16 B2B Marketing Problems (And What to Do About Them)
B2B marketing has a reputational tendency to be outdated, dry & unengaging. Here are 16 common problems the B2B marketing world faces & how your team can pivot towards a more results-oriented future.
Your B2B marketing doesn’t work.
The mentality of how B2B marketing should be done is outdated. B2B marketing has a tendency to be dry and unengaging.
As many of us here at Godfrey believe, B2B isn’t boring; it is extremely fascinating. Your marketing should be, too.
Here are 16 common problems the B2B marketing world faces and how you can pivot to avoid them.
Problem #1: Your Brand STILL Isn’t Digital-First
The internet isn’t going anywhere. While B2B is usually behind the curve and trails business-to-consumer marketing tactics, the digital space is disrupting this traditional pattern. And yet so many businesses are sticking to these dinosaur methods and wondering why B2B companies keep getting acquired by big brands.
It is painful to see digital eyesores, such as:
- An outdated site that, with some really quick improvements, could work so much harder (more conversions, longer time on page, ranks better in search results, loads faster, lower bounce rates, etc.)
- A wonderful evergreen piece of content that hasn’t been leveraged properly in a way to improve the brand’s online presence
- A sharp-looking website that has hundreds of unnoticeable technical issues in the back end that are ruining its visibility in search results
- A terrible social media presence that either only contains posts about the company and links to news articles about the company, or takes months to message someone back and ignores comments
- A website that takes years to load and, when you finally get to the page you thought would have the information you need, it doesn’t (i.e., the user experience is stress-inducing)
Luckily, the silver lining in these instances (as well as many others) is that there are so many opportunities to improve your brand in the digital space.
P.S. Print Is Still Important!
Please keep in mind that this is a generalization and not a declaration that old marketing methods are obsolete. Highly successful marketing takes place through the tactful execution of a multichannel strategy.
Problem #2: Penny-Pinching on Marketing Technologies
If you continue to have cheap, old, stale, boring, traditional B2B habits, you will continue to have cheap, old, stale, boring, traditional results.
When you cut corners on your marketing budget, you will never get the results you want. Some businesses are afraid to foot the bill on expensive marketing tech stacks. This is usually because they don’t realize the value of them.
Marketers cannot execute as well or as efficiently without these instrumental tech stacks, which breeds low-quality work. While these technologies can be complex, there are plenty of ways to learn how to best use them, just like you would with any other new skill.
Once You Have the Tech, Make Sure You Actually Use It
It’s bizarre that some big brands have such amazing yet extremely expensive tech stacks but are not using them the way they should be used. Have someone onboard your team who can manage them. They will know which tools are the most reputable to choose for your needs (there are so many out there) and properly connect them to the right channels.
Whether you work with an agency that has access to these tools or you have them in-house, marketing technology will only make your job easier. It is also more cost-efficient than coding your own internal systems.
Problem #3: Giving Competitors and Distributors Your Website Traffic
Many third-party distributors have already taken the lead in the B2B space online. They are outranking the actual brands (meaning you AND your competitors’ brands) in the search results. They are paying for shopping and text ads on Google and Bing to show before users even see your organically ranking pages.
Here is an example in the industrial lubrication space:
Thinking Ahead: E-Commerce in the B2B Space
In addition to traditional online advertising, these types of sites have e-commerce capabilities where you can buy products similar to yours right online. Buyers don’t have to submit an excruciatingly long form or call someone for every single product. Some B2B products do not and should not require that level of detail.
Statistics show that digital provides the most important sales channels for millennials (even in the B2B space). Companies like Amazon have already started delving into the B2B space and they will eventually start selling products and services exactly like yours.
Problem #4: Waiting Until the Last Minute to Do Everything
When It Comes to Setting Goals for the New Fiscal Year
Do you have your budget set for the year? Do you know what you are trying to accomplish? Who are you trying to reach? What methods are you considering using to get there? How are you measuring your success?
