Incisive Edge has long advocated the need for B2B multi-channel marketing. It’s important to tailor these routes to your market and platforms, to the target buyer personas that you are seeking to engage with, and the stage those personas are at in the buying process.
The content assets that are deployed through these channels to communicate your company’s voice and inbound messaging mix can take the format of ‘earned’, ‘owned’ or ‘paid’ media.
What is the difference between these different types of media channels?
The question is, which is most valuable to deliver impact from your marketing strategy and where should you place the emphasis?
Let’s kick off by focusing on the most significant of these, ‘earned media’. What does the term really mean and how can you use it to propel value from your multi-channel marketing system?
In simple terms, earned media is publicity, endorsement, brand mentions or backlinks to your website that reside on media platforms which you do not own or control and which have been created independently by someone else.
It may be as fleeting as a mention of your company on a webcast, a link to your website on an industry commentator’s blog or perhaps a shout-out sent over social media.
Earned media when harnessed correctly can shine a light on your business, your methods of working and the compelling reasons for working with you. Imagine an entire piece focusing on your brand and the value you deliver (perhaps the online B2B equivalent of a rock music magazine doing a feature on your band and covering your latest gig!).
The organic use of earned media demonstrates the strength of genuine endorsement. It is classic word of mouth marketing, which has always been the most powerful, except just on a prolific scale.
It is both gratifying and rewarding for someone to create an opinion about you, to transpose your ideas and concepts or amplify your results in their own words to their own audience and followers. They respect what you stand for and the value you create and so they will pass this on to those who want to hear what they have to say. It’s a virtuous cycle.
Conversely, owned media is any content that you create yourself as part of your inbound marketing programme and which you deploy across the platforms that you control (such as posting this blog that we have written on our own website or LinkedIn company profile).
Whilst you have the benefit of being able to control and craft your messaging in its entirety, it will typically be considered as having less validity and impact than if considered as endorsed by an independent third party, across open platforms.
Paid media, which certainly retains its place as an instant and direct marketing method, is just as it sounds – either Pay Per Click advertising, remarketing or a display which is used to promote messages or branding and connect with audience groups.
Clearly, earned media carries the most weight as a mainstay of your marketing strategy.
It is particularly valuable as a jewel in the inbound marketing crown and should be a clear goal within your B2B marketing strategy.
There is no budget consideration to factor. The impact of third party endorsement has more impact on your target market when influencing brand preference and consideration. Given you are not directly creating the content there is also the resource-saving aspect to consider.
This triumvirate of factors multiplies the value of pursuing earned media as a mainstay of your marketing strategy across all channels.
What type of content do I need?
Let’s consider what you need in order to achieve a consistent volume to drive your multi-channel strategy approach.
Set strong objectives for your marketing strategy and ensure the tactics for making these happen are aligned. There are many outcomes that you can bring to bear from your multi-channel marketing and it’s necessary to decide what you want your inbound content assets to achieve.
Content should be targeted towards the right buyer personas and their influencers, in addition to where they reside in the marketing funnel.
Brand awareness, a positioning of your company values and what you stand for, along with content, as a means to introduce your product and service mix, is good top of the funnel content.
Middle of the funnel content can build on this and work around the areas of differentiation from the competition, product-service features and more important benefits with focus on driving consideration and preference.
Your bottom of the funnel mix needs to help your engaged buyers overcome objections and handle technical aspects of what you deliver, perhaps accompanied with access to pricing models. This is your drive to close the cycle and take a nurtured lead through to conversion.
This article is a great place to start for types of content at every stage of your marketing funnel.
Get to know your audience
Getting to know your audience before you shoot from the hip and simply bang out the content assets which you hope will build the influence that you need, is fundamental. The resonance and engagement that comes with deploying appropriate content is the only way you will ultimately win the halo effect from an earned media play.
Without this understanding in place, it could be the equivalent of shouting in an empty room. You are making noise but not being heard clearly and are certainly not being listened to.
To generate a granular understanding of your target audience groups you will need to research who they are currently following and what type of content they are already engaging with, advocating and sharing across multiple channels.
Examine their Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. How are your competitors interacting with them on social media and how are they working in tandem to make their own earned media opportunities spread?
