Automation: It’s Not Automatic

Your company does email campaigns. Then one day, your marketing coordinator tells you about this new platform or that revolutionary tool that makes it possible to automate your campaigns — you will suddenly double your conversion rate, the number of clicks will explode, and you will retire in the next year! Yippee!

Too good to be true? Sadly so…

Automation is growing rapidly. It lets you build and maintain a deeper relationship with your customers and prospects, while optimizing the results you obtain from your marketing efforts. But the whole automation thing is about the processes; not about the actual content!

Yes, but the automation platform claims this and that…

The automation tool you are considering certainly looks promising. The website probably offers a compelling case for you to adopt it. The platform is surely so simple, that it only takes one click to subscribe.

But hold on a second.

It is crucial to understand what automation is about. Don’t think your email campaigns are going to be created and sent “automagically” without any human intervention.

Automating an email campaign allows you to specify actions to take based on specific criteria. For example, if someone clicks on a link, they will become “active” in your database and advance a step further down your sales funnel so that, on your next mailing, they will receive a more suitable email. In contrast, the prospect who received your email but did not open it after a few days will receive a second email insisting on the urgency of clicking quickly, or offering an additional incentive.

You get it? All these personalized emails will be sent automatically at the right time.

But… how do you determine the workflow of these emails?

Your gut feeling is not a marketing analysis

To automate your processes, you first need to analyze the current behaviours of your subscribers’ as well as the performances of your past campaigns.

How many of your emails are opened and how often are your links clicked on? Do your emails get more engagement with senior executives or with engineers? Does your database only include decision makers or other stakeholders involved in the buying cycle? You need to know who you’re talking to.

Based on your personas, campaign goals and business intelligence, such an analysis will help you identify weaknesses in your communication process to improve them.

Furthermore, talking to your sales force will help you determine when’s the best time, during the decision-making process, to intervene in an automated manner. By cross-referencing the results of your campaign with your website’s statistics and with what your vendors hear “around town,” you’ll end up with a clearer picture of prospects and customers’ behavioural profile.

In the end, you’ll get a much less linear and much more efficient process. Each email becomes, to a certain extent, tailor-made according to the qualifications of your lead or, according to the loyalty of your customer.

But you have to take the time to do this analysis! And that’s not all…

The empty can rattles the most

That’s all very good and well but, what do your personalized emails say?

You’re certainly not going to use generic messages to fill the templates of your beautiful email marketing platform. At least, I hope not…

As you deploy your shiny new automation solution, keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to strengthen the service you provide to your customers and make customized interventions with your prospects. It’s not about making as much noise as possible with empty emails sent in mass, but about engaging in individual interactions as if a human were talking.

And for it to work, you need a human somewhere! It takes a team to build a content repository!

The robot’s pen

It takes more than a trendy style to write effective content. This is not the kind of task you should be delegating to your assistant, but rather a fundamental exercise that should involve both your sales and marketing teams.

The content of each email, the message you want to deliver and the calls to action should all be consistent with your global marketing efforts. It is imperative to write with your brand’s overall strategy in mind and the content should become an extension of your other tactics.

This famous “robot” that will automate the sending of your emails is not a new breakthrough…. It’s really you, the human being, who will address each of your subscribers, customers and prospects; at least, that’s what they should feel when they open your emails.

Deploying an automation tool effectively requires a lot of creative, storytelling and scripting work. Just as you already devote time and effort to writing  texts for your website, brochures and maybe even your blog, you need to do the same with your email campaigns.

Yes, even if it’s automated!

The human behind technological miracles

So yes, automation offers many benefits. It limits repetitive tasks and it ensures that each email delivery is made on an ad hoc basis and to the right people. Automation can speed up the sales process (which is particularly lengthy in B2B) by insisting on the right arguments at the right time.

But it requires actual work. You can’t just subscribe to a new platform or install a plugin and call it a day. You need to analyze your current efforts, crunch your business data, and then build a library of punch phrases, calls to action, sales pitches and rebuttal to common objections. You must get your hands dirty to be successful.