Haphazardly throwing together a plan, pushing it back, not setting clear goals or sticking to them is a waste of money, resources and time. You will never get the results you are looking for or your boss wants you to achieve. Doing all these things up front may seem like a time commitment, but if you want successful results, you need to have the proper foundation in place (and the right people on-board).
When It Comes to Random Requests and Rush Jobs
One-offs or random, spur-of-the-moment marketing projects are set up for average or less-than-average success. Crises and trends that call for a pivot will occur but, as marketers, we need to be more strategic about the planning and execution.
Problem #5: Ignoring Best Practices and Expert Recommendations
When it comes to dealing with SMEs (subject matter experts), we sometimes forget they have worked long and hard to become as knowledgeable as they are within their given subject matter. It is important to be vulnerable when working with your team of SMEs. Really listen to what they have to say and feel free to ask, “Why?” or any additional questions. It will help to establish trust and shared knowledge between one another in addition to strengthening the relationship.
Problem #6: Being Afraid to Make Changes or Test New Ideas On Your Website
If you can’t easily get to what you are looking for on your website, neither can your consumers. Poor user experience frustrates end-users and they will go elsewhere to find what they are looking for. If your bounce rates are high and average time on pages are low, you have a poor UX. But besides hiring a UX expert or researching best practices, how can you be sure of what works for your audience?
Changing and testing are how marketers find what works best for their web users. But as soon as anyone mentions changing anything, people get into fight or flight mode. Your organization will not fall apart if you make minor changes to your website. From a digital perspective, testing different ad creatives and copy is essential. I can’t fathom that clients pay for us to concept multiple ad creatives but then ultimately only use one message in their campaign instead of letting the audience decide what resonates.
Companies can be so reluctant to change anything on their site. Changing the placement of a button on your website should not be a huge ordeal that takes weeks to implement and multiple approvals. And likely, nobody else will notice incremental changes but you. Unless you completely overhaul or add something NSFW to your most popular page, you don’t need to worry about the impact a change will have on your brand (unless it’s related to SEO). You also cannot be afraid of a test to flop, because those are also learning experiences.
Why Testing Matters
By allowing marketers to test out different items relatively quickly, you can better understand what works and what doesn’t. Some things won’t work and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of digital – you can make small and medium changes seamlessly.
By not giving marketers the freedom to A/B test, segment audiences, add tracking codes, update copy, properly access tools, make changes and improvements on the fly, you are wasting your money and hindering success.
These are changes that won’t make you lose millions of dollars or cost thousands to do, but they could increase your web traffic, rankings in search, lead conversions and more. By being skeptical of implementing changes, you remain stagnant. You must always continuously optimize and test so you can improve.
Problem #7: Boring, Dry, Snooze-Worthy Marketing Tactics
Some of the stuff that B2B brands do is super cool. But it is typically seen as boring because the marketing is boring. Even with technical audiences, you need to grab their attention and keep their attention. Technical audiences are smart and will see right through any fluff but that doesn’t mean you cannot be creative or fun. B2B marketing is equal parts art and science.
Stop being haphazard with your marketing efforts by doing what’s quick, easy and less costly. It’s not going to make an impact.
Instead, take calculated risks. What do you bring to the table that makes you different from your competitors, and how can you make that apparent without being too bland or too over-the-top? How can you create a connection with them?
Problem #8: Using Made-Up Words Nobody Knows in Your Messaging
Showing up in the search results for your product requires you to use the correct terminology that users search for on your pages. I have heard companies say, “Well, I show up for so-and-so keyword, so we must be doing well,” when in reality, nobody is searching for that term because it is just a marketing term their team coined. Of course you show up for it on Google because nobody else is using it.
Here is an example:
People who look up rocking chairs are searching for “rocking chairs” or a long-tail term like “best cherry wood rocking chair for back pain”. They are not searching for “WoodBest™ ultra swing defining curved sitting machines.” Nobody knows what a “curved sitting machine is” and nobody cares. Maybe they will once they get to your page, watch your video, download your PDF, gain awareness, etc. – but you need to get them there first. That won’t happen without properly executed paid search, organic search and earned media.
