You're in luck if you sell to other businesses. Nearly every B2B sale includes expertise, packaging, applicability or a service umbrella that differentiates the product or service from its competitors. And nearly every business has a history of success that demonstrates its ability to help customers in specific vertical markets. So, if you sell B2B, you should be able to benefit from Inbound Marketing.
Industries as diverse as information services, manufacturing, enteprise software-as-a-service, financial services and construction offer excellent opportunties to create the compelling content that drives inbound marketing.
The major impediment to inbound marketing success is commitment. Inbound marketing takes hard work, commitment to continuous imporvement and engagement, and a reasonable plan to grow your business. You need to budget staff time and adequate funding to make it all work.
There is one other obstacle to Inbound Marketing that I want to help you overcome. Some poeple feel that they should offer all their content and resources for free without asking for anything in return. They also fear that by asking for contact information, they'll scare away prospects and their materials will have been developed for naught. We favor the opposing point of view: serious site visitors will value good content enough to give you their basic info in return. They understand the "give to get" aspect of the transaction, and most will understand that you hope to build a dialog with them and therefore won't spam them too much in return. So have no fear! The site visitors you do want to engage with will most likely fill out your landing page form and accept your marketing emails, too. Those who won't fill out a simple form are unlikely to be even "top of the funnel" prospects, and your basic marketing and product information should suffice until they get more serious.
Now that you're a commited Inbound Marketer, the top categories of content you should be creating include:
Checklists. Framed in both postive and negative terms, checklists are great top of the funnel offers to begin an online dialog with your site visitors. They are easy to churn out and can be combined with deeper content into kits specific to the activity (look for us to package our deep-dive Webinar eBook with a checklist as a B2B Webinar kit).
Case studies. The tried-and-true testimonial form remains highly convincing. It allows the reader to imagine him or herself in the situation of another buyer. You as the supplier have the opportunity to demonstrate why you are a better choice than any other alternative. Every business that has any track record at all should be able to come up with a few case studies. Case studies help sell in B2B and the drive site visitors (at least those with a middle-of-the-funnel level of intent) to raise their hands, fill out your form and download your case study.
eBooks. These long-form documents let you take your expertise to a deep dive, but aren't so rigorous that it's too hard to create. You're essentially taking an area of your knowledge and creating a resource for others. Our above-mentioned B2B Webinar Best Practices eBook is a great example; we collected 14 of our lessons learned and made a valuable resrouce for field marketing people who want to get the greatest ROI from these events.
Self assessments. Everyone wants to know where they stand, and you'll benefit when your prospects measure themselves against best practices and realize where they can improve. These are powerful selling tools that can be either fully automated or as simple as a spreadsheet download.
White papers. If your product or service is complex, you can likely author a white paper that will be trusted as an authoritative source. These thought leadership pieces can make a big difference in how your company is perceived and bring you to the top of a consideration list.
Model RFP. Help your prospects to make a good decision and you'll be helping yourself, too. The company that controls the RFP often finds itself with the inside track in B2B sales. So why not put all the questions you'd like to answer in a document your prospects will use as the basis of their next project or purchase?
Buying guides. If your product is simpler, you might want to have a set of buying guides that help people to specify the right product for a specific situation. Hardware comes to mind. There are many different types of screws, bolts and nails, and each configuration has its best application. Being the definitive source of application by product would seem to be a great place for a hardware supplier to be.
Webinars. One of the best lead generation tactics is the Webinar or Webcast. This online "sell and tell" forum offers you a forum to educate your target market while you drive them down the sales funnel. A good topic with a solid promotion plan can generate hundreds of registrations and many will be qualified leads (as long as the incentive to attend is the information, not a gift card).
Free trial and free sample offers. While not content per se, the free trial, free assessment or free sample is a great way to get traction with a motivated buyer. They are close enough to a decision that they are going to volunteer to speak with a salesperson to get to the offer. This is most often a bottom of the funnel offer, but sometimes we've seen it used as a middle of the funnel tool, especially where the unit of sale is smaller (again, imagine our hardware vendor offering a free 100-pack of sheet metal screws, easily a middle of the funnel or bottom of the funnel offer).
Want to learn more about how your business could generate more leads via inbound marketing? We'd be happy to provide you with a free, no-obligation Inbound Marketing Assessment. The IMA provides you with observations and insights about your business, website and readiness to convert on leads generated through Inbound Marketing. Just click below to get started. You'll be glad you did!