This year comes close to an end and it surely left its mark on many industries and fields of activity, B2B digital marketing included. With so many businesses migrating online, this digital environment has become more crowded than ever. You can hardly choose, in the middle of all the noise, the right webinar, workshop, online event or even pay attention to an ad, which makes it even harder for content creators to stand out.
For us, 2020 has been both challenging and rewarding. We started the year aiming to expand our digital marketing services and we enrolled in HubSpot’s Partner program, to help us structure our inbound services better.
We knew we had to set our priorities correctly and, backed by a financial buffer we’ve managed to gain in the previous years, we focused on our clients and on our own development. We started creating more content, investing more in our online presence and visibility, in defining our mission and purpose, in collaborating with other marketing specialists and in elaborating our business strategy for the future.
Looking back, there are some lessons we’ve learnt regarding digital marketing tactics that work and we want to share them with you. They might help, regardless if you are a digital growth agency like us or a services or product company. So, what worked and will continue to have an impact in 2021 as well?
Long form content
If you’re going to our blog, you’ll see that this year we’ve started writing more and more content on topics we master. Checking the Analytics, we realised that the most visited ones are those long form articles, where we explained various concepts in depth, talked about tools and resources we had tested and shared results and recommendations based on our own experience. They are a great opportunity for people to learn and explore a subject beneath its surface.
Defining your target audience and their needs and addressing those needs in comprehensive pieces of content will not only position you as an expert, but also show you are willing to help and share valuable insights.
Another type of long form content that will probably grow even stronger in 2021 is collaborative content – finding companies or specialists with the same expertise and audiences and create informational materials that will not only bring more value, but will also be easier to promote since it is a common effort. I.e. we created this eBook with 11 other marketing specialists from Romania, on trends in digital marketing in 2020.
There’s nothing new here, video has been and will continue to be the super star format in terms of content. Whenever we created video case studies or video ads, we’ve seen them perform better than written content. Also, live videos have a better reach and engagement, as they are more natural and people can interact with speakers directly. Both Facebook and Linkedin prioritise video content and so you can give video a try on these platforms and see how video posts perform against those with text & images.
By the following year, video content is estimated to account for 82% of all internet traffic, as it is more engaging, immersive and it gives a more personal vibe.
YouTube is a growing platform, with 2 billion monthly users, but we don’t see many B2B companies present on this channel or either more, using the right keywords to optimize their videos.
There’s plenty of space for you to make a splash on this platform. If you want to learn more about creating videos that drive conversions, you might want to check this article.
Also, if you want to see how we’ve put to practice what we preach, here is a video interview we held with Jean Moncrieff, CMO & Coach – Emerge Studio, and then published also as a written resume on our blog.
Even though we’ve been running Ads campaigns for our clients for some time now, we’ve started doing this for the agency only at the beginning of 2020. We felt like it is more important for us to increase awareness and attract people to our blog, especially in order to mark our motivation to help others grow as well.
The end goal is to increase our web traffic as much as possible through organic search, but paid is definitely here to stay. If you’re wondering what’s the recipe for a good ad that converts, you should take into consideration its:
Inbound-oriented messages that talk to people addressing their needs in specific moments of their buying journey are more likely to bring results than sales-oriented messages, that will consume more budget and drive low-quality results.
Here’s an example of an ad that worked really well for us:
It reached over 5K people, had over 400 reactions and 11 shares. We promoted an article written by Andrei Stoica for a well known Romanian publication. The fact that he shared ideas about how we adapted to the new context, for a trusted online publication and that we used a picture with him contributed to the success of this ad.
You can talk about specific issues your audience might face, about solutions, failures or challenges you’ve been through, you can empathize and relate to people’s concerns or opportunities, you can even promote testimonials as a means of building trust! If you want to learn more on this, here’s a useful article on writing engaging ads.
This year we also started collaborating with profile publications and publishing exclusive articles for their communities. You can now find us on Einstein Marketer, Netpeak Software, start-up.ro, SmartBill and many others. This initiative is not only meant to improve our ranking by winning backlinks, but also to increase our online presence and to help other people learn and grow.
The key to being featured on a blog different than yours or in a publication is patience and high-quality content. Doing your research, targeting only those websites that accept guest posting on your specific topics and that are also followed by your audience, contacting them and writing valuable articles that are not just promoting your services but actually bringing something new – these are the steps you cannot miss if you want to gain access to their communities.
For us, guest posting has proved powerful, it has helped attract more visits to our website and as a bonus, we managed to increase our domain authority (an important ranking factor) from a score of 12 to a score of 21 according to SEMRush. It’s not a huge score but it’s a significant improvement, given that our website is quite fresh (a little over a year) and that we’ve been focusing on guest posting for the past 6-7 months.
With so much content available, making it hard to access might only have users bounce and leave your website. Of course, it depends on the materials you offer, your end goal and KPIs. There are campaigns that are focused on gathering email addresses while others just want to boost awareness.
Up until recently, landing pages with gated content and data collecting forms used to be the norm for running lead generation campaigns. However, we are noticing that online users have become reluctant to give away their contact information, especially to a company that they don’t know too well. What if the content they get in exchange for their data is not that interesting? Moving forward we will keep testing the hypothesis that people want to consume more ungated content and try to come up with more creative conversion funnels (such as offering them a free consultation session or sending them a PDF version of the material to read for later).
From our experience, a better approach involves creating larger pieces of information that you offer for free, giving people the option to leave their email address in case they want to have it for a later reading.
Investing in SEO
On November 10th, Google announced that Core Web Vitals signals will become ranking signals fromMay 2021.
What this means is that the experience visitors have with a web page will be an important ranking factor.
