What’s Trending: Engage and Connect

August 10, 2021

B2B buying isn’t purely transactional anymore — if it ever truly was. Buyers aren’t simply looking at fact sheets and comparing products, going with the best value for the money. There are similarly-priced, virtually identical competitors In every vertical, from SaaS BI to shipping logistics to bulk toilet paper for the office bathroom.

The most successful B2B marketers are focusing on engagement and connection rather than just transaction. It’s the ability to provide value to a potential customer, start a conversation, and cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship. That’s not to say the transaction is out of the equation — this is still business, after all. But the customer experience has to extend beyond the purchase, both before and after.

In this week’s roundup, we’re focusing on how to better engage and connect with your B2B buyers.

What Marketers Were Reading and Sharing Most Last Month:

1. The State of B2B Digital Marketing: 5 Findings

It’s been over a year since the pandemic upended… well… everything. Now we’re starting to see exactly what types of changes 2020 brought to marketing. And, more importantly, which changes worked and which didn’t. 

Ascend2 and marketing agency Wpromote conducted a survey of 258 B2B marketing leaders to get some perspective on the current landscape. Not surprisingly, the customer is front and center: “The most important objectives for B2B marketers are increasing customer engagement, improving customer experience, and improving brand awareness,” says Todd Lebo.

One surprising bit of good news for marketers: Budgets appear to be rising across the board. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed expect an increase in digital marketing budget in the next six months.

2. 6 Steps for Creating a B2B Brand Story

As companies seek to foster customer engagement and build relationships, it’s critical to define your brand in terms that customers understand and relate to. As in life, you can’t truly have a meaningful relationship with others if you don’t know who you are, first.

“Unlike humans, companies aren’t born with an inherent personality,” says the team at Elevation Marketing. “Instead, you develop a brand story, and that’s the thing people build a connection with.”

The building blocks of your brand story are human stories — the experience of your brand’s employees and customers. Each of them has a story to tell that can help define your brand’s culture and contribute to the larger narrative. 

3. Content Marketing Writing Tips That You Didn’t Learn in School

One major component of telling a brand story: Personable content marketing with a lively, authentic voice. The days of buttoned-down formality in B2B content are over. B2B customers want to be engrossed and entertained just as much as B2C folks do.

There’s no shortage of personality in this piece from Kate Bradley Chernis — your brand may not be ready for, “Verbs are your friends, people. Serve up calls to action like ‘Increase your engagement 12,000% (not a typo) with AI and make your eyeballs go BOING.’” 

However, the level of personality that’s right for your brand is just a question of degree; the underlying principles are sound. Write like you talk, with a specific audience in mind, and be concise, specific and direct.

4. Closing the Gap Between B2B And B2C Marketing

In the Library of Overused B2B Marketing Phrases, “B2B should borrow more from B2C” is right up there with “B2B doesn’t have to be boring.” By now, most of us should be aware that B2B buyers are the same people as the B2C customers, and they have the same wants and needs.

That’s not to say that B2B should be making movies like LEGO, or sponsoring extreme sports like Red Bull. But there are specific ways that B2B marketers should be more like their colleagues in B2C. And unfortunately, says Mark Choueke, many marketers are still stuck in old-school B2B practices, like “concentrating wholly on sales activation rather than balancing the focus across activation and brand marketing; and placing more belief in loyalty-based strategies than customer acquisition.”

Mark suggests five key ways that B2B can borrow productively from B2C, based on findings from LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ 2019 study.

5. 7 Questions B2B Marketers Need to Answer about B2B Marketing

The word “influencer” is a tough one for B2B marketers, since it conjures up images of Instagram models posing with products or TikTok stars shilling for sponsors in between dances. In the B2C world, “influencer” is more of a profession than an earned title.

For B2B, the rules are different. A B2B influencer is a thought leader in an industry — someone with both practical knowledge and the ability to engage and persuade an audience. It’s less about celebrity and more about wisdom proven through lived experience. 

Finding the right influencers goes much deeper than follower count, says Lee Odden. “Capturing the value of working with influencers doesn’t start by picking the most popular people in your industry to work with,” he says. “Not everyone who influences your customers thinks of themselves as an influencer. In turn, not everyone that identifies as a B2B influencer actually has influence.” 

The key is to discover which experts actually have credibility, trust and popularity with your specific audience. That might be the CEO who has 5,000 followers (who are all other CEOs), versus the keynote speaker who has 100,000 (but nobody clicks on his posts).

6. How to Create Cornerstone Content That Google and Your Audience Will Love

To sum up: customer engagement and experience are  top concerns for B2B marketers in 2021. Content marketing with personality and heart is one key way to foster engagement and provide a good customer experience, and influencer content can help add value for your customer. 

The final piece of the puzzle is making sure your content actually gets seen by your target audience. That means packaging the content in a format that earns search engine attention, and then follows through by delivering value to readers that click from the SERP.

“Cornerstone content is the most important part of your website,” says Sam O’Brien. It refers to a high-value piece of content that aims to increase traffic and brand awareness by showing what your business can offer.”

The right cornerstone content for your brand lies at the intersection of what your audience is interested in, what your brand is knowledgeable about, and the unique spin that you can put on the subject matter. That’s how to deliver true value that helps customers connect with your brand.

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