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B2B Digital Marketing Strategy: Impact of Privacy Laws and a Remote Workforce

Posted March 2, 2022
Mike Maynard

Privacy Laws, Remote Work & Marketing After a Digital Transformation

Mike runs a B2B marketing agency in the UK. His team focuses on offering “full-service” marketing solutions, emphasizing content development and distribution. Mike’s team knows that relying on a single channel isn’t realistic and that there are many rules and regulations meant to change how we interact with prospects.

In addition to privacy laws and privacy-first changes, marketing has changed drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. With a high percentage of the technology workforce moving home, direct mail for B2B revenue generation took a big hit, and in-person gatherings weren’t safe. Mike shared his insights on how some companies have successfully adapted into a b2b digital marketing strategy and where others are lagging.

“Reaching people at home is very different from reaching people when they’re at a physical location. Physical locations could be a trade show or even the prospect’s workplace. However, today, not everyone’s going into work in person, and, certainly, none are doing so daily. Sending classic postal mailers doesn’t work as well as it used to.

“Today, it’s vital to find the b2b digital marketing channels that work for your particular clients.”

marketing to remote prospects

The tactics haven’t just changed. The ability to reach your audience has changed. Marketers can’t buy lists of people to email. Most countries and some states in the US have mandated an opt-in-only communication policy. People have to volunteer their information willingly. The burden of providing something worth giving up personal data is on businesses trying to convince those same people to buy their products or services. This is where it is crucial that the b2b digital marketing strategy takes into account that businesses’ staff are now remote and not in an office.

It’s hard, but businesses are figuring out how to offer enough value to compensate prospects. Mike feels that the larger struggle continues to be turning that database into buyers excited about your product or service. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much data you have if you don’t use it wisely.

“I’d say that a lot of the challenge is understanding the data you have. “For example, placing ads in a trade magazine is a perfectly reasonable way to increase your brand’s awareness. But before you invest in a b2b digital marketing tactic such as digital ads, think of your audience.

“If your audience isn’t reading those magazines and you pick the wrong magazine, that’s not going to work. And it doesn’t matter whether your audience is at home or in the office. It isn’t going to work either way. You could say, well, let’s forget about that. We’re going to send emails to them. If you don’t have their email addresses, you’re going to be stuck.”

Which B2B Digital Marketing Strategies Work?

“The key to marketing is building a b2b digital marketing strategy rather than picking a particular tactic. You have to think through how you’re going to reach people. Then, how will you get the data you need to reach those people? To me, that’s more important than picking what kind of campaign you’re going to run.”

Having clean data and understanding where your segments are spending their time will help drive your success with any channel.

“Webinars and email are two of the most effective channels for most B2B digital marketers. Everybody wants to hype things up by saying email’s dead or advertising is dead. But the reality is different channels do different things. What works is understanding what your audience finds valuable. That’s what works. So if you’re going to do a webinar and you decide to spend the entire time promoting your product or service, it’s probably going to suck. The reception will be worse than it was nine or ten months ago when people weren’t quite so hacked off with webinars.

“It’s all about matching not only the channel but also the content. Getting the right content in the right channel is important. But inviting people to a five-minute webinar is probably not a great idea because a lot of people turn up late for webinars. Sending an email that will take 20 minutes to read and people have to scroll through 50 pages won’t work. What you have to do is pick what you’re going to send, make sure it’s valuable, and send it through the right channel.

“There isn’t a silver bullet.

“The channel you use depends on what you’re trying to do. Typically, our best campaigns don’t use one magic channel. They use multiple channels, which works far better than trying to rely on one particular approach.

“For instance, if you’re trying to reach companies, you might want to incorporate LinkedIn into your b2b digital marketing strategy. That’s a great way to reach people at particular companies. You can advertise to individuals with certain jobs or roles at a particular company. If you want to reach your existing customers, the same campaign will probably run far more effectively if you run it through email. It’s about picking the right thing for the right campaign.”

A value-first approach to implementing your b2b digital marketing strategy is one of the best ways to incentivize engagement. You’ll have a much better chance if you can bring something valuable and execute the messaging well.

