Trade shows are dead! Trade up to digital marketing strategy.
My new favourite way to express a grumpy emotion is to use the word 'cross'. If you'd told me 10 years ago I would use the word cross I would never have believed you. There's something very mid 1970's about 'cross'. It brings to mind images of thick wool cardigans teamed with a neutral colour corduroy pant, possibly some sensible leather shoes in tan. It definitely would have been said by my next door neighbours Mum, who we called Auntie (wasn't that so weird in 1970's Melbourne that we called every adult who we saw more than 3 times Auntie or Uncle). I like cross because although it sits in the angry spectrum, it a very gentle angry, it says ‘I am a bit huffy at the moment but I'll be back in 10 with a cheese sandwich and a ruffle of your hair’.
So cross is the word that I use to describe the way I feel about trade press and trade shows in B2B technology marketing and while I'm at it it I'm going to throw sponsorship in there. Why? Because when we don't have a marketing budget the size of a Corporate Bank it is a giant waste of money and produces terrible ROI. In a world that's big data this and mobility that, its surprising that a good portion of a marketing budget can still be thrown at three very old skool methods of increasing awareness.
There are a few defensible reasons for sticking to the three dinosaurs that I hear bandied about such as
1) picking up a new client at last years trade show
2) the magazine called and offered me a discount
3) our competitors are there so we should be too.
My response is - that lead just cost you $20k, a discount is not worth one cent if everyone is reading the publication online and you know if your competitors were to walk of a cliff..........
OK I'm done, cheese sandwich anyone?
Coming up with a digital marketing strategy can be hard and a real step change to a business. But change we must. If a greater return on marketing investment is important and let's face it when is it not, we must take advantage of the internet (in my mind that is said like INTERNEEEEET in booming voice that fades out).
Where to start with a digital marketing strategy
So if your ready to hip and shoulder trade shows, trade press and sponsorships, here’s where to start
Creating a Social Media strategy
Most B2B businesses are already social media posting but it’s time to ramp that stuff right up. Start by using only the platforms that your target market scroll. For most of us it is Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. The thinking used to be that you need to shower your audience in content and it's true you need to be consistent but what is really important is the quality of content. Really think about what your target audience would find interesting. What would enhance their business or personal lives. While curated content is important, creating your own content to be seeded across social media gets you alot more kudos from your target audience.
Paid Social Media
Posting on social media only gets you so far because only the people that are following you can see your posts and even then on platforms like Facebook they are only seeing a small portion of it (the exception here is LinkedIn because your published posts can go through to Pulse). To raise awareness take advantage of the most targeted and cheapest paid media in the world. Paid Social Media. Pay to promote your own content such as blogs, white papers, eBook, videos or straight ads.
Digital media buying is often a mass proposition which is great when you have a mass brand but many B2B tech companies have a highly targeted audience so need to cherry pick the sites they are willing to advertise on. Go back to your target audience and think about what sites they would be on a regular basis. Average click through rates for B2B are 0.06% so you need to ensure that the cost you pay for these ads is reasonable for the site traffic of your target audience. Remember also that while click through rate is important digital ads can still raise awareness (similar to a press ad) even if people aren't clicking through.
Search Engine Optimisation
If you have a service or product that people research online you must have an SEO stratgey in place. This can be a 3 - 12 month process as you slowly work your way up the depths of google pages onto the first page. For competitive industries on a very tight budget, a good website with good content teamed with good SEO is the number one thing you should be spending money on.
Search Engine Marketing
Adwords are paying to be on the first page and can be very useful while you wait for your SEO to work. However the trap with AdWords is to think just because you've paid that people will click. Your ads still need to be creative and insightful to your target audience.
Inbound Marketing strategy
Its huge in America, in it's infancy here so a massive opportunity for B2B marketers. At its basic level inbound marketing creates content for your target audience so that they will find you at every step along the sales funnel. Improved SEO is a benefit but the biggest benefit is that people who don't know you not only become aware of you but form a relationship with you before they have even spoken to a sales person. Much more effective in creating a warm lead than traditional ads.
eDM's are little pocket rockets if you get the channel and the message right. Some of the greatest spikes I've seen in web traffic come from these babies. Getting the channel right, often means finding a partner that is a trusted source for you target audience. They will send out an email on your behalf that goes straight to your target market. It works like a referral from a friend. They trust the friend so they trust you. Content is still the number one thing here though. Human language, customer benefit driven key messages and pretty pictures go a long, long way.
People form what feels like personal relationship with bloggers that they follow. I follow a handful of bloggers (and quickly delete the ones I subscribe to that start to annoy me) but I feel very loyal towards them. I trust their opinions and would like to have them over for dinner. So if they recommend something I am going to believe them. If you can find bloggers that make sense for your brand and are willing to support you, hold hands and skip off into the sunset because it can be a marketing marriage made in heaven.
So it's with a wink, a hair ruffle and a cheese sandwich in hand that I say come on now, its time to give tradeshows, trade press and sponsorship a cuddle and a kiss, tell them that they have served you well and pop them in the box to go to the charity shop. And make room in the toy cupboard for your SNAZZY, FAST PERFORMING digital strategy. You won't look back!