Top Challenges in B2B Marketing & How to Resolve Them?
By Akshay Sharma
Apr 8, 20217 min read
The holy grail of marketing in B2B – get better than excellence. It is a crowded field out there wherein creators, marketers, and sellers are fighting for that ‘space’ on the stage to regale a humongous pool of customers. However, the rule of outperforming excellence is equally important for the customer (enterprise). And in this pursuit, they are famishing for qualitative communication of their products that reach the right set of audiences at the right time.
COVID-19 has impacted the world terribly. Many loved ones departed and the world’s economy lies shattered. Small businesses run by the marketer have been hugely affected in this last year. Customers were turned down and people were unable to work from their respective workplaces. Economic progress dropped drastically and the business-related fields became shaky worldwide.
In the post COVID era, 46% of B2B companies will expand their content marketing spend while feeding their funnels with advanced marketing strategies.
In this blog, we explain complex B2B marketing challenges (and their solutions) that most enterprises ignore.
Challenge 1: Embracing the Convoluted Ecosystem of Martech
The narrative of everything we market, sell and evaluate has changed abruptly. COVID, as we all know, is causing massive damage at the personal level thereby transforming the customer expectations from the service providers. As the enterprises are brainstorming innovative tools to lure the discouraged buyer, marketing technology (martech) is at the helm of filling these gaps. It has to deliver beyond aggregating customer data and guide us to hone their experience (CX). In this pursuit, martech efforts
The proliferation of marketing automation was always there in the form of CRM systems, customer behavioral analytics, MQL assessment, self-governed campaigns, and a lot more. But 2020 was special.
It left no choice but to eliminate manual dependency as much as possible. As per Business.com, 91% of companies with more than 11 employees have moved to CRM. The role of automation is more than just making our lives easier. At the time of writing this, there were about 8000 marketing tools available for the industrial landscape. These include CRM platforms, interactive bots, campaign management systems, platform analytics, social media scheduling etc. Such a crazy industrial portfolio makes it cumbersome to make choices. In all honesty, industries have been fumbling with martech tools. While some exhaustively use website analytics, others spend way too much on email marketing.
Strategy 1: Build a smarter stack. What should you pick?
In all honesty, everything! The idea is to prepare and implement the right mix of tools so that the entire landscape is covered. So, instead of splurging 100% budget on two types of tools, distribute it evenly across the portfolio. The objective is to create a smarter and leaner martech stack as shown –
Besides narrowing your focus, consolidation will help you evaluate the returns from all solutions into the main CRM dashboard exclusively designed for you. Eventually, faster results and controlled budgets is what you take away.
Strategy 2: Start with Chatbots
Amidst the swaddle of choices, on-demand responsiveness is a key metric that chatbots assure. This is because a bot answers all incoming inquiries on your behalf, throughout the day. While you get to focus on core tasks, chatbots are more accurate and contribute to leads analysis data. By the end of 2019, we knew that platforms equipped with chatbots resulted in enhanced brand awareness, lead generation, and marketing campaigns.
According to Salesforce, 69% of U.S. consumers prefer using chatbots when engaging with brands, since it often yields a speedy response.
Chatbots have become an integral pillar of the customer support vertical. They are life-like and help resolve basic grievances in a speedier manner thereby allowing the teams to focus on more critical issues. Moreover, they store and provide data for deriving actionable insights and enhance overall CX.
Include Marketing Data Compliance Tools
While finalizing your marketing technology stack it is imperative to keep a tab on regulations and compliances. Marketers need to stay compliant with the law of the land and especially in case of usage, storage, and sharing of data. GDPR and CCPA which are implemented in the EU and in the state of California respectively are laws that have empowered data security.
One can see many amendments coming their way but non-compliance can still attract strict governmental fines if data is not handled properly. Hence, all the collected data should be kept in a systematic manner as per the user agreement. Consider including such tools in your Martech stack which can easily and efficiently segregate and manage user marketing data. Such tools prepare the enterprises for future regulations and will keep the data usage guidelines updated.
