B2B Marketing Post GDPR

With the GDPR research and compliance just about complete for my own business, I have been thinking how B2B marketing will progress in the post GDPR world. GDPR forces us to think more like sales people, who focus closely on the best opportunities, and less like the now old-style digital marketer who worked extensively with large databases, click rates and “opens”. People liked the predictability of working that way – knowing that if you email 10,000 contacts, 1% would respond gave a neat way to justify the cost of a campaign. The trouble with those campaigns was that the other 9,900 people receiving your email message may have viewed it as rubbish, or mildly annoying at best. From next week we should see fewer unwanted messages in our inboxes.

GDPR – people choose what they receive

But it poses a question for B2B marketers. Until the 25th of May, email marketing was the number one tool in the digital marketing toolbox for customer acquisition, however from next week an email shot to cold list or a third party database won’t be legal unless the contacts have “opted in” to receive communications – and going forwards the marketing lists available are likely to be quite a lot smaller but not proportionately cheaper.

The remaining digital options for customer acquisition are: pay per click advertising, blogging and online PR / advertising, the social networks, and organic search – where most businesses would need to invest in SEO and a tool to watch who visits your website. Each of these options needs a bit of investment. It will still be possible to offer webinars and white papers, but when the GDPR rules come into force website visitors will be able to be more selective about the messages they agree to receive, so the new contacts or “leads” coming from these methods are likely to be fewer.

The social networks can be effective for business development, and will present a good opportunity for some businesses – in particular, I know people who have used the paid promotional options on Linkedin with good results. However the social networks can only work IF the individuals you want to do business with are active users there, so they don’t work for everyone – and as their algorithms are continually changing, it would be a sensible to keep this kind of activity under constant review.

It seems that the era of the cheap digital marketing is now behind us, and marketing budgets may need to be re-focused.

The traditional ways of finding new customers – trade shows, events, telesales and even direct mail – will continue largely unchanged and may even see a little revival.

How to move forwards?  We should watch what is happening with trade media. They provide good channels for B2B promotions but have suffered in the last few years from the shift away from print and loss of advertising revenue.  Now they could see an increase in interest – probably mostly in the digital area. In particular, I believe this will be the case where the publishers with greater foresight have already established useful publications for lots of specialist market sectors. There has been a gentle movement in this direction for some time. The same goes for exhibitions and conferences where there’s a clear trend towards smaller, more focused events.

Content marketing for leads

Content marketing is high priority for technology businesses. This means that the resources and budget that are allocated to content marketing are growing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing where you aim to meet prospective customers by posting the content they are looking for on your website. It is a key part of digital marketing for many businesses as it brings new contacts by organic search. That is to say it brings new contacts from people searching on the internet. This means that the “content” you publish should answer the questions your prospective customers are currently asking.   The content can be text, images, info-graphics, video or podcasts, However most of content is simply text. This is probably because it is the easiest and least expensive to create. Video comes second because people seem to love viewing video.

Case studies are very popular for content marketing, especially for technology companies. They are useful for marketing any high value product or service as a success story should encourage more buyers to go ahead and purchase the same solution.

A story or article for content marketing should be unique, i.e. it should not be available anywhere else on the Internet. This is another reason for choosing customer case studies, they belong to your company, and are ideal material to use.

However, companies use other forms of written content as well. “How To” articles and guides to best practice are popular too. News items and comments on industry news are also good. A new piece of research, presented as a report, can work well, because it contains information that is genuinely valuable to the reader.

Whatever the content, it needs to work effectively for search engines as well as human readers. This means that the writer should write with an awareness of the SEO goals, or the text may be edited later to be more suitable for search engines.

While this sounds easy, businesses often find it hard to create enough content that is good enough to use.  It should contain something that people really want to read if it is to work well.

One way to achieve this is to take an editorial approach as editors are used to writing for their readers and understand what makes a good read.

Working to a content plan or content strategy will help.  A content plan will ensure that the writing keeps to the right topics, and that it covers the areas people are interested in. The best content can be often case studies, as mentioned before, or it can be an article based on new research or an interview with a subject expert.

Finally it should be written to a high standard which reflects your company’s brand and values.

Content marketing takes more effort than people realise, but when it is done well, it becomes a very useful source of new contacts. However, when you compare content marketing with other ways of gaining new contacts, such as attending a trade show or staging a marketing campaign, these also come with significant costs. It is not surprising then that if content marketing is to be effective, it is unlikely to be easy or free.