Business to business (B2B) marketing and marketing automation... Pretty dry, right? Not at all. The B2B marketing process can be entirely different from B2C (business to consumer) marketing and presents unique challenges, such as a more complicated sales cycle. Marketing automation is an ideal solution for businesses seeking to reach other businesses more effectively and improve sales and conversions.
Business to business marketing refers to businesses marketing and selling their products or services to other businesses. Usually, the secondary business is a consumer-focused business, but the process of marketing to businesses is distinct from the process of marketing to consumers.
For one thing, the B2B marketing and sales cycles often last longer than the B2C cycle. This is, in part, because there are more people involved in decision-making and buying for a business, and people often leave jobs or switch positions before the marketing and sales cycle can be completed. A business will also take a longer time to reach a decision than a consumer, because many different people in the business may have to consult on the decision. Businesses also have a lot going on at once and are usually making a lot of purchases, so some things may be pushed aside or relegated to the "to do later" category.
How Marketing Automation Can Improve and Simplify the B2B Marketing Cycle
So how does a B2B marketer ensure that their marketing efforts do not fall by the wayside when they are dealing with multiple people in the business? Marketing automation can help to fill the gaps. A comprehensive marketing automation for small business solution allows businesses to create multiple communication touchpoints to help stay engaged with prospective buyers. Over the course of a long marketing cycle, consistent and timely messages help to ensure that the buyers do not forget about the business that they wish to purchase from. A simple email every few weeks lets the buyer know that the business is still interested in providing their product or service. It also ensures the buyer that their needs are important, and that the business remains engaged.
We have all heard the statistics that the majority of successful sales happen after the prospective buyer has been contacted five times or more. Marketing automation makes it easier for a business to business marketer to maintain meaningful contact with each of their prospective buyers. Since B2B marketing is so often based around ongoing communication and multiple messages, a marketing automation solution serves to make it easier and more efficient to distribute these messages.
How a Small Business Can Use Marketing Automation Effectively
With a small business marketing automation solution, you can create unlimited messages far in advance of when you will require them. You can schedule the messages to send based on specific dates and certain triggers. A trigger can be any action taken by a prospective buyer or another contact, such as a contact signing up for a 30-day free trial of the business's service. After (and in addition to) the initial person to person contact, marketing automation allows the business to send a series of messages to the prospective buyer, to continue the lines of communication and help keep their product or service at the forefront.
A marketing automation solution is also especially helpful for storing detailed profiles of each of a business's important contacts. Many marketing automation programs now have integrated CRM solutions. Much of a contact's data will be automatically updated and maintained, and this data can be used to send more personalized messages. A business could easily set up a communication touchpoint campaign as follows.
"Hi Jane, I just wanted to follow up regarding our call the other day. It was great speaking with you and if you have any additional questions, please contact me at 111-111-1111."
"Hi Jane, it's been two weeks since we spoke. I just wanted to let you know that we are still excited about doing business with you, and we would like to offer you a 25% discount if you purchase before February 10."
"Hi Jane, I see that you didn't open the previous email and I am reaching out again in order to ensure that you don't miss out on this exclusive deal of 25% off. We have extended the discount to February 20. Please contact us if you would like more details."
Indeed, many prospective buyers lose interest because the B2B marketer does not effectively follow up with them. The buyer may then simply lose interest or forget, or may think that the business does not value their time and patronage. In order to truly connect with a prospective buyer, the business marketer must maintain contact and show that the buyer's needs are important.
Why Marketing Automation Works
One reason that the B2B marketing cycle is often extended is that the prospective buyer may not be ready or able to make a purchase right away due to budget constraints or time obligations, but may be ready to purchase in a few months. With marketing automation, a business can reconnect with the buyer regularly, in order to be first in the buyer's mind when they are ready to make a purchase.
A marketing automation solution also keeps detailed records of each contact's history and actions. A business will know, therefore, which contacts are more active than others. The contact may be opening emails or clicking on links, may be active on social media and so on. With B2B marketing, it is especially important to know which leads are hot (actively engaged, likely to purchase) and which leads are cold (unresponsive, less likely to purchase). A marketing automation solution helps you to keep track of each individual lead and their entire history.
A marketing automation solution can help to simplify the B2B marketing process and can save a small business time and staff resources. It can help you find hot leads, manage your ongoing communication touchpoints, follow up with contacts at the right time, and successfully complete your marketing and sales cycles.