Marketing, in general, is about creating awareness of your brand and turning prospects into customers. For business to business (B2B) contracting firms, marketing efforts are largely focused on building relationships and maximizing the value of those relationships in a multi-step buying process. It is also about nurturing the perceived level of expertise, value and trust associated with your brand.
There are basic activities that are essential to a B2B firm’s marketing efforts, and the first of these is to create a plan. This plan should include:
- Determination of your objectives/goals.
- Identification of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as an analysis of your “typical” target customer.
- Market analysis including avenues for new markets and strengthening current ones.
To achieve your objectives when executing your marketing initiatives, there are four avenues to consider to reach/attract potential customers:
- Inbound Marketing: This activity reaches people where they are and “pulls” them toward your firm. This includes having a solid website and blog with great content that is optimized for search engines and contains calls-to-action. Also important is a strong social media presence (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) that has regularly updated and relevant posts. With inbound marketing, tracking leads and your return on investment (ROI) is fairly simple to accomplish, particularly when using a program/service (SaaS) such as HubSpot, Marketo and Eloqua which are also great for content management.
- Outbound Marketing: This activity sends the message out to an audience. Forms of outbound marketing include advertising, tradeshows, flyers, brochures, email blasts and even cold calling. There has been some recent debate on the effectiveness of outbound due to the difficulty in tracking the ROI, but it is still an important part of the marketing strategy mix and is beneficial when properly executed.
- Public Relations/Publicity: By submitting articles on the projects, milestones and the people of your firm to publications/websites that are relevant to your industry and customers, your firm gains exposure at little or no cost. Be sure to include images when submitting your “news.”
- Brand Identity: Your company’s logo/corporate identity should be consistent and used on all correspondence, marketing materials, clothing and vehicles. This allows your brand to be recognized and associated with the image you put forth with your marketing efforts.
The main aspect of any successful marketing effort by B2B contractors is to find the appropriate mix, track the results whenever possible and adjust the mix accordingly. Also make sure that you are consistent with your message and branding… and every once in a while, in never hurts to think outside of the proverbial box to create a bit of a buzz.