Marketing Question for you

Do you ever feel that digital marketing is just some kind of weird and expensive experiment that is only vaguely connected to actual sales at your business?  Or is it just me?  Cool, cool.

For those who’ve got it all figured out, then you can just skip on past this blog post.  And good for you!

For the rest of us (not just me I hope!), let’s have a conversation about the ever-changing world of digital marketing for small business.

Digital Marketing By The Numbers

First, a few statistics:

  1. 95% of B2B buyers are NOT in the market for your products right now
  2. Just over 90% of pages get no search traffic from Google
  3. The average spend for SMBs for digital advertising is $534 per month
  4. Nearly three-quarters of B2B buyers fully define their needs through online searching before engaging with a sales representative
  5. Only 9% of industrial buyers felt that a website didn’t matter when evaluating potential partners to work with
  6. While less than one-quarter of B2B buyers view sellers as a “top resource for solving business problems”, 90% of buyers are open to engaging with sellers in the buying process.
  7. Buyers are looking for sales resources that “demonstrate high levels of customer knowledge”, have “superior communication skills”, are focused on results and that “educate buyers with perspective.

Think about those numbers for a moment.  If we are, on average, spending over $6000 per year on digital advertising, but we are only selling to 5% of buyers, and 90% of our pages don’t show up on a search, then how in the world do the buyers who are searching online when they are ready to buy actually find us to turn into a sale?

The Funnel

sales funnelThe standard sales funnel drives your potential customer through four phases:

          1. Awareness – I know you exist
      1. Interest – I’m interested in learning more
      2. Desire – I’m making a selection from my options
      3. Action – I’m ready to buy

The concept of sales leads typically means that you are trying to ‘lead’ your potential customer through this process so that they are ready to buy.  This is done through your advertising campaign – with messages for your potential customer presented at each of the four stages – along with your sales team.

However, that process has been flipped thanks to the Internet.  Buyers aren’t reaching out at stage one – or even at stage two.  Some even wait until they’re ready to buy before they reach out to you.

The “New” Digital Marketing Funnel

So how do you adapt your marketing campaigns to accommodate this new process?  It used to be that your goal was to turn prospects into qualified sales leads.  But now, the buyers are qualifying themselves.  By the time they reach out, you already know that they are part of the 5% ready to buy.

Your task is to make sure that your buyers find you and that you give them the information they need to qualify themselves as a potential customer of yours.  But what information do they need?

Hubspot CEO and co-founder Brian Halligan introduced the concept of a sales flywheel in a Harvard Business Review article from 2018.  Rather than pushing your product to customers through specific campaigns designed around the funnel, focus more on pulling them into your business and your product or service through content that meets their needs.

The focus of the flywheel is to “attract, delight and engage” prospects, customers, and influencers at every stage of the process.

Sounds great, right?  But how do you go about doing this?

The Process

Let’s step back for a moment and think about ourselves as the customer rather than the one doing the selling.  When you are making a purchase decision, what process do you go through?

  • Do you ask your friends and family for recommendations?
  • Do you do online searches with some very specific terms to narrow the search?
  • Do you read online reviews?
  • Do you change your mind about a purchase if any step along the path makes things more difficult than it should?

That’s exactly it.  Follow your own process by focusing on the logic you use when making a purchase for yourself.

  • Share customer reviews or testimonials on your site and look for industry experts to share content on your website. Make sure you are a resource of relevant industry information specific to each customer type.
  • Consider the “long tail” SEO process and work to find the terms that might help potential customers find you. 70% of searches are four words or more.
  • Take a look at the customer experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle and seek feedback to improve the process and increase your positive reviews.
  • Make the process of going from inquiry to sale as frictionless as possible.

Your Online Path from Push to Pull

To get started along this path, make sure you have put in place the minimum standards for your company’s online presence:

  • A customer-focused website: Don’t tell them what you do, show them how your customers use your products or services.  More “you”, less “we” in your statements.
  • Separate pages for different types of customers: Share case studies or examples that your customers can relate to.  This makes it easier for them to see themselves as a future customer of yours.
  • Problem-focused content: Your customers may not even know that you have a solution to their problem.  But if you create content focused on the problem rather than the solution, you’ll have a better chance of drawing them in.
  • Easy ways to find content or get in touch: Make sure you have your contact information (email, phone number, hours if relevant) on every page.  And offer a “Contact Us” page that lets your prospective customers leave a detailed message.
  • Don’t forget social media: Businesses connect with other businesses on Linked In.  Make sure you and your business are visible there by posting regularly.  96% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute their content, and 80% of them use paid content, according to a recent study.

Your Customer’s Journey

Now it’s time to step back and do your best to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.  How might they find your business as a solution to their problem?

Let’s look at an example.  You are a machine shop offering some unique services for cutting metal to very precise specifications.

Now let’s say that a medical device company is importing equipment from China for their manufacturing line.  The equipment is a good price, but the specifications aren’t as exact as they should be to fit into the manufacturing line.  They need to find some sort of shop that can take this piece of metal equipment and modify it slightly and very exactly to fit.

How do they start to address their problem?  They don’t know what the ideal solution is yet, so they’re not going to search online for “Wire EDM companies” or “Waterjet cutting” to find your business.  Instead, they might search for “precision metal cutting near me” or “How to cut metal to spec” or something like this.  Will they find you in these searches?

The next step might be for them to read a bit more about the benefits of laser cutting vs waterjet vs wire EDM to help them decide which might meet their needs.  Do you have an article, video or blog post that addresses this information specifically for the medical device manufacturing industry?

During their online search, they find your business and a couple others.  They are curious how experienced you are with their industry requirements.  Do you have testimonials or reviews from customers in their industry?

As they read your website, they find information on the management team.  Will they find that team on Linked In if they look?  Does your company have an active presence there?

Now they’re ready to ask for a quote.  Is there an easy way for them to get in touch with you?


As small business owners, we are all pressed for time and worried about budget.  And digital marketing can feel like a big mystery with a very questionable ROI.  Your best bet is to step back and focus on how a potential customer might find your business, and what they might be looking for.  Make sure your online presence has the information they need to follow the path from problem to potential solutions to your solutions to your contact information.

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