As we discussed before, in our blog post, “HubSpot vs. Pipedrive: Which CRM is Better for Sales?”, choosing a customer relationship management tool for your B2B company is a big decision. You need to take a lot of factors into account, like the size of your company, what software you want to integrate, and what the main functions of your CRM will be. It’ll help you find new contacts and organize the ones you have, allow you to nurture your leads, and facilitate collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. In other words, you’ll be spending a lot of time with it. With so many options out there, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to which is best, but we’re going to break down some of the key aspects of two of the most popular CRMs: HubSpot vs. Salesforce.
All about HubSpot
The great thing about HubSpot, especially for a new business, is that there is a free option. While you will probably have to add on some premium sales tools as your company grows and you need change, you have a lot of flexibility to purchase just the ones you need. HubSpot’s CRM also gives you the option to have as many users on it as you want, enabling more collaboration between your sales and marketing teams. The free CRM option offers contact management, deal and task management, and integrations with social media and email that allows you to track your interactions with leads.
The HubSpot CRM wasn’t created to compete with Salesforce. According to Impact, HubSpot’s CRM is ideal for companies that are new to customer relationship management systems, that are looking to improve their organization and efficiency.
If you’re already using the countless tools that HubSpot offers new businesses, it would make sense to want all of your information in a single place. After all, HubSpot does offer tools for social media marketing, web and social analytics, content management, landing pages, and search engine optimization, as well as videos, to teach you how to use all of them.
Salesforce is one of the original CRMs, founded in 1999. Currently, Salesforce is the No. 1 CRM, dominating 30.27% of the market share, with over 45,000 domains under its belt. Known for offering just about everything you might need in a CRM and name recognition, it’s typically the first CRM that new business owners look into.
It’s also not surprising that that convenience isn’t free. Convenience typically costs a pretty penny — like that last time you ordered an Uber when you really could have taken the train, or that Doordash you ordered when you had a fridge full of ingredients to make dinner, Salesforce is no different. For many up-and-coming B2B companies, Salesforce’s pricing is just not in their budget. There’s no free plan, and though pricing starts at a mere $25 a month, most companies need more than the $25 plan offers. PieSync suggests that the average user needs to spend about $150 on Salesforce to get all of the functionality they’ll need.
You know how some people live and die by Apple products, while others prefer the look and feel of a PC? Neither one is notably better (despite what people on either side of the fence will try to convince you on), but it all comes down to the type of interface you prefer.
HubSpot is known for having a clean, simple, user-friendly look to it. After all, its CRM was specifically created for beginners. You’re able to clearly see everything that HubSpot has to offer, on an intuitive dashboard. We mentioned before how Salesforce provides more than most marketers will ever need, and you can tell that by looking at the dash. It’s pretty clunky, with a lot of information right there on the screen, but you still need to click around and do deep dives to find all of the information that you’re looking for. Flight Media took screenshots of both for you to compare:
Like in our previous post comparing HubSpot and Pipedrive, it all comes down to integration! While your CRM will be able to do a lot, it won’t do absolutely everything a growing business needs it to (Nope, not even Salesforce). This is where integration comes in. While some CRM systems have barriers to integration, neither HubSpot or Salesforce do. Salesforce ultimately allows for integration among more programs than HubSpot does. Still, HubSpot is sure to offer extensions for some of the most prominent programs you’ll be using, like Microsoft Office and Google Suite.
What if you already have a CRM, though, and are looking around for other options? Well, HubSpot might be the pick for you. Not only can you simultaneously use both CRMs, but you can eventually integrate your data into HubSpot. This is also handy when you have clients working along with you who use a different in-house CRM — even if that other CRM is Salesforce.
Depending on the size of your business and how in-depth you want your reporting to be, there are certainly pros and cons to both HubSpot and Salesforce. If you’re just starting, though, HubSpot’s user-friendly interface and wallet-friendly pricing might be the way to go.
The online marketing world is continually going through transitions. It can be challenging to keep up with all of the new strategies, trends, and Google algorithm workarounds. It’s understandable to fall on either end of the spectrum, either staying vigilant about learning every new change or getting burned out, even trying to keep up. It’s handy to have a go-to way to ensure you’re up to date with the world of inbound marketing — and other digital marketing areas — each year.
