The B2B Digital Marketing Handbook – Ken Marshall
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Digital marketing for B2B (business to business) is different than that for B2C (business to consumer. There are more decision makers involved, sales cycles take longer, and the size of each sale is bigger. Because of this, you’ll need a B2B-specific approach to search, social, and mobile marketing. Ken Marshall of RevenueZen, has helped countless B2B companies increase the size of their pipeline through a strategic approach to SEO, LinkedIn, and content marketing, and he’s here to share some of those same strategies with us.
Rich: My guest today is the chief growth officer and a partner at RevenueZen. He’s been doing some version of digital marketing for the past seven years and has shifted his focus to all things SEO and inbound for the last five. Today, we’re going to be focusing in on digital marketing strategies for those of us in the B2B realm, with Ken Marshall. Ken, welcome to the podcast.
Ken: Rich, it is good to see your face again. That was brilliant. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. So excited to get going.
Rich: Tell me a little bit about RevenueZen. What do you guys do over there exactly?
Ken: Yeah, I mean, happy to get as nerdy as you want. But I mean the 10,000 foot view is, we help really growth-oriented B2B SaaS companies and professional service companies increase the size of their pipeline and the quality of their pipeline through SEO, LinkedIn, and content marketing.
Rich: Awesome. And that’s a lot of what we’re going to be talking about today. If you are in B2C don’t hit the stop button, you’re still going to learn a lot today. It’s just that we’re going to be thinking about It using the lens of B2B companies.
Now on our intake sheet that we have for all of our guests, we have a field for your Twitter handle, your Facebook profile, your Instagram handle, and your LinkedIn profile. You answered “N/A” to all of them except for LinkedIn. So let me guess, what social media channel do you feel is best for B2B companies?
Ken: You know, Snapchat. No, and I don’t even think that those aren’t useful. I will say LinkedIn is, it by far helps us and our clients generate the highest ROI, if that’s what you’re interested in. That doesn’t mean it’s an end all be all. I think channels aren’t agnostic from a strategy standpoint. It’s just not what I use. But definitely LinkedIn.
Rich: You’re also in a B2B company, obviously. You may not be a SaaS, but you’re certainly helping SaaS B2B companies. How does LinkedIn fit into a digital marketing strategy for a B2B company?
Ken: Yeah, the way I like to help people who either are skeptical or who have never done it, is this is not hiring a team of SDRs to make 10,000 calls and get you to book meetings the next day. And it’s not even the same as a long-term content strategy where you’re doing pure thought leadership. This is for people who are actively interested in purchasing something. They’re just not at a decision-making or credit card out stage, but they’re down there. And what they need to know is, who can they trust? But they need to see some qualitative or quantitative metrics to get them over the finish line. And so your profile will help them build the trust that will then allow them to get in contact with you, to give them the spiel of why they should give you their money. So I see it as part brand building like thought leadership, but more importantly, positioning you as the authority they can trust and that reflects your business.
Rich: So, what are your personal strategies when it comes to LinkedIn? Anything you want to share with us about how you run it to generate trust and business for RevenueZen?
Ken: Yeah. I’ll tell you the way that we get our leads from SEO and LinkedIn, and this is the way we do it, and we tell others and our clients. Number one, profile. More like a landing page, less like a bio from a dating profile. People say all kinds of crazy things, and nobody really cares, or if they are they’re there for the wrong reasons. I say have a nice picture, headshot, right from a lens of pain from what your customer is going to experience to what you provide. Nobody cares about where you went to school. And list some cool stuff that they want to read, or a podcast that you’re on, that positions you accordingly. A simple thing to do is just a text post twice a week, between let’s say I think it was 400 – 1,200 characters is the most effective for visibility. And then spend 15 minutes a day commenting on people that you want to do business with, comment on their profiles and have nothing to ask for it. And then just do that indefinitely and see how that goes.
Rich: All right. Have you found that as you’re creating these text-based posts, have you found any sort of formula that tends to work really well either for you or for any of your clients?
