February 23, 2016: As marketing strategies continue to progress, it’s becoming more important that B2B marketers connect their offline and online marketing programs. A recent KoMarketing news article really got me thinking about this.
This statistic caught my attention – nearly 98 percent of CMOs claim that offline and online efforts are merging (Gartner). If the distinction between traditional and digital marketing efforts is fading, what does this mean for B2B marketers?
Driving offline audiences to online campaigns will be an essential tactic to create a truly competitive advantage. Successfully doing this can take an online marketing program to a completely new level of sophistication.
Finding customers online using your existing database is one way to connect your offline and online marketing efforts. The objective is to help customers discover your online presence, and build relationships with them so that you are foremost in their thoughts when they are ready to buy. Additionally, connecting with customers online presents an opportunity to reach a new audience of people who could also be interested in your business because of the similarities with your existing customers. All you really need to get started are some basic fields from your customer database: name, website, email, etc.
In this post, I wanted to throw around a few ideas for how B2B marketers can find their customers online to better align offline and online marketing efforts. Here are 5 tactics for you to consider:
Social Media Engagement
Social media offers a huge opportunity for B2B marketers to connect with their existing database of customers, partners and/or vendors to create awareness and build relationships online. One of the most effective social media platforms to do this is Twitter.
With access to as little information as just customer names, you can use Twitter search to find their handles. But, once you find your audience on Twitter, how can you engage them?
Be Consistent: Find and engage with your audience by following them, liking their Tweets, commenting and Retweeting them on a regular basis. One time engagement may not get their attention, but consistently engaging with them will eventually get you noticed.
Build Twitter Lists: Creating public lists on Twitter for each core target will help you get the attention of your audience, and easily monitor their activity online. When I’m added to a list on Twitter, I see it as more than a follow – it’s a great way to stand out. These lists can be used to monitor valuable relationships, engage with key targets on a regular basis, and grow your network.
Share / Monitor Content: Promoting their content will help build relationships for potential link opportunities and encourage them to share your content in return, reaching their targeted networks.
I find it helpful to create an Excel file or Google Doc of key third party websites. Relevant fields may include the company name, domain, blog URL, Twitter handle, engagement level with your company (low, medium, high), and any other notes. This is a good resource to refer back to on a daily or weekly basis to look for opportunities to share prospects’ blog posts and engage with them on Twitter.
Also, by monitoring what content your audience is sharing, you will be able to tell what kind of information they are most interested in. What publications are they sharing articles from or engaging with? Take note of this, as these are all good places for you to be. I’ll elaborate more on this tactic further in this post.
Social Media Advertising
Advertising on social media is a great way to gain visibility and brand awareness, and ultimately encourage website usage from your target audience. With access to your customer names and emails, you can create highly targeted campaigns to reach your audience on social media. Here are several advertising options to consider:
Twitter: While Twitter advertising allows basic targeting options like location, gender, language, keywords, etc., it also offers much more advanced targeting options.
- The Tailored Audiences feature allows you to target specific email addresses, mobile numbers, and Twitter IDs.
- I also recommend implementing Website Tags for Remarketing and tailored audiences. This allows you to reach Twitter users who recently expressed interest by visiting your website.
Facebook: Facebook advertising allows several basic targeting options including location, age, gender, language, interests, industry, company size, and job title. However, Facebook advertising also offers more advanced targeting options to reach your existing database.
- By targeting Custom Audiences you can upload an existing email list to advertising specifically to those Facebook users.
- The Custom Pixel feature lets you place a custom pixel on your website, so that you are able to retarget to recent website visitors.
- The Lookalike Audiences option lets you target an audience that is similar to your existing customers.
LinkedIn: Similar to other social networks, LinkedIn Ads offer simple targeting options like company, job title, job function, school, skills, gender, age, and location. But, some more advanced options to connect with your existing customers include:
- The Company targeting option lets you advertise to specific companies on LinkedIn.
- The Job Title option lets you target other professionals at companies that you want to connect with.
- You can also target specific LinkedIn Groups to help build brand awareness and encourage website visits.
Gaining publicity online is a less direct method of reaching you customers and more of a long-term effort, but still extremely effective. The goal here is to build brand awareness and be seen as a thought leader in the space. There are many ways to go about this, however here are some of the major ones:
Contribute to Third Party Websites: As I mentioned earlier in this post, monitoring what content your audience is sharing on social media will help you determine the websites that you should build a presence on. Contributing to third party publications is not only a great way to gain visibility and get in front of your audience, but it also provides an opportunity to acquire links. Be aware of what websites and resources your audience is paying attention to, and make those publications a top priority for third party article contributions.
Build Expertise & Authority: Publications are always looking for quotes, opinions, insight and advice from experts. This is a great opportunity to leverage your industry expertise and get mentioned and linked to in publications. Ultimately, this should help you build authority in the space and get customer buy-in.
Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is my favorite resource for this – it connects writers looking for quotes from subject matter experts.
Press Releases & Bylines: There are a few free PR distribution sites; however, the paid-distribution networks like PRweb.com and PRnewswire.com are made for faster media reach. The creation and distribution of press releases and articles will help strengthen your online presence and connect with priority targets across online channels.
Content Development & Distribution
Blog content development and distribution is an essential tactic to connect with your audience online. When curating content and creating original content, prioritize your audience’s resources to mention throughout articles and link to.
After recognizing a company in a blog post, you should reach out to them on Twitter and share a link to the post to let them know that they have been mentioned. This will help build relationships with your audience, encourage shares on social media, and drive traffic back to the website.
There are also a couple of ways that you can reach out to your audience directly and encourage them to connect with your company online.
Direct Email Outreach: There’s certainly a right and wrong way to go about this. Emails should be highly customized to each customer to ensure that they are not mistaken for a mass email. Before reaching out to customers directly via email you should have a clear goal in mind, whether it’s to get customers to visit the blog, sign up for the site, or check out a new eBook. The email should clearly state its purpose and how the customer will benefit from it.
Engaging and building relationships with these customers on social media prior to email outreach is absolutely essential to the success of this tactic. It’s important to note that email outreach is generally seen as a more intrusive method of communication. If it’s not done properly and in a sensitive manner, it could create a negative association with the brand.
Direct Messaging on Social Media: Reach out to your audience directly on social media, specifically on Twitter. This method also has some downsides, but can generate some really great results if executed strategically. Many Twitter users receive numerous automated messages everyday, so it’s important to make your message customized and clear. I’ve found this tactic to be really effective when relationships have been nurtured on social media prior to direct outreach.
Aligning offline and online marketing efforts will improve the effectiveness of your overall marketing strategy. There are many ways to find B2B customers online, and these are just a few that I’ve found to be successful.
Which ways have you found to be most powerful in finding and engaging customers online? Feel free to share any thoughts or ideas for merging offline and online marketing efforts in the comments below.