How to build your customer database…it’s a tough question that keeps many business owners up at night. You want to reach your customers and clientele on their level. You want to meet their needs, provide service that wows them, and keep them coming back for more.
But at the same time, many marketing managers worry about coming on too strong and getting too personal. You want to build a genuine relationship with your clients—not wear them down or come off as invasive.
While your key customers value their privacy, they also expect personalization—so many companies end up attempting a balancing act. Yet, most research shows customers willingly share information, provided they know it’s being used to create a positive experience.
Your best bet? Give customers opportunities to share information openly rather than staying quiet and waiting for data that will never come.
Here are four innovative ways to get your customers to open up:
1. Conduct (short) surveys to capture details
Micro-surveys have become quite popular over the last few years. These quick surveys consist of less than five questions and are often conducted right at the point of sale. While they’re obviously effective for collecting customer satisfaction metrics in B2C settings such as retail, they’re ALSO a great way to capture metrics about your key buyers, even in B2B. But don’t get greedy—keep your surveys short. Measure overall satisfaction or let clients quickly assess one issue like delivery speed. If you want to collect a demographic metric, focus on one, such as company size or volume. Keeping it concise keeps your contact from feeling hassled.
2. Work with micro-influencers who click with your audience
Micro-influencers (those with a social media audience of under 5000 followers) are also great promoters of your brand, especially seeing as 85% of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional ads. This same approach works for B2B sales as well. Campaigns driven by micro-influencers show 60% higher engagement. For a much lower cost than a “celebrity endorsement,” an influencer will share your products or services with their enthusiastic and loyal peer supporters—many of whom share commonalities you can use for segmentation as you build your customer database.
3. Offer subscribing customers incentives
Can you give your top clients access to exclusive notifications? Bonus content? New products or services before they’re otherwise publicized? If you want to collect customer data by sharing a weekly newsletter or another piece of content, then give them exclusive access or extra incentives for handing over their information. Customers respond well to value-driven opt-in incentives: a series of demonstration videos, a printable maintenance schedule, an easy reference guide. Don’t offer a one-time opt-in to trade for their email address and contact information and then forget about the relationship. Use communication, incentives, bonuses and exclusive opportunities as a method for building that ongoing relationship and discovering more about your clients.
4. Provide easy signups to build your customer database
How easy is it for your clients to share their data with you? When your customers visit your website or place a job order, are they given a clear, easy way to sign up for future communication? It may seem like a no-brainer, but many businesses skip this critical step. Clients may visit your website one time, but if you want to build repeat business, create a clear, obvious, easy method for capturing those leads. Customers spend under a minute on a website (sometimes far less time), so don’t miss out on a chance to build a connection.
If you want to build your customer database, it’s important to focus on building your relationships. When you’ve forged a strong bond with your clients, built loyalty, and offered them incentives, they’ll keep on comin’ back for more.
Are you wasting up to 80% of your sales leads?
In any other part of your business operations, an 80% waste rate would NEVER be tolerated. Yet, many companies do it every day with their lead generation programs.
Here’s the fundamental problem:
When a person opts into your e-newsletter or downloads a special report, they’re not necessarily ready to buy from you. In our estimation, only about one out of five opt-ins are hot prospects.
Another challenge is that traditional inbound marketing treats lead generation as a discrete event. The marketing team publishes content, holds an event or does something else that generates leads, which are then handed off to the sales team. But salespeople want to be focused on closing, not on sorting out which ones are hot and which aren’t. As a result, many lukewarm leads go to waste.
A more efficient approach: lead nurturing
Lead generation is not a discrete event but a process. New opt-ins to your list don’t immediately like and trust your company. That takes time and nurturing. The engine of that nurturing process is quality content, focused on their needs at each step of their buyer’s journey.
To do this, your marketing team must develop detailed audience personas, which describe the ideal prospect’s needs, challenges, values and aspirations. Once you have a deep understanding of what motivates your target audience, you can create content that maps to each step in their research, vendor selection and purchasing process.
