For organizations that usually rely on conferences or face-to-face interactions for sales, marketing, fundraising or philanthropy, transitioning to an all-virtual marketplace can be daunting. By focusing on fundamentals, you can save time and get a higher ROI.
In addition to the many demands and stressors you and your organization may be dealing with in the world since Covid-19 caused a worldwide pause, the question of how will we market ourselves in an all-virtual environment? may be popping up in strategy meetings and emails.
For many business-to-business (or business-to-foundation, in the case of nonprofits) organizations, marketing and sales activities may rely exclusively on live conferences, face-to-face interactions, and networking. And rightfully so. For B2B organizations, word-of-mouth and speaking opportunities often yield the highest returns in terms of sales and revenue.
But that is no longer the world we live in, and transitioning to an all-virtual world can be a daunting task given the number of digital platforms out there — FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, Zoom, and many others — not to mention other channels like email and websites.
Fear not! We have created a short list of the best fundamental practices for B2B organizations that yield the highest ROI. Note: The list is based on our knowledge and experience with what works for B2B organizations, that is, organizations looking to sell to other organizations. Influencer marketing campaigns that are highly effective for business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing are not as effective for B2B companies.
Fundamentals for B2B Digital Marketing
1. Optimize your website.
With no in-person interactions, your website is now the face of your company. If you don’t like it, now is the time to change it. You want to make sure your site is both easy-to-use (has good UX design) and on-brand. That usually requires working with a Web designer and a Web developer — someone who can design the front end and someone who can code the back-end for technical optimization. Brevity & Wit’s super duo Sophie Greenbaum and Todd Zeldin did just that for Evans Consulting, a boutique consulting firm committed to co-creating healthy organizations. The site is optimized for email opt-ins (see tip #2) and uses icon design to make abstract concepts more visually engaging.
Short of an entire custom build, you may just want to invest in a few images or illustrations that make a more compelling face. Or maybe a new logo and easy-to-install WordPress template might suffice, as it did for Elemental Partners. (Note how the icons continue the logo branding.)
With increased Internet usage, you also want to be sure your website loads fast and is easy to use. This requires having a developer who knows how to work the back-end of your website and ask the right questions of your hosting company. A performance audit can help you get started.
2. Retain your audience with an email newsletter.
If your conference strategy was part of your thought leadership strategy, an email newsletter might be the best solution in this all-virtual environment. And it doesn’t require you have to write all the content.
Brevity & Wit puts out a semi-monthly newsletter called Hearts & Minds that curates content from around the Web. While curating instead of writing may seem like a “cheat,” it’s actually very helpful to your audience. None of us have the time to read all the posts that we scroll through on our social media feeds. If you can be the purveyor of good taste and the guardian of your audience’s time, people will come to look forward to your newsletter. Just read what one of our newsletter subscribers said:
I just have to tell you how much I enjoy getting your emails. I don’t ENJOY anyone else’s. Some I read because I must to stay current. Some I delete right away. But yours? I ENJOY. I don’t know how you manage to stand out in an overflowing inbox, but you do.
You’ll want to make sure you observe best practices in email campaigns:
- It’s better to have people opt-in through your website than to import names or buy lists.
- To that point, make sure your website is optimized for people to opt-in to your email newsletter. It should be easy to find a sign-up button or link, and it should be available on every page. We like to put the sign-up button in the navigation bar.
- A good developer can take this one-step further my integrating the sign up from with your website design, and by creating a simple, memorable URL as Todd did for Engender Health: https://www.engenderhealth.org/do/connect/.
- Images and text should be separate (i.e, please don’t insert a PDF into an email and call it a newsletter. The experience is poor and none of the copy you’ve written is searchable).
- Create a branded header image, but don’t make it too “tall.” The more people have to scroll to read copy, the more their interest wanes.
3. Acquire new leads through social media, but optimize to capture their email.
In an all-virtual environment, the currency is email opt-ins. When people give you their email address they are saying they trust you and want to hear more from you.
If you’re looking to grow your base of potential leads in this new virtual world, then use social media to direct people to information that solves their pain point and conveys information succinctly. You should have a mix of yours and other people’s posts, but make sure each profile makes it exceptionally easy for someone to get to your site and/or give you an email address.
And always include an image! Social media posts with images tend to get more engagement overall. Here is a social sharegraphic we created for Fairvote, an organization committed to reforming government through ranked choice voting. (Note: it’s okay to have text in an image, but you should make sure to copy the text in the post itself and the alt text so that it gets indexed by search engines correctly.)
4. Design your virtual events.
Simulated in-person events, like virtual meetings and conferences and video calls can fill the gap for the in-person contact you may be craving. But their effectiveness will rely on your team’s ability to design for the environment and leverage the technology.
It makes no sense to have the technology if people call in and refuse to use the video feature — then it’s just a phone call, and your potential client is not getting the body language feedback they need to develop trust and rapport.
In addition, people do not engage online the way they do in person. While in person, people may settle in as you begin with a story and listen, when people are on their computers, they want to click somewhere. Better you give them something to click on than they find something.
A downloadable PDF handout is great for helping people follow along with your presentation in a virtual conference. Also, be sure to use the polling, chat, and annotation features in most video conference platforms to engage people. Consider hiring an instructional designer and/or Web producer. In short, design for the environment; don’t just “put your talk online.”
You can also do things online that you can’t otherwise, like designing a Zoom background that shows your brand or your office space.
5. Choose what works best for your organization.
You don’t have to enact all of the above fundamentals to see an increase in marketing and sales — just one or two could work. The question is which one.
The answer depends on how your clients like to engage and what you have the time and staff to pull off. In these uncertain times, it’s best to play to your strengths, especially when trying to shore up weaknesses.
So, if you have phenomenal public speakers on staff, a video conference or webinar might be best. If you have great writers or editors, consider an email newsletter. And if you need design help for any of these, contact us.