Does that sound complex to you? Don’t hesitate to consult experts who can create tailored content for you, consistent with your marketing and well aligned with your sales. This human touch is the secret behind a successful automation!

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson AI-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to assist your business in its digital transformation and in the automation of its processes.  Contact us!


THIS ARTICLE IS A FINALIST IN THE MARTECH CATEGORY OF THE B2B MARKETING ZONE MVP AWARDS 2019. VOTE FOR US HERE!

Set Your Employer Brand Apart – A Digital Campaign Example

Creating and strengthening an employer brand is an ongoing challenge for every business, especially in industries where employers fight for a limited source of qualified workforce. In such a situation, defending the company’s interests turns into a strategic MarCom mission. So how do you achieve that?

I’ll share some insights from campaigns we have created and run for one of our clients. This large manufacturer is constantly trying to meet their recruiting needs on a seasonal basis. While I’ll refrain from giving away confidential data, I do hope you find valuable information in this article that can be used to improve your own campaigns.

Campaign Goals

Our client aims at recruiting permanent employees, but also extra employees for peak production season. Consequently, the campaigns had to be flexible enough to be adjusted when needed.

Goals were determined according to the number of resumes received in each of the cities we targeted.

Geographic Segmentation

It is important to understand that our client has plants in multiple cities across the province. Their recruiting efforts had to be aimed at well-defined zones surrounding these cities.

Concretely, it means we created one individual campaign for each city. And determined the area around each city based on our audience’s profile. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are potential employees travelling to work by car?
  • If not, is public transit available?
  • Is there a direct competitor in the same area?
  • Is the population of that area proportional to the budget we want to invest?

These are but a few of the considerations to define the area you need to target. If public transit is available and your audience is unlikely to own a car, make sure the transit is realistic. And if they do own a car, think about the traffic. You could end up targeting an area that’s geographically close to the location of your workplace, but with people reluctant to spend and hour back and forth just to get to work.

These particular details will influence the area your campaign covers.

Audiences

Now, in every city, it is necessary to convey the right message and target the right people.

Things to consider:

  • What level of education do you need?
  • What interests can these people have, other than work-related stuff?
  • And what websites are they likely to visit? Are they likely to look on employment website?

You know your colleagues better than anyone else does. Take the time needed to define particular attributes to target more precisely. Find out what they have in common and focus on this. Why don’t you run an informal survey within the company? That could help you reach the right candidates, but also recruit people who will fit in.

Be careful with all these attributes — you may end up having your ads blocked because your are discriminating based on age, culture or ethnicity.

Landing Pages

Ok, so you’ve sent the right message to the right people. Now what? Our favourite and most effective solution is to create a landing page.

We have made pages especially for these campaigns to send a message that’s coherent with the ads, and to increase the conversion rate.

The wording, the keywords, and the images we use are all used towards achieving a single goal: having the visitor send their resume and apply for the job.

So you need to make it easy for them. Here are some useful tips to increase conversions!

  • Stick to as few actions as possible. Remove your menu from the header. Minimize the footer. Hide all the buttons to subscribe to your newsletter or to learn more about your company. Focus on one action: apply for the job.
  • Offer to fill out a simple form that asks for the bare minimum. The more fields to fill, the higher the chance of having the user stop and go away. Surname, name, phone, email, resume in attachment.
  • Don’t confuse the visitors. Use the same images, wording and keywords you have used in your ads.

There are other “rules” to create a solid landing page. But these few tips are a good starting point.

Sustained Efforts

The success of your digital campaigns resides in sustained efforts. You can’t simply launch a campaign and expect results. Don’t forget to:

  • Follow up promptly with the candidates. Your HR people will be solicited; make sure your efforts are aligned.
  • Reply to comments posted on social networks, even if (or especially if) they’re negative. Show that, as an employer, you care about what your employees think. Mae sure your social media guru knows about your campaign and your goals.
  • Optimize your campaigns! This is an crucial and ongoing process. You need to adjust frequently in order to get the best ROI. People stumbled on your ad for a physical job after searching for an office job? Add exclusions and remove these keywords from your campaign. A city if under-performing while you can’t cope with the number of resumes coming from another? Adjust your budgets to re-balance conversions.

