B2B Marketing Mythbusters: Dispelling 10 Common Myths with Extraordinary Marketing

Wrecking ball busting through wall image.

Wrecking ball busting through wall image.

B2B marketing is boring, doesn’t feature influencers, and uses only monotonous white papers and lifeless case studies — we’ve all heard these stereotypes, but what is the reality of B2B marketing in 2020?

The traditional image of dull B2B marketing has been turned on its head in recent years, and we wanted to explore 10 top myths and show how the state of B2B marketing has gone from bland to unforgettable.

Let’s dig in and break down the biggest B2B marketing myths, and look at how your brand can benefit from the new era of business marketing.

1 — B2B Marketing Goes From Boring-2-Boringest

The Myth:

The grand-daddy of all B2B marketing myths — dating back nearly to when the term business-to-business was coined — is the notion that it stands for boring-to-boring, with marketing about as exciting as forty shades of dreary gray.

The Myth-Buster:

As we’ll explore throughout this post, the B2B marketing of 2020 has left boring in the dust, replaced with exciting and truly memorable content experiences.

As the B2B marketing landscape continues progressing from its dusty Boring-To-Boring roots, business customers are expecting content and experiences that are increasingly similar to what B2C efforts have long provided.

Today’s B2B customers expect to find all of the relevant information they seek brought to life through an online interface that’s not only easy to search and navigate, but one that’s also chock full of interactive and story-rich user experience features that make interacting an entertaining experience, such as our “Laser Bear.”

Click Here to see the Break Free from Boring B2B Guide in Full Screen Mode

[bctt tweet=”“Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. You know you can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them into buying it.” — David Ogilvy” username=”toprank”]

2 — B2B Marketing Doesn’t Use the Cool Social Media Platforms

The Myth:

You won’t find B2B brands actively sharing content and interacting on Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Pinterest, Twitch, or other fun and fresh social media platforms.

The Myth-Buster:

Fortune 500 firms regularly now have social media presences on fashionable social channels such as Giphy, Snapchat, and even Facebook Horizons — the social media giant’s foray into the virtual reality (VR) world — all gaining new B2B brands at a faster pace than you might imagine.

Our senior content marketing manager Joshua Nite recently took a look at “6 Unconventional Social Channels for B2B Marketing,” showing how B2B brands can gain a competitive edge by adopting unconventional social channels.

Out client Dell Technologies offers a fine example of how B2B brands are embracing nontraditional social channels, with its Dell Technologies Giphy page.


Despite using social media more than any other demographic, Gen Z is most at home not on traditional mainstream social platforms but increasingly on gaming platforms, according to recent Kantar study data, which showed that 90 percent of the demographic use gaming platforms to serve roles similar to those social media does for some 59 percent of the general population.

To learn more, we’ve also looked at how B2B brands are successfully using various social media platforms:

[bctt tweet=”“B2B marketers should be exploring any channel where their audience is. While it’s easy to feel like the more younger-skewing platforms are optional, we ignore them at our peril.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

3 — B2B Marketing Doesn’t Relate to Real People & Their Stories

The Myth:

B2B marketing isn’t about me or my real challenges, and never even attempts to appeal to people like me — instead it just continues to put forth insincere messages targeting people who don’t exist in the real world.

The Myth-Buster:

Telling real stories about actual people has catapulted B2B influencer marketing to the forefront of business marketing success, while B2B marketing in general has also continued to embrace the importance of storytelling.

We’ve set out to tell the intriguing stories of many top B2B marketers in our Break Free B2B video interview series, to date featuring 23 industry professionals such as Amisha Gandhi of client SAP Ariba and Kelvin Gee of client Oracle,  sharing their insights and passions.

Some, such as Eaton’s director of corporate marketing Zari Venhaus have explored the importance of storytelling.

Another benefit of telling the stories of real people in B2B industries is that it lends itself well to the creation of episodic content, as our senior content strategist Nick Nelson explored in “Hungry for More: What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Episodic Content.”

Additional takes on how storytelling benefits B2B marketers are available in our following related articles:

[bctt tweet=”“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” — Steve Jobs” username=”toprank”]

4 — B2B Marketing Never Gets Heard, or If it Does It’s Quickly Ignored and Forgotten

The Myth:

B2B marketing is just wasted effort, since nobody ever really reads it or pays any attention to its boring business-suit-and-briefcase imagery. Who would ever remember a B2B advertising message, anyway?

