B2B Digital Marketing: Still A Vast Opportunity

Adam Koontz

I began my career in digital marketing working as a Web Administrator for a mid-sized semiconductor company in Silicon Valley. Back in those days, the website was still part of the IT department, and I reported directly to the Webmaster (remember Webmasters?). A short while after starting my first paid job working on the web, my manager decided to leave the company, and I was left in charge of a corporate website less than one year into my career. It’s funny to look back and think that a multi-million dollar publicly-traded company left their entire digital marketing presence to a young kid that was still learning how it all worked.

Flash forward 4 years and I begin working for a larger tech B2B company running their website and digital marketing operations. I’m pretty sure I was their first-ever full-time hire for a web position. Their annual revenues were in the neighborhood of $1B just before my departure, yet I was still the only person responsible for anything related to web. I was the designer. I was the programmer. I was the digital marketer. The only thing I didn’t really do was write the copy, and sometimes I even wrote the copy.

From there I made the transition to a digital marketing agency specializing in B2B marketing. After working for one B2B company after another, I started to see something that they each had in common: Many of them treated the web as an afterthought, and it was rarely leveraged as an awareness building tool. Instead, they thought of the web solely as a resource to serve existing customers. Budgets were often pre-determined before we’d even speak and the figures were often arbitrary or carried over from the previous year. Very little thought went into the strategy behind digital.

Companies would request a quote with very specific tactical goals in mind. They’d want it to look “clean” or “fresh”, but if I probed deeper, the reasons were often cosmetic. Projects were put into motion because the CEO “didn’t like” something or because he/she saw something somewhere that they wanted to emulate. When asked about the goals for the site after launch, I was often met with cricket sounds. I’d ask questions about how the site could become a prospecting tool, but I’d often hear responses like “our prospects don’t use search to find solutions like ours.” #facepalm.

Over and over again I’d meet with Marketing Managers that were pre-occupied with trade-shows. These companies would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless man-hours on these shows, only to collect hundreds of leads that they’d rarely act upon. Meanwhile, the B2B companies that understood how to leverage digital marketing were thriving. Those companies understood what consumer sites had known for years: that most stages of the B2B buying cycle are now influenced by digital marketing.

Now that I’ve started SEMbyotic, I can reflect on what I’ve observed over the years. It’s hard to imagine a modern B2B marketer that hasn’t at least heard about the statistics surrounding search marketing for B2B. An overwhelming majority of people use search throughout the buying cycle—whether for research, comparison, validation, or support. In B2B, a long sales cycle is common and each of these phases of the buyer’s journey are highly critical to your success. In fact, I would argue that the long sales cycle in B2B makes the success or failure of your digital brand all the more important.

Think about it for a second…chances are there are several stages and many stakeholders involved in the buying process before your company makes a sale. At each stage, each stakeholder may turn to the web with different goals in mind. Technical people may evaluate your company based on capabilities and they may compare you to competition. Financial people may evaluate your company based on your viability. Business stakeholders may want to understand how your products and/or services will add value to theirs. If a prospect doesn’t know your company exists, how can they buy from you? If they don’t understand the unique value your company provides, how could they become your customer? If you’re a B2B company looking to build awareness, credibility, thought-leadership, stability, or loyalty, then you’ve got to start paying attention to your B2B digital strategy.

There is always something to gain or something to lose when it comes to digital marketing. In the B2B space, there is still so much opportunity because many companies are still treating the web as an afterthought. Those that choose to invest in building a digital brand can reap the highest rewards.

Adam Koontz

Adam is President of SEMbyotic, a digital marketing, web design, and SEO company based in San Jose, California.   @adamkoontz