Apply the rocking chair example to your industry. Use a free keyword research tool to see which terms used by your brand have search volume around them. While some of these words may be consumer-based, search engines will understand that you are a commercial brand with the other terminology used on your website.
Problem #9: Being Overly Self-Promotional in Your Content
No one likes the person at the party who just talks about themselves all night. People will inevitably tune them out. B2B brands need to stop talking as if they are a used car salesman. Authenticity matters. Marketing is H2H – Human to Human. Nobody cares how special you think your company is, so stop posting just about you.
It’s Not Them, It’s You
The reason your social media posts aren’t getting any engagement is not always simply because it is “not the right channel for your industry.” It is usually because you are not leveraging it properly, understanding the proper value or metrics to measure or it is executed incorrectly and you need to hire someone who actually understands the ins and outs of social media.
You need to listen to your audience before the audience even considers listening to you. You need to make the audience want to talk to you. Engage with them in ways that aren’t all about you. It’s a turnoff. You need to talk to your audience, not at them.
Problem #10: Executing Marketing Processes in Inefficient, Unscalable Ways
Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
There is no need to reinvent the wheel every single time you do something. Yes, each situation is unique and needs to be customized for that campaign or project, but the actual process itself should be relatively the same each time. Start standardizing your processes and procedures so you can efficiently work across channels within the organization. Write down the processes step-by-step, record a training video to show new hires and commit to using SOPs across all employees and channels. These will also help with the transition of onboarding a new employee or if an employee moves on to a new role or is out of the office for a few weeks.
There shouldn’t be five different types of content calendars used throughout your organization. If you are do something more than once, create a template. It saves time and cuts costs. The first time you do something you know you will do again, like a drip campaign email, templatize it. Similar to SOPs, each team and team member should use the same templates.
Similar to planning, creating templates and SOPs takes more time up-front but allows you to free up time in the long term, saving money from duplicate work or areas of miscommunication. These are foundational structures that every successful workplace needs. Once they are created, ensure they are maintained, updated and used across the organization.
Problem #11: Not Reusing and Repurposing Existing Content
Make the most of the content you already have. The concept of scalability and efficiency can be transposed into your content marketing initiatives. It is perfectly okay to reuse or repurpose preexisting content that works instead of reinventing the wheel each time. Break apart an infographic into multiple social media posts, reuse a cool fact you posted last year, refresh an old blog post with additional content and keywords.
Utilize User-Generated Content and Interact With Your Audience
Existing content doesn’t always have to come from something your team created. Repost user-generated content and engage with your audience and other brands and publications relevant to your industry instead of using that time to create self-promotional content. You can use tools such as BuzzSumo to monitor your brand or keywords related to your brand to help find relevant content online.
Problem #12: Thinking You Completely Understand Your B2B Audience(s)
There are misconceptions that B2B-minded people are only analytical and technical. Not only is this inaccurate, but a proper marketing strategy is meant to target multiple personas in different levels of the purchasing process and customer journey. Stop using the same message for all of them! It becomes saturated and repetitive, like the popular song on the radio that you used to love and now hate.
The Importance of Empathic Listening
How do you make sure your marketing is resonating with your target audience(s)? Do you even know what they are and what they like? Do you have personas set up for each target type? In Ann Handley’s book, “Everybody Writes,” she discusses that literally everyone produces content. In order to create ridiculously good content that stands out, it needs to have “pathological empathy.” Handley defines this as the process of truly understanding the audience’s perspective and what emotion drives their decision-making. It involves asking your customers questions, such as why they do what they do and how.
By listening to their wants and needs, not just listing buzzwords and product facts, you can tell stories that actually relate to them and provide true value, making it a mutually beneficial process. Otherwise, you waste time and money on irrelevant, invaluable content.
Problem #13: Siloing Marketing Efforts and Marketing Channels
Multichannel customers spend three to four times more money. However, just because you have email, SEO and social campaigns does not mean they are working together. It is very easy for channels to get tunnel vision.
Are your marketing channels disconnected from one another? Are you integrating all your channels? Even if you use more than one channel, are they working together or separately? Think strategically about how your marketing channels can work together.
