Inbound marketing literally means “attraction marketing”. A very well-chosen term, since its main objective is to attract your target audience and then to build loyalty.
To be attractive, your brand must be authentic, responsive and useful. It must understand that its customers are first and foremost human. In B2B, you need to establish and build trusting relationships with corporate decision-makers. This was true in 2010 and it’s still true in 2020.
One of the most effective strategies to achieve this is to think, produce and distribute free, quality content that meets the specific needs of your current and future customers.
As a pillar of B2B inbound marketing, content is a key component that makes sure your brand goes beyond advertising. It has long proven itself, among other things, by reducing the cost per lead of marketing campaigns by more than half.
But content is a victim of its own success. As marketers realized its high potential, they have flooded the web with all kinds of articles and taken social platforms by storm. Let’s face it, quantity far too often outweighs quality.
So this is why the quality of content has become so important in B2B marketing. In both form and substance, the quality of your content is the number one differentiator of your brand on the web. That was true in 2015. It’s even more so today.
But that’s old news. All the experts (who know what they’re talking about) advocate quality content. BERT, Google’s latest update – which makes more effective use of artificial intelligence to understand the context of each word and think like a human – has finally won over the most skeptical.
In 2020, the key work is: PERSONALIZATION.
We are at the dawn of the third era of content. After the advent of the concept of content, then the importance of its quality, we are now entering the era of personalization.
In 2020, your inbound marketing will stand out through segmentation or even hyper-segmentation of your audience.
Splitting your audience into smaller, more homogeneous groups allows you to:
- Deliver the right content, at the right time, on the right platform, to the right person;
- Maintain more authentic two-way conversations;
- Humanize the relationship between your brand and its potential customers.
But how can you be more human when your business is growing, the channels are exploding, your audience is increasingly demanding and time is already running out?
By being more technological.
It may seem contradictory, but in 2020, technology has a big role to play in a more human approach to marketing.
B2B inbound marketing and technology in 2020.
Technology is more accessible than ever before. It opens the door to marketing techniques that most SMEs could not have afforded just a few years ago.
They have 3 common functions:
- Segmenting the target audience;
- Customize content delivery;
- Humanize the conversation.
Here are a few examples of inbound marketing tactics supported by technology:
Conversational marketing uses a chatbot – a conversational robot – to automate a discussion with a person.
It uses data analysis to process requests to respond in the most relevant way possible. As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, chatbots learn from their past interactions to converse naturally with the user.
This conversation can take place on your corporate website, through a third party application or through Messenger via Facebook. (Yes, Facebook remains a relevant platform in B2B! In fact, 84% of executives use their social networks to make purchasing decisions).
Although a chatbot is in fact only a pre-programmed software program fed by a database, it still allows for individual, one-on-one contact. And any individual contact helps build trust with the consumer, including the B2B buyer.
Indeed, this instant exchange makes your brand much more accessible to future clients and leads. You answer their questions directly, at the very moment they ask you.
Initially seen as an excellent opportunity to improve customer service in B2C, chatbots are increasingly used for lead generation in B2B. Among other things, it allows you to share high-quality, targeted content (articles, ebooks, white papers, case studies, etc.) with a business decision-maker when he or she questions the relevance of your solution.
Chatbots can bridge the gap between inbound marketing and sales. It can ask specific questions to better identify the needs of prospects and invite them to make an appointment for a demo. Linked to your CRM, it is a major tool for customer relationship management.
Marketing automation is, basically, about using software to automate certain functions.
Once implemented – which can be laborious if you have a large database – automated marketing saves you time and money. It optimizes your lead nurturing processes and helps you avoid mistakes and oversights. Most importantly, it gives you a wealth of reliable data to measure your efforts and adjust your focus as needed.
In B2B, marketing automation is very effective in segmenting your audience and delivering more personalized content to a specific target. It allows you to adjust the message according to specific criteria, such as its type of lead or location, but also based on the stage it is at in your sales process.
