Back in the day, a company’s brand and product messages could be tightly controlled through carefully-placed adverts, public relations and executive meetings. But digital marketing has triggered a revolution and a free-for-all. So has your print business changed shape to adapt?

Does everything still fit?

Even if your company’s structure, marketing strategy and product messaging feel comfortable to you and your colleagues, you may be missing something. Today, it’s not so much about whether they still fit you — it’s about whether they fit your customers and their taste.

What shape is my audience?

High-level executives are still worth targeting. They sign off two thirds of today’s deals1 . But in our last blog (about audiences), we noted that the people often doing the legwork are much younger — aged 18-342. Millennials account for almost half of all researchers and their weighty influence on business decisions should not be underestimated. It’s increasing fast.

Where am I serving up content?

You won’t tend to find this age group at high-powered executive meetings, extravagant lunches or sharing cigars after dinner. They travel light, hopping instantly across social media channels on a range of mobile devices, scanning around for pre-purchase insights.

That’s why B2B marketers are so keen to use social channels: 91% share their content on LinkedIn, while Twitter (85%), Facebook (81%) and YouTube (73%) follow close behind3. If you were to measure your marketing activity, how would your percentages stack up?

What quality is your content?

With so many channels available, companies of all descriptions have, in effect, become online publishing empires. All you need is a log-in. But that doesn’t mean you should blitz social media with everything and anything. Otherwise, you’ll create an incoherent din and turn off your audience.

What counts significantly when it comes to influencing B2B purchasing decisions is relevant content4 . Relevant means identifying your customers’ pain points around print, exploring the causes and offering insights, but stopping short of a hard sell. They’ll know who to consider when a purchase needs making. Nurture prospective customers with content at an early stage and you’ll be rewarded with a sale.

Is my marketing machine getting enough exercise?

Companies sometimes ignore their own websites and social channels for long periods — and it shows. Maybe there’s a big push around launch time and then the odd dash of activity when a product gets launched. But that kind of approach will only deliver intermittent sales. Today’s purchasing process is a permanent cycle, so your digital marketing needs to keep up, with daily activity if possible.

Put simply, there are two parts to this:

  • The passive stage is when your customers aren’t even thinking of buying, but they’re willing to listen. Here, relevant content such as videos, tips, guides, testimonials, case studies and reviews lay the groundwork and raise interest levels in your brand. Social media channels should link into a steady flow of these assets. This is the activity that businesses often neglect.
  • The active stage then kicks into action. Integrated campaigns around your product and services can use paid social advertising, shopping ads and programmatic marketing to reach specific audiences with a clear message and a call to action.

What kind of results can I expect?

If your marketing is under-performing then a passive/active digital strategy can make the difference. In fact, brands with permanent activity in the passive stage are up to three times more likely to get their products purchased. This may require a radical rethink of your business strategy, marketing approach and even the kinds of skills you need. But you’ll be a fitter, stronger and more agile business as a result. And a more profitable one.

1.2. Source: Google/Millward Brown Digital, B2B Path to Purchase Study, 2014
3. Source: 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends –North America Report
4. Source: GWI 2016 Q1, UK; When purchasing products/services for your business or department, which of the following sources most influences your decision

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