The Myth-Buster:

Study after study continues to show that real emotion makes us remember digital content and messaging, and smart B2B marketing has grown significantly in its use of the kind of authentic storytelling that people will remember.

The most-shared ads during the last Olympics were all loaded with hard-hitting emotion from brands like Panasonic and Apple, and the Super Bowl perennially features similarly emotion-packed spots from brands like Google and Microsoft.

[bctt tweet=”“Stories are just data with a soul.” @BreneBrown” username=”toprank”]

5 — B2B Marketing is For Stodgy Old People

The Myth:

B2B marketing is for stodgy old fuddy-duddies, and has no relevance for anyone under 40 or 50.

The Myth-Buster:

B2B marketers freshly out of college are having tremendous impact in today’s professional brand messaging, and are bringing with them their younger takes on B2B marketing, which will increasingly drive the industry.

Thanks in large part to the successful inroads B2B influencer marketing have made for brands looking to reach younger audiences, when an influencer recommends a product, 51 percent of Millennials say they are more likely to try it, according to research data from Valassis and Kantar.

Gen Z and Millennial B2B marketers who have grown up with newer social media platforms are occupying ever-more positions of power all the way up to corporate marketing management — a move that has helped today’s B2B marketing look decidedly different from that of even five years ago.

Snapchat recently published a study exploring brand expectations among Gen Z, finding that 82 percent of the demographic want brands to act on customer feedback, while a similar report from Campaign Monitor also found Gen Z’s social media platform preferences to differ from those of older generations.

Campaign Monitor Chart

[bctt tweet=”“The B2B marketing of 2020 has left boring in the dust, replaced with exciting and truly memorable content experiences.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

6 — B2B Marketing Should Never Include Interactive or Experiential Content

The Myth:

B2B audiences don’t expect or even want interactive or experiential content when it comes to brand messaging — they want only dense black-and-white case studies of at least 200 pages, or white papers filled with serious professional business information.

The Myth-Buster:

B2B audiences have been starved for interactive and experiential content for far too long, and in recent years have come to expect much more B2C-like digital experiences which incorporate truly entertaining, memorable, and interactive elements.

With 98 percent of consumers more likely to make a purchase after an experience (Limelight), and 77 percent having chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that delivers a personalized service or experience (Forrester), more B2B marketers have begun to use experiential content.

In 2020 experiential content comes in many forms, with just a few examples being:

  • Virtual Reality (VR)
  • Augmented Reality (AR)
  • Cloud-Based Digital Assets from Ceros and Other Platforms
  • Quizzes and Polls
  • Interactive Flipbooks and eBooks

Experiential content is also intertwined with both storytelling and customer experience (CX), together becoming an extremely powerful triptych of B2B marketing strategy.

You can take a closer look at the growing field of B2B experiential marketing here:

[bctt tweet=”“Experiential content makes us a central part of a story, and not just a passive subject receiving a one-way brand message.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

7 — B2B Marketing Doesn’t Have Influencers

The Myth:

Influencers don’t exist in B2B marketing, because they are only for hawking cosmetics and pushing designer clothing lines on Instagram — what relevance could influencers really have in the professional B2B world?

The Myth-Buster:

Influencer marketing in the business world has never been more vibrant and thriving, especially the kind of always-on B2B influencer marketing our CEO Lee Odden has explored in articles including “Always On Influence: Definition and Why B2B Brands Need it to Succeed.”

Influencer marketing will see global brand spending up to $15 billion by 2022 (Business Insider Intelligence), and with more people using social media and spending greater amounts of time doing so, B2B influencers have a bigger audience than ever.

This may explain why influencers are seeing rising engagements with a variety of firms, as even the World Health Organization recently worked with influencers for its latest “Safe Hands Challenge” hand-washing campaign.

B2C and B2B influencer marketing are undoubtedly very different – and ever-evolving – undertakings, as we recently explored in “B2C vs. B2B Influencer Marketing – What’s the Difference?

[bctt tweet=”“The output of B2B influencer collaboration can be in any form that the brand is currently publishing content: text, video, visual, audio, interactive and even VR.” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Learn more about B2B influencer marketing with these insightful looks at how brands are using it to achieve success, and dig in to recent influencer marketing statistics here:

8 — B2B Marketing is Pointless & Impossible For Brands Than Aren’t Billion-Dollar Firms

The Myth:

B2B marketing is only for billion-dollar mega-corporations looking to attract other massive Fortune 500 firms — and it doesn’t have any relevance for a company with less than 10,000 employees.