The success of your campaign requires sustained efforts.

Results

So, did it work for us? YES!

Our client’s campaigns have been running for over a year which, in itself, is quite a success!

But numbers don’t lie:

  • On the Search Network, our average cost per click varies between $0.51 to $1.25 from campaign to campaign, much lower than the employment sector’s average ($4.20), and about half of all sectors’ average ($2.32).
  • Our conversion rate ranges from 4.58% to 7.61%, more than double the average conversion for all industries (2.70%).
  • Several hundred resumes have been received by our client. Dozens every week. That’s how you attract potential candidates!

This graph shows how our campaign performed since January 2018. You can see the dip where seasonal demand was lower, and you can tell by the progression we’ve been optimizing at the early stage.

Conclusion

How you project your employer brand matters. In a way, the reputation of your business will drive your campaign. Furthermore, every word, every parameter, every keyword, and every audience must be carefully selected to achieve success.

You want to improve you employer brand? You are actively recruiting? I hope you liked reading this article. Obviously, the ExoB2B team will be more than happy to help you create your own successful digital campaign!

ExoBlog’s 10th anniversary – An interview with Lynda St-Arneault

ExoB2B’s blog celebrates its 10th anniversary. During the past decade, the company has made it a sustainable platform to share knowledge and new innovations in the world of inter-company marketing. But beyond its informational aspect, ExoB2B’s blog has also proven to be a powerful marketing tool and an effective lead generator.

Lynda St-Arneault, President and founder of ExoB2B, explains the journey that led to the launch of the blog.

Lynda, what motivated you to create the first B2B blog in Quebec? What was the trigger?

At the time (and even today, for that matter), we noticed and became aware of the latest trends in marketing, especially on the American side, where they often seem to be a step ahead of what’s going on.

We obviously saw the blogs multiply and cover a multitude of subjects. But what served as a catalyst in 2009 is when we discovered that some blogs were dealing with marketing (like ClickZ and HubSpot for example).

With what we found and reading a few case studies, we quickly realized that not only was there an interest in these blogs, but also that ExoB2B could contribute in its own way and benefit from it.

Concretely, how did the launch of the blog happen? What obstacles have you encountered?

Oh, it wasn’t easy! There was no procedure or prechewed solution. Yes, Blogger and WordPress existed, but they were light years away from what we know today. Between blogging for fun and blogging professionally based on an inbound marketing strategy (content, SEO and social media, such as HubSpot, who defined it at the time), there was a big step to overcome. It was necessary to innovate and to be inspired by the rise of the most popular blogs. You had to dare.

Remember that in 2009, blogs were not necessarily credible. Barack Obama himself, a progressive and information buff, was issuing a warning on the rise in popularity of blogs! One of my relatives, a computer addict, advised me not to touch this because blogs were only used by geeks and did not report anything concrete.

We were going against the current, with measuring tools that have nothing to do with today’s tools or blogs published on HubSpot. It still allowed us to “launch the inbound machine!”. We then opted for WordPress and measuring tools more adapted to our reality.

How did ExoB2B’s blog stand out from the others?

This was the first B2B marketing blog in Quebec! And bilingual, too! While blogs were more similar to a kind of personal diary, we launched ours with a strategy in mind, and a strong team to put it forward.

Each of our five bloggers had a specialty and a field of expertise their own. Together, they covered what ExoB2B had to offer and, allowed us to approach B2B marketing in depth, in an unusual way and different from others. We created one of the first ambassador-employee program on social networks and the blog: Exotypes.

In addition to that, I think we had an attitude of our own. Our ambition, our desire to improve things and our energy was reflected in our blog posts.