Ken: Yeah, we’ve got I think it’s called like 13 posts that have generated leads on our website. But in general, I try to think of it as a few different buckets. One is like the announcement from the company. It’s a little bit more fluffy, people are less likely to convert, but it’s good for building your awareness. And that’s, “a team member just got this certification” or “we just hired somebody”, “we’re the 10th best place to work in Iowa”, case studies, charts. Everybody loves chart porn. If you have something going up into the right, show it and describe it and tag the company. There’s the thought classic thought leadership of hook, whatever somebody doesn’t know. And then here are the five tips to get you to where you want to be. And then I think about it as the story, which is, I had my second jujitsu class ever yesterday. I posted that it’s already got some of the top engagement on my profile. But the point is, people like to know you on top of your expertise as well. So those are my buckets as far as quick and to the point.
Rich: So even on LinkedIn, you’re showing some of your personality, you’re not just a suit and tie. By the way, you can’t see Ken right now, but he’s definitely not a suit and tie. I bet you clean up nice. I’m not that you don’t.
Ken: I do on the weekends. Yeah. On the weekends I clean up nice. But yeah, no that’s totally correct. And I think again, back to the idea that people give you permission to tell them about your business and your expertise, but you’re going to have to cross a barrier of trust and humanity first. And I think mixing those two together, letting people know who you are, what you’re about first, then they’ll give you permission to dive into the nerdy, cool stuff that you actually want to talk about.
Rich: Which I think is actually a good idea for almost any social channel, too, is definitely being – if not transparent – at least translucent and showing people who you are and what you’re all about. Because you are going to find some people that you just immediately make connections with and others that you won’t. And sometimes it’s as important to push away people who aren’t good fits as it is to attract people who are in alignment with you and your goals.
Ken: Good advice. I couldn’t agree more. Yeah. I think one thing that I’ll pull on that thread, we actually have a part of our ideal client profile has people that have similar temperaments to us. So for instance, somebody who might think that they can do everything themselves as a founder, isn’t a good fit for us, even if they have the cash. Because temperamentally, we don’t have the same values or systems of thinking. And so by saying “We are long-term vision focused, and we want the ROI to do this over time versus this and this”. So people that get us and vice versa. So, spot on.
Rich: So one of the things that I’ve seen on LinkedIn is that people tend to do really well and get engagement on LinkedIn. Most business or company pages don’t do as well. I’m just wondering as you start to develop, and there of course are exceptions, but as you start to develop strategies with your clients around LinkedIn, do you assign different roles based on where the person is in the company? And do you have specific things that you ask the company to do on its company page as opposed to something that somebody might post personally?
Ken: Yeah, I would say curating the company page once is a really good idea. Doing things like having company updates, cross-posting certain resources or guides that you put out. Fantastic idea. But I will say, the bulk of the actual engagement that we get for our clients, the leads that come in, the stuff that sort of matters from a KPI standpoint, comes through the personal profile. So I will say it’s important, but it’s sort of a foundational, upfront, get it right sort of thing. It’s a nice brochure, but the real work that’s done, I mean, the whole concept of social selling is that the person-to-person, P2P, human-to-human level – however you want to say it. So, I think people should gear more towards that. And especially, we always say the higher up in the organization, the more people will trust and the more they’ll care. So if the CEO can write, even though they’re not doing all the actual typing, try to make that happen.
Rich: So a totally selfish question. So every week you get the Agents of Change podcast that comes out, and for the last year or so, we’ve been posting it to our LinkedIn AOC page. And then I’ll often comment on it, you know, that sort of stuff. Would you suggest that, I mean, I know that we get better reach if I sent it out, but I’ve been trying to create a line of separation there. Do you think it would be best? Would you have recommended if you started to work with us that I actually wouldn’t be sharing that through my own personal profile and not really worry about the agents of change business page on LinkedIn.
