Reels, keyword difficulty, algorithms, TikToks, pillar pages, hashtags, backlinks. For a B2B marketer in the 2020s it sometimes feels like you are on some sort of never-ending fairground ride that just keeps spinning round faster and faster. The only way to survive without screaming or throwing up is to focus on one point. I'm talking about fairground rides with that advice, but surviving in marketing is very similar!
Realistically, is it possible just to concentrate on one marketing tactic and ignore the others? So just do SEO, or throw yourself into Social Media marketing? Not exactly, but you can be very focused about which ones you use and channel your energy towards a smaller number of activities, doing each of them exceptionally, rather than spreading yourself so thinly that you aren't doing anything as well as you would like.
With so many options it is really difficult to narrow it down and to decide where to direct the majority of your time/energy/budget.
Digital Marketing Objectives
Firstly look at your marketing objectives. What are you trying to achieve? In business to business digital marketing, you will be working towards one or more of the following:
Awareness - reaching people who have never heard of you
Engagement - getting those people to show an interest in what you do
Conversion - encouraging them to make an enquiry
Loyalty - keeping them on board as clients
Awareness tends to be allocated the biggest budget as attracting potential new customers is normally more time consuming and expensive than converting and retaining people who already know about you.
In order to raise awareness of your business and reach new audiences you can employ a range of digital marketing tactics including the two big hitters, SEO and Social Media.
Social Media for B2B
Let's look at social media first. Before you get going you have a lot of decisions to make:
Which Social Media Platforms?
That depends on the audience you want to reach and what you want them to do. B2B companies tend to gravitate towards LinkedIn but sometimes another platform can enhance that presence or perform better. Don't assume TikTok is full of teenagers or Instagram is just for recipes. Do your research and see where the people you want to speak to are most active and engaged. But keep it manageable; better to be posting great content regularly on a small number of networks than neglecting a large number of them.
Paid or Organic Content?
If you want to rely on organic social media to increase awareness you will have to spend a lot of time, I mean A LOT, creating original, engaging, shareable content. That probably means employing a member of staff whose main job is to research, plan, create, post and respond to comments several times a day.
If that sounds a bit much, then consider paid advertising which can be very cost-effective, particularly if you narrow down what type of person you want to reach on your chosen social networks, so your budget is much more targeted. That level of targeting is one of the big advantages of paid social media - you can get your ad in front of the exact people you want to reach, even if they are not actively looking for what you do right now.
What do you Want to Achieve?
Do you want people to recognise your company name so that they are more likely to choose your products when they see them somewhere else, do your want to present yourselves as experts in a subject and build authority and trust, or do you want to encourage them to visit your website so that you can show them what you do and encourage them to make an enquiry there?
If you are selling tins of beans (or other consumer products), recognition is fine as they will be able to buy the product in the shops. Ideally, they see your posts a few times, then when they notice the product in the supermarket they'll recognise it and put it in their trolley!
However, if you sell online you'll want to send people straight to your online shop to complete a purchase, and if you operate in a B2B environment where decisions are complex you'll want them to go to your website to find out more about you.
Here is where it gets complicated.
If your business model relies on sending visitors to your website, using social media is a very hit or miss way to do it. You are entirely dependent on the whims of the platform and if you don't fit the latest algorithm requirements (making reels, getting engagement and shares, having a certain number of followers or whatever the latest "thing" is) then you are not going to get the clicks. It's relentless (or expensive AND relentless if you use paid advertising). As soon as you stop, your visits will dry up. In that situation social media's role is mainly to present you as experts in a subject and build authority and trust.
That brings us on to the alternative.
SEO For B2B
Looking at the data for our clients across a wide range of industries, one thing in particular leaps out. In every case, significantly more traffic comes to their websites from search engines than from social media. Even those clients who are very active on social generate a lot more traffic from search engines.
So, right away that helps the decision about where to focus your attention. However, prioritising SEO over social media will not necessarily make your life easier but it might take a little of the pressure off.
Rather than worrying about posting stories, videos and other engaging but ephemeral content to social media every day, you can take your time crafting high quality, educational, useful website content that really adds value to your potential customers' day while demonstrating your expertise to Google et al.
To make it easier still, use tools like Google Search Console and SEM Rush to help you understand the sorts of questions people are asking and the solutions they are searching for and use them as the basis of your blog posts and pages.
If the gimmick side of social media is driving you round the bend, you'll be pleased to hear that Google is gradually moving away from paying attention to SEO shortcuts and dodgy practices and prioritising relevant, educational content that genuinely helps people. I know we have been saying that for ages, but as its machine learning technology gets more sophisticated, it is getting better at telling the difference. And each new Google update is designed to level the playing field so that people buying backlinks and churning out over-optimised nonsense no longer get rewarded.
Get More Website Traffic
So, if your website is a crucial part of your sales process, we can see that SEO is much more valuable than social media for attracting visitors. I'm not going to go into detail about how to get more traffic as we have written many, many previous blog posts on the subject. There is a popular one about the purpose of blogging, this one about SEO for senior managers and this one about website traffic and leads.
Ultimately, the secret is to consistently produce useful and relevant information that helps the sort of people you want to attract. Put the content on your website so that it starts working to get all that lovely search traffic, and then use social media as an extra, to get a few more of the right people while positioning yourself as an expert in your field. And stop worrying about perfecting the latest dance!