An Honest Look Into Where I Got my b2b Marketing Wrong
For a long, long time I made some very stupid mistakes when it came to the b2b marketing of my business. In fact if I’m honest it’s a miracle that I still have a business at all. I’m not sure what led me to make such a hash of marketing my company’s services for such a long time, maybe I was too young, not smart enough, lazy or even arrogant about this aspect of business.
To give you a bit more background – I own a video production company who (today) produce for a wide range of clients based in the UK and internationally. I’d grown my business over 9 years by a combination of luck, hard work and traditional b2b marketing approaches such as Yellow pages listings and a badly ineffective and costly Google campaign. However when the economic downturn hit in 2009 we lost 2 of our biggest clients (which we’d admittedly become reliant on) and I was forced to slash the workforce. The phone wasn’t ringing and we had very few new enquiries. These were dark days. I knew we provided a good service and for a long time I couldn’t work out why we weren’t growing.
However slowly but surely it dawned on me that if no-one else knew how good we were, then we weren’t going to survive.
The dogfight that was the economic downturn provoked such a radical change in my b2b marketing approach and activities that I often tell people that I’ve learnt more about running a business in the last 3 years that I did in the previous 9 years of trading.
Today things are very different for my company.
The way in which my business currently markets itself has been nothing less than a revolution and we are looking forward to a bright future. We have new clients, new projects, and daily new enquiries are the norm.
Now I’m conscious that I don’t come across as too smug here as I’m only writing this to share my experience with other business owner.
So here’s what (I think) I got wrong.
My b2b marketing efforts before the downturn were poor, ineffective and a complete waste of money. There was a small part of me that (arrogantly) believed that because the quality of our work was high, customers would naturally find us. This was a HUGE mistake.
It simply does not matter how good we are at what we do if people/customers either
a) don’t know us.
b) can’t find us.
I came to realize that putting my business in the spotlight and making sure we are visible is critical to growing our business. Getting our work, approach and service in front of prospective new customers has been the essence of our recent transformation from “going out of business company” to what we are today.
So being known and being seen has become as important to our business as the actual work we produce. We allocate time (no matter how busy we are) to achieving this goal every month.
The way in which we have achieved this won’t come as much of a surprise to most marketing experts and in some respects can be simply described as a good old fashioned “marketing mix”. However in addition to getting the established marketing elements right we’ve also embraced digital marketing in all its glory which is where a lot of our new business has come from.
A good old fashioned “Marketing Mix”
Simply throwing loads of cash at Google AdWords creates a world where its only a matter of time before your rivals throw even more cash at AdWords and you become embroiled in a marketing war of attrition. However that’s not to say that AdWords don’t play a part in our b2b marketing today. It’s just that they do not represent our entire marketing activity by a long chalk and we’ve spent time working with experts to ensure that every pound we spend with Google is now finding the right customers.
Now although we’ve turned things around I would by no means claim to be a marketing genius. In fact many of the things we learnt have been through seeking the advice (sometimes free, sometimes paid for) of skillful experts. And since I’m sharing most of what I’ve learnt here for free then you’re essentially party to a good deal!
One of the first things we did was to make sure that every element of our website was optimized so that search engines could find us. This was one aspect where we needed an expert but getting this part right was the building block for all our internal activity.
So we engage in lots of different b2b marketing activity over the course of each month. Alongside a modest AdWords campaign here’s what else we do every month to help drive visibility and ultimately sales.
Social Media and b2b Marketing
We have a regular blog where we share as much of our knowledge and expertise as possible(for free!). We offer advice, guides, and info-graphics from our particular field with the aim of positioning us as experts and creating articles of value that people will freely share (effectively spreading our name around the web).
We have an active Twitter output that helps us promote and share our blog articles. We try to update our other social media often, ie pinterest, youtube, vimeo, etc Hootsuite is great for this. We upload as much video content as possible.
Obviously being a video production company we have lots of material but having some video on your site or social media is very useful. And we ensure that we are listed on online business directories and sites.
But it’s not all digital…
We also engage in some good old fashioned cold calling. But not to sell. Instead to simply say hello, and we attend regional business networking events so that we are seen out and about.
Now all of this may sound like quite a lot of work and something that could distract from the main activities of the business. But my business needed new clients to progress and grow (or back in 2009, to stop us going out of business). We found a way to schedule this b2b marketing activity so that it doesn’t impact on other elements of the business and fits nicely into our working week or month.
If I’m honest I can’t point to one single thing and say, “that single activity is where we’re growing our business”, all I can say is that thankfully, this combined approach saved my business.