Strategy 3: Embrace Full Stack Predictive Analytics Solution
Forecasting future outcomes after processing historical data finds valuable application in statistical modeling of campaigns; exactly what marketers need to stay ahead of the pack. As the global market for predictive analytics in marketing inches closer to USD 10.95 billion by next year (2022), marketers must embrace AI to its fullest potential. Marketers consume historical campaign data to predict consumer expectations and responses towards certain products and services. This helps in retaining existing customers while regales prospects into new customers. Here’s a quick run-through of the key applications driven by data-enabled marketing strategies
Hyperpersonlized Marketing – Personalized product ads for every user based on their search history data and past interest on a particular platform such as an eCommerce site.
Cross-Selling – Pitching additional products to existing customers based on analyzing their by=uying and preference patterns
Customer Attrition – Data-driven analysis to predict existing customers that are most likely to discontinue services.
Enhanced CX – Provide on-demand customer support (chatbots for example), streamlined shipping services, and deploying resources and Virtual concierges.
While Netflix and Amazon are huge B2C players, it is important to remember that B2B buyers are also consumers, and their buying behavior reflects that of consumer buying behavior. As such, marketing strategies that incorporate predictive analytics should not be dismissed by B2B businesses in 2021.
Fun Fact: Netflix used predictive analytics to finalize ‘House of Cards’ after processing customer response data to political thrillers, the popularity of lead actors, and the director.
Predictive Analytics Measurement Models
The following key measurement metrics are used to drive predictive marketing
- Cluster Models: Audience segmentation based on engagements in the past such as purchases, inquiries, and demographic data.
- Propensity Models: Evaluate a consumer’s likelihood to respond, such as convert, act on an offer or disengage.
- Recommendations Filtering: Evaluates past purchase history to understand where there might be additional sales opportunities.
Challenge 2: Scattered Content all over the place
There are many ways to explain content. For some, it is that necessary evil that we can’t do without while for others it is the road to the prospect’s mind. Let’s do an analogy. If the website is the human body then the content is the food and SEO is the digestive system. If either of them goes wrong, the whole system suffers.
If content sounds like a necessary evil that you have to do beyond your will then simply don’t do it! “Not loving the idea of producing content is the foundation for an inconsistent digital footprint and many businesses are plagued by it. They are producing high volumes every month because they don’t have an option.
Unless you have the penchant for sharing informative editorials about your products, generating Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) will be a far-fetched dream. Consequentially, content marketing will always be an overhead vertical because you never understood it, you never loved it.
Sounds familiar? This happened because you never strategized the practice. The content is all over the place and doesn’t get its deserving audience.
Strategy 1: Create a Comprehensive Calendar
(not just an excel listing of blogs)
Till now, your calendars should be including content topics, guidelines (design & SEO, etc.) for all platforms in the stack. It must have included your company website, a Medium page, social channels, or a 3rd party platform in collaboration, include all of them. But that’s just a schema of the sheet. For better understanding, consider them as the road that began from your funnel strategy on paper to actual publication. It should be an elaboration of the items from the TOFU to BOFU followed by the content distribution strategy.
Here’s an example.
Consider a detailed content piece titled “Guide to marketing in 2021” that details 4-5 key points.
TOFU 🡪 3-4 medium-length blog pieces every week. (Hyperlinking to the guide)
MOFU-> The Guide (hyperlinking to the case studies)
BOFU-> Case studies used in sales
In the calendar,
Week 1 🡪 Divide the Guide into multiple pieces of deliverables on every day
Week 2 🡪 A blog on one topic (related to a tip from the guide) every day and hyperlink to the guide.