The Myth-Buster:

It doesn’t take billion-dollar firms to create priceless B2B marketing efforts. Indeed, some of the most successful and memorable B2B marketing campaigns are coming from small-to-midsize firms, especially those that are using B2B influencer marketing.

Our content strategist Anne Leuman recently took a look at “5 Examples of Effective B2B Content Marketing in Times of Crisis,” featuring several smaller firms including HealthcareSource and our client monday.com, showing how they are putting out timely and helpful marketing messages during the pandemic.

Social media and influencer marketing have helped level the playing field not only among large B2C and B2B firms, but smaller B2B businesses as well.

Being savvy and nimble can propel a business a long way in the B2B marketing world — perhaps even over land and water, as Shakespeare once noted.

[bctt tweet=”“Nimble thought can jump both sea and land.” — William Shakespeare” username=”toprank”]

9 — B2B Marketing Isn’t Even Well-Suited for Social Media

The Myth:

B2B marketers shouldn’t even use social media, since business audiences don’t use social platforms, or if they do, they’re not there to find serious B2B information.

The Myth-Buster:

Nearly everyone uses social media in 2020, with global active social media users topping the 3.8 billion mark recently, and that includes almost all the business professionals in every B2B industry.

Social media and B2B marketing go hand-in-hand these days, and smart marketers recognize the importance of this intertwined system, and work hard to inform and delight on every social channel where their brand’s customers are actively engaging.

[bctt tweet=”“It doesn’t take billion-dollar firms to create priceless B2B marketing efforts.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

10 — B2B Marketing’s Only Real Channel is LinkedIn

The Myth:

LinkedIn is the only social media platform B2B marketers ever need to use, because it’s the only one those in B2B industries ever really utilize.

The Myth-Buster:

While it’s true that LinkedIn is the top social media platform for B2B marketers and professionals in general, and still represents the go-to source for business information when it comes to social — and we’re not just saying that because they are a TopRank Marketing client — if you’re limiting your efforts solely to LinkedIn you’re missing out on key industry players who happen to spend the majority of their social media time on other platforms.

As we’ve shown above, there are a wide array of social media channels B2B marketers are finding vital to their brand efforts. With every Fortune 500 firm now represented on LinkedIn, however, it’s a platform that should be included in every B2B marketer’s mix.

Soar Beyond B2B Myths With Powerful Marketing Tactics

Now that we’ve made an effort to dispel these 10 common B2B marketing myths, we hope that you’ll be better able to power your next marketing campaign using the tactics we’ve looked at, and create B2B content that inspires and enchants while also providing best-answer solutions.

The post B2B Marketing Mythbusters: Dispelling 10 Common Myths with Extraordinary Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source: SEO blog

Diagnosing Traffic Drops During a Crisis: Was It You, Google, or the Whole World?

We want to fix things and believe we’re in control. When your house is filling with water, you grab a bucket. If there’s a hole in your roof, the bucket might help. If your sink is overflowing, the bucket is distracting you from the real problem. If the river is overflowing, that distraction could be deadly.

When traffic is falling, it’s easy to panic and focus on what you can control. Traffic isn’t just a nice-to-have — it puts food on the table and the roof over your head that keeps the water out. In the rush to solve the problem, though, we often don’t take the time to validate the problem we’re solving. Fixing the wrong problem is at best a waste of time and money, but at worst could deepen the crisis.

In any crisis, and especially a global one, the first question you need to ask is: is it just me, or is it the whole world? The answer won’t magically solve your problems, but it can keep you from making costly mistakes and start you on the path to a solution. Let’s start with a fundamental question:

(1) Did your traffic really drop?

My “fundamental” question might sound like a stupid question, especially given the wide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s important to remember that traffic fluctuates all the time — there are weekends and seasonality and plain, old regression to the mean. What goes up must come down, and as much as we’d like it to be true, business is not perpetually up and to the right.

Using Google Analytics, let’s consider some ways we can validate a traffic drop. Here’s four weeks of GA data (March 1-28) for a site which was seriously impacted by COVID-19:

Given the known timeline of COVID-19 (the WHO declared it a pandemic on March 11), this is about as clean a picture of a traffic drop in the presence of a known cause as you’re going to get. Most situations are far messier. Even here, we’ve got the impact of weekends and day-to-day fluctuations. One quick way to get a cleaner view is to summarize the data by week (make sure your date-range covers full weeks, or this data will be skewed).