How can you tell where a prospect is in their buyer’s journey? If you are using a marketing automation system, it’s actually fairly easy. When you acquire a new lead, the software places a cookie in the prospect’s browser, which enables it to track the web pages they visit. As they return to your website to download additional resources, you can tell how far along they are by the topics they’re focusing on.
For example, if a prospect is downloading white papers, reports and other educational resources, chances are they are early in the process. On the other hand, if they’re downloading product sheets, configuration tips and other late-stage content, they are probably ready to buy.
Example: Widen’s Digital Asset Management content strategy
One company that does an outstanding job of nurturing is Widen Enterprises, a developer of digital asset management solutions (DAM) located in Madison, WI. Its website contains an impressive resource library that provides white papers, recorded webinars, infographics and other resources that map to each step in their audience’s buyer’s journey.
One of my favorite pieces in the Widen resource center is the DAM Decision Guide. It enables potential buyers to clearly define their needs and ultimately purchase the best DAM solution. It incorporates the customer journey as an organizing principle for the prospect’s DAM selection process, which is brilliant in a meta sort of way!
The bottom line is this: No matter where a prospect is in their DAM consideration and selection process, the Widen DAM resource center contains informational tools and resource that can streamline it and make the prospect’s job easier.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal of content?
Where do you stand?
How does your company view inbound marketing and lead generation? If your approach resembles Widen Enterprises, congratulations! You’re way ahead of the game.
On the other hand, if you only gather leads and hand them off to your salespeople, you may want to reconsider your approach.
For more on this subject, download our new lead nurturing eGuide, Are Your Leads Ending Up Just South of Nowhere?
“Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Many business leaders have great vision, but it’s hard to pull off the actual execution part—especially for small businesses. One of the hardest areas to manage is marketing. It’s a constant, ongoing process: promotion, conversion, leads, follow-up, sale, follow-through, and repeat sales. Process disruption is common, lead times can be looong, and sometimes important prospects can fall through the cracks—and out of the sales cycle.
But there’s good news! There are a lot of great ways to keep your sales cycle flowing. However, to stay ahead of the game, your first step is to make the call: you must make your marketing a priority.
Look back at 2015. Be honest: how many marketing goals did you actually accomplish? If you’ve tried to make marketing a priority and you just can’t keep on top of it, review this list of…
4 Common Marketing-Crushing Mistakes …plus, how to fix them.
Mistake #1. Assuming You Can Do It All
Small businesses have an especially hard time efficiently allocating resources. So, if you’re the CEO and you’re too busy trying to make sense of your marketing analytics so you don’t have time to follow up with an important customer, you could lose a huge chunk of business and hurt your reputation—all while wasting too much of your valuable time.
The fix? If marketing is the last item on your list (because holy cow, that is one LONG to do list), it’s time to take a step back and look at your business operations. List all the day-to-day business operations your full-time staff is capable of handling. Automate what you can and outsource the rest.
Do only what you do best. You just don’t have time to do everything.
Mistake #2. Unrealistic Staff Expectations
When you’re evaluating what tasks your staff is capable of handling, be brutally honest. No matter how much you care for an employee, not everyone grows where they’re planted. Reassign tasks so each employee has a role where they can shine. Your team will be happier and so will your customers.
One of the worst areas of offense? Attempting to internally maintain your content marketing strategy and production. Crafting a marketing strategy and effective writing are specific skill sets. (And they require much more experience than you can siphon out of your interns!) Your employees may even be willing, but not talented, and that can lead to a huge time-suck with no real payoff.
The fix? Consider outsourcing your content marketing. If it’s not getting done, it’s not going to get done. If it’s not getting done well, you’re likely hurting your online reputation. Hire on a team who can help keep your marketing (and your sales cycle) firing on all cylinders, all the time.
Mistake #3. A Lack of Strategy
Effective marketing is all about the plan. You know you need to produce a ton of useful content, but it can’t just be words. Starting with the big picture and narrowing that down to specific goals and marketing tasks you can execute on? No easy feat—but oh SO important! Your content should have a cohesive theme to answer your customer’s needs, help them make buying decisions, and spark their creativity.
