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Three Under-Appreciated B2B Marketing Tools

Three Under-Appreciated B2B Marketing Tools

It sometimes feels like there is a new “can’t miss” social media-marketing tool popping up every day.  New websites, applications, and technologies often seem promising at their outset, and then fizzle out just as quickly as they arrived.  The Gartner Hype Cycle explains this process as the transition from “the peak of inflated expectations” down to “the trough of disillusionment.” As its name suggests, “the trough of disillusionment” is where a new technology will lose a large portion of its users and proponents, be it to recognized flaws, misunderstood features, or what have you.  After this point, more cautious or pragmatic marketers will take time to come back to using the technology in question; some never do.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at three marketing resources that are on their way out of the trough and hitting the “slope of enlightenment.”

Google Plus: By no means is Google Plus an “under the radar” marketing resource.  When it was first launched last June, many hailed it as an immediate threat to Facebook’s social media dominance.  However, the public has not adopted Google Plus in as “explosive” a manner as was initially thought.  Expecting the site to have as many users engaged as Facebook within one year might be a little too much to ask, but such anticipation comes with the territory when you’re developed by arguably the most influential company in the world today.

What all this means is that a business that joins Google Plus today will still be, to some degree, “ahead of the curve.”  Its membership is still growing at an impressive rate, with no signs of stopping.  The site has several characteristics that make it more B2B friendly than Facebook.

The first is Circles, a feature that allows businesses to share content with more focused groups within their network.  Not only does this foster an increased likelihood of content engagement, it can help to limit others in your network from feeling you “overshare” irrelevant content, which could lead to the dreaded “unfollow.”

Google Hangouts are another distinguishing aspect to Plus that offers great potential for marketers. A Hangout is essentially a videoconference, but with an emphasis on social sharing. A business could use a Hangout to demo new products, conduct a focus group, or simply answer questions from customers in an engaging and personable way.

The third factor, and what would probably impact your business the most, is Google Plus’ massive SEO advantage.  Having the world’s largest search engine behind you is never a bad thing. “Google gives Google+ content favorable positioning, Keyword-optimized posts may achieve first-page positioning for matching search queries.”

QR Codes: Over the past few years, you may have noticed many brands utilizing QR codes in print advertising.  Despite this increased exposure, consumers have not flocked to using QR codes as much as their chief proponents anticipated.  According to a recent eMarketer report, “9% of adults in the US have used a QR code in the past year, and slow adoption is expected in the coming years.” Winnie Schuchman, from IT Marketing World, believes that the sluggish adoption is due to a disparity between consumer and marketer expectations for QR codes: “Users want deals and discounts; special incentives and offers.  Marketers and brands want to deliver content.”

For B2C marketers fixed on content, this sounds like a death knell for QR codes.  However, B2B audiences do want content, and QR codes can be an innovative and effective means of delivery.  QR’s bridge the gap from the physical space to online in a way that no other method can.  For example, at a trade show, a business could put up a QR code that lead to its most recent white paper.  Rather than risk your content getting lost in the shuffle amongst the dozens and dozens of materials an attendee will accumulate, they could simply scan a code and easily access it later.

This same idea also relates to business cards.  Having employees with QR codes for their contact information will make the cards themselves more efficient: they can link directly to the company website, social media profiles, etc.  Overall, QR codes can provide a creative, efficient, and memorable way of getting your contacts engaged and online.

Quora: Quora is a question-and-answer website similar to pages such as ChaCha and Yahoo! Answers.  However, if you have used either of those sites, you understand that the primary attribute they lack is credibility.  It is difficult to know who is answering questions, what facts their answers are based upon, etc.  What Quora does to solve these problems (and what makes it a very attractive web destination for B2B marketers) is foster an environment where top answers are provided by industry thought leaders and professionals.  This emphasis on quality answers has helped Quora’s traffic increase to over 1.5 million unique visitors this summer. Not an overwhelming number by Internet standards, but one that is sure to grow.

B2B marketers can benefit from Quora in a variety of ways.  First, it is an excellent research tool.  It can give you a good idea of what customer desires/needs are becoming prevalent within your industry.  You can also post your own questions to generate thoughtful feedback and discussion in an arena less hectic than Twitter or Facebook.

Quora can also help you gain an edge in a competitive marketplace.  As this ReadWriteWeb article explains, “Checking up on what kinds of questions a   competitor is following, or better, the answers they’re giving, can tip you off to what they might have in the pipeline.” See a question where you think a competitor offered a subpar answer? Leave a better one and get a free, potentially very publicized, point of comparison for your customers.

What do you think? Are these tools truly useful and worth a B2B marketer’s time? Have you had any success/failures implementing them into your own marketing strategy?

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