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How to Overcome 9 Common B2B Marketing Challenges with Digital Marketing

The Internet and Mobile Web have presented many new challenges to B2B businesses. Here are nine common B2B marketing challenges faced by Smartt’s clients and how we have helped our clients overcome them:
  1. Smaller budgets

    As companies continue to slash budgets, many marketing teams face pressure from their executive teams to eliminate wasteful activities that do not generate ROI. In our experience, there are two ways to approach this problem. The first is to create segmented budgets based on region, product, buying stage, and channel. Scale up profitable segments and either improve or eliminate unprofitable segments. The second solution is to build the case for a larger budget through objective audits and successful test campaigns. Shift the focus from budgeting to contributing to the top and bottom lines.
  2. Marketing and sales alignment

    According to research from Sirius Decisions, up to 70% of content created by B2B marketing teams is never used by sales teams. This is why Smartt strategists are adamant about involving sales teams regularly in marketing collateral development or executing marketing campaigns. At the very least, to ensure accurate targeting, the User Persona creation process should involve the sales team. Each team should also document their commitments and hold monthly meetings to go over the joint results. Sales and marketing alignment begins with mutual accountability and a deep focus on the customer.
  3. Buyers want to control their buying cycle

    The Internet has given the B2B buyers complete control of their sales cycle. B2B buyers now prefer to educate themselves before talking to a salesperson and won’t contact vendors until they are 62% through their buying cycle. Marketing is now as important as sales in the B2B environment. Here are a few ways marketers can influence the buying cycle:
    • Create content that solves pains: Content which articulates business pains and offers solutions is content that’s most likely to be read and shared by your prospects. Promote your content through social outreach programs.
    • Frequent outreach over phone and email: Cold-calling is not dead. It has merely evolved into Cold-Calling 2.0. Reach out to decision-makers by crafting personalized phone calls and emails. Address their pain points and help them solve problems in their industry.
    • Dominate search: 67% of B2B purchases start with a search. Use a mixture of paid and organic search strategies to increase the visibility of your advice and solutions to prospects.
    • Keep in touch:Run retargeting and email campaigns to keep in touch with your prospects so that they think of you first when they are ready to reach out to vendors.
  4. Managing Multiple platforms and multiple channels

    Social media and the mobile web have created a complex ecosystem of platforms and channels that B2B buyers now use to search for vendors. Many B2B companies struggle with going from a simple model of selling through a direct sales force or network partners to managing multiple platforms and online sales channels. To simplify your digital marketing, use a digital marketing framework such as P.A.C.E. (Promote-Analyze-Convert-Engage) to select individual platforms and channels based on your chosen tactics. Read more about P.A.C.E. in the next section.
  5. Not having the right system and processes in place

    B2B companies often struggle with creating systems and processes for digital marketing because things move very quickly online: last month’s system or process may already be outdated. To achieve balance between structure and flexibility, you can implement basic frameworks which have been designed to incorporate new digital strategies and tactics over time. A good framework helps companies adapt to digital trends while having a fixed anchor of guiding principles. Here are a few examples of frameworks and tools Smartt uses to help clients:
    • Marketing framework: Smartt uses the P.A.C.E. Digital Marketing Framework as the general framework for all marketing activities. The great thing about the P.A.C.E. framework is that you can use any combination of individual tactics to drive each key revenue metric and measure the specific results. We don’t know of an easier, more reliable way to improve a company’s marketing results.
    • Agile project management: Smartt strategists have adapted Agile project management for in-house use in a manner that focuses on accountability and metrics measurement. Our system helps marketing teams prioritize tasks based on financial contribution; it pinpoints roles and responsibilities to ensure personal accountability.
    • Content production and quality circle: Smartt’s content creation process help clients identify and produce content based on different stages of the buying cycle, relevant news, and results from Google analytics. The production cycle is based on traditional journalism practices and Toyota’s Quality Service Circle so that clients can achieve continuous improvement over time.
    • Scorecards: Weekly and monthly reports that show work progress and real world results.
    • Best practices updates: Best practices updates help Smartt's clients keep track of search engine algorithm and social media platform changes.
  6. Tracking interactions and proving content effectiveness over long sales cycles

    Many B2B companies are sales-driven rather than marketing-driven because they feel scaling up a sales environment can give more predictable results than expanding a marketing team. They see marketing as a big black hole because they can’t track the results like they do with a lead generation team. In reality, B2B digital marketing is very trackable. Segment your content and call-to-actions on your website based on your prospects’ buying cycle and observe their digital body language. This perception is often a result of the next challenge.
  7. Lack of Knowledge and Training

    Companies face several challenges when it comes to digital knowledge and training. The first problem is that digital marketing involves multiple disciplines -- such as analytics, social relations, SEO, and pay-per-click marketing –which change at a very fast pace. The second problem is that technical marketing skills are only useful if they are aligned with business and industry knowledge. (See also: How Digital Marketers Can Stay Relevant) Many marketing specialists who can perform tactical work cannot come up with relevant business insights or read a balance sheet. Lastly, employee churn rate is quite high in the digital workforce. By the time you’ve finished onboarding a digital marketing coordinator, they may have been lured away already by a new, shiny object. Smartt helps clients alleviate this problem by giving strategic digital marketing training to executives, managers, and marketing team members so everyone speaks the same language and depends less on one, or a few, specialists. Then we give more technical training to individual marketing team members who are going to execute the work in-house. Train from the top so that your strategy is aligned with your tactics.
  8. Lack of Time and Resource

    Many companies find themselves too busy with their current revenue-generating activities to venture into digital marketing. This is actually a measurement problem, not a resource problem. In our experience, many companies avoid digital marketing not because they lack resources, but because they’re not sure if the return will justify their investment in time and effort. Some of our clients have built whole enterprises by focusing on their core competencies and letting their partners do the selling. So even though they see the need to eventually improve their digital marketing due to changing market trends, they are uncertain if now is the “right” time. Our advice is simple: find a partner such as Smartt that can run small campaigns to give you sample results and experience. Then make your decision either to continue working with a consulting or marketing agency partner or bring some digital marketing skills in-house. Let your A-players continue to focus on what they are best at, and let your partners and new hires do the rest.
  9. Getting buy-in

    Many marketing teams tell us they need help in overcoming resistance from senior executives for their digital initiatives. In our experience, one way to overcome this challenge is to invite an executive team member to an executive briefing or part of a digital training session with a focus on measurement and metrics. It also helps to conduct objective audits (i.e. website audit) that show the financial impact of the problem you are trying to solve. If all fails, share real statistics and benchmarks from other companies in your industry – preferably your competitors.