If you're a marketer in the B2B sphere, like we are, you may hear a nagging voice in your head that goes something like this:
"It's all about DISRUPTING now, so we have to do that! Why aren't we disrupting? Everyone's saying multi-channel distribution channels, are we distributing on all the multi-channels? Oh my god, everyone's on SnapChat and WhatsApp and WeChat. Gotta do that, too. OK gang, time to disrupt the multi-channel distribution channels ASAP on SnapChat and WhatsApp and also Slack is the new email. It's all happening now!" Then your head explodes.
Hopefully your inner monologue isn't that crazy, but some of those thoughts are buzzing around in your brain, right?
I have a few words to help you calm down, and as you listen to my calming voice, those alarming thoughts will fade and you will feel a renewed sense of "can do" spirit about your marketing tactics.
Now that I've hypnotized you, let's talk about the State of Inbound.
Yes, HubSpot's State of Inbound 2017 report is out and there's a particular section that has attracted my attention. The data in the "Understanding the Modern Buyer" section. I want to understand our buyers (hint: particularly those in the financial sector, healthcare, and nonprofit industries who are looking for a top-notch digital agency). I'm sure you want to understand your buyers, too—how they prefer to communicate, how they make purchasing decisions, and what social channels they hang out on.
1. Email is still top dog.
You heard me. Out of a survey of 6,000 industry professionals conducted by HubSpot, the answer to the question "How do you prefer to communicate for business purposes?" is email, by a huge margin.
What are the next two ways people prefer to communicate? Face-to-face and by phone. Social media, video conferencing and messaging apps are gaining ground, but isn't it comforting to know that people stil love good old-fashioned email?
From top to bottom of the employment food chain, from the lowly Millennial freelancer to the C-suite executive—email, face-to-face and phone are the preferred ways to communicate.
The modern buyer still prefers traditional means of communication for business. Good to know for us B2B marketers.
Takeaway: Blend the new and old. Breathe new life into your email content! Yes, offer tutorial videos, podcasting, webcasts—and insert that content into email. What about the prophets proclaiming Slack is the new email? Hush. Not yet. And from the trend lines, not anytime soon. Yes, messaging apps are still a healthy percentage of how people communicate and there are lots of opportunities to disrupt viewers on those channels, but they're still not as heavily used as traditional channels.
2. Modern buyers trust...
Oh the modern buyer, always one-click purchasing from an Instagram ad! How can we peer inside your mind, dear modern buyer?
Here's a way, let's ask people about sources of information they trust the most when it comes to purchasing decisions, like purchasing new software for their business.
Well, what do you know—word-of-mouth referrals and customer references. Sounds pretty traditional to me.
Oh hi down there, salesperson! You're still on the list, don't worry. We need great salespeople to act as trusted advisors, but (spoiler) you're not the most trusted source of information. Savvy businesses can make the best of lowered buyer expectations by outfitting their sales staff with helpful insights that buyers cannot unearth from media articles or case studies.
Takeaway: Your clients and customers are the most powerful influencers you have. How are you capturing client and customer testimonials? Are you crafting the best case studies and videos? Media articles, review sites and salespeople are relevant and important to the buyer's journey, but not as influential as your customers. Focus on middle and bottom of the funnel content that puts your client's experience front and center. It's not exactly clear what kinds of "channels" or content formats are most effective for harnessing word-of-mouth and customer references, but it's clear that these are the most trusted voices who influence buyer behavior.
Sales, what's your role? Maintain an arsenal of information that people can't readily find on the web or may not know is out there, especially the kind of word-of-mouth referrals they trust. Transform into trusted advisors.
3. Focus on YOUR channels, not all the channels.
If you're a top engineering firm, do you need to be listening to those voices telling you to 'start disrupting on YouTube, stat! And while you're at it find out what the hell RenRen is!' Dang, that voice is exhausting.
Well maybe YouTube is just the place for you, but first let's think about your goals, your business, and your audience.
Are you looking to break into a regional or international market? WeChat is much more popular in Asia than in North America, so it might be worth exploring.
What if your goal is to attract the best top talent? What channel do engineers typically prefer for professional and social use? Survey respondents overwhelmingly use Facebook and LinkedIn for professional use, and they're in the top three social channels for personal use, as well.
Takeaway: Giant businesses can afford to experiment and throw money at multi-channel strategies, maintaining a presence on all of the new channels that pop up on a daily basis. For the rest of us, we have to prioritize what works and ditch anything that isn't getting results. Experiment away! But keep a close eye on what's working and what's wasting time and resources. In an overly saturated content and communication landscape, we need to focus. You do you, and tell the screaming marketing voices to quiet down. There's work to do.
Interested in reading all the delicious data in the State of Inbound 2017 report? Click the link below to get your copy.