In my last post, I introduced my B2B mobile engagement cycle—a fresh take on the traditional sales funnel that reflects the needs and behaviors of today’s B2B users. My cycle emphasizes the longer engagement and enablement phases that are part of any B2B sales path. It’s a cycle because mobile visitors increasingly use a cyclical decision making process, freely alternating between researching, comparing products, consuming content, and participating in social—or doing all at once.
The five stages of my cycle are
- Content and influence
- Communications and nurturing
- Interactive research and comparison
- Productivity and preference
- Loyalty and investment
I’ll be examining each stage in a series of posts, starting with what might be the most amorphous stage: content and influence.
Don’t Pressure B2B Mobile Users
No one likes to be pressured into a sale, especially not a businessperson who is responsible for making significant software or technology purchases that will affect the productivity and profit of his or her company. That’s why B2B visitors are doing more and more research and comparison on their own, putting off that phone call with a salesperson as long as possible. According to Forrester research, 70 percent of a complex B2B purchase decision is “already complete by the time prospects interact with a sales representative.”
Marketers need to get creative to find more touch points with B2B users throughout the cycle. Our content marketing strategies are more important than ever. The content we deliver and the way we deliver it have the power to make visitors feel heard and understood, drawing them in. The key is to stop viewing your B2B users as walking dollar signs, and treat them as complex, intelligent individuals and colleagues in business.
Mobile Personalization Is King
B2B content marketing is nothing new. Only a measly 9 percent of marketers do not use content marketing to reach B2B users. But content marketing practices are still evolving, and different strategies have yielded widely varying degrees of success.
A main ingredient in successful content marketing efforts is personalization. No matter what stage of the B2B mobile cycle you look at, personalization is paramount. A personalized experience can be pivotal in every step of the B2B purchase path, which is much lengthier than a typical B2C sales funnel.
The goal is to create a one-stop mobile destination. Offer unique Web content and relevant product recommendations based on the visitor’s data. Keep visitors engaged with industry reports and thought leadership they’ll use and value. When personalization is consistent throughout the cycle, visitors come to expect convenience and value from each interaction with your brand.
After researching and comparing multiple competitive products on a mobile device, B2B purchases can still boil down to a gut feeling. A good gut feeling comes from memorable and engaging digital interactions that make a business user feel understood. And that sense of understanding comes from targeted and responsive content.
Know How to Use Thought Leadership
B2B users don’t need more items tacked onto their to-do lists. They are constantly searching for ways to save time, streamline processes, and boost efficiency. They are using mobile to search for clearly written content that gets to the point and helps them get the job done. A Pardot State of Demand Generation report found that 70 percent of B2B visitors “would prefer to have the information contained in 5 or fewer pages.” In other words, lengthy whitepapers and time-consuming case studies won’t get you far in mobile. Consider instead a completely mobile experience that covers five pages worth of whitepaper in an easily scrollable, consumable mobile interface.
Publishing thought leadership is not about search rankings, SEO keywords, or site traffic. It’s about being the first company an executive thinks of when in the market for new technology. Carl Friesen of the Content Marketing Institute provides an excellent illustration of the unique power of thought leadership with his story of how the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) selected the United Motorcoach Association (UMA) for an important engineering project:
Did the president of GTAA sit down at a Google search box and enter a term like, “excellent airport designer” or “awesome airport access road layout”? Probably not.
That’s because the GTAA president’s job depends, in part, on knowing how to find an answer to the question, “Who’s at the top of this field?” Subject searches are relevant for a businessperson choosing a photocopier or other small-ticket item. But this isn’t necessarily the case for a major, bet-your-career decision like choosing the right firm to lead a high-cost, multiyear project.
Using thought leadership for B2B mobile marketing means delivering it to your customers at the right time and place, in email, social media apps, business apps, and a highly navigable mobile site. Don’t expect people to seek out your content. Place it in front of and optimize it for a targeted segment.
Align with Influencers
The goal of thought leadership is to build a reputation as a valuable and credible resource in your industry. Key players within your company need to demonstrate their expertise, becoming renowned and trusted names. Additionally, it’s important to connect with notable thinkers outside your company. As outsiders without a stake in your company, their opinion of your brand can be extremely influential. Over time, when you effectively engage influencers, they become linked with your brand, growing awareness for your products and services before a B2B user even begins searching for them.
Your B2B mobile content marketing can also serve as influencer outreach. Find ways to interact with influencers on social media platforms that aren’t spammy or disrespectful. Get to know their message, then strategically supply them with content that serves their audience. By building a relationship and offering them value, it’s possible to convert influencers into your own social media advocates.
Make Your Content Work Overtime
Investing thoughtfully and heavily in the content and influence stage can pay major dividends throughout the B2B mobile engagement cycle. In this stage, engagement is about personalizing and positioning content to meet a need before visitors even know they have one. This stage is constantly at work, driving the other four stages. Your content can be consumed while commuting, traveling, or sitting at home using a mobile device. Make it work well for these experiences and it will work overtime for your brand.
My next post will explore how to tailor your customer communications and nurturing strategies to the B2B mobile prospect.