But what has made our blog unique and different is the professionalism and precision of how we deal with topics that challenge the experts in B2B marketing. We offered original content from the very beginning. Our blog is a projection of our expertise.

What about your intentions behind all this? What exactly did you want to get out of it?

Obviously, we wanted to establish our authority in the field, our thought leadership. It was a way for us, both to share our expertise and generate interest in B2B marketing.

Ultimately, we envisioned conversions. We wanted readers to get to know us, develop a better understanding of marketing and, see that ExoB2B is a good partner to support their efforts, to develop better strategies or, to accompany their tactical deployment of these.

How did you manage to keep up with the rhythm over the years, and always have inspiration to feed your blog?

I think, you must first sincerely believe in it. We have published nearly 500 blog posts to date, at a sustained pace and almost double if you consider the English versions as well.

Moreover, we have been able to innovate throughout its 10 years. We have long been talking about the importance of content marketing, the benefits of automation, the potential of AI and the exploitation of big data. In 2015, we even started integrating videos into our blogs – we launched our vlog posts!

We also had to adapt to changes. We went from short blogs to long blogs, finally settling on somewhere in between. One must not only write new content for a market very nestled with few readers in Quebec, but also, stand out in a context of content saturation. While we are busy with client mandates, we need to devote more time to our blogs and videos, to optimize them and meet the “always new” requirements of SEO…

In a way, all these challenges serve as inspiration. The subjects are not lacking! The idea is to sniff out trends, understand what the industry needs, and respond to them as best we can.

What kind of results have you obtained?

Excellent results!

Of course, it’s long-term work whose effects are sometimes measured only years later. But the positive contribution of the blog for our company is undeniable.

In addition to many positive comments received by our readers, I believe we have been able to be recognized as a source of relevant and credible marketing content. Readers recognize the intellectual effort behind each blog and they have a positive perception of our business. The renowned B2B marketing Academy in the United States has even recognized the value of our blog and its “brilliant and provocative” content.

The goal we had to increase our credibility has been achieved!

Also, the campaign on our blog with the marketing influencers was very noticeable last year and added to this credibility. Our strategic mentality and the advanced analyses we put forward have also been noticed. For example, we have been invited to conferences and even been contacted by journalists to discuss B2B marketing.

In terms of profitability, I would say that our blog has generated many leads over the years, many of which have become customers of ExoB2B.

How do you envision the future for blogs?

Video and audio! For video, it’s simple: we see it everywhere. Videos multiply in our news feeds and on all platforms. ExoB2B has already published a few, years ago and, the pace will intensify.

Nor can we ignore the resurgence of podcasts. They were believed to be dead but, on the contrary, more and more are found in marketing blogs and on Quebec platforms such as Baladoquebec and rzo. Even more in the US, where Barack Obama lent himself to the exercise at WTF with Marc Maron podcast.

Barack Obama with Marc Maron

And what about the contribution of artificial intelligence? While waiting for a machine to write our blogs automatically, we will see a growing presence of artificial intelligence in content analysis and automation.

Our blog will obviously reflect this paradigm shift and you can expect even more exciting content and upcoming announcements!

Want to know more on our blog strategy and our own bloggers? Contact us here.

CMS and personalized websites; the best of both worlds

Web sites have always been customized

Since the beginning of the Web in the 90’s, sites have been created with whatever popular theme of the moment, but especially, to the appeal of the customer. Everyone wants to stand out from the competition and the best way to do that is to create, with a made to measure design and code of a site, one “byte” at a time!

The advent of CMS changed everything!

Before the arrival of CMS (Content Management System), the client had to deal with a web developer to make changes, even the most rudimentary, such as a comma, to their website. Unless he had some knowledge of HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP.  Today, websites can still be done in this old-fashioned manner, but the problem persists when it comes to making corrections: the client must call a Web Developer.

The introduction of Web ecosystems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal (and others), provided clients or employees assigned to the website an easier way to make changes to text, replace images (with some Photoshop knowledge), add PDF documents, change a call-to-action, etc. The list of possibilities is long.