While more touchpoints can be more complex, with the right data tracking in place, you can learn so much about each unique individual and customize the marketing based on their behavior. You can also see which channels “assisted” in a conversion. For example, a user might have first seen your product in a PPC ad, and then noticed your retargeting ads on their favorite blog but didn’t convert until a few months later during an organic search using your product name.
Consumers need multiple touchpoints in multiple channels before they are ready to take the next step – you need to keep your brand top of mind. With the right dashboard setup, you can streamline your data from each channel, have it all live in one place and make it easy to interpret and visualize. This way, you won’t be in the weeds and can just focus on the metrics without it feeling confusing, overwhelming or overcomplicated.
Problem #14: Having a Team Without a Baseline Understanding of Digital and Not Having a Digital Expert on the Team
Unicorns Don’t Exist
You may get close, but you will NEVER find someone who can execute every single aspect of digital who can also complete the creative and coding, copywrite, know your exact CMS and platforms, fly a plane, choreograph a musical, perform Mozart with a kazoo, etc. No matter who you hire, you’ll have to train them on certain learning curves or they will need to self-train. One of the worst things you can do when looking at prospective candidates is to have unrealistic expectations for the applicant. What you can look for during the hiring process is a T-shaped marketer.
Is Your Job Posting the Problem?
Digital marketers don’t just push a button and everything magically improves. Those who actually understand digital marketing can see how much your company does not know about it through your job posting. These people won’t even bother applying because you are setting them up for failure.
You need someone who understands the terminology, knows what questions to ask internally and to your partners, when to push back, what metrics to look at and how to optimize. At the very least, you need someone to come in and train your marketing and sales team members about digital marketing.
Once you have the right person(s), you’ll want to train other members of your team and explain how and why this matters to them, so you are on the same page.
Why Team Members Need a Baseline Digital Understanding, Even if They Aren’t Doing the Work
You want to be able to set realistic expectations and work together with your sales team so everyone can succeed. This also establishes trust between cross-department team members. Baseline training will help the team be more efficient, collaborative and reputable since everyone using the same language and terminology.
Problem #15: Testing Things That Don’t Matter or Pivoting With Limited Data
Testing whether an additional sentence in the copy after a month of being on the site makes users stay on the page longer is nonessential. Testing to see if adding a call-to-action on the sidebar to a contact form results in more leads in the course of three months is a realistic, measurable and impactful proof of concept. Make sure you are effectively communicating with your marketing team on what you are looking to achieve so they can make educated decisions on ways to improve.
In that same vein, make sure you have a reasonable amount of data before pivoting. It’s simple math. If 8 out of 10 people like it one way but 3 others don’t, that number becomes 8 out of 13 people or 61%. But if we continue to test and that number becomes 200 people who don't like something and 800 people who do, it becomes 800 out of 1,000 people or 80%. That’s a huge difference! Smaller data sets can skew results. Make sure you are patient when collecting data so you can make the most informed choice and have enough to make an accurate analysis.
Problem #16: Marketing Data That Is Unorganized, Incorrect and Nobody Understands What to Do With It
Do you have conversion tracking set up? Do you have search console turned on in Google Analytics? Are you segmenting your audiences in your email lists based on their need or their activity? Are your automation steps properly defined? Are your codes properly tracking? Start measuring the impact of your marketing initiatives. This can help make future decisions on how you can appropriately spend your marketing budget or track the purchasing process of your buyers so you can better understand them.
All Teams Have Flaws and There Is Always Room to Improve
All company initiatives, not just marketing, have kinks that need sorted out. Sometimes when one problem is fixed, another door opens to other issues that also need to be resolved. No matter how strong and integrated your marketing is, it will never be perfect, but at least these are some items to improve upon and see where your pain points lie. Change is difficult but your company and your audience will be thankful for the adjustment. This way, your marketing dollars are used wisely and your awesome ideas can come to fruition with the successful results you expect.
Bottom line: Communicate, test, learn, scale, measure and trust. You got this!
Godfrey helps complex B2B industries tell their stories in ways that delight their customers.