The trend is much clearer now. In a two week period, this site lost more than half of its traffic. I’m restricting the timeline for clarity, but as we gather more data, we can validate the trend pretty easily. The graph above covers all traffic sources. From an SEO perspective, let’s add in a traffic segment for Google traffic:

This graph is just eight data points, but it tells us a lot. First, we can clearly see the trend. Second, we can see that the trend is almost identical for both Google traffic and overall traffic. Third, we can see that this site is very dependent on Google for traffic. Don’t underestimate what you can learn from small data, if it’s the right data.

This isn’t meant to be a GA primer, but let’s look at one last question: Is this traffic drop seasonal? Usually, your own industry experience and intuition would come into play, but one quick way to spot this is to compare year-over-year traffic. One note: match your full weeks so that you’re covering the same amount of weekdays vs weekends. In this case, I’ve shifted the 2019 range to the four full weeks of March 3-30 …

This isn’t the easiest graph to read, and I probably wouldn’t put it in a report to a client, but you can see from the green and purple lines that both overall traffic and Google traffic for this site were relatively flat last year during March. This really does seem to be an unusual situation. Even if we knew nothing about the context and COVID-19, we could tell from just a few minutes of analysis that something serious is going on here.

(1b) Did your rankings drop?

As a search marketer, and given that we’ve clearly measured a Google traffic drop, the next question is whether this drop was due to a loss of rankings (we’ll get to other explanations in a moment). In Moz Pro, one quick way to assess overall weekly search visibility is to use either the main view under “Rankings” or go to the “Competition” tab. I like the competitive view, because you can quickly see if any changes impacted your broader industry …

I’ve simplified this view a little bit (and removed the site’s and competitors’ names for privacy reasons), but the basic story is clear — neither the site in question nor its competitors seemed to have any drop in visibility during March.

For a richer view, go back to the “Rankings” tab and select “Rankings” (instead of “Search Visibility”) from the drop-down. You’ll see a graph that looks something like this …

This visualization takes some getting used to, but it contains a wealth of information. The bars represent total ranking keywords/phrases, and the color blocks show you the ranking range (see the legend). Here we can see that overall rankings have been relatively stable, with even some small gains in the #1-3 bucket.

If your account is connected to Google Analytics, you can also overlay traffic during the same period, which is shown by the dark gray line. Dual-scale graphs can get tricky, but this visualization really makes it clear that there’s a mismatch between the traffic drop for this site and their search rankings.

(2) Did Google do something?!

Usually, when we ask [demand / shout / sob] this question, we mean “Did Google do something to the algorithm to make my life miserable?” We can argue about whether Google is trying to make your life miserable at another time (preferably, when the bars re-open), but the core question is valid. Did Google change the algorithmic rules in a way that’s negatively impacting your site?

For large-scale algorithm updates, you can check our own Google Algorithm History page. For smaller/daily updates, you can check our MozCast research project. While having a gut-check against major changes can be very useful, the messy truth is that Google rankings are a real-time phenomenon that’s changing minute-by-minute. In 2018 alone, Google reported 3,234 “improvements” to search.

Keep in mind that all Google algorithm tracking tools are based, to some degree, on fluctuations in rankings. In our example scenario, we’re not seeing ranking shifts. Let’s pretend, though, that we have seen a traffic drop with a corresponding ranking drop, and we’re trying to determine if it’s just us or if something changed with Google.

Here’s a graph of MozCast data from my analysis of the January 2020 Core Update …

In this case, we’ve got a pretty clear three-day period of ranking fluctuations. If our traffic dropped during this period, it’s not absolute proof that an algorithm update is to blame, but it’s a solid, educated guess and a useful starting point.

Let’s look at the two weeks around when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic …

I’ve kept the same scale and 30-day average reference (from a relatively quiet period early this year). Note that algorithmic activity (i.e. ranking flux) is way up compared to the period before and after the January Core Update. One day (March 18) doesn’t even fit on the scale of the original graph and came in at 104°F on MozCast.

What does all of this mean? It’s possible that Google is changing the algorithm rapidly to address the broader changes in the world, but I strongly suspect that the world itself is impacting this flux. Sites are changing rapidly, adding and removing products and content, news sources have dramatically shifted their coverage, and some businesses are closing completely. On top of that, we’re seeing an unprecedented shift in searcher and consumer behavior.