Strategy 2: Produce Sustainable and a Variety of Content
‘Content is king’ could be the most shared quote in the digital medium and yet most businesses don’t get it right. While producing lots of content is a kick-ass move, distributing it into different types for every stage of the funnel will add value. To put it simply, the enterprise content strategy should adhere to the 3V rule –
Produce good Volumes of Valuable content at a persistent Velocity. Therefore, look beyond blogs and include other types of content items in your strategy –
Build a library of content
To add value, regale your audiences with a variety of content resources such as Whitepapers, Case Studies, E-Books, Mobile app Stories, Social Media short posts, one-page product documents, videos, and webinars, etc. Besides keeping the users hooked, a variety of resources brings credibility to your brand proposition, enhances the readability quotient, and solidifies your digital footprint.
- Write Whitepapers – 72% of buyers in B2B prefer detailed documents
- 51% of the global population consumes social media content
- A Webinar could result in up to 46% of lead conversion rate
- Instagram stories are consumed by 500 million users every day
Deploy an exclusive content development and styling strategy for every social media platform. For example, using Threads & Polls in Twitter, Stories on Instagram, and Articles on LinkedIn, etc. can generate an informative and legitimate source of information about products and services.
Ultimately, no matter old school but Blogs will continue to keep you relevant in the business. Don’t discontinue them.
QA for Content
This is important. A/B testing on content helps in evaluating the narrative. Data related to the most popular or category or even subject, most clicks at a particular time of day, etc. can hone your publication skills.
Strategy 3 Embrace Automation
Automate your content development and publication efforts. Besides saving resources, automation tools provide insights into response analytics that can contribute to your decision-making tree. Start with automating your social media posting. Tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite have helped thousands of enterprises take advantage of peak traffic hours while ensuring they never lag behind in the race.
One-third of the global population consumes social media content and you never know where your next MQL is hiding in the crowd. Therefore, it is safe to keep a backup plan and ensure you are interacting every day.
However, don’t automate everything.
Personalization is a key tactic to build lasting connections with your audience. Reply to comments, comment on other pages, read all DMs, give acknowledgments and once in a while, post something casually and totally unrelated to your product. Always remember, customers, are just one of us. They can know when a bot is replying.
Next, stop using bots for generating fake likes and follows. At Growth Natives, we were always clear on this and recommend our customers to stay as organic as possible. Regardless of how lucrative it is, faking followers and likes is still a fraud. Not to miss, social media platforms can easily track a bot activity on a page and lower its standings.
Challenge 3: To have a Clean & Efficient Sales Funnel
It’s a long journey. From adding leads (ToFU) to generating more purchase orders (BoFU, from inquiries to partnerships. Amidst these ends, lies a comprehensive process of searching, filtering, and converting like-minded professionals willing to invest in your services. Building a better sales funnel is like building the human body that grows with a quality feed. And to ensure the quality of this feed (leads), the following key milestones should be a
Here we introduce several approaches that can help with adding quality leads to your funnel and moving them through to – hopefully – a purchase order.
Demo sign-up, LinkedIn profiles, conference contacts are good source of leads but acquiring these leads is costly and time-consuming. The best way to leverage your existing leads is to organically extend based on your list.
Strategy 1:Use an existing lead to find more leads
A qualified lead will most likely have a network of businesses with similar purchasing power. The hack is to quickly identify leads similar to the highly valuable ones that you have generated (let’s call them source leads). It means using the same template for lead generation while feeding the ToFU. Identify each lead’s colleagues, business partners, competitors, etc., and reach out to them with a case study. The technique saves resources while enriches your sales funnel with relevant leads.
What to do?
If the source lead has matured into a prospect then you can,
- Target the same geography to find more business. Leads physically present closer to good leads are a boon. For example, we immediately added Vietnam to our campaign target groups after earning a few qualified leads from the country. A year ago, Vietnam was never a key spot on our sales map. Today, we have a sales rep in the country.
Take away? Never confine to target markets; always explore and expand. Geography matters because the localization research done while generating the source lead can be used as a case study about your experience in the territory.