Let me introduce you to HubSpot Academy. It touts itself as the “worldwide leader in free online training for inbound marketing, sales and customer service professionals.” HubSpot Academy consists of narrated videos, how-to tutorials, and hands-on activities. Marketing, sales, and service professionals across the world use it as both foundational and continuing education.
These courses are growing in popularity each year. According to HubSpot, the certification rate has almost tripled from its first year in 2016 when 55,000 people were awarded. In 2018, HubSpot Academy awarded 140,000 certifications. Here’s what you should know about HubSpot Academy to help you determine whether it’s the right fit for you and your career.
What to expect
A feature of HubSpot Academy that bears repeating is the fact that it’s free. While most courses are at least a three- to four-hour time commitment, that’s all that you spend on them. Of course, if halfway through you don’t feel like you’re getting anything out of it, you’re not obligated to continue.
Loaded with foundational information that you’ll need to know for just about every other course HubSpot offers, the Inbound Marketing course is your first step. If you’re a pretty experienced marketer, you might think you can skip over the Inbound Marketing course. Still, if anything, it’ll be beneficial to brush up on some of the jargon and nitty-gritty aspects of marketing that you might not use in your day-to-day work.
Other popular certification courses HubSpot offers include Content Marketing, Inbound Sales, Social Media. The Academy also offers “short courses,” which are usually between an hour and three hours long, and dive deep into more specific topics like Twitter Strategy or SEO.
None of the HubSpot Academy courses’ certifications last forever. While some are valid for 25 months, others expire after just 13 months. It seems like a drag to have to retake the test, but it’s the most effective way to ensure you’re up-to-date on the most recent changes to the programs that you’re working with. You don’t have to re-watch the videos, but it doesn’t hurt to brush up.
You get out what you put in
Like most online courses, you can burn through the HubSpot Academy videos pretty quickly and not retain any of the information if you don’t make a real effort. A lot of information gets crammed into each of these classes. It would be almost impossible to watch all of the videos and remember everything that’s said. So pay close attention and take as many detailed notes as you can. That way, you can get the most out of your HubSpot Academy courses.
After each course, you’ll take an exam. Depending on which course you take, it usually takes about an hour to complete. However, you have three hours to do so. To pass each course and become certified in each area, you don’t have to answer each question correctly, but you do have to score 80 percent.
If you’re having your employees take the Academy courses, you might want to allow study groups or let them take the exam in pairs. Discussing the course and talking about the questions is a way to ensure everyone stays engaged, helping them retain all of the information that they’re taking in.
If you don’t pass the first time you take the test, don’t worry! You can retake it in 12 hours. To up your chances of passing, read the study guide. You can also go back and rewatch videos that focus on the areas of the test that you struggled on. You’ll get it the second time around!
The main advantage of taking the HubSpot Academy certification courses is the fact that you’ll enhance your skills. If you maintain your certification, you’ll get refreshers each year or two and stay sharp. If you want bragging rights, though, you can also get them here. When you pass a course, you can add a badge to your LinkedIn page (and add it to your resume!)
The HubSpot Academy is a massive asset in the workplace, accelerating onboarding for new employees and giving people transitioning to a new role in the marketing or sales departments a good foundation. It’s not necessary to take every course HubSpot has to offer, so you can focus on just the ones you need. If someone is getting paid advertisements, added to their plate at work, there’s a course for that!
The concept of lead nurturing is marketing 101. Whether you’re part of a SaaS or Management Consultant company, the objective is always to move prospects through the sales funnel.
As we discussed in our blog post, The Impact of Demand Generation on Sales Cycles, demand generation is any activity that brings attention to your company in an effort to bring prospects into your sales funnel. Closing a deal isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, so the way you nurture your buyers plays a huge role in your strategy’s success.
Drip campaigns are probably the most popular method of lead nurturing. Typically in the form of emails, drip campaigns are automated and are sent to your leads regularly in an effort to stay at the top of their minds. While this such a popular method of lead nurturing for a reason (it’s pretty darn easy) there are a few drawbacks that should keep you from relying too heavily on them.
