When the recession hit, the B2B buying cycle was dramatically changed. Suddenly every penny had to be accounted for, every expense carefully analyzed, every cost evaluated. If it wasn’t necessary to the operation of the business, it was shut down. People couldn’t afford to be frivolous, with either their personal bank accounts or a corporate budget. When there is no easy money, there are no easy buying decisions. It almost felt like it was easier to get a mortgage than get hired by a new client!
It seems to me that when times get rough, marketing is one of the first things that take a hit. Campaigns are rolled back to the bare minimum, new ideas won’t be implemented because they can’t prove ROI, creativity falls flat in favor of cost efficient. But think of it this way, when companies are reluctant to open their coffers, how else are you going to convince them if you aren’t connecting with them? This is especially true for B2B companies. Many studies have said it takes at least 3 interactions with brand before you can get someone to convert. When you pull back on your marketing efforts, you are removing those touch points.
There are plenty of cost efficient marketing techniques that B2B companies (those who always had a small budget and those who had their budgets slashed) can employ to stay connected with consumers. Traditional advertising (radio, TV, newspaper) is expensive (and many claim ignored by the population at large), so many companies turn online. Inbound marketing is the process of getting interested and targeted consumers to come to you, instead of you going to them. Inbound marketing breaks down into three main categories: SEO, social media, and content marketing. While it takes a lot of time and manpower to handle these three techniques effectively, by large, they are free. It doesn’t cost anything to create a Facebook fan page or company blog, unless you hire a web designer to create a custom profile. Optimizing your site for SEO doesn’t cost anything and a few well-targeted PPC ads can be incredibly affordable and effective. Videos don’t have to be made with a Spielberg budget to be done well.
I was recently hired by a client to handle their SEO who had been a subscriber to the Brick Marketing Newsletter for over a year, they followed me on Twitter and had connected on LinkedIn, we had 3 one-hour phone calls, meet in person, they called four of my current clients, checked out Brick Marketing’s BBB rating and what kind of business awards Brick Marketing had won. Then, and only then, did they decide to use Brick Marketing. All in all, I think it took 6 months of actively trying to earn their business before I finally got the contract signed.
The main takeaway is that when you cut your B2B online marketing efforts, you are cutting down on the amount of potential touch points you have out there. The fewer times a possible client has to interact with you, the less likely they are to do business with you.