I've been working with B2B clients to identify, refine and optimize their marketing messages and larger marketing strategies for over a decade. I've spent more than 5,000 hours working with IT businesses directly on these and related goals, and in that time, I've seen one universal truth reveal itself over and over again.
Yes, digital marketing is all about making an impact when it comes to the outward presentation of your brand. Yes, every business is a little bit different from the next, so the actual mechanics of that message will always be in flux. But the No. 1 priority of any marketing campaign is and will always be getting the right message in front of the right person at precisely the right time in their journey.
So it stands to reason that in order to successfully do that, you need to know as much about your audience as possible. Not only in terms of who they are and what they want, but how they think and why they want those things in the first place.
But it's equally true that this isn't a step you do once and forget about. Buyers, especially in the B2B space, are changing all the time. This is a challenge that many businesses have been directly combating over the last few years, but thankfully, with the right perspective, it's also a fairly straightforward one to overcome.
The Evolution of the B2B Buyer
There was a day not too long ago where businesses like managed service providers (MSPs) insisted that their customers were making the vast majority of all buying decisions while sitting at a computer in their office. After all, this is largely how the solutions and services offered would be utilized — so it actually makes a fair amount of sense.
The problem is it just isn't true anymore. Things have not only changed, but they've given way to trends that show absolutely no signs of slowing down or reversing anytime soon.
According to one recent study on business-to-business buying habits called "State of B2B Procurement," by the Acquity Group, more than 40 percent of B2B buyers now conduct buying research directly from their smartphones or other mobile devices. A large part of this is likely to do with the fact that more than half of all B2B researchers are now part of the millennial generation, and over 84 percent of those, B2B researchers say, believe their mobile device is absolutely essential to the work that they're doing daily.
This means that the average B2B buyer doesn't just want easier access to higher quality, more comprehensive, more valuable research all throughout their journey — they want it readily available at any time, from anywhere, no exceptions. They want to be just as productive halfway around the world in an airport lounge on vacation as they are behind a desk in their office. As an IT-related business, it is up to you to make that possible.
This means that the mobile-optimized website you previously thought was totally unnecessary is much, much more important than you likely assumed.
Make absolutely no mistake about it: As a core B2B industry, managed service providers in particular must take note of these types of changes in buying habits. Regardless of what it is that you're selling, there's an old saying: "If you want someone to make a purchase, you have to make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and they will." In the 21st century, this requires you to meet this new generation of B2B customers where they are — on their smartphones.
Likewise, consider that a Demand Gen Report study recently revealed that a full 96 percent of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. Not only that, but surveyed buyers also say they're most willing to both register for and share information about themselves if they know they'll get quality content – such as white papers, eBooks and access to webinars – in return.
As you can see, the modern B2B digital marketing strategy is more or less building itself. Your audience is already incredibly vocal about what they want. As a business operating in the fast-paced and largely mobile digital world that we now live in, it's up to you to listen.
As a B2B marketer in the technology space, it's true that your goal is always to provide content that is as useful as possible throughout the entire purchasing process. But again, this is just one small part of a much larger story. Equally critical is how that content is provided and which channels you're choosing to use. Much of this will be dictated by the audience you're trying to reach, and as you can see, the modern B2B buyer is an audience that is in a particularly interesting state of flux.
In short, it's no longer enough for you to wait for people to find your message. You have to take the message directly to them and you have to do it in the most helpful and organic way possible. That's how you both support the modern B2B buyer as an IT-related business or MSP, and that is how you capture their attention in a way that they won't soon be able to look away from.
Nate Freedman is the owner of Tech Pro Marketing, where he helps MSPs and other IT-related businesses reach a whole new audience by way of the type of comprehensive marketing campaign that the modern era (and the modern buyer) both demand and deserve.