Here are some impressive statistics on the use of various CMS

Since 2011, the number of websites made without the use of a CMS has gone down from 76% to 45%. The number of websites created with a CMS has risen from 13% to 33%. The gradual trend seems to be continuing and proves, to a certain extent, that customers want to be able to make changes themselves.

This graph demonstrates the market share that some CMS hold. It’s interesting to see that WordPress represents, as of today, 33% of all websites in operation. Even more impressive, they make up 60% of all CMS-based websites.

The best of both worlds

The ideal scenario is to offer a creative, unique and personalized website to the customer’s liking, while making it possible to modify almost all the content using the CMS.

Unfortunately for the client, a web developer will always be needed. For example, to change the structure of Web templates or to make changes that are found at the back-end level of the site.

All-dressed or tailor-made theme?

There has been a proliferation of themes of all kinds in recent years on various CMS’. This is an interesting option for customers who have a limited budget or for those who do not have time to wait the eight to ten weeks necessary for the development of their website, created from scratch. It is important on the other hand to choose a quality theme. Ideally, not very greedy on the resources of the web server and, user-friendly for updating content. The other disadvantage of a commercial theme accessible to all is that your site might look like that of your competitor.

There is a big advantage in offering a personalized website in a CMS versus an ‘all dressed’ theme. The site will contain only the features and codes necessary for its proper functioning.

There is an analogy that I like to use. Imagine someone renting a 10-room house and they only use one room and the kitchen. In the case of a CMS theme, all the codes that make the other empty parts work is still downloaded but does not serve for anything. I’m not even going to talk about plugins that can cause compatibility issues!

Our WordPress home theme, Exocore

Exocore is not really a theme. It’s more of a “framework” because it is constantly evolving. In addition, it adapts to the needs and realities of each client and project. 

Exocore is Gutenberg-ready!

The choice of WordPress as a CMS platform is evident, simply by its popularity, which leads to the growth of generous exchanges within its user community and growing developers.

The concrete benefits

The solution offered by ExoB2B translates into two major benefits for your business.

First, you get a unique site that stands out from the competition and helps differentiate your business. Our team works together with you to put forward the most important aspects of your offer. Customization is a must in B2B. In the distribution networks, in the purchasing process, in niche markets… the need to differentiate from competitors is a necessity. ExoCore provides the flexibility to achieve exceptional results.

Moreover, this flexibility is a solid and proven platform. Indeed, WordPress is so popular that it has become a standard in the industry. Your tailor-made site is supported by the latest technologies and by thousands of developers.

That’s why we can claim that our ExoCore-based websites really offer you the best of both worlds!

Would you like to know more? Contact our experts!

AI to predict the results of your marketing efforts

In a world where marketing departments must constantly justify their existence and measure their results, being able to predict the success of a campaign seems to be fictional. And yet, predictive analysis aided by artificial intelligence (AI) is a growing trend in marketing.

In a longer B2B cycle that requires numerous interventions and concerted efforts from several departments, the value of AI in predictive analysis is tenfold.

Imagine if, even before a prospect enters your sales funnel, you could accurately assess the odds of entering into an agreement with them. And even get an overview of the factors and conditions that promote your chances of success. You would then be able to qualify leads quickly and devote your efforts to putting into place all the elements necessary to conclude a sale with those who have the most potential.

Then imagine that all this is done in an automated way and in real time. This is the promise of artificial intelligence, applied to marketing.

What is Predictive Analysis ?

Predictive analysis is based on data, machine learning and on your business intelligence in order to analyze past events and, above all, to anticipate future events.

In marketing more specifically, predictive analysis allows you to exploit your data in order to better guide your efforts and define your expectations. You will be able to know if your goals are realistic and by what means you can reach them.

All this is already ancient history for some companies that have gambled early on in new technologies.

However, the arrival of the AI completely disrupts the development of our marketing strategies and multiplies the potential of predictive analysis. AI allows you to act quickly, upstream at the right time or even, in a premonitory way.

