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B2B Marketing Strategies for Small Companies: An Interview with Dianna Huff

This is one of a series of occasional interviews with top practitioners on topics of interest to business-to-business lead generation, marketing and new business development professionals.

Dianna Huff

My guest today is Dianna Huff of DH Communications. Dianna helps businesses with their B2B marketing communications content strategy and implementation.

Dianna, what are some of the marketing mistakes you see smaller companies making with regard to B2B marketing communications strategy, and what should smart marketers do instead?

Mac, that’s a good question. I see companies frequently making these two common mistakes:

First, not having a strategy. For example, someone from a small company will call to say, “We want to send out an e-newsletter,” but the marketer or business owner hasn’t thought through the purpose of the newsletter (except for the generic “We want to send people to our website”). Usually the person doesn’t know what the newsletter content will or should be, the publishing frequency, whether or not he or she wants to use segmented lists, etc., etc.

Smart marketers will sit down and plan out strategy based on a stated objective, whether it’s to increase sales, bring in more leads, better nurture the leads they have, lower their costs (i.e., move from a print newsletter to an e-newsletter), gain more industry exposure, market an e-book, etc., and then plan out the tactics for implementing the strategy from start to finish based on the objective.

Second, strategy doesn’t match the objective. By this, I mean that a marketer or business owner will have a stated objective – i.e., “We want more leads” – and the strategy for getting those leads might be something like writing articles for trade publications or developing a blog. Writing articles and developing a blog are both good marketing tactics for accomplishing such objectives as branding and awareness, but I wouldn’t use them to get leads in the door.

As you know, Mac, smart marketers use other methods, both online and off, to generate leads. For example, marketers would be better off using an integrated campaign that includes e-mail, direct mail and pay-per-click advertising to make offers (white papers, reports, e-books) specifically designed to generate leads.

I know you focus a lot on improving your clients’ websites. Dianna, what are the most common mistakes that small businesses are making with their websites, and what should they be doing better?

The biggest mistake small businesses make is to think of their websites as their “online brochures.” A website and a brochure are two completely different animals.

The other mistake I see is that many small businesses (and large ones too) have absolutely no clue about website marketing and search engine optimization. So they’ll spend a boatload of money to make their site look good graphically, then wonder why they still have no visitors.

To be successful online, companies must develop a strategy for getting traffic to their websites. For example, the site, or rather each of its pages, must be optimized in order to get found by the search engines.

Dianna, what do you think B2B marketers at small companies should be doing differently than their peers at big companies?

Actually, small companies usually already do things differently than their peers at large companies: because they are small, they can implement new ideas quickly. That’s one reason why savvy small-business marketers have flocked to SEO, social media, blogs, etc. It can take a large company months to make a decision on something as simple as optimizing a site, starting a blog or opening a Twitter account.

Small businesses do and should use this “nimbleness” to their advantage – and use the latest online marketing tools to build an Internet presence that rivals that of the “big boys.” As the HubSpot founders say in their book, Inbound Marketing, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” For example, prospects often think that my company is larger than it is, due to my strong presence on the Internet.

I noticed on Twitter that you said your #1-read blog post is the one about marketing communications job descriptions. Dianna, why do you think so many people are interested in that topic?

I think people are reading my marcom job description post because they’re looking for a job and/or they need to write a job description. The post is near the top of the search results in Google for “marcom job description” – that tells you the power of SEO and blogs – which is probably why I’m getting so much traffic to it.

My understanding is that you think marcom professionals – and those who hire them – focus too much on managing projects and copywriting. Please tell me more about that.

As you know, Mac, lots has been written about the negative consequences of the “disconnect” between marketing and sales. In fact, I still remember that wonderful cats and dogs presentation on the subject of integrating marketing and sales you gave at a conference last year.

In my opinion, the marketing/sales disconnect starts with the marcom job description. Just last week I was shown a marcom job description – and again, the company wanted someone who could write well and manage multiple projects. The job description did not address the most important fact: that marketing’s job is to help sales do their job – i.e., get results!

A marcom professional should know how to communicate well, of course, but this person needs to understand a whole other set of skills – as you and others pointed out in your follow-up post to my post.

So, until a company’s leaders start demanding more from its marketing communications practitioners, this disconnect will continue to exist and marketing and sales will continue to fight like cats and dogs.

You mentioned that more companies are asking you about social media marketing. What is your perspective on social media, Dianna? Is it something B2B marketers need to pay attention to?

Social media is definately something B2B marketers need to pay attention to. Why? Because as a Fortune 500 client said to me recently, “Although most of our customers are 50-year-old white men, it won’t be that way forever. Younger people are moving up the ranks – and they are social media savvy.”

Dianna, do you have any last thoughts on the subject of small company B2B marketing you want to share with our readers?

Marketing is changing – literally. It can be difficult to keep up with all that is new, and for that reason, a small-business owner may elect to simply “opt out.” After all, he or she reasons, “My customers have found me in the past via word of mouth, so I’ll keep doing that.”

Word of mouth will continue to work, but it has become what author David Meerman Scott calls “word of mouse.” So it really pays to ensure that you know how to use the Internet to effectively market your business. You simply cannot afford to ignore it.

Dianna, thanks for sharing your expertise with our readers.

Thank you, Mac, for the opportunity.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the subject of B2B marketing for small businesses?

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Comments

I did a presentation this fall for the Houston Interactive Marketing Association on creating your web strategy…might be interesting to small business owners. It’s posted on SlideShare, but it only reads correctly if you download it: http://budurl.com/B2B4SMB

 

Great article – great interview. I especially agree with Dianna’s assessment that small business owners must come up with a strategy to get visitors to their website – a fact that I have seen too many not pay attention to. They seem to think that if they build it, visitors will flock to it. Thanks for sharing.

 

Dianna is right that marketing is changing right before our eyes.

To add to that thought; There is a shift in the way the approach, regarding strategy and implementation, is also changing.

We, as people who tout marketing expertise, are no longer able to just ‘push the brand’. The shift in the medium and the message concept has put the ‘power of brand’ on an equal playing field with the message receiver.

As such, the message receivers have now become more inundated with marketing messages thrown at (us) from every direction, and we (collectively) are being more cynical than ever, demanding more and more quantification before a decision will be made.

Dianne speaks volumes about how it is no longer applicable that we, as marketing professionals, can rely on traditional forms of message pushing.

It is now more important than ever to hyper-focus on the tasks that will match how the message is being received. White papers, blogs, client referrals, e-mail campaigns and social networking are crucial for lead-generation. SEO, PPC and a host of other modern tools, such as one of the latest “conversion optimization”, are there, but convincing the c-level ‘boss’ that it is a worth the time (and money) to move away from traditional marketing is getting easier.

Keep up the good work Mac on bringing awareness of crucial modern techniques to the forefront of our nimble marketing minds.

 

John, Julie and William: Thanks for joining the conversation.

William, I agree with most of your comments, but still am seeing only anecdotal evidence that social media is good for B2B lead generation.

Everyone: If you have quantifiable evidence of social media’s role in the generation of qualified, sales-ready leads (not just visits and subscriptions), I’d sure like to hear about it.

– Mac

 

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