged — they’re sharing your content on LinkedIn and Twitter — and the next thing you know, you’re getting tagged in discussions by people you’ve never heard of before.
Yes, your company’s website is critical.
I can recall conversations with coworkers from as little as three years ago about the importance of the company website. Those conversations would always go back and forth on how much (or how little) effort we should be putting into the maintenance of the site.
Now that we know about the power of dark social, the answer of how much to invest in your website should be obvious. After all, where is the first place someone is going to go after hearing about your company during a meeting, or after reading a piece of content about you on LinkedIn? Where are they going to go to learn more about one of your company’s founders or executives?
You don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s almost impossible to know how every prospect is learning about your business.
But one thing is certain: When people want to know more about you, the first place they’re likely to look is your website.
Think of your website as your storefront. If the storefront is in disrepair and only half of the open sign is lit up, people are going to keep moving.
Bottom line: Continuous investment in your website is a must.
Market forces are market forces. The market today is just too competitive and too dynamic to rest on one’s laurels. Marketers need to account for changes in consumer behaviors and adapt their strategies to not only reach consumers but also to listen to what they’re saying about your business.
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