Concrete Applications

These promises are already a reality. AI-based tools and applications, that are currently deployed in business, such as IBM’s famous Watson for example, allows us to go far beyond what was possible before.

And that is why we insist on the importance of achieving its digital transformation.

With these tools, it is now possible to target the right audience before you even start your marketing efforts. Therefore, only the most likely to convert will be part of the audience you will be targeting. Whether it’s about the purchasing habits of your potential customers or correlations between their interests and services, AI will allow you to scrutinize your data in depth and find links that otherwise would have gone under the radar. You will have a better understanding of the humans that make up your market. Your sales cycle will be accelerated by selecting well-qualified leads.

In addition, it is possible to identify exactly when the prospects encounter difficulties in their purchase path, then fix it in order to increase your conversion rate. Your website, for example, could adapt in real time to each visitor to simplify their search for information. A chatbot could automatically intervene to initiate dialogue as well.

AI enhances the user experience and offers a personalized service to your customers and prospects. Ultimately, that is what you want to offer them. You are dealing with people, not robots.

As for your company, AI allows you to take action on the basis of concrete data rather than your intuition. So, it makes your efforts more efficient, it helps your marketing efforts perform better and, it allows you to close the sales cycle faster.

Lets’s Talk ROI

Of course, it requires your company to invest in digital transformation. Your processes, your ways of doing things and even your business model will be called to change. You will need to adapt your company’s culture to this new reality.

And it will be for the better.

The days where the marketing department struggled to justify its activities and get a budget, are over. We can also put behind us the manual analysis of collected statistics and reacting a month later to the results of your marketing campaigns.

AI makes it all possible in real time and in an automated way.

Your strategies and tactics will be constantly analyzed and optimized. You’ll spend less time analyzing and more time understanding. You will stop putting efforts “in the air” and you will get results that help your business grow.

Artificial intelligence is not a buzzword – it is very real.

Let is help you initiate your digital transformation!

5 Tips to Write Better Blog Posts

Creating content is a crucial aspect of any digital marketing strategy. A blog is one of the tools that is generally favored and is used by a large proportion of B2B companies.

However, it is not enough to write just for the sake of writing. If you want to make your efforts profitable, there are rules to follow and good practices to be respected. Here are five simple tricks that, even if you already knew, are always good to remember, to stay on track with the latest trends.

Who are you talking to?

Sometimes when we write, we lose sight of those who are addressed – or rather, those who should be addressed. Even worse, some blogs were launched “at random”, without real planning. But how do you prepare your readers and turn them into prospects if you don’t even really know who they are?

This is where a marketing study will make all the difference. Understanding the market and its clientele makes it possible to draw a better portrait of the average reader, or additional portraits. These personas will have the interests, challenges and problems for which you’ll be able to propose a solution.

If you are talking to CEOs but your readers are technicians or engineers, your efforts will be futile. On the other hand, if you write very technical content while the decision makers who need your services are more in the Finance department, they may get lost in your texts.

Knowing your audience is crucial.

What is your content worth?

Why should your readers spend precious minutes on your blog? You must provide them with value; relevant content that will teach them (or at least remind them) of something important in relation to their trade or industry.

Well-defined personas will be used to establish whether your content is valuable or not. Each persona will offer avenues to explore to find topics to deal with. Every persona “breeds” in their daily work and will be happy to spend a few minutes reading a note that could be useful to them.

Your post should help these personas do their job and accomplish tasks. Whether it’s simplifying their decision making, offering them a solution to a problem they face, or even getting them interested in how your business can improve their business. But you can’t write for the sake of writing.

You must provide value to the person who takes the time to read your content.

Content duplication, content duplication

You have a content calendar to respect. Time is running out, the next deadline is fast approaching. Oh, here’s an idea! Copy the text of an old case study and post it on the blog! Or better yet, copy content from some schmuck on the other side of the world — no one will notice, right?

… uh, please don’t?

