2015 was another year of massive growth in the digital marketing industry, with digital ad spend growing by a massive 17% to $58.12 billion dollars according to eMarketer. The B2B vertical enjoyed a large amount of this growth when it came to digital advertising and marketing, and many businesses who have properly used digital channels to generate new business had great years as a result. This was particularly apparent when it came to how efficiently certain marketing tactics were used by B2B companies over the course of 2015. Here are five B2B marketing tactics that set the tone for 2015 and are certain to be backbones of B2B digital marketing strategies in the year to come.
Mobile Marketing Strategies
2015 was undoubtedly a year of massive growth for mobile marketing, and this was particularly true in the world of B2B business. With more than a third of US B2B marketing professionals using a mobile device 50-75% of the time when researching purchase decisions digitally, it's little wonder that 65% of B2B marketers used mobile sites and mobile apps as a key part of their marketing strategy, while 45% took advantage of mobile email:
A great example of a business taking advantage of mobile over the course of 2015 comes from General Electric, who partnered with 40 merchants to promote local offers via Promoboxx's digital marketing system. Promoboxx developed ads and landing pages for GE that were then co-branded with local stores in order to create a B2B relationship that was extremely strong. Leveraging Facebook's mobile newsfeed ads at a CPM rate of $3.65 and a click-through rate of .5% as well as geo-targeted impression on mobile apps like TuneIn Radio, MLB, WeatherBug, Accuweather, and ABC News, GE to generate 1.7 million impressions, the campaign was extremely successful over a two week period.
Looking towards the New Year, recent studies suggest that mobile marketing tactics have been extremely successful for most B2B businesses. B2B product and service providers expect to increase the percentage of their mobile marketing budgets from 5.1% to 14.4% and 5% to 13% respectively, suggesting that mobile marketing spend during 2015 generated results that warrant such increases.
Targeted Content Marketing
According to March 2015 data from IDC research, for 44% of US B2B professionals, it takes between four months and more than a year to make a purchase decision. As a result it's little wonder that content is extremely important in order to help facilitate consistent brand recognition amongst potential clients throughout their buyer journey.
With more than one-third of B2B tech decision-makers reading at least six pieces of content before making a purchase decision, and almost half reading somewhere between two to five pieces of content before their purchases according to Eccolo Media, having targeted content marketing remains one of the most important B2B marketing strategies used in 2015. Content marketing has been a big player in the world of B2B digital marketing for some time now, but in 2015 it evolved to encompass more than just having a blog for the savviest businesses. Content types like infographics, videos, articles, digital magazines, research reports, and gamification all are now recognized players by most B2B marketing executives to not only build brand awareness and loyalty in the B2B space, but also to help drive consideration and purchases of a product or service in the B2B space: In my monthly SEO audit series we've taken a look at a lot of different websites and how they manage their content, and one B2B provider really stood out with how they manage their content marketing efforts: ReturnPath. They clearly understand that content marketing is so much more than just having a blog that is updated infrequently and have content like webinars, whitepapers, fact sheets, research reports, testimonials, and events. Even better, each of these pieces of content is hyper-targeted to the perceived needs of their customers and is also leveraged to capture emails in order to help facilitate easy email marketing as customers move down the conversion funnel.
Having strong, targeted, content marketing was one of the best ways B2B businesses could generate leads online. As we move into 2016 there is no reason that this should stop being the case. In order to take full advantage of this strategy in the new year look for more businesses to create new, unique types of content to help them stand apart from the competition and generate even more leads.
Social CTA Buttons
Back in the "Targeted Content Marketing" section you may have noticed in the content types graph that the #1 content type for effective awareness was a tie between social media posts and social media sites. While social media is certainly a great tool for generating awareness, it is also an extremely important tool for generating demand and actual purchases of a B2B product or service as well. According to a 2015 survey by Bizible, throughout 2015 paid social media was used by 58.3% of B2B marketers to generate demand - more than TV, radio, and print ads and video advertising combined. While B2B certainly has a longer lead time than B2C, that doesn't mean that direct response advertisements on social media with calls to action won't work. This is particularly true for B2Bs that leverage services like retargeting to inform who they serve direct response advertisements to in order to take the amount of visits to a site into consideration before serving users with an advertisement.
A great example of this is MedCPU who have leveraged Facebook's "Contact Us" button in their ads to target users in the U.S. who are interested in healthcare IT services and could feasibly be decision makers at hospitals that are buying such products. Over the course of two weeks, MedCPU was able to generate 248 clicks to their site at a cost of only 80 cents a click. As we enter into 2016 look for more direct response ads and "contact us" buttons on social media. This is particularly true on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, where social CTA buttons and direct response homepage ad units are now currently being used by a number of different brands.
While email marketing is certainly not as sexy or trendy as some of the other tactics that are on this list, a recent July 2015 study found that 83% of B2B marketers think that email is currently the most important marketing tactic available. One way that email marketing is becoming trendier for B2B businesses is the concept of "lead nurturing". Using tools like marketing automation and targeted content to guide prospects through the conversion funnel, almost two thirds of respondents said that lead nurturing would be the most important marketing tactic moving forward.
A great example of lead nurturing in action comes from the National Educational Association's workflow to try and get current members to add their complimentary life insurance plan. Instead of just sending a blanketed email in the hopes of getting their leads to take an action, they took the time to determine what email would be most relevant to a user based on their behavioral patterns. They build out an extremely specific plan that had dozens of behavioral indicators to determine what email each lead would receive while it was in their workflow:
Look for email and lead nurturing to continue to play a huge role in B2B marketing in 2016, particularly when it comes to mobile devices. Between Q2 2014 and Q2 2015 desktop's share of email has declined 12%, so businesses that want to maintain a strong email marketing strategy with or without lead nurturing need to take mobile into account - even if desktop's share of email is still currently 3 times that of mobile.
Precise Location-Based Marketing
One of the most effective and quickly growing areas of digital marketing we've seen over the course of 2015 is an increase focus on precision location-based marketing. For B2Bs and B2Cs alike, the more precisely businesses are able to target a specific location or area the better chance they have of finding a qualified audience for their product or service. Whether it is a state, city, city, or even more importantly, a specific building like an airport or a convention center, narrowing down advertising efforts can dramatically increase the efficiency of any digital marketing campaign. According to a study by Experian Data Quality survey done in August of 2015, US CIOs see the value of this and are planning on almost doubling their focus on gathering location data in 2016. Perhaps even more telling is that according to a study performed by Jivox, more than half of US ad agency executives use location API data to inform their dynamic ad strategies - a type of data that is second only to demographic data.
Over the course of 2016 look for location-based marketing to get even more precise to cater to marketing executives' demands for more location data that they can efficiently leverage to generate greater ROI. Particularly with new wearable technology getting a major foothold over the course of 2015, there will be an even larger spotlight on mobile devices, with the pairing of mobile to related desktop and laptop devices and extremely precise location tracking down to specific geographical coordinates two particular focuses.
New Year, New Opportunities
While these tactics made up some of the best digital strategies used in 2015, all of these elements, from email to content marketing, will change in some way in the coming year. It is important that B2B businesses take note of changes in each tactic and shift their strategies accordingly to continue to get the most out of their digital marketing initiatives. 2016 provides B2Bs with new opportunities to latch onto evolving trends in the industry and businesses that succeed in 2015 need to make sure they keep innovating to continue to get the greatest ROI possible.