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How to Implement Traditional B2B Marketing Principles in a Digital World

The digital marketing world is tough because the pace of change is relentless. Marketing professionals must read constantly, practice new techniques, and understand how to analyze the results. It’s tempting to think of it as a brave new world because every day brings new challenges, new tools, and innovative new concepts. This all makes traditional marketing seem rather staid and old-fashioned. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater – there are marketing principles that remain valid. It’s only the implementation that has changed.


  1. It's still about knowing your customer

    Digital marketing call it ‘discovery’, traditional marketing calls it ‘research’. It’s the constant effort of staying in touch with your audience’s pain points, preferences, and – a new twist with digital – how they want to engage with you. 
    Traditional research such as polls, surveys, focus groups, and in-person interviews will always be valuable, but now there’s newer technology such as email and online survey tools that can accomplish them more efficiently. 
    There are also new venues for collecting information and new tools seem to come out every week to help discover influencers and trending topics. Join social media sites and take advantage of tools that help you “listen” and monitor for keywords that indicate an opportunity to participate in conversations.
    Crowdsourcing can be a way to gather ideas and feedback for products. Technology and information sources may change, but audience research will always be a marketing priority.
  2. It's still about communicating the right information at the right time

    When marketing communications consisted of print materials and scripted slides for Sales to present, there were two challenges for marketing: knowing whether content was being used at the appropriate point in the buying cycle, and receiving accurate, consistent feedback on whether content met the prospects’ needs. 
    Today, this challenge is even more critical for B2B companies because prospects are 60% - 90% of the way through the buying cycle before they reach out to the vendor. It’s a self-service model now, which means that Sales and Marketing must collaborate on creating a seamless and guided engagement that delivers the right content at the right time in the buying cycle, via the right touch points (communication channels). 
    Publishing every bit of product information on your website under “Products and Services” provides zero guidance. It’s the online equivalent of dumping a stack of product literature in front of the customer. As a starting point, here’s a very simple and high-level breakdown of a buying cycle and the content that is typically most useful before the prospect contacts you. 
    • Problem awareness: this is the stage where blogs are most influential because customers are still identifying their issues. Blogs validate their concerns as well as suggest various approaches for identifying the problem. 
    • Problem definition: This is the initial stage of research, where content that validates various types of solutions is most helpful: case studies, white papers, surveys/reports, infographics, or videos can guide decision-making at this stage.
    • Solution research: As the customer moves into looking for specific solutions, content such as technology guides, product specifications, implementation guides, and case studies are directly relevant. 
    What about that “accurate and consistent feedback” thing? That’s where analytics come in to track visitor behavior. By setting very specific goals you can collect objective metrics about what visitors do once they arrive on your website. Where do they arrive from? How long do they spend on the landing page? Do they move on to other pages? Track, test, and refine. 
    Do the research and “listening” that helps you understand how your audience prefers to consume content so that you can be there at the right place and the right time. To increase your discoverability, always do keyword research. It helps increase the odds that a prospect will find the right content on your website when they’re ready for it. Try pay-per-click advertising to capture prospects’ attention when they are searching for solutions. Push content through business-oriented social media sites such as LinkedIn. 
  3. It's still about people buying from people

    The best B2B salespeople are the ones who build relationships with their customers. They make customers feel as though they are receiving special attention. In the B2B world, this paves the road to repeat sales. Happily, the online world offers more touch points between your business and customers.
    Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy for Sales, Marketing, and other departments to reach out to customers and make them feel special. Product launch announcements, special offers, and events can go to this community before general promotions. Social networks are increasingly popular as customer service channels. Some support organizations monitor Twitter and Facebook for mentions of their brand and products to be alert to queries, complaints, or product ideas. Fast and proactive response leaves a good impression, especially when offered in a casual, friendly manner via a social and open platform.  
    At Smartt, we believe that traditional marketing and digital marketing are entirely compatible. You get the best results when the two are integrated. If you’d like to learn about a methodology that puts this in context, download our P.A.C.E. workbook or take our P.A.C.E Digital Marketing Workshop. You can also contact us to  learn about our Digital Marketing Roadmap or Digital Marketing Audit service.