To illustrate my point, let’s step back into a simpler time when there were only 4 TV channels, a local paper, whatever magazine you found at the salon, some billboards along the highway, and the party line you shared with the neighbors.
This time was both good and bad for business owners looking to grow their operation. On one hand, it made reaching wide audiences easier because there were simply less places for people to look. On the other hand, business owners almost certainly wasted a lot of money reaching people who had no interest in their products.
To complete this thought experiment, imagine a car dealership wanting to promote the new 1961 Ford F100 Pickup Truck. Knowing that you want to reach drivers, putting a billboard along the main road into town might seem like it makes a lot of sense, but in reality, everyone on the road already owns a car. So, was a billboard really the best means of reaching people looking to buy new cars? Perhaps this dealership would have been better off promoting their car maintenance services instead.
The challenge for business owners today really isn’t all that different. What is different is the sheer number of options they have for reaching customers at their disposal. One look at the diagram below illustrates how confusing it can be to find your target audience.
Even this diagram is admittedly incomplete, and the organization of channels is bound to change depending on who you ask, especially when applied to the B2B sphere. Furthermore, each channel has its own streams that further complicate finding your customer. For example, social media might seem like a straightforward way to reach people, but even then, you have to decide which platform to utilize.
This all brings us back to the original question: What are the right B2B channels to grow my business? In the next four steps I will walk you through the process of identifying those channels, and the answer is as easy as you imagine!
Step One: Set a Goal
This should be the first step before undertaking any serious business endeavor, but one that is often overlooked. Of course, you want your business to grow, but you will have to be more specific than revenue dollars if you really want your business to thrive.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider how you plan to reach your goals. For example, imagine you own a SaaS solution with a subscription as well as a “freemium” option, and your goal is to increase the number of paid subscribers. In this scenario, do you want to increase your number of users, or do you want to focus on improving your free-user to paid-user ratio?
One of our clients, Kuebix, was faced with such a dilemma. After thoughtful consideration, they decided to focus on their paid to unpaid ratio and found massive success. I invite you to read the case study here.
The point being, there is more than one way to dice an onion and you’ll want to consider not only the “what”, but also the “how”, when outlining a goal. This can be deceptively hard and will force you to consider the subtle nuances of your business and surrounding marketplace.
Step Two: Identify Your Audience
Again, this is one of the first things you should understand about your business but is one of the hardest things to nail down in practice. Your target audience should also align with your goals. To go back to our previous example of a 1960’s car dealership looking to sell their new Ford Trucks, they thought their core audience was drivers, a fair assumption provided they sell cars. But more specifically, they were looking to sell to a specific kind of driver, either one who was looking to upgrade from their previous model, or a new driver who had no car altogether. Either way, maybe they should have spent their ad dollars on a placement in the local paper’s classified section – the place someone in the market for a new car would be.
Step Three: Find Where Your Audience Is
You might be thinking to yourself, “If I knew the answer to this question, why would I need this article?” But stick with me, the answer isn’t so straight forward.
Take social media for example. If you sell funny pop culture t-shirts, your core customer is aged 18-24, and your goal is to drive sales, a display ad featuring the shirt on Instagram might be your best course of action.
Conversely, at SalesRoads we work strictly in B2B, so we choose to focus our social media efforts on LinkedIn because that is where our core customer is.
The more clearly you define your goal and audience the easier this step will be. So if you are struggling to identify where your customer is, try refining steps 1 & 2 before moving on.
Step Four: Figure Out Which Channels Convert
At this point in the process you should have a clearly defined goal, a target audience, and an idea of where to find them. Now you need to put some skin in the game and start testing different channels to see if your hypothesis was correct so you can start measuring which channels convert.
This process is a lot harder for traditional B2B channels and for businesses whose goal is to build awareness. It is nearly impossible to attribute revenue growth to a collection of billboards, although you could make educated guesses about the number of people who likely saw the ad and assign a rough dollar amount to each impression.
Especially when just getting started, you probably want to avoid big brand-building exercises like the one above and focus on the channels that can be attributed. This is why digital channels are increasingly popular, everything can be tracked. So unless you have millions sitting in your ad budget, focus on B2B channels like email where you can attribute your conversions.
Putting it All Together
Now that you’ve tested some different channels, you ideally have a crystal-clear picture of who your customer is and how to find them. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always so obvious. In all likelihood, most channels you tested probably generated something, but knowing where to invest your precious dollars may be a challenge.
Our suggestion is to take a multi-channel approach and continuously test your mix. At SalesRoads we’ve generated more than 50,000 business opportunities using three main B2B channels – Phone, Email, and Social Media (LinkedIn to be more specific).
How did we find this perfect mix for success? Well, let’s walk through the steps together.
1.) Set a Goal: For most of our clients this is an appointment set with their ideal customer. So we’ve defined a goal and move on to the next step.
2.) Identify Your Audience: Because we operate exclusively in B2B, our clients want to reach high-level decision makers who have the authority to close a deal. Depending on the client and target prospect our audience may be a director or C-Suite executive.
3.) Find Where Your Audience Is: Since we are targeting high-level executives who can make decisions on behalf of their business, we reach out to them at their place of work. In practice, we’ve found our most productive channels to be the Phone, Email, and LinkedIn. Because we have a clearly defined goal and target audience, this makes a lot a sense.
A) Executives always have a phone number dedicated for work and we’ve found a phone call is an effective way to cut through the noise.
B) They certainly use email for business functions.
C) LinkedIn is a social media platform for professionals.
When you put it all together, you have a powerful channel combination for creating new business!
4.) Figure Out Which Channels Convert: On any campaign, we’re always measuring this along the way and adjust depending on what the data says. On some of our campaigns, LinkedIn is a huge conversion driver, on other campaigns, phone is our bread and butter. We tend to shift our focus onto the most productive methods and messaging but never eliminate a core channel.
At the end of the day, we recommend using this approach and utilizing a multi-channel strategy. Although the notion of a multi-channel approach certainly isn’t novel, identifying the right mix can be challenging, especially if you are having trouble personifying your core customer. For this reason, it is important to always be testing your mix and following your audience. Ultimately, identifying the most productive channels for growing your business is challenging work, but if you utilize our battle tested method, you are bound to find a successful mix to grow your business!