If your emails are overly promotional, without actually offering anything of value, not only will your leads stop moving through your funnel, but they’ll probably unsubscribe. Think about how many times you’ve opened your inbox and seen yet another sales email from a store you’ve only casually shopped at. No coupons, nothing of value — did you scroll to the bottom and unsubscribe? Or better yet, check your spam folder and see how many marketers your email provider already made that call for you about.
Luckily, there are many more effective ways to nurture your leads.
1) Make it personal
While you don’t have to personally write a tailored email to each of your leads, a little bit of personalization can go a long way. At the very least, it’s helpful to choose an email template in your CRM that allows you to include your recipient’s name. That’s not all you can do, though.
The great thing about paying such close attention to your demand generation strategy is that you likely have a general idea of specifically how you can be of service to each of your leads. If you’ve identified potential client’s pain points, don’t hesitate to make them known in your lead nurturing efforts. Nobody likes to feel like a number, so if you’re reaching out and expecting them to open your emails, make sure what you have to say to them is relevant. While you might think this seems like a wasted effort, HubSpot, found that leads nurtured with targeted content produce an increase in sales opportunities of more than 20%. There are plenty of segmentation options in all of the main CRM systems that you don’t have to cast such a wide net.
2) Use more than one medium
Sure, email is most common and it’s certainly a medium to make sure you pay attention. However, it’s not the be-all, end-all to lead nurturing. Honestly, even though content marketing has become associated with digital marketing, the internet itself isn’t even the limit when it comes to nurturing your leads.
In addition to mail, both e- and direct, you can use social media, blogs, webinars, and videos to help move your leads along their buyer’s journey. Be active and engaging on your social channels, keeping in mind that while it might feel mundane to devote time and energy to your Twitter presence, this is a common way that leads might actually discover your brand and product. You can also look into targeted ads or initiate connections with leads on social media yourself. This also gives your brand a personal edge that can help you build relationships.
3) Check your stats
Your lead nurturing efforts are only worth it if they’re actually doing something. Sure, you can automate some emails and tweet some Tweets, but if you’re not checking in on how effective these things are, you’re probably wasting your time. If you’re finding that only 5% of email recipients are actually opening your messages, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy.
Very few people get their audience’s needs right on the first try, so there’s no shame in starting over. Play with different subject lines, put more of an emphasis on personalization and see what makes a difference in your engagement levels.
How many times have you taken the plunge from a casual browser to a full-blown customer in a single website visit? You can probably count those instances on one hand. Impulse shopping isn’t as common online as it is in person when you can think about a product revisit a website at any time. Of course, it helps push you along when you happen to come across an ad for exactly what you were looking at the next time you’re on your phone. Sorcery? Mindreading? Nah, just retargeting.
Retargeting is a form of paid advertising that puts your brand in front of bounced traffic even after the person has left your website. This is a great way to keep yourself at the forefront of leads’ minds, without actually having to do anything yourself — not because you don’t want to put more effort in, you’re just too busy with personalizing your campaigns, obviously.
5) Follow up
We all know how frustrating it is to continuously have to press certain numbers on our phones when all we really want to do is talk to a human who can help us with our problem. What a relief it is when you finally get to talk to someone. Be that relief for your leads.
When your potential customers are nearing the end of their buyer’s journey, engaging with your emails, taking an interest in what you have to offer, don’t make them reach out to you. Nudge them along with a human contact. Of course, this will usually be over the phone or via a personal email, but Databox suggests attempting to actually meet with potential leads in person when it’s possible.
“Technology helps advance the conversation, but it will never replace those human interactions that build trust over time.”
Writing a case study in the B2B world can be a daunting task. The name infers that it consists of hours upon hours of research to create a big, thick document of dry information in the end. While that may have been the case back in the day, it’s a much quicker, exciting process now — that is, if you do it effectively.
Why you should prioritize more case studies
A survey from the Content Marketing Institute found that the most important marketing tactics for B2B companies are in-person events, webinars, and case studies.
If you want to ensure they get the memo that you’re the one they should do business with, your successes must be easy to find – and in as few places as possible. You don’t want to leave a trail of success breadcrumbs scattered around the internet in the hopes that future business will follow it.