A great plan always leads back to your content. Targeted email promotions lead to a targeted landing page designed to support the sale, then additional content should supply the extra information your customer requires to make that crucial buying decision. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together…and works? It can.
Mistake #4. Failing to Get the Most Out of your Content
They may not come just because you build it. You can hire professionals, collect information for marketing reports, stuff your website with a huge amount of expensive informational copy, and still, no one comes. Why not?
There might be a lot of answers, but the most common issues are poor presentation and lack of promotion. You need strong social media presence to promote your content and you also need the right presentation. Information broken into easily digestible chunks, instead of presented as a dense block of words, is more effective.
That’s why infographics and charts work so well. Make complex information easy with a visual presentation. Use whatever method is most accessible for your audience: graphics, charts, or video tutorials, for example.
Let’s Do This.
Make your 2016 goal to make marketing a priority, even when you’re overwhelmed with day-to-day operations. You simply can’t afford to make marketing your lowest priority again this year. Following the sale from start to finish and then beyond to a long-term relationship is the gold standard. This is your year to get there!
We can help. Check out these free marketing resources or give us a call today to make marketing a priority in 2016.
Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.
You’ll learn how to:
- Increase Your Referral Rate
- Increase Your Social Media Reach
- Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
- Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
- Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
In marketing circles, gated content is an often debated concept. Why? Let’s start with how gated content works …
Placing a “gate” on your website content refers to the practice of requiring your website visitor to enter specific information to gain access to specific content. For example, you might require a client to log in to your website to retrieve client-specific reports. Another example: requiring a prospect to enter their name and email address to download an eBook. This second example is the type of gated content we’re talkin’ about.
So when does gated content make sense for your website?
The Problem with Gating
Building a mailing list is essential for growing your business. It’s your single most valuable asset. By requiring people to log in before viewing your website, you capture every visitor who doesn’t immediately bounce. Sounds like a fast way to build your list…but is it effective?
Gating turns a lot of people off. When asked for personal information, or worse, for a credit card to “verify” age or location (or whatever justification you’ve decided to use), most people will get the heck off your website, pronto…and they might even complain.
Additionally, website visitors who DO fill out your form may provide false information. A mailing list full of fake email addresses or spam-catcher addresses is worse than useless: it can be costly.
When Gating Works: Generating Earned Leads
Let’s face it: there’s a LOT of ungated content out there. So, in many cases, if you haven’t earned your prospect’s loyalty, they’re probably not going to go the extra mile to give you their information in exchange for your content. However, there are situations where gating is both acceptable and accepted.
The school of thought on how to generate quality leads has changed considerably. Today, marketers are abandoning the idea of a huge untargeted mailing list in favor of a focused list containing only qualified leads: people who signed up out of genuine interest.
Earning an engaged prospect and customer base is a more involved strategy—but boy, does it pay off. Effort is required on many fronts: engaging in active participation on social media, providing valuable and unique content, and engaging consumers via both direct and indirect channels.
Your end goal: build trust.
An engaged audience will willingly hand over their contact details to acquire valuable assets, enter a contest, or participate in a live web presentation.
Gating only the most valuable content you offer, as opposed to all content, means qualifying leads at the beginning, before the buy cycle even begins. Your sales team will spend less time weeding out uninterested, unqualified, or simply false leads, plus they’ll have more time to engage people who are more likely to become customers.
Selective gating saves you money and helps you avoid productivity losses associated with a large, messy contact lists.
Content for Every Stage in the Buy Cycle
Potential customers, people ready to buy, and existing customers are all looking for different content at different times. Your content plan should include graduated content, from general industry and product information for site visitors in the exploratory stages of the buying cycle to content that answers specific questions to close the sale or retain the customer.
Which content you gate should depend on its value and potential appeal to interested buyers and it should be targeted to a specific stage of the buying cycle. Today’s marketing is customer focused. To get and keep their attention, it’s important to gate only content with a clear benefit to the reader.
Gating and SEO
Gating content poses serious issues in respect to SEO. Bots can’t fill out forms, so gated content is invisible to bots. Be sure to add SEO value with a summary of the gated content on a detailed landing page. Summary pages provide search bots with information while still guarding your value proposition.