Ken: I think you can, with the exact same amount of effort and time, sort of slice and dice that content to make sense for both in parallel. So here’s an example for our podcast. I do a B2B, SaaS, SEO strategy blog post. Maybe we dictate that into audio, some people like to listen to things. I take that on my personal profile, but instead of just posting with a link and ‘check this out’, here’s something that I’ve actually done. “Top three takeaways from a completely new lens”, so for somebody that’s a COO of a company, they don’t want to hear here’s how to check your site’s technical SEO. But what they do need to hear is, you need to take the features of your product and match that to the intention of the searcher and use it in a solution type form.
As far as your presentation on your website, I might just give those three bullet points and then say, “If you want to listen to the rest, link in the comments below.” Same level of effort, you get something to look at. If they viewed your company page, there’s activity. But it’s useful to the humans that are interacting with you. And then they can go learn more if they want to. Same level of effort, but better impact, in my opinion.
Rich: Great advice. All right. So let’s move away from LinkedIn. because we did just kind of touch on podcasting, and it seems like podcasting is part of your B2B strategy. How do B2B companies leverage podcasting in their digital marketing?
Ken: Yeah. So I’m actually, you know, as a fresh Chief Growth Officer for revenues, I’m thinking about if and how we want to deploy a podcast for ourselves. But in general I think podcasting, it’s not really a hack anymore, but
So for instance, I like going on podcasts because it does position us as a thought leader. But those backlinks are invaluable for raising your domain authority, which makes ranking for everything better. So not only do you get to form really cool partnerships, it’s great for your brand, but it’s also great for your site’s performance if you do it correctly. So I say do it as often as you can.
Rich: And you’re talking about being a guest on other people’s podcasts for the purpose of getting those links. Which obviously has SEO benefits, which makes a lot of sense. And plus, you’re also getting in front of that audience. You never know when somebody is going to be like, “Ken’s exactly what I need at this stage. I’m so glad I heard him on this podcast.”
How about, you mentioned you have your own podcast. Why did you decide to create a podcast for your own business? What were you looking to accomplish? And have you found that it’s getting you where you want to go?
Ken: Yeah. So we actually don’t have a podcast.
Rich: Oh, I thought you had. I’m sorry.
Ken: No worries. But I mean, I will say, I think a podcast is a great idea. If you have the desire to stick with a podcast and the resources to produce and stick with the podcast long-term. If you don’t have those two things, it’s not going to benefit you at all. So I would say, I think podcasts are amazing. I think people can passively come to trust you without you having to do much active work as they’re going through their day. But I see a lot of podcasts fizzle out, or they’re just not good, they’re not compelling. So if you don’t have the resources or the desire long-term, I’d say don’t go forward. If you do, I say you shouldn’t not go for it.
Rich: Alright, good advice. So let’s shift again, but we’re still staying in this B2B realm. I want to talk about SEO and content creation. First off, what do you see as the differences between B2B and B2C SEO and content creation? How are they different? How are they the same?
Ken: Okay. So, I mean, the number one biggest difference is just the length – in my opinion – of the sales cycle. If I’m going to go after a t-shirt, a Facebook ad that just has a cool commercial with people that look like me, and maybe it’s comfy or they have a new jogger for only $15, I don’t care, I’m just going to purchase it. I don’t need to go through education. I don’t need anybody on the sales team to convince me the benefits.
But when you’re talking a $100,000 contract, $50,000 per month, it’s going to take some education and trust. They got to bring in a founder. They got to bring in their investor. So I would say that it’s the length of the sales cycle. I would say that the advantages though, are that you can – at least for the brands that we work with in B2C – is that you have a broader range of data for most industries like B2B. You’re often having to rely on your own data that you collect for our clients of B2C, especially if you’re looking through a keyword research tool. You can segment by size. You can segment by gender. You can segment by location. It you know what you’re looking at, the data collection, which I think is the basis of any good strategy, becomes that much less frictionless or has that much less friction. So I would say those are the places I would start thinking about the differences.
