Startup entrepreneurs are constantly making difficult choices. Hire an attorney or use Legal Zoom? Invest in technology or build infrastructure? Retain control or secure additional funding? Making critical decisions is a daily activity and making marketing choices is especially challenging. It’s universally known that marketing is an essential function of a growing business, but with slim resources how does a startup entrepreneur decide what marketing to pursue and what to save for later? When a the startup is focused on selling to businesses not consumers it’s especially critical to choose marketing tools specifically tailored to business to engage this narrower hard to reach target market.
When initiating a Business to Business (B2B) marketing plan there are many decisions a startup will need to make to get results while adhering to a tight budget. Choices about social media platforms, lead generation techniques and brand materials often rise to the top including the following three choices.
How do we leverage social media?
If a startup has resources for developing only one site, choose Linkedin. Facebook has an enormous reach, but it’s geared towards a consumer market and has a format that does not work well for some B2B brands. Linkedin, however, is tailor made for doing business with other businesses. The availability of industry groups to engage with, the search capabilities and the communication functions are designed for making and developing business connections.
Additionally, Linkedin is a great forum for positioning the company’s leaders as subject matter experts. Linkedin members frequently read posts and seek educational information from others in their industry. Capturing this opportunity to develop a readership with whitepapers and opinion pieces can peg a company and its leaders as experts in their field. For B2B marketing Linkedin beats Facebook, followed closely in value by Twitter, which is a great forum for engaging with media and third party groups.
How should we leverage traditional marketing?
Between print and in-person marketing, conferences are the better option for a B2B startup. Business relationships are built on trust and the best and sometimes only way to establish trust is to meet and network with people face to face. An entrepreneur and her team can sell the company better than any advertisement can. Conversely, a standard advertising campaign will have difficulty capturing the attention of business buyers considering the proliferation of information they receive on a daily basis.
Given these factors the conference investment is likely to have a bigger impact on lead generation. Additionally in the early stages of development a startup will want to seek opportunities to build strong and lasting relationships with its initial customers who will end up being valuable references and resources as the company grows. Conferences and events can help facilitate this type of relationship development.
Since conferences can be expensive a proactive approach will help ensure a return on investment. Prior to attending any conference it’s helpful to get a list of attendees from the conference organizer and send meeting requests in advance to maximize time spent at the event. Some events will leverage software to connect attendees, which can make the process easier.
Entrepreneurs can apply to be a speaker or panelist at the conference. An informative well-executed presentation can do wonders for establishing a company’s brand and it may even score the speaker free registration to the conference, an efficient way to market to a specific industry.
Should we double down on sales materials or web presence?
Both are necessary for success, but if resources require prioritization, the website is more critical. A company’s website is the ultimate statement of their brand and the most frequently accessed forum for company information; a potential business buyer will likely check here first to understand the product offerings as well as research the credibility and focus of the company.
Even if the entrepreneur chooses a simple, non-interactive format for their site, a well designed website with clearly articulated products and company information can replace other forms of sales collateral in the short-term. The key to getting the most out of your website is to optimize it for mobile as at least half of your audience will access your site through a mobile device.
There are many more B2B marketing decisions that an entrepreneur will face in the early stages of a company, but addressing these three choices to establish a strong initial digital and networking presence can help facilitate early stage growth while staying within a startup’s meager budget. At the most basic level a B2B marketing plan that creates some brand awareness, generates initial sales leads, and enables potential business buyers to obtain clear information about the company’s products and competencies is a great foundation for future marketing activities.
In the early stages of a company, B2B startups can’t do it all; so what choices are you having to make?