If you do choose to gate content, make sure it’s worth it. Customers who give up their details only to receive mediocre content that does not deliver as promised are likely to become annoyed. It’s easy to break the trust you tried so hard to build. Don’t risk it!
Today, the decision to buy is no longer a moment–it’s a process. To learn how to engage with your prospects and customers at EVERY stage in the buy cycle, download our free guide to Growth Cycle Marketing.
- 14 ways to engage your prospects to drive home the sale
- How to influence your customer’s decision to buy
- Why your current customers are your biggest asset
- The exact type of content your prospects and customers want
- How this proven, 5-stage process attracts new customers and grows your business
Your website is your most powerful marketing tool. It’s where you meet, greet and impress your customers enough to buy your products or engage with your services. It should be a lead-generation machine: a hotbed of activity, delivering a steady stream of qualified leads to your sales team…or it can just sit there and stagnate.
If your website isn’t helping you close sales, here are 9 great ways to ramp it up.
- Spruce up your homepage. Unless they’re following a link to a targeted landing page, most of the time your site visitors will land on your homepage first. Is yours welcoming, informative, and easy to navigate? If your homepage is crowded, outdated or confusing, your visitors will bounce. Figure out why potential customers are coming to your website and make sure what they want to find is prominently displayed.
- Check your contact information. Sounds simple, but be sure your contact info is correct and easy to find on every page. Customers want to know you’ll respond. If a form on a contact page is your only option, you may lose business to more accessible companies.
- Communicate clearly and quickly. Is your language friendly and conversational? In the interest of professionalism, many business owners choose wordy, formal language delivered in dense paragraphs. Informal language, larger text, and shorter sentences and paragraphs appeal more to web users.
- Get your content on. Fill your pages with rich and varied content. Tell your brand story to engage visitors. If you don’t offer a wealth of information, instructions, training, and how-tos, your competition will. Win loyal customers with your expertise.
- Update frequently. Keeping your content fresh gives visitors a reason to return, plus, it boosts your search engine rankings. Add new press releases, start a blog, and ensure any current news on your site is, well, current.
- Create stand-out CTAs (calls-to-action). What do you want visitors to do? View your catalog? Sign up for your mailing list? Learn more about your services? Make your CTA bold, clear, and consistent on every page.A word to the wise: “Buy Now!” may seem like an effective CTA, but use it cautiously. You website visitors may be at any stage of the Growth Cycle Marketing process. In the early stages, they want to check out your products, compare prices, and find information. They may not be ready to buy. Others may be returning customers. Address visitors in different stages of the buy cycle with targeted landing pages and offer something valuable in return for their email address.
- Shorten your forms. In the early days of the web, IRS-length forms were common. Companies needed to collect everything. Today, you can cut it down considerably. Early in the process, many companies just ask for name and email. That’s all you need to build your email list. If you have a great CRM, your email list will link to your social media accounts. Once you earn their business, you’ll collect the rest.
- Evaluate your SEO. If you haven’t performed a comprehensive SEO audit in a while, your website may be buried deep in search page results. The rules have changed, so what worked just a few years ago may be hurting you now.
- Follow up. The Internet has raised expectations. Customers want a response in hours, not days…and certainly not weeks. When a lead is generated, a salesperson should get an alert, and follow up should happen as quickly as possible. Even in the digital automation age, customer service is your greatest asset.
Your website is not an online sales brochure. An optimized website can be an extension of your marketing department and a logical step in the buying process. By implementing the newest SEO and marketing techniques, providing information your visitors are looking for, and offering fast, personalized response, your website will become a lead-generation machine.
Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! A great content marketing strategy is a big way to make your website into lead-generation machine. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.
You’ll learn how to:
- Increase Your Referral Rate
- Increase Your Social Media Reach
- Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
- Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
- Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
Small B2B businesses face complex problems in today’s marketplace. You’re dealing with stiff competition from global importers who drive down prices and, at the same time, trying to get a foothold in an industry full of well-established and anchored domestic competitors. If you can’t offer the lowest prices or the lightning-fast service of big, high-volume operations, how will you compete?