Rich: All right. So talk to me a little bit about how then you approach content creation, especially wearing your SEO hat, when it comes to developing content for either your business or for your client’s business. What kind of things should we keep in mind as we’re starting to create the content that hopefully is going to get to the first page?
Ken: Yeah, let me put on my hat. The first thing I’ll say is it’s imperative that you understand the human being or a couple of human beings that are going to end up purchasing something from you. And I know everyone says that to death, but from an SEO standpoint, it’s particularly important to say, what are the top sort of five to 10 things this human hates most about their day to day. What do I offer? And then most importantly, how does that – my offer – solve the, each one of those pain points? And you do that for every feature or every part of your service, if you’re a service business. So that’s step one, is just matching those pains to solutions. I think if you can do that, you actually don’t even need as much research in order to perform well. Because if people find you, you will have solved their need.
The second thing I’ll say is, once you’re aware of their pain points, what stages of their decision-making process are they going to have to go through at every one? So when they’re unaware of the solution that they have, how can you help educate them about a solution that might be a blog post or a guide when they’re in consideration of solutions? How can you help them decide what type of solution is best? If you have a problem with ants, do you need an exterminator, do you need a product out of a spray bottle? Maybe have a comparison guide. If you’re that exterminator on products versus when to bring in the big boys. Then it’s like, they need to make a decision with you. That’s a service page. Do you do ants? Do you do rodents? Those are all those individual solutions pages, and then they need proof and a reason to get in touch with you. Testimonials, case studies, and a place to convert. If you’re a product, that’s a demo. It’s a conversion like a form or a phone call, if you’re a local business.
So I would say those two things in and of themselves, is just understanding that person’s needs to solutions, and thinking what steps they need in order to get in touch with you from start to finish, is a huge win for most people. The tactical parts of SEO, like title tags, meta descriptions, page load performance, that’s checklist type stuff. I think that’s an overlay you do afterwards after you’ve put together that strategy. So I’ll stop there. But those are some major considerations I see missed all the time.
Rich: And do you have strong calls to action at the bottom of every post to go to a service page or to read a little bit deeper into the category, or just contact us? Or does it really depend on what type of blog post it is and where in the sales cycle you expect them to be?
Ken: That’s exactly right. Like, where are they in that cycle? You’ll often see blog posts with a little thing on the side that says, ‘sign up for our newsletter’. My first question, why. Right. What why would I do that? What’s in it for me. And so what I like to do is just at the beginning of a post, you’ll often see an internal link to another post. I want them to go through a journey after they figure out why blogging matters, to how to build a blogging strategy. And then eventually they’re going to realize it’s a lot of hard work and it’s hard to make work. And then they’ll go look at the service page. We don’t really care as much about our newsletter as we do them going through that decision-making state. So I would say, consider what you want the user to do, and what stage of their buying decision making process, a service page. If it’s a landing page, it shouldn’t really have a ton of links going anywhere. You want somebody to consume that. And then yeah, at the bottom and maybe a call to action at top if they’re ready to get started, but you know, that’s all you really need. Because that’s all they need to make a decision.
Rich: Yeah, I like that. I often think about in a perfect world, I would be three deep in every offering that we have. Meaning that I would have one blog post about awareness, one blog post for consideration, and another one for decision. Each one leading to it. And that would be like a great way to really build up some great B2B content on the website.
Ken: That’s almost exactly how I think about that. Yeah. Every service has a sub service page, and every sub service page usually has a blog post or two specifically dedicated to awareness. There’s a major one for consideration in terms of us as a strategic partner. And then various links to each of those across site. That’s exactly right.
Rich: Awesome. So we’ve talked almost exclusively about organic content, organic post to social. Where does advertising on platforms like Google or LinkedIn fit into a B2B strategy?
