To make the kinds of strategic decisions that will grow their firms, professional services executives continually have to play budget tug-of-war: what stays? what goes? That’s why when it comes time to making marketing spend decisions, it’s critical to know what B2B marketing strategies really contribute to new business growth.
In a recent Hinge study on Visible Experts℠, we found that B2B marketing strategies that raise the spectrum of visibility are the most effective at bringing in new business.
What are these strategies?
- Link Earning
- Social media
- Speaking engagements
- Email marketing
Although each strategy helps build visibility in different ways, it’s important to pay attention to how they work together. The efficacy of these methods in raising your visibility is directly tied to how interconnected they are.
Let’s take a deeper look at each B2B strategy.
1: Link Earning
Simply put, link earning is the process of associating your thought leadership and educational content with other reputable websites. By encouraging others to link to your content (or share it), you drive traffic and boost your website’s authority—and, your firm’s visibility.
Search engines love shared content, and their algorithms account for the extent to which link building (which I really think of as link earning) is taking place. Over time, this kind of organic linking has an upward effect on your web authority, and is rewarded by search engines giving your site higher page ranking.
There are two basic approaches for earning links: guest posts, and shareable content.
Guests posts are just that: your blog posts or articles, published on another firm’s blog or online publication. By placing a link back to your own website within the content of your guest post, you create links back to your site and, in turn, build visibility with a relevant, extended audience.
Shareable Content is content that can be easily shared online. What makes one piece of content more shareable than another? There are actually four kinds of content that fall into the “most likely to be shared” category:
- Lists: Content with titles that suggest some sort of list or prioritization is widely popular. After all, who doesn’t need help prioritizing? First, lists tend to be succinct and easy to scan. Also, lists feel valuable and the person reading (and sharing) them feels they, too, are adding value by sharing. Through testing, we’ve found the most effective, optimal lists are ones between a few to five entries. If you need to list more than five things, then 10 is a widely recognized and accepted number. However, the point isn’t so much the number of items on the list, rather the list itself. Content written in a list format tends to get widely shared and generates a lot of links back to you. Win-win.
- Research: Content based on research is also very shareable. Whether you produce a post about your own research or are citing someone else’s research, this type of content has a healthy following because it’s often the chance to showcase a new opinion, a provocative angle on an established theory or even new evidence around a slightly more controversial topic.
- Opinions: This type of content lets you express your opinion on recent or current events, like a news story that is well-known to the public. If you are fortunate enough to have news that aligns with your area of expertise, even better. Opinion-based content is a great opportunity to contribute both your content and your opinion on a highly relevant and timely topic, which tends to be linked to and shared widely. Nothing makes readers happier—and more willing to share—than finding someone else with a similar opinion.
- Videos: Because video is such a compelling way to humanize your expertise, it’s an extremely popular kind of content to share and garner you links. Video is also very engaging. It provides a nice break from all the reading executives have to do on a daily basis. And with the technological capabilities of today’s smart phones, videos are within reach of just about anyone. Less formal than a firm overview video, casual blog-type videos are easy to create and a great way to capture interest and create a flood of links back to your firm’s website.
2: Social Media
One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it’s just like networking, but without the scheduling conflicts, cost considerations, or geographic barriers. In today’s world, social media is online networking and among the top B2B marketing strategies that win new business.
Consider some of our recent research findings:
- 60% of professional services buyers check you out on social media before they buy from you. Primarily via LinkedIn, but don’t rule out other social channels, as they are increasingly a credible part of the professional services story and buyers are relying on these channels more and more to determine if you are the expert for them.
- 17% of non-client referrals come from social media. That’s referrals from people who have never worked with you, but know about you via your online presence, which includes your website and yes—your social media presence.
- 18% of professional services millennials, between the ages of 25 and 34, won’t even refer a provider who is not active on social media. And considering the fact that millennials are soon going to dominate the workforce, this percentage is sure to grow.