Every B2B small business can carve out a niche, even in tough industries. It’s just a matter of finding what resonates with your customers—then making that bit of gold work for you—so you can nab more sales and grow your B2B business.
#1. Find Your Shine—and Share It
Consider what you have to offer and define what makes you stand out. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can craft your corporate image, branding and marketing in an honest and unique way your customers will love.
Remember that old Avis campaign? “We’re number two, so we try harder.” It worked because of its fresh and honest approach, not to mention its hardworking appeal to the average American—their customers could relate, and gaining that ground was worth millions.
If you’re an SMB, you may never be #1, but you are most certainly unique. You’re not trapped in layers of corporate hierarchy, so find your angle and own it. Show your customers what you’re passionate about. Be fresh. Be honest. Drive your point home.
Maybe you can’t deliver tomorrow, and maybe you can’t offer the lowest prices on the market. Those are powerful incentives…but not necessarily as compelling as other things you can offer that giant “faceless” companies simply can’t match.
Here are a few areas where smaller B2B companies can deliver more—and shine:
- Share your expertise. Make knowledge your top selling point by hiring and training well-qualified employees and giving them enough autonomy to address each customer’s problem on a personal level. Your people should be able to listen and respond with real solutions, not canned responses.
- Focus on quality. Your customers want to feel valued. Stress the importance of custom solutions built from the ground up. Build your reputation on precision and quality construction and/or service. Small businesses have a reputation for caring more about their customers. Capitalize on that feel-good feature.
- Cut out the middleman. If you can cut costs by, for example, shipping directly to your customers, consider doing it. If you can offer your B2B services without relying on a third party, consider going for it. Distribution channels add costs you may be able to eliminate…thus lowering costs without lowering quality.
#2. Bring Your Team Together—and Collaborate
After you’ve defined your best selling points, you need an actionable plan to build your brand story and establish your corporate culture. It must be a top-to-bottom marketing solution with every member of your team on board. Management, marketing, sales, product experts, and customer service reps should all be in the know and ready to go.
To put your vision to work, sales and marketing need to coordinate and collaborate. Marketing needs to know how to identify hot leads and sales needs to follow up every step of the way. Treat your existing customers like the old friends they are and offer support and information no matter where they are in the buying cycle. Give your team the tools and information they need to succeed.
#3. Keep the Content Flowing—and Connect
Fresh, informational website content will help keep your existing customers engaged while helping you sell to new customers. Tailor all your content marketing efforts to address specific needs within your customer’s industry. What are your top 10 customer FAQs? Be sure your website content points your customers straight to helpful, informative answers.
Visual presentations, recent testimonials, detailed case studies and industry-specific product and services comparisons can help you communicate your value to potential B2B customers. Appealing content includes slideshows, photos, and even video—not just endless streams of text. Your customers deserve better. If your customers need technical specs, present them in a fact sheet with easy-to-scan bullet points, instead of a headache-inducing jungle of words.
#4. Get Clever—and WIN
Sungard AS won big a couple years back with a clever marketing ploy. They did something pretty unusual in B2B…created an infographic that harnessed pop culture while addressing a common IT concern: it compared “moving to the cloud” to surviving a zombie apocalypse. Yes, you read that right. The infographic went viral, and Sungard ran with the concept, building out more zombie-themed informational content. And guess what? Yep, their target market LOVED it.
You’ll close more deals if you work to understand both why your business is unique and how you can best meet and exceed your customers’ needs. Pinpoint your customers’ pain points and create targeted content to draw in new customers and keep your existing customers happy. Answering your customers’ and prospects’ questions and concerns while educating them about your small B2B venture—now that’s always win-win. Tie it all together, collaborate and get creative and you’ll nab more sales than ever.
Check out these five case studies to learn replicable marketing strategies from leading B2B manufacturers. No matter what industry you’re in, the competition is heating up. Traditional marketing methods simply aren’t enough anymore.
Get this step-by-step guide for creating a workable content and social marketing strategy for your B2B enterprise — Get ahead of the curve.