Content duplication has a negative impact on your website’s performance. In addition to seeing your website penalized by Google in its ranking, user experience (UX) is also affected. Indeed, by reading the same words from one page to another, the visitor may be confused, lose interest, and then leave your site all-together.

You may have to deal with something that has already been discussed elsewhere. So, back to personas: adjust the words and lingo so you speak to them directly. Review the content, improve it and explain in other words to keep readers interested. Take advantage of this opportunity to get out of the more rigorous content of your site in order to adopt a less formal, warmer tone.

In some cases, you may have to copy the content of another page in full. It happens. But do it right and use the canonical tags properly.

If not, always keep in mind that a blog must be relevant. You should always be original and offer meaningful, timely content.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Of course, you need to take into consideration the SEO best practices when you’re writing your text.

I’m not talking about cheating by saturating search engines with keywords, tags, SEO, SEO optimization, SEM, Google, search engine optimization in Montreal…

Remember the ol’ days? Well, it doesn’t work that way anymore. Good riddance.

On the contrary, SEO best practices, when respected, generally make your text more coherent and more readable.

Besides the presence of keywords in your titles and in the URL of your page, other aspects improve your text appreciably. Short sentences, for example, the wise use of transition words or, the addition of subtitles to better tag your ideas. All these good practices offer a lot to your text and make it more enjoyable for the reader.

It’s for humans, above all, that we do SEO!

What’s your goal?

Once all these beautiful things are accomplished, once the link is clicked and your text is read, what does the reader do after?

The path of the reader must not stop at the end of your blog. Instead, indicate the way forward with calls to action (the famous “CTA” or Call To Action). The goal is, of course, to progress towards the sales funnel.

Offer to download a guide or a case study. Propose a subscription to your newsletter. Insert links to your products and services through text. You must seize this opportunity and perform a conversion; i.e. achieve a particular purpose with the reader.

What you want is to establish a first contact.

Therefore, I invite you to contact us if you would like to have more tips on content marketing, or to perform an analysis of your clientele!

How will your B2B company react to a financial crisis?

It happened on February 5th: a sudden, somewhat unexpected market correction. The Dow Jones registered its worst one-day loss in history while experts and analysts tried to reassure investors. Then it happened again on the following Thursday. How are B2B business affected – if at all – by market fluctuations or by a financial crisis?

Of course, B2B companies are affected by the markets. I would argue that they are impacted even more than companies dealing directly with consumers (B2C), because the purchase process is more complex and time-consuming. Small bumps create a domino effect with worrying consequences.

I believe the best way to survive a crisis is to always keep improving, even when you feel like you’re already doing things well. Start preparing a ready-to-go campaign when business is good. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

“But it was just a correction!”

Yeah, sure. Employment and other indicators suggest we may still be doing fine for some time. This may not be it yet. As far as markets grow and the economy is doing well, nothing to worry about.

Right?

Well, I think this was a meaningful wake up call. You should plan ahead and be prepared. Whether we are heading towards a recession or not, now is always a good time to reconsider your strategy and start preparing contingency plans. A financial crisis can affect you. It can affect your clients. It can affect your prospects. What do you have that can help them survive the crisis? Be quick on the uptake!

I don’t mean putting money aside. I mean researching your industry, understanding your clients better, digging deeper in the data you have accumulated from your business. This will make your marketing efforts more efficient.

So, what’s to expect during a crisis?

There are about 5 million B2B companies in North America. We’re talking trillions of dollars going back and forth. Even that slight market correction from Monday was felt and sort of shocked us all from what seemed like an ever-optimistic market that keeps rising. We are not invincible, things will not always be so easy.

Without a plan, you will panic. You will cut your expenses and cross your fingers. During a crisis, your clients and yourself will very likely reallocate your budget across channels and reduce whatever goes into marketing. Then sales will plummet.

You must be prepared. Start building now the foundation of a strong business that can withstand hard financial times. This is how it’s done.