The Core Web Vitals signals are currently used in Google’s Page Speed Insights tool and focus on three areas: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
So moving forward we will all need to pay close attention to these signals and how our website performs in terms of the related metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. Webpages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. Webpages should have a CLS of less than 0.1.
In a study conducted by Search Engine Journal, only 15% of the websites will pass the Core Web Vitals assessment. To check if your website passes the Core Web Vitals test go to PageSpeed Insights and enter your website’s URL. Alongside a speed score, you will also see a message indicating if your website passes the assessment or not.
This means that one should put extra effort in optimizing their websites, especially given that everybody is now online and can easily compare experience and raise their expectations.
Image search is a rising trend, and in order to enable search engines to understand what your images are about, you will need to add an ALT text attribute.
We think content creators should also pay attention toYouTube keyword optimization: make sure to add the right keywords to your videos to maximize their visibility on the platform.
Chatbots make a difference
We believe chatbots and live chats will continue to have a strong impact in 2021, given that they are used right. They can help you website visitors find information faster and make their browsing experience more pleasant,
Just installing a chatbot is useless unless you are ready to answer questions and help people navigate their issues as soon as possible. A chatbot can help you initiate a conversation, offer support, gather emails or convert visitors into paying customers, but it can also trigger frustration if you’re not available and prepared to help.
Who doesn’t love a cold sales email that has nothing to do with you, your preferences, interests or hobbies? ????
It’s becoming harder and harder to get people’s attention amid all the emails they receive during a day and even harder to reach them at a moment when they would be interested in your services. But you still want to contact them and start a conversation, so creativity enters the stage!
What we’ve been testing here at STOICA are video outreach emails. This means that for some potential client or partner we want to approach, we record a personalized video, addressing them specifically and bringing some improvement ideas on the table, as well as an invitation to book a meeting to discuss more.
These videos are short, but they are meant to show people at the receiving end that we’ve did our homework, learnt about them, thought about some tactics that might come in hand and put a bit more effort into contacting them.
There are so many calls that could have been an email. But there are so many emails that would perform better if they were a short video recording!
If you don’t feel comfortable with this approach, you can always stick to written emails, but make sure to give them a personal note, try to connect with the receiver and catch their eye with your attention to detail.
There’s no secret that things happen fast in marketing and if you’re not ready to automate your efforts, you can find it exhausting to navigate through flows, campaigns, budgets, audiences, social media communication, content, email marketing…It sounds a lot already!
In order to create connections and communicate in a personalized manner with your potential clients, you need to use automation tools. There are some free ones that help you keep track of your data (the free CRM tool from HubSpot, i.e., is great) or create amazing design (Canva).
We created a list of our favorite tools that you can check right here.
Although communication channels have stayed more or less the same, they are now crowded with content. How can one stand out? Well, creating high quality (written, video or audio) content that adds real value is the first step.
Because this obviously takes time and resources, the key is to repurpose these materials: use quotes, create visual materials with small pieces of information, turn them into short videos, Instagram stories, TikToks, audio record them so people can listen to them.
In short, find a means to maximize the effort you put into creating that large piece so that you can reach as many people as possible.For example, we create visuals from our articles and publish them on our Instagram account.
Promote your team
A strong business, regardless of its profile, is made of talented, motivated people that work towards the same goal, being held together by the same values, open communication and a feeling of being safe.
We are extremely proud of each member of our team: Andrei, Elena, Adelina, Emilia, Vlad, Claudiu, Gabi, Oana and Razvan, so this year and in the future, our focus will also be on promoting them and their knowledge.
If you’re wondering what you could do in order to make your people stand out, you could give them a platform for them to share their ideas and thoughts – some might want to create written or video content, some might want to take over your social media accounts, some might want to get published in different industry-related publications. Giving them this space will only position you as a leader in your industry that attracted the best talent on the market.
Multichannel & Community Building
When it comes to the best performing channels to communicate with your audience, what we learnt from our experience and what other voices in the industry concur is that multi channel is the best option. Such an approach can help you better reach your public and to make sure you are there for them at any step on their buying journey. Depending on your services/products, goals and buyer’s personas, you could opt for: websites, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn Pages, Instagram, Twitter, written press, podcasts, vlogs etc.
Remember that there are certain platforms that work better not only for certain people, but on different markets (i.e., we have created our Twitter account in order to promote our services to people from the US, in Romania this platform is not that used yet).
Regardless of what platforms you choose to communicate on, remember that the way you communicate should be focused on the need, wants and interest of your buyer persona. The content you put out there has to be helpful and educational, as opposed to self promotional.
In that spirit, gathering a community of people in the industry that you serve can be a win-win for everyone: the people in your community can share knowledge and ideas or find collaboration opportunities. And for your brand it’s a good opportunity to share and demonstrate expertise, while also learning from your peers.
To sum it up, it’s all about building and keeping your community close. You can even choose to create a dedicated group for this community (on LinkedIn, Facebook, Whatsapp or any platform you see fit), but remember that a community built with the sole purpose of selling your own products won’t work.
We’ve launched our own community in order to create a place where people with the same values as us can talk, connect and help each other and if you are a B2B marketer, we would like you to join the conversation: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12472523/
More than ever, this year we understood it was important to act fast, to test, to focus on quality and on building relationships beyond just selling our or our clients’ products. We worked hard on helping them and ourselves grow sustainably, we learned a lot and we are more dedicated than ever to building communities, networks and bringing long-term value.
There’s a clear need for smarter marketing, for more streamline conversion flows, for bi-directional communication. The future is neither B2C or B2B in marketing, but H2H – Human to Human, as some have named it, and in the given context, we think that companies that understand this will have bigger chances to survive and grow.