In its simplest form, an automation campaign starts with an ad that brings a target to a landing page. The landing page contains an email capture system and a lead magnet, often with exclusive high-value content.
This content must be useful enough and promise enough value for the person to agree to give you their contact information in exchange for this downloadable PDF, gated article or other shape or form.
Automated email marketing thus makes it possible to send a targeted message to your leads according to pre-established criteria. Once a visitor shares his or her information, a series of actions are automatically triggered: a first email is sent (with a link to the lead magnet content for example), then others will follow according to the person’s behaviour.
For example, if the first email was not opened, a second one will be sent with a different subject line. On the other hand, if the person clicked on the link to read the article, another email will be sent in a few hours to ask her if they have any questions, and so on.
Like chatbots, marketing automation is becoming more effective as platforms that offer these capabilities, some of which use artificial intelligence, become more sophisticated.
So we’re not done hearing about it just yet.
Voice search might become a central element of inbound marketing in the near future. Voice assistants are constantly improving through deep learning. In 2020, 50% of all web searches will be carried out by voice.
The importance of voice search has been on the radar for some years now. If you haven’t yet adapted your content strategy accordingly, it’s time you did!
While this trend is growing rapidly in B2C, it is also relevant in B2B. Indeed, mobile phones and voice assistants are becoming more and more important in the habits of Internet users, both from a personal and professional point of view.
You should not only see voice search as the use of voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Alexa in your kitchen (therefore not very relevant in B2B), but by also thinking about the way people formulate their query in a search engine, including B2B buyers when they are looking for a solution or a supplier. More and more people are reverting to dictating their search on their phones rather than typing it out.
When using voice search, questions are more specific than if they had been typed. This is where the quality of your brand content comes into light, if it can answer specific, precise questions.
Another thing to consider for voice assistants, unlike a traditional search that displays a page containing ten results, the voice assistant gives only one answer. So if you’re not the most relevant, it won’t be you.
Geolocation also plays a big role in the accuracy of voice search results. Which brings us to mobile marketing.
We don’t have to tell you that you have to adapt your platforms to mobile anymore. It is a given. Since 2016, research on phones and tablets has surpassed research on computers.
In 2020, B2B buyers and leads are no longer sitting behind their desks when looking for new solutions for their business!
Mobile marketing also means optimizing your campaigns for mobile devices. This can be a tailor-made application for your brand, a conversational marketing application or, even simpler, a targeted SMS campaign.
In mobile marketing, geolocation plays an increasingly important role in effectively reaching your audience. The content sent can be personalized according to its location, route and even time of day.
With the advent of artificial intelligence, marketing automation and geolocation capabilities, the possibilities of sharing highly targeted and relevant content are only limited by the imagination of marketers.
For example, different tools allow you to analyze actions taken on your web and mobile platforms to detect buying intentions. Imagine that at the very moment a potential customer shows an interest in your business solution, he receives additional information directly on his phone, with a direct contact to the local representative assigned to their territory!
The place of B2B content marketing in 2020.
Content strategy is inseparable from B2B inbound marketing.
As we have seen so far, technology enables multi-channel delivery, more targeted segmentation and better personalization of shared content.
BUT, it is always the quality of the message that is paramount.
No matter how effectively you reach your audience, if you don’t connect with them at a deeper level, you’ve failed.
If the story you’re telling them is boring or if the information you’re sharing is not useful, technology can’t change that.
So the most important element of your B2B inbound marketing strategy remains the quality of your content, whether it’s a two-line text, an Instagram photo or a feature article.
For this, nothing will change in 2020.
That said, content marketing is constantly on the rise and evolving. Trends that were emerging a few years ago are being confirmed, and others are gradually fading away.
Behind every story, there’s the human.
Text, image, video, audio. In 2020, no matter the means of communication, a great principle prevails: humanize the contents.
