The Business-to-Business Channel Challenge

One of the major challenges facing B2B marketers, both offline and online, is channel integration.   While this may seem daunting, the good news is that there are great opportunities for smart marketers to use social and mobile media channels as an extension of their traditional marketing plans to create a high touch experience for prospects and current clients, while keeping brand image and messaging consistent.  Here are ten tips to make sure your multi-channel marketing programs are balanced and effective.

1. Your Online Presence and Offline Sales Channels Need Message Consistency

Unify your brand presence by promoting equally, on and offline.  For example, when you create a targeted audience presentation for sales, you can offer it online as a white paper.  On the flip side, use materials created for your web presence (blogs, case studies) can be used as collateral for face-to-face meetings.

2. Ensure Consistent Customer Policies

Customer service, credits and return policies should be consistent regardless of where your customer shops online or buys through your other sales channels.  Update and synchronize any copy, scripts, personnel and procedures.

3. Publicize Online Promotions Internally

Make sure your sales and support teams are knowledgeable about current online promotions.   Incorporate your promotional updates into weekly staff meetings, email announcements and training literature – both online (intranet) and offline.

4. Tell Your Customers How to Find You Online

Let online give your sales channels a leg up on their competitors.  Tag your social media and web presence on all communications, from emails to direct mail.  Provide links to your online presence and a QR code for printed materials.  On your website, make your services and products easy to find and buy (if applicable), and make the ordering process highly visible.

5. Knowledge is Power

Knowledge of your customers and their preferences gives you the unique ability to market to them at the RIGHT time, with the RIGHT offer, in the RIGHT channel.  At every point of contact, you have the opportunity to collect information about your customers.  Offline marketers or sales associates often collect information but fail to pass it on to the online team.   Instead, develop permission-based policies for online data collection.  Use B2B research and resources to monitor changes in your industry and customers.  Develop a prospecting and customer database.  If your ultimate/end customer is a consumer, build a profile using tools such as Mosaic or Claritas, to develop a psychographic and demographic profile of the consumer customer. This will help YOUR clients market more effectively to THEIR customers.

6. Personalize

Speaking of customer data, watch your customer’s buying preferences and develop offers to better meet their needs.  Reach out to customers via multiple channels such as email, direct mail and in-person.  Be sure to leave extra collateral materials behind for prospects to share with their colleagues or pass around the company.

7. Coordinate Internal Sales with Public-facing Communications

Integrate communications generated by the sales team (such as reminders and product updates) with online and company-wide print collateral.  Develop a comprehensive schedule to track communications and avoid too many re-touches.  Develop general sales collateral that complements customized powerpoint and keynote presentations.

8. Develop Business Rules for Results Reporting

Integrate your reporting and create business rules and a consistent format that will allow you to easily compare results over time.  Avoid creating a separate bucket for online results.  Instead review response within all channels and sales/marketing contacts, as well as individual promotions and product specials.  Look for the most effective combinations or patterns.  You’ll be able to look at not only channel results, but which promotions worked best in various channels.

9. Embrace Social Media’s Emergence

A few years ago, talking about your social media presence may have seemed a bit ahead of the curve.  Now it can serve as an essential part of your branding and actually bring customers through your sales process – whether your product or service exists in bricks and mortar or in the cyber world.  Developing a cohesive social media plan that integrates into your current marketing strategy should be on your checklist.  If you have a current social media strategy, be sure that you review it frequently for opportunities and growth.

10. Your Customers are Talking.   Are You Listening?

Even if you never intend to have a social presence on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – you have one.  Social media is a democratic medium.  If you don’t engage with the social media channels, one of your customers will start the conversation about your brand without you.  Join in and use the feedback you receive to your advantage.  Twitter can act as a micro-focus group to let you know what customers like about your product or brand.  If you find complaints, you can convert negative comments into brand evangelizers if you take care of and/or acknowledge their issues.

For more information this topic or a copy of the white paper, please contact greatideas@dtrio.com.

Victoria Hoshal

Victoria is director of business development at d.trio.

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