B2B Mentors: Marketing Expert Crystal McFerran on Optimizing Your B2B Marketing Team and Strategies
Marketing is constantly evolving as new strategies and channels emerge. What gets you excited about B2B marketing?
CM: Part of what I love about marketing is the fact that it’s always changing, growing, and evolving. You serve to nurture the seeds of your client or employer’s success in an ever-changing landscape. There’s a challenge and a rush to succeeding, and a fear of failure to push you forward.
How do you engage and empower your marketing team to optimize performance and productivity, achieve business results, and elevate individual success?
CM: When your team is aligned toward a shared vision, you can accomplish anything. How do you achieve that? Clarity of focus, communication, and alignment. Alignment toward your “True North” is critical. Outline your goals, define what success looks like and the role each person plays in getting there. If there’s a clear plan for how your team will achieve a goal, and each team member sees how his or her role contributes, the work becomes less daunting, and more exciting.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a committed, focused, adaptive, cohesive, united marketing team. The last two years have been a virtuous cycle of growth, achievement, and confidence.
What’s the secret to creating this magic?
- Helping them to envision a new era and working to build it TOGETHER.
- Establishing a culture of TRUST and SAFETY.
- Effectively communicating, the entire way.
- Maintaining a positive atmosphere.
- Remembering that you serve your team, and not vice versa.
- Genuinely caring.
What are some proven strategies for engaging B2B prospects on social media either through content or messaging?
CM: Many B2B companies overlook social media marketing as a viable way of finding new clients and this is a huge missed opportunity. Nearly 223 million Americans were on social media in 2019.
The key is determining the social media channel where most, if not all, of your target audience is present. For B2B companies, this is hands-down LinkedIn. That’s where 80% of all business leads originate and why 94% of marketers use it to publish content.
That doesn’t mean that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can’t help you. Include these platforms in your B2B social media strategy to build better brand awareness and solidify authority. Regardless of the platform, however, it is essential to take a strategic approach and execute your social media marketing campaigns with precision to be successful.
To engage prospects, you’ll first need to solidify your brand story. Memorable brand messaging connects with customers by making the story about them. These brand stories focus on the “so what” to connect with your customers’ needs, pains, and values. They pique interest, so your customer wants to learn more. Compelling brand stories are unique, concise, and authentic to who your company is and the value it delivers to your customers.
Get to know your audience to establish a strategic marketing mix. Discover where they go to get information, what their biggest day-to-day challenges are, and what motivates them. This research helps you pull out key insights about your prospects that informs your marketing mix strategy (i.e., channels, campaigns, activities).
And by all means, use video! If you’re not doing video in 2020, you’re doing marketing wrong. 70% of B2B buyers research their potential purchases by watching videos. Google is ranking video content higher than text-based content now. Video content resonates with prospects because it allows you to create an immersive experience.
What are some of the top challenges or roadblocks that you have experienced in today’s marketing environment? And how have you addressed and overcome them?
CM: Marketing is one of the most volatile fields in modern business, so we’re used to working fast and changing things last minute.
It’s crucial to work in an agile fashion to get the right message to the right people at the right time. To be good at marketing, you have to ride trends in the field like waves on the ocean. You can’t just live in an industry bubble though.
Disasters and political events all play a part in whether your message will sink or swim.
Be aware of what’s going on in the world before you even start your message. Nurture your idea like a seed from the ground. A solid foundation for a campaign means that you’re almost always going to target the right people.
But targeting the right people is merely half of the equation. You must know when to target as well. Look for upswings in the industry which signal more flexibility for businesses to try new things. Look for what can make your product something that can help them save their business during the downturns. When things are stagnant, look to sell stable growth or change depending on the target.
Change elicits emotions and creates opportunity. As an industry expands and contracts, uncertainty grows for better and for worse. Look for changes which you can use to push your message to appeal to both their emotions and reason which work in conjunction with what you’re pushing.
What steps would you recommend a B2B marketing professional use to establish a digital inbound strategy at their company? And why is that important?
CM: Inbound marketing is developing and sharing useful, compelling content of value with potential and existing clients.
Inbound marketing helps you work smarter with your marketing budget than traditional outbound marketing. Inbound is significantly more effective at increasing web traffic, lead generation, sales, and customer loyalty.
By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests and needs, you naturally attract inbound traffic to your website/business where you can then convince, close, and satisfy them over an extended period of time.
When developing your inbound marketing strategy, resist the temptation to be everything for everyone. Provide direction, clarity, and focus. Clearly identify your target market, your company’s differentiators, and develop a strong value proposition.
Above all else, know your audience. Identify your target market, outline your target persona. Identify their pain points. Then present your solution to those pain points through useful content and present the results you’ve produced for others in the same situation.
As a side note, if you’re developing an inbound marketing strategy from scratch, I highly recommend HubSpot’s vast library of free resources. HubSpot has become synonymous with inbound marketing for good reason.
How do you measure the success of your key marketing initiatives (e.g., content, events, social)?
CM: Success looks different for each initiative. The critical piece in measuring success is identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) upfront. This allows you to measure how different tactics and channels perform against objectives. Factor in how frequently you’ll track and review your KPIs. Regularly reviewing KPIs enables you to quickly pivot from investing in one channel to another if you find it doesn’t have the impact you anticipated. This review process can save your company from wasting ineffective marketing dollars.
How should marketing teams respond to shifts in priorities, challenges, and even budgets that businesses are facing today due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
CM: As a marketer, you try to influence prospective clients and others in your industry. It is your duty to try and market ethically and to market in a way that doesn’t harm people. Don’t be tone deaf with your message and don’t try to profiteer off of misfortune.
As things get worse, we are feeling the ripples throughout the entirety of society. We must be conscious and conscientious of exactly what messages we’re sending out and why. What are the implications of what you say and does it help or hurt the emotional state of your audience? Are you trying to prey on primal fears or are you trying to solve an issue your audience has?
If you don’t believe in the hope you peddle, you are selling a lie. Although a lie can sometimes help, other times it hurts both your audience and you. Offer a message of hope to your clients and to your audience to help get through this time, but don’t try to profiteer off of it. Don’t be tone deaf. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t be callous. Hope is a powerful emotion, and we need more of it now than ever.
You must keep marketing even with the presence of fear lingering over you, and work to make sure you and your clients succeed. These are trying times for sure, so marketing teams need to push themselves to adapt and adjust to succeed.
Crystal McFerran is a proven marketing leader with over 18 years of experience. In her role as Chief Marketing Officer at The 20, Crystal is responsible for channel development, brand marketing, demand generation, content strategy, partnership expansion, and public relations initiatives. Prior to joining The 20, she held senior marketing roles at Velo IT Group, Roland Technology Group, Cytracom, Accor, and HP. Crystal holds a Bachelor’s degree, MBA and M.A. from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is a Forbes contributor and an Associate Producer (and Season 2 participant) for The Social Movement, an Amazon Prime docu-series about entrepreneurship and global social impact.