Ken: Yeah. I would say if you have one product, and you just want to sell the heck out of that product, and especially for you B2C people out there, then it doesn’t always make sense – particularly at the beginning of your journey – to just start building out this huge content strategy. Because the time to value is going to be so long because sometimes running one ad on Facebook makes a ton of sense. But what I would say to most people that I’ve talked to that spend ads first, they almost always burned through a lot of cash because they didn’t have the correct foundational strategy. So I think particularly Google ads, because you can target the intent of somebody really well, like who’s ready to buy, makes a ton of sense. But not until you have like a projected cost per acquisition already figured out each ad group, whether or not you should use LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or Quora ads, you should have that all mapped out prior to ever spending a dollar and then start small. And once you can ROI with like $50, start to take up from there. I think they’re great. And it’ll obviously generate you more business and leads in the short term. If you can get it dialed in just long-term, it ends up either being flat or the cost per acquisition just goes up at some point in the market. So that’s why I think organic is best in tandem with a paid strategy.
Rich: So you threw in a word they kind of jumped out at me right there at the end, Quora, which is obviously a Q and A type website. So just as we kind of wrap up today’s episode, we talked about podcasts, we talked about LinkedIn, we talked about content and SEO. What other areas, maybe creative or less competitive arenas, do you think that B2B’s might want to play around with as they’re trying to build their businesses? And I won’t put you on the spot, I’m not going to replay this two years from now and be like, “He said Snapchat and TikTok.”
Ken: That’s a really good one. Because yeah, Quora is one of those, I’ve seen Reddit people do that well with certain products. What I would caution B2B companies maybe more broadly than I think this answer deserves, but essentially is just, don’t be afraid to test and iterate. So theorize, deploy, test, and iterate. I think people get so stuck in their ways and they say, “B2B, isn’t this”, I’ve heard SEO can’t work for B2B or SaaS.” The point is, it probably can if you take the right approach and just not be afraid to shut it off after a week if it’s not working. And allow the actual results to supersede your assumptions and biases, is what I would tell B2B companies. They often just get in their heads and it’s an echo chamber. Just branch out, test, hire a kid from college, give them $20 bucks an hour, let them go do it. And then just be accountable with certain metrics.
Rich: I completely agree. And the only thing I’d add to that is, don’t give up too quickly. Because one of the things that I’ve noticed when I’ve gotten onto a certain point… you can tell I’ve been in this business for too long. One of the things that I’ve noticed is, it is never the first tweet, the first podcast, the first Facebook update that’s ever going to get you any business. That you have to build up a mass quantity, a certain amount of stuff, before anybody even takes you seriously even if they want to. It just happens by you going into the lab every day and working hard at it. I mean, I don’t think I got my first lead from my podcast until I was at least over a year into it. It was around my 800th tweet that anybody said, “Oh, do you do WordPress websites?” So if you’re out there listening and you try something for a week or two and then is like, “Ken doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and shut it down. You didn’t get. You really do have to be willing to put a little bit of commitment into any experiment that you’re going to run.
Ken: That’s an excellent point. Yeah. Because that’s the difference between… I’m such a test focused person. I was thinking the lead indicators should tell you if it’s going in the right direction to keep going, but you’re totally right. In general, it’s gonna take way longer than you think for something to actually happen for you.
Rich: It almost always does. And this is why they always say nobody is an overnight sensation, it’s just, you didn’t see them until last night.
Ken, this has been great. A lot of good information, a lot of good advice. If people are listening and they want to learn more about you, maybe start a conversation, where can we send them?
Ken: Yeah. So if you want to learn some stuff more deeply, we have a lot of good stuff on the RevenueZen site. Just go to revenuezen.com. Talking to me, again, always helpful, go to my LinkedIn. You can type in ‘’Ken Magma into the internet, and you’ll find me. Because SEO is fun. And get in touch for a strategy conversation, they’re free. And I like talking to people about how to help them within 30 minutes, without having anything to sell. That’s the good thing about talking to Ken and I love doing it.
Rich: Awesome, Ken. It was great talking to you and thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today.
Ken Marshall loves to solve other business’s SEO and digital marketing problems, helping them to move closer to their full potential. Be sure to connect with him on LinkedIn, and check out RevenueZen’s website to find out how they’re helping other businesses level up their SEO and digital marketing game.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.