- Check for the social media connections of the prospect. Browse through more profiles in the leadership of the company and further explore their connections. Sounds like stalking? It is indeed but then what else do you expect in Sales? Social media are a gold mine of data. When used wisely, they generate returns that are highest than any other channel. Consider LinkedIn, the biggest platform for professionals to connect (sell). It is an unbeatable medium for knowing the business network of your source leads. Check their content, the comments, testimonials, skills endorsements, and others for hunting alike leads.
In most of our projects, LinkedIn is an important part of the CRM strategy for start-ups and corporates. It does what the sales have always asked for – publish CVs along with contact details of millions of professionals.
If the prospect isn’t maturing, bring in the list of competitors.
Convert your LinkedIn profiles into Sales machines
If the prospect has matured into a happy customer then do Technique #1 and then,
- Request for a testimonial to publish in your sales literature. Make sure the literature has been distributed in the same region as explained above. If the literature lands up with any of the leads that know about your prospect, you are a step closer to a new account. A local validation improves your chances of closing a deal.
- Request for references. Elated customers will never hesitate from referring you to more people in their network. Utilize the opportunity and personally request for references. A reference is the fastest known medium to generate sales.
The chances of positive returns through referrals increase by 5X.
73% of professionals prefer to work with a sales rep referred by someone.
50% of surveyed customers closed 70% of their deals through referrals.
Finding leads through leads work because it assures trust and transparency in the engagements. You are assured about the lead's pedigree to invest. And they are assured about your experience in the domain.
Stress on Lead qualification
The more leads at ToFU the more purchase orders at the BoFU. This is a standard formula for all sales processes and in all honesty, may not always work. It is tempting to fill the funnel with more inquiries but no business results in high attrition rates while leaving the funnel choked. Ultimately, all you are left with is an overestimated sales process with lots of loopholes.
Learn to resist temptation.
Lead qualification is evaluating the readiness to make a purchase. It is important because not all inquiries intend to make a purchase. And the ones that do may not have the necessary budget that covers your cost. Instead of exhausting your time for weeks only to know that the lead doesn’t qualify, fail them early! Therefore, gather as much information as you can about an incoming inquiry. Check for them on forums, review platforms, the stakeholders backing them, the strength, etc.
Alternatively, you can prepare a questionnaire template for pre-qualification. Avoid gathering generic information and ask pointed questions such as ‘what is your maximum budget? You should know more about the business early on. Going forward, you can give scores for every metric and eliminate those who don’t surpass your minimum expectation. Eliminating irrelevant leads keeps the funnel clean and focuses on key opportunities.
With quality leads in the funnel, your next challenge is to minimize the attrition rate by carefully and deliberately chaperoning your leads on their sales journey. Lead scoring allows you to follow each lead as it progresses and enables you to provide valuable content that is custom-tailored to the lead’s needs based on what stage they are in.
More complete information can also increase the speed with which a lead moves through the funnel. The more you know about each lead, e.g. their needs, their funding (= purchase power), or their trusted peer network the more you can tailor not just your message but also your timing and approach, and the better prepared your sales team can be when they interact with the lead.
Sales is a relationship business and the more meaningful a relationship the sales representative can build with each potential customer the better. Knowing your leads helps to build that relationship: have they published a new paper, is one of the co-authors an existing customer, did they receive a grant, reference a new method or technique, buy a new instrument, present a poster or give a talk at a conference – all of that is crucial information that helps the sales rep better understand a lead’s needs and target the information and communications specific to their situation.
The economic downturn took many brands by surprise but it will end. The sluggish market will have to raise its head someday. Amidst the transition, enterprises must utilize the opportunity and rethink their decision-making approach. Whether it’s the media feedback, in-house creative unit, regular board meetings, or client-agency relations, the choice has to be carefully made. A quick decision has to be made regarding long-time advantageous deals and temporary benefits. Some trends will not last long so focus on the consumer insights and pick carefully. And finally, marketers who want to march forward and stay in the league need to understand the market needs and react quickly.