Algorithm flux can be a useful answer to the question “Is it just me, or is it Google?” during normal times, but all that it’s telling us right now is that the world has turned upside-down. While that’s an accurate assessment, it’s not particularly helpful. If you’d like to hear more about the impact of COVID-19 on Google rankings, check out “SEOs talk COVID-19 search disruption” from Barry Schwartz with myself, Marie Haynes, Olga Andrienko, and Mordy Oberstein.

If traffic has dropped, but rankings haven’t, it’s also possible that the behavior of searchers has changed. We can get some insights into this by using Google Search Console. Here’s the graph of total clicks for our example site from March 1-28 (corresponding with the GA data) …

As expected, total clicks on Google results show roughly the same trend as Google organic traffic in GA. Total clicks are a function of two variables, though: (1) search impressions, and (2) click-through rate (CTR). Let’s look at those individually. Here’s the graph of total impressions for the same time period …

Now we’re getting somewhere — there’s an overall drop in impressions. This isn’t just about the example site, but searcher behavior before they even see or click on that site. People are searching less for the phrases that drive traffic to our example site. Finally, let’s look at CTR …

CTR has also dropped, even a bit steeper than impressions. This is a bit harder to interpret. Knowing what we know, it’s likely that people are clicking less because of overall lack of interest. This is consistent with the COVID-19 scenario. People are less likely to be looking for the service this site offers. On the other hand, it could be that something about the site or the competitive landscape has changed that’s driving down CTR.

If you see a CTR drop without a corresponding impression drop, review recent changes to the site, especially changes that could impact what’s displayed in search results (including your TITLE tags and META descriptions). In this case, though, it’s reasonable to assume that we’re looking at an overall drop in demand.

(3) Has the world gone mad?

Spoiler alert: yes, yes it has.

The Google Search Console data above has already suggested that we’re seeing a shift in the wider world and searcher behavior, but if you want to get outside of your own data, you can explore the world a bit with Google Trends. For example, here’s a Google Trends search for “movie tickets” for March 1-28 …

Not surprisingly, searcher interest in movie tickets declined sharply after the COVID-19 outbreak. People who aren’t going to movies aren’t going to be searching for showtimes and ticket prices. Google Trends data can be spotty in the long-tail, and we can’t necessarily attribute a trend to an event, but non-brand trends are a good supporting data point for whether your traffic drop is isolated to your site or is impacting your broader industry.

One final tip — everything discussed in this post can also be used to explore a traffic increase. Even during COVID-19, traffic has gone up for many topics and sites. For example, here’s the Google Trends data for “how to cut hair” from the same March 1-28 time period …

Whether or not cutting your own hair is a good idea, people are definitely showing more interest in the topic (I admit I’ve watched a couple of YouTube videos myself). We don’t typically dive deep into traffic increases — it’s too easy to just sit back and take the credit. I think this is a big mistake. Understanding whether a traffic increase was driven by changes you made or broader market shifts can help you understand what you’ve done right so that you can replicate that success.

The big picture is everything

Over the last few years, I’ve heard more people say things like “I don’t care about traffic, I care about conversions!” or “I don’t care about Google rankings, as long as I’m getting traffic!” Our gradual move toward bottom-of-funnel metrics makes sense — we’re all trying to make a living. Taken to extreme, though, we lose valuable information. Focusing on conversions is certainly better than focusing on “hits” a la 1998, but no single metric tells the whole story.

Let’s say that the only thing you track is leads. Leads are where the money is. Sales are up, leads are up, times are good. Great. Inevitably, disaster strikes (even if it’s a minor disaster), and your leads drop. What do you do? You’ve cut off your ability to read anything but the last chapter of the story. You know how it ends, but you don’t know how you got there. Without understanding the path from leads back to visits back to rankings back to impressions, you’re not going to see the whole story, and you’re not going to know where things went wrong.

Even when times are good, this approach is short-sighted. Sales-focused culture creates a tendency to celebrate the wins and not ask too many questions. If traffic is going up, why is it going up? What content or keywords are driving that traffic? What industry trends are driving that traffic? If you can answer those questions, you can replicate success. If you can’t, then you’re going to have to start from scratch as soon as the celebration ends (and the celebration always ends).

It may be cold comfort to know that your entire industry or the whole world is suffering with you, but I hope that this process at least prevents you from fixing the wrong things and making costly mistakes. Ideally, this process can help you uncover areas that may be trending upward or at least help you focus your time and money on what’s working.