I’ve been out on the podcast and radio show circuit for the past few months supporting my book. One of the topics that has come up in these conversations is my view on the critical elements for small business B2B digital marketing.
There are, of course, a lot of correct answers to that question. Since I’ve been answering in the abstract — without knowing the specifics of a particular company and their competitive situation — I’ve focused on basic foundational principles.
You may find these useful in reviewing your own marketing and in your decision making for your marketing plans for the remainder of the year and beyond.
Motivation, Message, and Metrics
As you might have guessed from the sub-head, the critical foundational marketing principles for small businesses can be summed up in these three words: motivation, message, and metrics. I’d love to refer to them as “3M” to make it easier to remember, but I think a certain midwest-based multinational conglomerate might have an issue with that. Perhaps M-Cubed instead?
Your Prospect’s Motivation
Whatever we call it, what it means is that your first order of business is to understand what is motivating your audience. They have a problem to solve, of course, but what has brought the problem to their attention? Can they quantify the costs of the problem, and do they recognize the cost of inaction? Are they able to envision an outcome that would make the perceived risk in taking action worthwhile? It’s not just the problem that motivates them. It’s what the problem means to their business.
The Message That Resonates
You can use that knowledge and information to craft a message that resonates with your prospects and that you can adapt to apply to the various product or services lines you offer, for different audience segments or verticals, and — most frequently overlooked — for where in their buying process your prospect is. Their interests and questions will change depending on how close they are to making a decision.
The Metrics That Measure Marketing
As you are doing this work, you should be defining metrics that help you track whether you are achieving the results you want. They will also guide you toward thoughtful iteration of your marketing as you strive to consistently improve results over time.
The temptation here is to take an off-the-shelf analytics package and drop it in place, using it as is. For most, this is a mistake as you’ll be faced with the proverbial firehose of data. Teasing actionable insights out of that overwhelming stream of information will be a challenge.
You’ll see much better results if you create dashboards that help answer specific questions rather than simply reacting to whatever data is available. Deciding on these measurements you want to track and setting up dashboards appropriately is the real work in this area of your marketing.
Implementing the Process
Gathering metrics isn’t on its own of any real value. The value comes from acting on the information you have to fine tune your marketing and achieve that consistent, incremental improvement I mention above.
This requires a combination of discipline and intuition. The discipline comes in two parts: first, have the discipline to put your investment to good use. The number of firms who have gone to the trouble and expense of setting up dashboards and monthly reports and then never review them is truly astonishing. I think this may be a factor of marketing data so often been incomplete. We can’t always know with certainty which elements of our marketing contribute to a particular sale, or to what extent. Push through that, put asterisks next to the values you are particularly unclear about, but use the data and rely on the patterns that emerge over time.
The second area where you need discipline is in not jumping at every blip in your data and not being distracted by the next shiny, new marketing toy. I mentioned a moment ago the value in looking at patterns in your marketing data that emerge over time. Those patterns won’t emerge if you are constantly fiddling with the inputs. Too many changes in too short a period of time will muddy your ability to tell which changes are contributing positively and which are not.
That doesn’t mean never making big changes, though. This is where that dose of intuition comes in. (And where the varied perspectives of a broad-based team prove their worth.)
Occasional large-scale changes can re-invigorate a marketing plan that’s beginning to falter and can provide a blast of inspiration that ripples out through the rest of your marketing.
By the way, if you’re interested in hearing some of my podcast and radio appearances, you’ll find a few of them listed on the Andigo website.