Why B2B online marketing doesn't work

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By: Neil Edwards on 11th January 2013, 5 minute read

Many businesses are now completely sold on the benefits of online marketing. They invest a great deal in search engine optimisation, content marketing and social media marketing and yet they don't get a reasonable return on their investment.

Why? Because they don't clearly understand what their goal is.

Every business needs to identify exactly how its website contributes to its overall success. Is it reasonable to expect the website to bring in direct sales? Or is it more about leads, endorsement and referrals? Whatever online marketing work you do, it is important that you find a way to align it with your goals.

For example, what exactly does your business achieve by going on Facebook? With a few exceptions, it won't really help you sell anything (there, I said it). So is it brand awareness that you hope for? Or do you hope to use it to engage in conversation with your customers? If yes, you need to aim your Facebook involvement full square at that.

Building a relevant audience

In B2B marketing, the principal goal of online marketing is to use links and social media signals to drive traffic to your main website. The search engines really look for these and it undoubtedly works very well for businesses of every size.

The website should be thought of as a 'content hub' where blog posts, white papers, product specifications, case studies, press releases and any other form of value adding information can be housed alongside a clear call to action.

The content manager should be thinking like a publisher and determining how to distribute the content to the widest possible relevant audience. This is likely to include the use of e-mail marketing, social media, news wires, guest blogging, content curation sites and off-line media. The effort will combine to bring a relevant audience back to the desired landing pages where offers can be made to entice a prospect to make contact or share their contact details.

Getting it wrong in the mix

While this all sounds pretty easy in theory, there are many ways to get it wrong in practice - even in big businesses that can be knee deep in resources. The marketing departments in these businesses tend to be fragmented and often don't manage to get a coordinated strategy together. For instance, they will have separate departments or agencies for SEO, PR, social media and content marketing, and yet their scale will prevent them from making sure that these people talk to one another. As a result, these departments will often pull in different directions.

Smaller businesses, where online marketing is all in one place, can have problems too. An overburdened marketing executive who needs to take care of the blog and the social media account on top of everything else he or she is responsible for can quickly become overwhelmed.

The worst arrangement is when these functions get assigned as additional tasks to different people in non-marketing roles. Believe it or not, we still see examples of the website being managed by IT and social media being handled by the nice new joiner in accounts. There is very little possibility of these overstretched people getting a coordinated strategy together.

A way out

The best idea - one that works for most companies - is to have one senior executive in charge of all online marketing functions. This executive should be more strategic than technical and have considerable say over what the PR department and conventional marketing team does too. He or she needs a completely clear mandate and considerable authority over the marketing function. Smaller businesses that can't afford to have an an executive dedicated to this role should think seriously about the option of outsourcing.

Many online marketing efforts fail for the simple reason that the person in charge simply does not have enough knowledge or authority to influence and coordinate what everyone does. Once this is in place, there's really no reason why your online marketing should not shine.

As many businesses get behind online marketing, many don't truly succeed. Of course, this is only to be expected if the knowledge doesn't exist internally. The secret is to have a plan and coordinate all internal and external resources to deliver it. If you would like some help in devising and co-ordinating your online marketing strategy, pleasecontact us.

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Neil Edwards


Neil Edwards

Neil is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing with many years' experience in marketing, brand and communications.

CEO / The Marketing Eye

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