Development company Devrix suggests making your case studies visible on your website, even on your main navigation menu. You might be asking, “Can’t I just include them in my blog?” Or, “Why dedicate a whole page to case studies?” There are a couple of answers to those questions.
You could include your case studies in your blog, but they aren’t really blogs. Your blog likely consists of industry news and how-to posts, acting as a catch-all. Your case studies serve the purpose of being all about work your company has done. So let them stand out!
You might be hesitant to dedicate a whole page to your case studies because you still think a case study is a bulky project that nobody outside of your organization will want to read. However, it’s common now to use a case study to focus on a single takeaway or two. If you have more that you want to write about — you probably do — then you write more case studies.
Case study etiquette
The most important thing to keep in mind about your case study is that the success outlined is attributed to the customer. Not you. Use case studies as a platform for your customers’ successes, not an excuse to show off how you helped get them there.
Involve your customers in the case study
There are a few ways to obtain the necessary information you need from your client. But a lot of it depends on how hands-on and responsive they are. Some clients like to be kept in the loop and want to be involved in any projects you’re working on that concern them. Others prefer to talk to you only when you’re working on a project for them. If your client is more of the hands-on type, interview them either in person, over the phone, or via email.
If your client is a bit more reserved, you will want to ask for the materials you need before you get started. Then, send him or her a draft before continuing to make sure you’re on the right track before committing more time. Sending a draft ahead of time is also an excellent route to take if your case study contains any information that might be considered sensitive or confidential. A way to avoid getting too detailed without omitting necessary data is to use growth percentages instead of specific numbers.
What should you include?
Oh! Did you want to know the literal way to write your case study? The format? Well, there are a few ways to do that, as long as you include all of these crucial aspects:
A detailed headline: Don’t just use your client’s name. What project or results is your study actually about?
The process you used: How did you solve this client’s problem? You’re not a magician. You can reveal your tricks.
The results: Be as specific as the client allows you to be. Brag brag brag!
Quotes: Try to get quotes from your client about the work that you did for him or her.
Call to action: Allow anyone who’s reading to reach these same results by getting in contact with you. You don’t want them to have read the whole case study just to be confused about how to hire you!
Like most industries, B2B marketing is loaded with a lot of acronyms and jargon. Sometimes you feel like you’ve been nodding along for so long, and now it’s been too long that you can’t even ask what something means. Perhaps nothing is discussed more than “brand strategy,” though. It sounds self-explanatory, but there’s more to it than determining your logo and your signature colors. If you’ve been smiling along with a vague understanding of what your colleagues are discussing, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to discuss what brand strategy means in the B2B marketing space.
…so what is it?
Your brand strategy is the method that you take to build and shape your brand, as well as how you spread the word! It’s the plan you put in place to make your business recognizable to anyone who may need your services. The biggest, most successful brands have an almost formulaic strategy in place. It practically allows customers to understand what’s being sold to them before the brand even reveals itself.
Establishing a well-defined brand may be a bit more difficult for a B2B business than for a large corporation, though, especially if it’s still pretty small. Most B2B companies (and businesses in general) don’t have the backing of a centuries-old brand like Coca-Cola or the hip, trendy recognition of brands like Supreme or Glossier. However, that doesn’t mean you should push branding to the back burner.
Most people wouldn’t say that the most recognizable brands in the world are B2B. But Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch says that B2B brands should invest more in their brand-building for these three reasons:
Most B2B marketers can’t economically address thousands of small businesses using the traditional direct sales force.
If left unattended, individual managers will each do their own ad hoc marketing.
B2B marketers realize that developing brand awareness among their customers’ customers can capture a larger share of channel margins and build loyalty that can protect them against lower-priced competitors.
According to HubSpot, the seven componentsfor a comprehensive branding strategy are:
Purpose: What is it contributing to the world?
Consistency: Do all of your outlets – from your marketing materials to your website, to your social media presence – all seem like they’re coming from the same entity?
Emotion: How are you making your customers think that you’re the answer to their questions?
Flexibility: Are you paying attention to the ebbs and flows of your industry and willing to tweak your strategies to stay relevant?
