What’s the best use of your marketing budget today? Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) that follow traditional marketing tactics may be getting a shock right now: the old levers don’t work so well any more. But why the change — and what can you do to win more new customers?

What’s been happening?

Print remains a six million unit marketplace per year in Western Europe, so there’s no fundamental shift there. But dramatic changes are occurring with your potential customers.

Your audience is younger and acts differently

Today, almost half of people actively looking at products in the B2B space are aged 18-341. And it’s worth noting that these younger decision-makers are researching products and not jumping directly into buying mode. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

Buyers have a different mindset, habits and preferences

Your marketing messages must recognise the aspirations of these young customers. Many want sustainable products that fit their agile working lifestyles and mobile workplaces. They work in different ways and will encounter your marketing on a range of different devices. So anything you produce must be digital, responsive, and reshape easily for any screen, whether people are in the office or on the move.

Your audience may ignore you, deliberately

Often-used marketing tools don’t work so well any more. Firstly, fewer searches are being made for printer-linked terms2 – so don’t assume people will go looking for your website. Worse still, growing numbers of potential customers will actively try to avoid seeing any online adverts you book. Ad blocking has grown by a phenomenal 48% in a year – with nearly 200 million active users globally3.

How to get noticed and win customers

Traditional marketing is built around the purchasing stage. But today’s audience needs to be engaged long before they become active customers.

As we hinted earlier, the new generation of buyers are researchers by instinct. Their decision process isn’t simply about finding solutions to problems and then clicking ‘order’. Instead, it’s a slow burn. Millennials spend longer online. Their awareness, interest, and consideration all need to be nurtured carefully — long before there’s a serious intent to buy.

Content marketing really works

The best way to win this audience is via content marketing, using assets such as ebooks, videos, blogs, how-to guides, tips and more … all signposted on social media to keep your audience updated, engaged and close at hand. It’s essential that your content isn’t merely recycled product blurb. It needs to be rich, hearty information and expertise that you share gladly with your audience, asking nothing in return.

And the approach really pays off. Research shows that brands willing to keep serving helpful content are up to three times more likely to win sales. Put simply, you’ll be in the right place at the right time when a passive prospect or customer becomes active. And it’s all because you wisely invested resources up front.

How to sharpen your competitive edge

It’s no wonder that leading brands and creative agencies are investing heavily in content marketing — with budgets projected to grow by 59%4, far outpacing spending on search and social marketing.

Smaller companies can also exploit content marketing and get a competitive advantage in the print marketplace. A while ago I talked about How to Differentiate Your Business in a Crowded Market. Content marketing lets you build on this — with spectacular results.

Look out for my next blog in this series. We’ll look at how you can reach out to the right audience in the right way with the right tools.

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Sources
1 Google/Millward Brown Digital B2B path to Purchase Study, 2014
2 Google Trends –Keyword: “brand” Printer in UK -2016 YTD
3 PageFair and Adobe / 2015 Ad Blocking Report
4 State of the industry intelligence report for brands and publishers