Bottom line: You will get more referrals and potentially win more new business if you are on social media, but you stand to lose out if you aren’t on social media.
3: Speaking Engagements
In our own research, we found that 9 out of 10 of Visible Experts use speaking engagements as a marketing tool. And often, it’s one of their most effective B2B marketing strategies for building visibility and winning new business. In fact, almost one–third of all non-client referrals stem from speaking engagements.
There are several ways to uncover speaking opportunities. To start, search online for industry events that match your expertise, which is something most professional services executives probably do already. But you can also reverse engineer your search by looking at your competitors. Go to their websites and looking at any past or upcoming events where they are scheduled to speak. It is a great way to uncover events that could be of interest to you, particularly if those events are putting your competitor in front of your target audience.
Let’s turn our attention back to networking. Although social media is an important networking tool, traditional networking is still critical. More than 8 out of 10 firms have received a referral from someone they have not worked with, so increasing your visibility through networking—one way or another—is another key to building visibility and winning new business.
The first rule of networking is to make sure to do your due diligence. Who will be attending? Who was a speaker last year? Who is speaking this year? Pre-planning lets you be ready to add value when you talk to these folks, create a memorable impression and to grow your network.
The second rule is that the networking experience can’t be about you. It must be about what other people attending the event get out of meeting you. Rather than asking for referrals, focus on the value others will take away from having met you. This experience is what will lead all those new contacts to remember you when their peers ask, “Do you know anyone who does [insert your specialty here]?” Your new contact will be far more likely to remember the conversation they had with you if you make yourself valuable—and your expertise visible—while networking.
Last but not least—email. Often considered a necessary evil, email is a viable, and very powerful, tool for building visibility, especially if you approach your emails strategically and with your end-user in mind.
There are two types of emails to consider:
- Educational emails provide content that is meant to be informative. These emails give something of value to the reader without asking for anything in return. Because educational emails are highly valued by your audience, they should make up about 80% of the emails that you send out.
- Offer emails are for when you want the recipient to do something, such as download a presentation or paper, and you are hoping to move them to a deeper level of engagement. Whether this engagement is a meeting or trying out one of your services, you want them to take a specific next step.Although offer emails should account for the other 20% of emails, you wouldn’t want to send these until you’ve created value for your audience. And offer emails should only go to folks who have already downloaded several pieces of your content. Unless specifically requested, you absolutely would not want an offer email to be sent to someone you just met at a networking event.
Here are a few tips we’ve discovered for highly effective email marketing:
- Ensure the look and feel of your email reflects your brand at every touchpoint.
- Ensure they are mobile friendly.
- Segment your distribution list so you can be strategic about which emails go to which list.
- Remember the 80/20 rule. No matter how many or how few emails you send out, the balance of them (80%) should be educational, while the remainder (20%) are offers.
- Make sure you have a way for people to unsubscribe.
- Consider the subject line carefully. To encourage high open rates, go with 40 characters or less, and be very clear. Subject lines aren’t the time to be too clever or leave too much up to the reader’s imagination. Just say what the email is about. Trust us, the payoff will be there.
- Lastly, be aware that there are certain trigger words that can send your email straight into the spam or junk folder. Words like “cheap” or “sale,” and sometimes even “free,” when placed in the subject line can signal the email is spam and it won’t get through the filter.
By following these five B2B marketing strategies, you will be well on your way to building real visibility and growing your business.
Have you used any of these five B2B marketing strategies? We’d love to hear how they worked for you in the comments.
- Find out more on becoming a sought-after expert in your industry by downloading a free copy of The Visible Expert℠ book.
- Learn about our research into high visibility experts in the research report Visible Experts℠: How High Visibility Expertise Helps Professionals, Their Firms, and Their Clients.
How Hinge Can Help:
Want to become an industry thought leader? It’s one of our specialties. With Hinge’s Visible Expert℠ Program, we can help you implement a thought leadership platform that builds your reputation and visibility in the marketplace.