Use and understand the data you have

While you may be used to put moderate (or little) effort to close deals and achieve some success because things are doing so well nowadays, you will notice a sudden and disturbing lack of results during a financial crisis. Expenses are tightly controlled, clients are reluctant to buy from you, stocks stack up, overhead goes through the roof as you struggle to get some cash coming in.

Unfortunately, marketing often is the first thing to be let go because its results may not seem immediate on sales. Perhaps if your marketing and sales were better aligned, increasing your marketing budget during a crisis could lead to a surge in sales while everyone else is struggling.

This is where the data you have becomes precious. You need to understand the motivations and behaviors of your clients now, so you can help them survive the crisis later with your products or services.

With carefully planned and executed marketing strategies based on a thorough analysis, you can optimize your efforts and increase the dollar value of each sale.

Time to embrace digital media

Review your marketing strategy and the media you use to promote your business. This would be a right time to start leaving traditional media and print ads in favor of a digital strategy that values your expertise and actually reaches your potential clients.

The trend in B2B businesses shows they are gradually growing their online efforts. I’ve seen numbers out there suggesting this represents almost $5 billion in online marketing budget. Why? Because it works. It measurably works.

This would be the perfect opportunity, if you haven’t done so before, to rethink your marketing and advertising plans. Traditional media – such as print, TV, and radio – may not be justified anymore, considering the higher cost and lack of ability to measure the results.

You should opt for more efficient and proven ways that are available out there. Even – and especially – in a B2B environment. Because the funds you put towards advertising should be focused and precisely target your market or your niche to make sure nothing is wasted. So how do you become smarter about your marketing costs?

Be where your clients are looking for you

If you want to generate leads, you better be where your potential clients are looking for your company and your products. Especially during difficult financial times, when every single lead is worth gold.

We know that about 80% of the buying journey occurs before your leads ever interact with you. Behind the companies that might do business with you are people looking for more valuable information. This is even more true when their business isn’t going well.

Provide as much content and information as possible. Be there with relevant blogposts promoted on the right social platforms. It takes time to build a reputation – both online and in the real world. Buyers may be slow, but when they need you, they want you now! Speed sells.

So now, what should you talk about?

Share your knowledge

Enter content marketing. Once you know your clients better, after a thorough analysis of the data you have gathered on them, it’s time to talk to them. Give them the answers they are looking for, explain the benefits your business offers.

Establish your authority on a subject by publishing content on a regular basis. Become a reference and a valuable source of information they’ll want to keep handy.

Help buyers justify the expense to their bosses. Make them want to do business with you. Tell them how much time and money they will save with your solution. Let them know how it works exactly. Be the expert and speak their language. This is not a sales pitch. This is the basis of a future collaboration.

Being out there with the answers gives you more chance of landing a deal or, at the very least, generating leads. This proactive attitude can be a game-changer when clients are scarce and on a budget.

Be the lighthouse when times are dark

Respect the system you built as much as you can. Stick to it, measure the results, and adjust regularly. Tweak, retarget, rethink, improve constantly. But stick to a plan and trust the hard work that went into it, because there’s nothing worse than being disorganized in the midst chaos.

Remember you need to truly be of service to your business partners. You need to recognize their needs and understand their business. During a financial crisis, times are tough for them as well.

So the fact is that everyone is affected. B2B and B2C companies alike. But business will still be going on and you will want your share. This requires putting the efforts today.

“But David, this is just some general good advice, and not really about a market crash”.

Precisely! This is how you will make a difference. This is what you can do to go through a financial crisis mostly unharmed. You need to prepare now and start building while you have the time and resources.

Now, that’s a lot to think through, to analyze, to understand, and to plan. It is time-consuming. Not all companies have the luxury of a full-fledged marketing department to sort this through and make sales happen. Maye you could benefit from outsourcing your marketing to a team of experts to help you monitor and research your market, and then pick the right strategy that will enable your business to grow and prosper.

There is no way to avoid a financial crisis. What matters is how you prepare for it.