As a B2B business owner or manager, marketing is something to which you’ve most likely given some thought. Should you market? Is it important? Yes, marketing is definitely important and you should absolutely do it. The “if you build it they will come” philosophy might work in movies about baseball, but it won’t do anything for your business bottom line in real life. The reality is that people need to be educated and made aware of your business and its offerings. It’s extremely difficult – particularly in today’s uber-competitive markets – to be discovered without a little marketing push.
How much do I have to spend to make marketing effective?
In relative terms, not much at all. There’s no marketing tactic (or anything else today, really) that’s going to cost you five bucks and be effective. That said, there are lots of great marketing tactics that are scalable and that offer good value for the money you’ll spend. However, you do need to spend something. For established organizations looking to maintain their marketing presence, the rule of thumb is 3-5% of revenue should go back into the marketing pot. For businesses looking to establish or grow a marketing presence – for example those starting up or launching a new product or service, the spend is a little higher, around 7-10%. But that higher percentage is short term only based on the launch timeline or for the first year of business, for example. But whatever your marketing budget, investing in marketing your business is one of the most important spends you will make every year.
Where do I start?
Every business should have a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy or huge, but an online presence is key to the success of your marketing tactics. Your website will become the communication hub for your business, the place to which you drive prospects from your marketing efforts, and the reservoir of your business’s information, updates, and other important content you want your target audience to see.
Websites come in all shapes and sizes, but the best websites are succinct and offer up at least the following important information:
- Company description (who you are and what you have to offer)
- Product and Services Offering descriptions (what each product/service is, the benefit to the customer)
- Company contact information (address, phone, email, contact form if desired)
- Additional resources including case studies, blogs, client lists, partners lists, team bios, etc. (These are not necessary to have, but remember that relevant content increases your website search ranking and provides additional insight for prospects, making your company more relevant to them)
The upfront cost of your website may in fact be the largest lump spend you’ll make from your initial marketing budget. You can build a site yourself using a variety of online tools and companies to help, or you can go to a web developer to get this done. Depending on the complexity of your site and how you choose to build it, the cost for a simple initial site should be in the range of free (some self design sites) to $1500 - $8000 and up to work with a developer. Don’t forget you’ll also have ongoing monthly site hosting fees as well.
Okay, I have a site. Now how do I get businesses there?
If you have a very limited budget, determine the best ways to reach your target audience. Do they read trade magazines? Are there trade sites or other websites the industry uses regularly? Is your business geographically based? Do they go to tradeshows or conferences? You’ll need to do some research to figure out where your prospects spend their time looking for business solutions. If you have multiple audiences you want to reach, you may need to start with just one in order to make your marketing efforts deeper and most effective for the budget you’ve set.
The great thing about marketing is that there are lots of ways to create exposure and awareness and marketing tactics can be layered on over time – so there’s no need to jump in right away with both feet. Dipping a toe or two in first is a good way to start – not only to manage your marketing spend, but also to determine what works best for your business. To get you started, here are 5 good value for money ways to begin your marketing journey (once your website is up and running).
#1 – Digital Ads including Pay-Per-Click, Display and Social Media Ads
The beauty of these digital ads is that they drive people directly to your website (hopefully to a landing page geared to the ad they’ve clicked on). Pay-per-click ads allow you to manage your budget effectively by setting a monthly ad budget allocation that will never be overspent. The ads stop running when your budget runs out, and then start again when the next month begins. Display ads are booked based on the number of views per ad desired. When that number of views is reached, the ad stops running. Social media ads are usually the most costly of the three – LinkedIn particularly – but they allow ads to be targeted to specific audiences. For example, LinkedIn allows you to select geography, industry and job title – making it a very targeted way to advertise. Using specific landing pages with unique URLs for each of your ads will allow you to determine which ads are most effective for your business so that you can hone your digital ad strategy and make more efficient use of your marketing spend.
#2 – Business Cards, Pens and Other Printed Materials
The most traditional form of promotional advertising, putting a branded item in someone’s hand, is still one of the most effective and can be one of the least expensive. Having business cards printed and always taking them with you will provide opportunities to leave your company information behind for potential prospects. A branded item, such as a pen, is a simple and inexpensive way to put something into potential prospects’ hands that is a useful everyday item. The more they see your company name the more likely they are to recall it when they need products or services such as yours. Producing enough of them so that you have a stash for giveaways at events, conferences, client meetings, and other opportunities will also provide a volume cost savings per item produced. Branding other items such as letterhead, email signatures, presentation folders, power point presentations, and anything else that will be used to represent your business in some way only provides additional ongoing brand exposure and added marketing value for little if any additional cost.
#3 – Targeted Acquisition Campaign
You might think using direct mail in this process is old school, but if it’s done right, addressed mailers can be very effective. When combined with emails and phone calling, there is a much higher chance of converting your list to prospects. By doing the work yourself, the cost of an Acquisition Campaign is minimal.
The key to success has 3 steps:
Step 1: have a good list – this could be a prospect database you’ve been keeping, a list of businesses you want to target, or a list you’ve acquired and received permission to use from an industry association or tradeshow.
Step 2: have a good offer – something that has value but that doesn’t require a lot of commitment from your prospect to take advantage of. Discounting or BOGO offers for sales on products or services don’t work as well as you might think – particularly if they are not familiar with your business. And give it an expiry date to create a sense of urgency.
Step 3: Keep the list updated. As prospects respond move them to a warm prospect list or remove them entirely if they’ve opted out.
#4 – Blogs
Nurturing your prospects and providing insightful and informative information in general is a great way to create visibility for your brand and products/services. By creating searchable online content, such as blogs, you create other opportunities and ways for potential customers to find you. Ensure you include keywords that relate to your brand, business, industry, markets you serve, products and services. This way anyone typing in search terms has a better chance of finding your content and, ultimately, you. Post blogs on your website, corporate LinkedIn page, and send them via email to your lists to generate additional awareness and ongoing prospect touchpoints. The best part, of course, is that if you generate the blogs yourself – they’re free!
#5 – Social Media Posting
Another free marketing tactic – if managed by you – is social media posting. You will need to first determine what the most effective outlets are for your industry, customers and products/services. While some B2B businesses have a good Facebook community, many do not and would find it challenging to create one based on their business. But LinkedIn is definitely a great B2B platform where potential prospects may follow you – and don’t discount others outlets as well until you’ve investigated further. At a minimum, plan to post every 2 weeks – but more is never a negative. Consider what you’re posting as well – while some of your posts should drive prospects back to your website to specific content, ensure that there’s a good mix that includes relevant and interesting industry or market insight as well. You want to ensure, like your blogs, that your social posts are seen as informative and insightful and not just self-serving.
Need help making the right marketing choices for your business?
The Mezzanine Group are the B2B marketing and lead generation experts. Contact us today to put your marketing dollars to work effectively and efficiently without breaking the bank!