B2B industries tend to see “the other business” as the ultimate lead or client, but it is humans who decide to buy your product or service. Seize the opportunity to be more human in your B2B content to distinguish yourself from your competitors.
There are many ways to do this. Just be creative and always keep the human in mind. Assume that your company and your target audience are first and foremost made up of individuals.
Don’t hesitate to put your internal resources forward. Your employees, your office can serve as an authentic backdrop for engaging brand storytelling.
Interview your own experts to produce high value content.
A strategy that includes a multitude of brand ambassadors is often more effective in the long run than a handful of mass influencers. Dare to put your satisfied customers first; they are powerful micro-influencers.
As a human being, it is easier to identify with real people. And when we recognize ourselves, we buy.
The blog, a beloved classic.
The blog is still relevant in 2020. Do we really need to explain why? Feels it is like stating the obvious.
Let’s just say that if it’s useful to make your mark on social networks, the blog is absolutely essential to be well referenced on search engines.
Google is placing more and more importance on the quality of the articles, the structure of the information and the length of the content. In fact, its goal is to put itself in the position of a human to judge whether your text is relevant.
So a piece of advice: write to please readers first. Then optimize the article for robots.
To gain visibility, guest articles are interesting. The concept is quite simple: your brand publishes an article on another brand’s blog, or vice versa. The guest post allows you to showcase your expertise to a new audience or to share high quality niche articles with your audience.
When the audio invites itself to the party.
In 2020, the world of podcasting is very much alive in the B2B field. Large parts of the market are still completely free. It’s a great opportunity for brands to make their voice heard.
The production of a podcast is much less expensive and requires fewer resources than video. It offers great creative freedom, with fewer technical constraints. So it’s a good medium for broadcasting highly niche content aimed at a more segmented audience.
Podcasting is easy to consume and its discoverability increases rapidly. It can be listened to on most of the popular streaming platforms and it is highly integrated into iOS and iPhones. Also, Google announced in 2019 that podcasts would now be integrated into search results.
A podcast can be very informative, it can take the form of an interview or tell a story. In any case, it is undoubtedly an emerging distribution channel that brands should experiment with in 2020.
Transmitting emotion through images.
Whether it’s an expert interview, informative shorts or a web series, video is more relevant than ever in 2020.
More expensive than podcasting (see previous section), it still offers great advantages.
It is ideal for explaining complex situations, conveying emotions, and sharing your corporate culture. A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it? Imagine 30 pictures per second (ok, we’re pushing it, but you get the idea).
Above all, it’s an opportunity to reach your audience easily. Knowing that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google, video has a very good rate of discoverability.
In fact, it’s the preferred medium of Internet users. According to a study published by HubSpot, more than half of them want to see video content from the brands they follow.
The possibilities for omnichannel distribution are great: Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, YouTube channel, website, newsletter, landing page, etc.
A single video can go a long way! That said, in 2020, it should be considered as an integral part of your content strategy. And not just as an addition to the times when the context lends itself to it.
If thought through at a strategic level, beforehand, video marketing is relevant at every stage of your strategy. In brand recognition, of course, but also in engaging and retaining your audience.
In 2020, think about the humans you’re trying to reach.
Inbound marketing is not a fad; it’s here to stay. It’s a powerful attraction and retention technique that has proven itself in the B2B sector.
Do you have a good inbound strategy? Perfect. But don’t fall asleep at the wheel. The road gets curvy.
In a virtual ecosystem where content is multiplying exponentially and engagement rates are dropping on every platform, you have to constantly reinvent yourself to stay relevant.
Remember, you’re talking to humans first. And it’s natural for humans to want more and more. The web is vast. If you don’t give your target audience what they’re looking for, they’ll go elsewhere.
Inbound marketing is not an end by itself. It’s a path to take. Over and over again. Platform by platform. Segment by segment. Human by human.
This article was written in partnership with Bureau du contenu.