Loyalty: Do you acknowledge customers who keep coming back or refer you to other companies?
Competitive awareness: Are you paying attention to the marketing strategies of businesses in the same industry as you?
Employee involvement: Is your staff on the same page as your marketing team? While you might associate your brand with your outward appearance to your customers, your company culture is also a large part of it.
These components are essential for any business to keep in mind, B2C, or B2B. If anything, they’re even more important to keep in mind if you’re marketing to other companies. After all, they’ve worked on their own brand strategies, so they’ll be the first to notice if yours seems to be half-baked. So really take some time and brainstorm where your business stands on all of these aspects.
I know, these are a lot of questions to keep in mind. Wouldn’t it be easier if your brand strategy did just consist of “What colors should we use on our website?” and “Are we going to be professional or irreverent on the internet?” But trust me, your hard work will pay off when it comes to establishing a lasting, cohesive brand for your B2B business.
The keyword there is “lasting”
Market research firm AYTM warns against focusing too much on the short termwhen working on your brand strategy. Yeah, it’s cool to see results right away, but you want to make sure these results don’t start to wane, leaving you right where you started. They suggest your marketing team become “brand architects,” and build a foundation before working on strategies to “bridge brand strategy and brand messaging.” Think of this foundation as your first step each time you want to expand upon your company’s branding. You’ll always have a head start!
A well-crafted buyer persona can provide tremendous structure and opportunity for your company.
What’s a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on your company’s market research and data on existing customers. They help align your marketing and sales departments by setting a clear picture of who exactly your firm should be targeting and serving.
In order to be effective, buyer personas need to be based on real-world information and not assumptions. The more specific you can be, the better.
Here is a five-step process to follow when creating a buyer persona for your company.
1. Research your audience
Let’s pretend you’re back in school for a second…
You’re taking an exam that you didn’t study for. We’ve all been there.
You miss classes, you don’t turn in the homework, and just show up on test day. It probably didn’t work out too well.
Similarly to creating your buyer personas, you have to do your homework. Just like you can’t expect to do well on a test without understanding the concepts, you can’t possibly create an effective buyer persona without knowing your audience.
Study the market. Ask yourself, “Who is already buying from me?” This includes demographics, behavioral patterns, goals, and buyer trends.
Another way to learn about your audience is by using social analytics. These buyers may not be customers at the moment, but the point is if they are searching and interacting with your brand or industry online, there is certainly data to be collected.
2. Identify customer pain points
Find out what problems your customers are facing. What’s holding them back from reaching their goals?
A great way to find this information is by simply asking your customer service team what questions they get the most. Figuring out these pain points customers are experiencing allows you to generate content tailored to resolving those issues.
And don’t forget, not every firm has the same company size and goals. So a strategy that may seem fitting for a company with 50-100 employees, can certainly be different for a firm with ten.
3. Identify customer goals
When creating personas, you need to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What motivates your customers? What are they actually trying to reach?
These goals don’t necessarily have to align with a solution that your firm can provide, so don’t sweat it.
This step is about better understanding your customers and looking for similar goals to what other firms may have.
What’s the purpose?
Data. Remember, the more information you can find about your customers, the stronger buyer persona you can create.
4. Why you?
Now that you understand who your customers are, potential challenges they face, as well as goals they may seek, ask yourself, “Why would a customer choose me?”
Because you’re the best!?
Well, maybe so, but customers want to experience and generate those thoughts on their own — another reason buyer personas are so important.
Buying personas help flip your thinking and consider your products and services from a buyer’s point of view. A tactic most marketers don’t even think about doing. If you truly want customers thinking you’re the best, you must know what they like and need.
Once you understand why buyers would choose you, crafting personas tailored to your market becomes much easier!
5. Creating the persona
Now that you did your research, it’s time to start organizing your buyers. Look for characteristics and similarities as you begin creating your first buyer persona!
Keep in mind, your persona is not just some folder on your computer containing all of your customer data. But rather a single, semi-fictional person that you can actually speak to and identify with!
Make sure to give your persona a name, age, and job title. From there, you’ll start filling in more job-specific data such as the number of employees, responsibilities, challenges, goals and any other data you collected from your prior research!