Identify the top websites that fit with your target audience and study the top performing content in order to generate ideas, titles and styles for your own approach. This information provides a blueprint for the type of topic and content that is going to resonate and perform best online with particular audience groups and most importantly, amplify the opportunity to build your B2B brand.
Getting noticed for the thought leadership that you stand for and which best represents your company, brand and ethos, however well-tailored and erudite it may be, can be a tough thing to achieve.
There is so much filler saturating the ether, with so many companies competing for attention, that Incisive Edge has coined the term ‘cut-through content’ as the killer ingredient necessary today to reach, engage and induce the actions you need from the buyers you have targeted.
Taking influencers on board
To drive a greater impact from this well-crafted, thoughtful content, a determined approach is needed for building partnerships with influencers to widen reach and build credibility.
An influencer is a third party, unbiased and unrelated to your company that already has a high degree of trust and credibility in your industry. Even more importantly, they have their own expansive audience and tribe of followers who trust their opinions, thinking and everything that they share.
This is word of mouth marketing in hyper-drive and if you think about the way you feel about these types of endorsements yourself, you know that you are much more readily prepared to act on them.
You’ve already pre-vetted the influencer as one of only a few sources of information on a particular subject that you have time to consume, setting these filters in place as methods of extracting advantage and recommendations which serve as shortcuts to making good, fast decisions.
This is verified by a study undertaken by McKinsey which indicates that word of mouth marketing induces 26% of purchases across all product categories.
It also found that just 5% of individuals that are generating product and service recommendations are responsible for 45% of all social influence generated. These are outstanding metrics which demonstrate why it is crucial that earned media needs to become a key part of your ongoing, multi-channel strategy.
If you get this right consistently, it can have a tremendous impact on your market-place.
Aaron Lee provides data showing that all of the top fifty retweeted posts on Twitter only come from users with over 250,000 followers. The halo effect from an earned media amplification provided about your business from a key industry influencer can be astonishing.
So how can you create this much sought after scenario, where a highly popular influencer is willing to share your content and endorse your brand?
Trust is about building relationships. You can’t force such an influencer to like you and get what you do. Money should never come into either, as although this may occur clandestinely in some situations, it is the authenticity of the relationship, predicated on trust and the sharing of value that makes it so powerful.
It takes time and consistency to get on an influencer’s radar and to help them understand your business and demonstrate that it will be of value to their audience. If you simply ask for an endorsement out of the blue, then you will no doubt put them off you pretty rapidly.
Connect with your chosen influencers firstly and build the relationship over a number of touchpoints.
Email them and make complimentary reference to a recent post they have made. Regularly share and signpost their content and the way it has helped you to achieve your objectives.
Post substantial, positive reviews and links to their content, along with sharing quotes over social media. If you can meet up at a conference or venue where they are making a speech then you can take this relationship building to a personal level. Play it cool though and focus on shared values as you do not want to overstep the mark with this kind of behaviour.
Build a network of influencers to target and don’t focus too much on one individual or get concerned if you don’t generate the earned media reciprocation you sought. The consistency of your approach and how you relate it on a professional level to your own work can build the influencer relationships you need to power up your earned media strategy.
Once the ties are in place you can start to share your own thinking and content as relevant and this may be disseminated out to your influencer’s audience.
When selecting the influencers you seek to bring into your media orbit, ensure that you make your choice based on relevancy to your own business, shared spheres of influence and cross pollinated audiences. Don’t seek to build a relationship on the basis of the size of their following alone. Instead focus on the quality of their thinking and content outputs in addition to reach.
Ekaterina Walter on ClickZ agrees with this, stating that choosing influencers with wide reach and a relevant voice for your brand is the best approach.
Advocates also carry weight through the demonstration of brand loyalty to your company; by creating testimonials and case studies and through referring you to their own peer group.
If you foster and reward this community of advocates you can build a powerful effect for your business.
To put this into context, if only ten percent of the world’s population hold an unshakeable belief then they will influence the rest of the population. Clearly within the microcosm of any market, the same can be true.
So in summary, consistent, targeted and relevant content will drive your multi-channel B2B marketing strategy. Proliferate your reach across a mix of owned, paid and most importantly, earned media channels. Target influencers and advocates to hit new audiences, build credibility, expand your brand and drive sales conversions through the power of endorsement.
For more information on how a multi-channel marketing approach can benefit your B2B business, contact us today.