You and your team have worked tirelessly for years, developing innovative products or services to fulfill the needs of other small businesses (in your own specific niche and beyond). You’ve even created—and deployed—a robust marketing strategy, and are using a whole host of proven B2B marketing tactics in your quest to turn promising leads into loyal clients.
The challenge? Competition is fierce, so sticking to basic marketing tactics isn’t always enough. If the goal is to generate more B2B sales among new and existing clients, it may be time to harness some of that same creative energy you used to revolutionize your industry’s offerings in the first place to take your small business’s marketing strategy to the next level (thanks to the pandemic, you may be planning to update your overall digital marketing strategy anyway—so the time to do think specifically about B2B marketing has never been better).
Here are four innovative B2B marketing strategies your small business can use now to build client relationships, increase sales, and stand out in the crowd.
Customize the client experience with augmented reality
In 2021, with a large portion of the workforce conducting business at home rather than in an office, it is harder and harder to get your products in front of would-be clients so they can actually see and experience the benefits firsthand before making a purchase. The antidote to this? It’s an interactive technology called augmented reality.
Unlike virtual reality, which places the user in a virtual environment, AR places a product in the user’s environment. This allows said user to visualize, in detail, how the product might appear/function within their own workspace before they actually make the purchase. Picture a coffee shop owner, for example, “trying out” a new espresso machine virtually as a way to determine whether it actually fits in the allotted space, or a business manager doing the same with a multifunction copy machine. If your business is one that offers product customization, AR allows you to customize virtually so clients can see what something might look like with these customizations before making a commitment.
An almost $18 billion (and growing) global industry, AR is conducted with a smartphone or tablet camera, in conjunction with a web browser and special AR software. The downside to AR? The cost to implement the technology varies significantly based on whether you build your AR tools in-house using a DIY app or hire a pro to design custom software—so be aware that it may be cost-prohibitive for some small businesses, depending on needs and expectations.
AR is one of several effective marketing tools for B2C ecommerce businesses as well. If you’ve ever shopped for a car online or visited a virtual dressing room to try on jeans, you’ve probably seen it.
Experiment with long-form content
Maybe you’ve heard that blog content is supposed to be short, punchy and straight to the point. While this may have been true at one time, research actually indicates that long-form content gets shared three times more than short-form content and is more likely to earn a first-page ranking on Google.
You might ask, what does this have to do with innovation? Despite these stats, long-form content hasn’t really caught on yet in the B2B world. As of 2020, only 38% of marketers in the B2B space were using it, according to the Content Marketing Institute. You’ll be ahead of the curve if you start incorporating long-form content into your content marketing plan now, before it becomes commonplace.
What type of content can be long-form?
Long-form content is characterized primarily by length. CMI defines it as any piece of content in the 2-3K word range (anything above and beyond that is considered “extra-long”).
Examples of long-form marketing content include:
Pillar pages (in-depth and lengthy, with lots of links to related content)
Equip your website with real-time personalization
A 2020 survey of B2B sales and marketing professionals found that more than half of respondents believe personalization in marketing leads to “higher conversion rates.” At the same time, a considerable portion of them (42%) reported struggling to incorporate personalization into their B2B marketing strategies.
If you are in the struggling-to-incorporate camp, now may be the time to really dive into the process of figuring out how to use personalization in your B2B marketing strategy because, according to a 2019 report by McKinsey and Company, it is expected to be the “prime deliverer of marketing success” by 2024.
One innovative way to make this happen? Through the use of automated tools that customize your website content for each unique set of visitors, otherwise known as real-time personalization (this is just one of many types of personalization in B2B marketing).
Essentially, with real-time personalization, your website uses IP addresses, locations and domains to instinctively recognize where various visitors are coming from. Then, it shows these visitors text and images that are most relevant to their businesses (in the form of products, informational blog posts, event announcements, etc.) while simultaneously weeding out content that is less likely to pique their interest.
While this may sound complicated and expensive, you’re in luck—it doesn’t have to be. Many automated personalization tools, such as Google Optimize 360, are competitively priced or, in some cases, even free.
Create a podcast
Each week, 68 million Americans listen to podcasts. While comedy is the most popular genre (no surprise there), plenty of people are interested in listening to informative business and educational podcasts, hosted and/or created by leaders in their respective fields.
All this adds up to an enormous and potentially game-changing opportunity for you as a small business owner. For one thing, while podcasts are certainly growing in popularity, the market is nowhere near saturated—especially in niche areas like B2B (according to one source, collectively a mere 3% of marketing pros were podcasting as of March 2020).
Podcasting is also:
Simple to navigate, with fewer constraints on access compared to some other media channels
Affordable (you can create a podcast without a large financial investment)
A great way to establish credibility as a subject matter expert in your field
A way to generate ad revenue
What to discuss on a B2B podcast? Keep in mind that podcasting is really just an extension of your existing content marketing efforts, so refer to your existing content for inspiration. You can also interview important figures in your field, share company news, discuss the history of your business’s niche, really anything at all that your clients (and potential clients) might enjoy.