“Value is very important. For example, if you want to reach electronic engineers who’re designing with microcontrollers, the thing to do is go to a trade show. That will do better than many other channels. Yet, if you go to a trade show, but don’t have anything useful to say, be prepared to stand around your booth for three days, getting very bored. You really have to think about what value you’re adding and why the customers you want to talk to should come to your booth and then build your booth around that. It’s not flashy graphics that keep people engaged. It’s all about what you are doing to help those visitors.”

If you’re going to invest in a trade show, put effort into pitching ideas for speaking engagements or, at the very least, develop a PR strategy that promotes thought leadership content that inspires people to come and check out your booth. If we don’t execute well and understand our audience, whichever tactic we try will fail.

Is Direct Mail Still a Thing?

“What we saw before the pandemic was direct mail becoming more of an Account Based Marketing (ABM) tactic than a general broadcast tactic. I’ll admit we sent out mailers 10-20 years ago to all prospects. It was crazy. We should just be focused on delivering something valuable to the best prospects. I think there’s a challenge with people working from home, but we’re starting to see people head back to the office or be receptive to receiving something valuable at home.

“It’s getting a bit easier, but frankly, to me, things like chocolate make a big difference. If people send me a chocolate bar–that surprise–that excitement is fantastic. But if people send me an email saying, can you share your address? I’m much less excited. However, we’ve had a lot of luck sending out cakes from a fantastic bakery.

providing value for data

“I think there’s a real challenge in sending direct mail to people’s home addresses. It’s difficult, and there’s never going to be a way around it other than building your dataset of what people’s home addresses are. Certainly, there are ways to do this that are GDPR-compliant, and in Europe, we care about GDPR.”

Before you plan an international direct mail campaign, do your research.

“If you’re sending from the States, there are issues about the cost of import duty. We even have that now in the UK since Brexit. It’s hard to send something from the UK to Europe without someone ending up with a bill.

“I think trying to work around these regional differences is really tough and at the moment. I’d love for postal to come back because I think some of the most creative stuff was postal.”

What GDPR Taught Us About First-Party Data

When GDPR rolled out, some viewed it as a backlash from consumers because b2b digital marketers had overstepped their boundaries in advertising. First-party data would go under a lot more rigor and become a lot more necessary. Mike shared his thoughts on how marketers can start building their database.

“When you look at GDPR when you read the regulations–and I’ve read the GDPR regulations–one of the biggest themes is disclosure. B2B Digital Marketers must be clear about what they’re doing with the data they’re collecting. That is fascinating because, with GPDR, it’s very easy to write a privacy policy that makes it ten times harder to collect data. If you write a flexible privacy policy and use what’s called ‘legitimate interest,’ it makes it much easier to collect data legitimately.

“We see some clients only do opt-ins with several verification steps. And their databases aren’t growing. Alternatively, we’ve got other clients who still behave very ethically and make it clear what they’re doing with data. They’re allowing people to go to preference centers, get the content they want, and they’re growing their databases.

“If you look at our database, we remove people who aren’t interacting with our emails. We get somewhere between 40% to 50% open rates. Frankly, if we don’t get 40% open rates, I’m freaking out. I really want more than 50%. We achieve that open rate because we’re sending things that people care about to the people who care about them. It’s a straightforward recipe.

gdpr best practice

“We are moving away from volume as being the metric. Having a database of one million, two million, or even three million may not be great even for small businesses. A thousand may be far too many.

“We’ve thousands of visitors every month to our website, but we could take on possibly two clients and onboard them and do a really good job of taking them on. So I actually only really care about two to three visitors a month.

“It’s great that other people are looking at us as a resource. We’re raising awareness. But we really only care about a small proportion of visitors. I think it’s the same with email databases. If you’re mailing a million people, but only ten buys from you, really care about those ten. The other million people are there for your ego and nothing else.

“It’s about focusing on what really matters in your b2b digital marketing strategy.”

For more about ABM and B2B digital marketing strategies that actually work, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.