Many B2B companies would like to have a stronger online presence.
Although their current site is designed attractively and contains the necessary information about the products and the company, it’s pretty much an online brochure.
These sites do very little to help B2B buyers become customers. They don’t educate buyers. They don’t cultivate a relationship with buyers or convert them into sales leads.
Who are B2B buyers today and what do they want?
Business buyers (unlike consumers) only consider making a change if they need to solve a problem. If they choose to solve a problem, they are used to doing most of their homework online. Often business buyers view their peers as a better source of information than vendors or media.
Buyers today often go to a sales person only when they have already decided what they want to do. They’ve narrowed their choices down to a few vendors and now they need details on configuration and pricing.
Buyers are willing to learn from a vendor’s website, but the information must be unbiased and educational.
Why would business buyers look for educational information on a vendor website?
B2B buyers are on a journey
They begin their journey unaware that a problem exists. They become of aware of the problem, investigate how they can fix it in the least disturbing way possible, study how they would incorporate the solution into their organization.
Buyers must get their questions answered at each stage before they can go on to the next. If your site contains the information they need, then they will engage with you.
Companies that embrace inbound marketing invest time and resources to make it easy for buyers to find their site and for buyers to get the information they need.
How B2B inbound marketing looks when it’s working
People come across your site as the result of a search or a referral. They find an article that helps to answer a question or solves a problem. The article links to other related articles on your site and your visitors scan one or two additional articles.
This happens a few times. By now the buyer perceives your site to be one they can trust for information about their work or industry. They may explore your site further and read a little about your organization. They learn what you are about (your values, your focus, your history, your purpose), who the leaders in your organization are, and perhaps what products and services you offer.
At some point they have a more specific problem or they need to learn in more depth about a subject related to your work. In order to gain access to this subject matter (an e-book, a series of how-to articles) they give you a name and email address or other contact information.
You continue to nurture the relationship. Perhaps you contact them by phone or email to inquire whether they need any additional information or have any questions.
The goal initially is not to convert a lot of people into inquiries or sales leads. The goal initially is to begin adding relevant content to your site, to learn what people want more information, and to begin to be seen as a trusted participant in your industry, one that wants to be a leader.
How to start
Companies that adopt inbound marketing can feel overwhelmed at first. They must master a variety of marketing channels and tactics. They must learn to produce a steady stream of content, optimize for the search engines, and interact in social media. Ultimately they need to generate and manage leads. And they must use analytics to improve the experience for visitors and results for their business.
How do you get started in B2B inbound marketing and avoid attempting to do everything at once?
First, implement analytics on your website. At every step of the way you will need to understand how you acquire visitors to your site, what they do on your site, and what outcomes your site produces.
Next, start planning and producing content. It helps to think of yourself as the publisher of a specialty magazine. Think like a magazine editor. Develop categories of information for your site. Plan an editorial calendar. Keep your eyes open for topics for articles. Research what the trade magazines and other websites publish on your subject. Talk to your sales and customer service people for the most common questions they get asked. Or the issues they’d like to point people to instead of having to explain them each time.
Pick a doable and measurable goal. For example, publish ten articles.
What to measure
Initially you want to learn where your site visitors come from and what they are looking for. Focus your metrics and analytics on:
- Traffic sources – Which channels are sending traffic to your site?
- Search terms – What search terms do people use to find you?
- Bounce rate – Which pages are people rejecting? What don’t they like about those pages?
Where to go from here
Hubspot has written a lot of material on inbound marketing. Their Inbound Marketing 101 series provides a useful introduction.
Kuno Creative also has a lot of material on inbound marketing. More important, their site provides a good example for B2B inbound marketing. It is a well-structured, lean website. And they continuously add relevant and educational content for their audience.
Publishing ten articles on your site is a good start. But it’s not enough to give you the visibility and credibility you seek.
Now publish 75 articles on your subject and suddenly you start to become one of the recognized experts in your niche. People will see you as a leader and potential customers will want to learn more about you and what you have to say.
By starting modestly and working steadily, you’ll be on your way to a position where you not only get better at finding and winning customers, you’ll be perceived as a leader that can command a premium for your products.