OK. We're almost one month into the new year. How's it going for you? Have you been buried in snow? Awash in floods? Bemoaning the loss of budget dollars and resources to pursue effective marketing and communication strategies? I've been looking at the plethora of data provided by marketing firms such as Marketing Sherpa and Marketing Profs related to B2B marketing budgets for 2011. Just in case you have not seen their reports or presentations, I'm going to share some highlights.
The good news is - marketing dollars are on the upswing. Of course, this is an increase after 2 or more years of dramatic cuts, so we're not really back to normal. But then, what is normal? The past few years have seen a marked shift from offline marketing to online marketing. The question is, where is the money being spent and how effective are the different marketing strategies. The key metric for ALL B2B marketers is Lead Generation.
Offline marketing activities such as executive breakfasts, PR, tradeshows and insides sales/telemarketing are still big parts of the budget, yet their effectiveness is shifting. Inside sales is considered one of the most effective strategies for improving the number and quality of leads, yet companies continue to limit the budgets allocated to this valuable effort. At the same time PR budget may be stagnant, but these agencies are increasingly asked to expand their capabilities to include social media.
This leads us to the discussion of online marketing. This segment is seeing budget increases for 2011. The key areas for investment are corporate website, search, webinars and social media. Despite many statements in the past year that social media and Facebook in particular, will displace the need for a corporate website, B2B companies place their website as the fulcrum of their overall online marketing strategy. This is a smart decision by B2Bs. Their websites are the validation of themselves as a meaningful, differentiated, competitive business. Optimizing the website for search, ease of use, availability of relevant content and interactive discussion requires ongoing investment and a cohesive strategy.
Note the topics related to the corporate website.
- Search - this is more than keyword analysis. This is development of content and web pages that will improve organic search on Google (where 93% of B2B buyers start their research). This is also social search. How, when and where are B2B buyers seeking recommendations about the solutions they need. Are they on LinkedIn? Twitter? What terminology do they use to search?
- Content - There is simply not enough that can be said about creating and delivering the right content at the right time to the right audience. while the corporate website can become a repository for piles of information, it is important that prospective buyers can find the content they need easily and quickly.
- Social Media - Social platforms enable a company to increase their reach. They allow companies to become more personal. They also allow companies to understand their customers better. It is about more than just listening to what their customers are saying. It's about engaging, resolving, promoting, inciting and inspiring.
- Webinars - This is the MOST effective online tactic as reported by Marketing Profs. This is also one of the leading areas for increased online marketing investment. This technology has become more sophisticated (incorporating social chat, polling and survey capabilities) and more affordable, enabling even the smallest B2B company to inform and educate its target audience. Bottom line (as I've mentioned repeatedly), video is memorable.
The challenge is to balance your marketing budget across the most effective marketing channels. Sometimes the less effective channels consume an inordinate amount of budget. Understanding your customers and where they will be physically or virtually may help justify shifts in budget allocation. Understanding how your customers are talking about your company will help you develop a content marketing strategy that leverages online and offline channels. Check out both Marketing Profs and Marketing Sherpa (yes, I'm a member of both groups) to see their 2011 projections and the details that I allude to here. The online marketing landscape continues to shift and evolve. Will 2011 be the year for B2B breakthroughs via social media?
What's your perspective?