As we approach the holiday season and end of 2017, it’s a time not only for fun and relaxation but also a great time to reflect and prepare ourselves and our businesses for 2018. Tis the season to…review your SME and start-up strategy!
Most of us, even the start-up & SME owners will take at least a day or two off over the Christmas break, see family and even have a little time to reflect. Be sure to use this time wisely to not only reflect on the year from a personal sense but to set the plans in place to succeed in 2018.
The success or failure of your B2B rests largely on you and your businesses ability to identify, embrace & most importantly activate the available sales and marketing tools at your disposal. These tools are only ever useful if done right & done with purpose, that is through setting clear, quantifiable & timely objectives to benchmark your performance against moving forward.
In our final article for 2017, we will work through the three most valuable trends for success in 2018 for SME & start-ups in the B2B space. Like your aunt’s new found love for serving ‘kale’ & ‘quinoa’ alongside her Christmas turkey, not embracing these trends will be at your own peril.
Trend 1 – Content Marketing
Content marketing has been a focus of many good marketing agencies for some time now, however, it has become far more prevalent in recent times – largely thanks to Google getting so much smarter all the time.
For those of you that may be a little unsure, content marketing is the creation and sharing of online material such as blogs, social media posts and video blogs that don’t explicitly promote your brand or product rather are cleverly disguised to provide information, recommendations and advice.
The core purpose of content marketing is to ‘position’ your brand, products, or service as the ‘experts’ within your field(s). That is not to say you are the foremost academic expert on your core offering, it is to demonstrate across multiple digital platforms – that can be repurposed all around the internet – that you are someone potential customers and the Google SEO bots want to listen to on a particular topic.
Content marketing needs to be a vital part of your B2B strategy. A LinkedIn survey measuring the B2B buying process found that two of the most important factors that encourage buyers to engage with a potential product or service provider include:
• Provide valuable consultation, education or tools
• Is it a particular subject matter or thought leader
With the increasing amount of content being produced online, the challenge is to provide content in a way that engages and connects with the core buyers that you seek. Using a creative yet relevant approach is critical, and repurposing is paramount. But most importantly, it is essential for organisations working on their content marketing to not plagiarize others work, rather share their ideas & give them credit, reference them and provide the link to the source (which by the way will increase the cross-links to your site, increasing SEO!)
A Smart Insights survey reported that content marketing is the single most important trend in B2B marketing in 2018, so is this something your SME or start-up can afford to miss in 2018?
Trend 2 – Influencer Marketing
There is a lot of misconceptions about who or what these mysterious influencers are, what they do and why B2B organisations should engage with it.
Influencer marketing places focus on identifying individuals that influence potential buyers and orients marketing activities around these influencers. These people are sometimes – but not always – celebrities, people with star power, but often they are industry voices that when they talk, people take notice and listen.
This new marketing strategy will see growth and momentum in a B2B context in 2018 as buyers are increasingly sceptical of advertising and greater use of ad blocking online. Influencer marketing is an effective and low-cost way to attract audiences to your niche.
For start-ups and SMEs, the key is to identify micro-influencers for your particular niche. This can be assisted by using a third party ‘influencer company’ that can assist in setting up particular launches or campaigns with social media influencers – such as LinkedIn -within your chosen field.
However, if you are working on an SME or start-up budget, connecting with people through LinkedIn & reviewing industry publications, blogs, forums & trade magazines to get a feel with who you need to know then reaching out is a quick and easy way to approach influencers.
Influencers are a hot marketing topic across not only B2B markets but also B2C and we will discuss more of this topic in 2018.
Trend 3 – The increasing importance of delivering a B2B customer experience
Customer experience is one of the most important buying considerations in B2B and B2C markets. If we don’t have a good experience, why buy again?
Thanks largely to the transactional, organised, structured & rigid structure of B2B, the customer experience often reflects all of these attributes…and more.
With increasing competition and more demanding buyers, business customers want ease, seamless interaction and a broader set of preferences and needs to be met. As a result, customer experience is predicted to take over price and product as being the key differentiator for B2B sales by 2020 (Source: Customers 2020: The Future of B2B Customer Experience by the Walker Group).
We can start to see this with the pushes by the big airlines in Australia to not simply focus on the big end of town but instead design a range of offers and deals that clearly have the needs of SMEs in mind. They have changed the game by offering a whole new B2B customer experience.
What does this mean for start-ups and SMEs?
Put simply, enjoy your break, reboot and refresh….but while you are doing it, consider the importance of understanding all participants in the B2B buying process as this will be mandatory more than ever before.
While you are getting stuck into the last piece of Christmas ham, think about how you need to have an effective B2B customer-driven strategy to drive growth.
Marketing is not a business cost, it is an investment. If you don’t have the time, skills or understanding to do it effectively within your organisation, outsource it. The opportunity/cost of getting a good marketing person who knows what they are doing & can make the above happen sooner for your start-up or SME, the sooner you start making more for your bottom line!
Finally, happy holidays & wishing you all a prosperous New Year!. Take some down time to rest, relax, celebrate the wins, spend time with friends and family.
Subscribe to and visit ListenInnovateGrow.com. 2018 will feature expanded content including videos and interviews as we delve into topics pertaining to developing growth strategies and exploring the role of innovation to drive growth and manage growth.