3 Engagement Strategies to Boost your B2B Marketing Strategy & Increase ROI
For many marketers, budgets remain tighter than ever.
According to a recent survey by Gartner, a research company focused on business, CMOs face pressure to deliver more strategic value. But for most, their budgets are smaller than before the pandemic. A whopping 61 percent of CMOs reported being aligned with their CEO’s strategy but lacking the needed resources to deliver.
Given this tough environment, making hard choices matters more than ever. For marketers in charge of many sales channels, stretching a budget across multiple audiences can get tricky and hard to justify. Where should that spend go?
We believe embracing a purpose-driven and people-focused mindset helps drive better ROI for channel marketing initiatives. Engagement should be built into the core, since it’s all about bettering relationships.
Here are our top 3 strategies that consistently provide good ROI year over year, because they energize and invigorate the channel relationships. Read on to learn how we work with marketing teams to get the best return on their B2B channel marketing strategies.
1. TRAINING AND EDUCATION
According to Gallup’s annual State of the Global Workplace Report, just a little over 20 percent of US workers feel engaged at work. Gallup defines employee engagement like this,
“A psychological commitment to one’s work, team and organization. It’s a mental state that fluctuates all the time, influenced by workplace relationships and events. Engaged employees are mentally in the zone, ready for action.”
In other words, an engaged employee is not a type of hire, it’s a response to a workplace environment created by leadership and employees. And here’s what employee engagement does not look like:
“Employee pay is the “easy button” for attracting, retaining and motivating employees. But it doesn’t create psychological ownership for one’s work. Moreover, competitors can raise their wages at any time and steal those employees away.”
What this means for marketers is that learning and training are extremely important. Introducing learning into your marketing strategy, provides your audience with opportunities to get engaged. Bottom line: engagement cannot be created through financial incentives.
At EGR, we’ve worked with brands to develop personalized learning experiences. We’ve also designed playful curricula to meet the needs of key channel audiences, so that they are ready for action!
When we help clients design a curriculum we make sure it doesn’t feel like training. What do we mean by that? We make it useful, easy to do, and ensure it speaks to the mutual business goals of you and your channel partners.
When they know exactly how the information will help them personally, training feels voluntary. And when it’s adapted for their day-to-day learning situation in mind — like short videos with closed captions they can watch from anywhere — it no longer feels like a horrible Saturday morning at the DMV.
And we’ve seen the results. These courses helped contractors build out their online window business. It helped sales people become more knowledgeable than their brand-obsessed customers. It became an opportunity for leadership to recognize the employees who put in the effort to better themselves. Training can pull a channel together, whether its microlearning, gamification, goal-setting and more.
We also find that recognition means more than you might think. Acknowledging people for an achievement with a certificate or a personal note that can be shown and shared can be a great motivator. Especially since a lot of learning has gone virtual. Equally useful are creating incentives to encourage learners to complete the coursework early. (We all need a little boost sometimes!) This shows your investment in their immediate success. The key is putting in the thought and work to ensure the course sells itself.
We cannot stress enough the importance of training, learning and growth in building an engaged workplace.
2. BRAND-PARTNER SUMMITS
Since COVID, many marketers have been rethinking their mix of online and offline activities. According to the same Gartner survey on CMO budgets in 2022, marketers spent 44 percent of their budgets on offline initiatives and 56 on online marketing, (mostly paid social and search advertising). Garnet found offline investment is in a “fightback” period.
“The flight to digital over the last two years has often resulted in media plans that are mismatched with campaign goals and channel realities. Offline’s fightback illustrates the need for marketing budgets to support a range of objectives across multiple channels. CMOs must balance the need to build long-term value through brand awareness and sentiment while supporting near-term revenue generation and ROI.”
We couldn’t agree more. And while the offline/online mix varies by industry, we’ve noticed renewed appreciation for the value of in-person time and experiences. According to this same survey, in 2022, CMOs from B2B companies dedicate a quarter of their offline budget (21.9 percent) towards events.
Nothing competes with face-to-face communication and surprises. Summits represent an incredible moment for building momentum among teams by launching new products and completing a rebrand.
These momentous company milestones should not be done over Zoom or in the cafeteria, because there’s something magical and sticky about sharing these moments in public with your teams and your target audiences. (Not to mention, the valuable feedback and reactions!)
And yet, when planning a spectacular summit for your partners, we’ve also found that in today’s busy world — with its stressful travel conditions and higher costs — a hybrid model makes sense for everyone.
Because people still want… more options. In-person programs require a healthy mix of in-person and virtual sessions. This allows people to ease in or out of the demands of a full-on conference schedule. Equally impactful, is designing a program with a variety of settings and environments. When teams make the effort to travel, they want to be rewarded with novelty.
For example, when using standard Zoom backdrops, we may forget how stimulating a change of scenery can be. For many of our clients, we’ve been planning partner-brand summits in multiple cities — not just one. These types of intimate regional settings with a mix of executive leadership, guest speakers and key partners allow everyone to feel more at home. It’s also true that one’s home turf can have an impact on what comes out of the meeting itself.
Another crucial component of brand summits are the opportunities to bring selling partners together face to face to discuss past and future. It’s hard to put a price tag on the value of those interactions, but you can often see it reflected in the relationships themselves. We often say at EGR, we help to create “relationships you won’t want to walk away from.”
3. REWARDS PROGRAMS
There’s another old myth that goes something like this: Rewards programs are too capital intensive and they get more expensive every year.
The truth is, they don’t have to be. To us, a successful rewards program involves a balance between cost and growth, where growth outweighs spend.
When clients approach us thinking about rewards, we ask them to imagine the ideal relationship with their stakeholders. What are the behaviors that will make these relationships stronger? Which communication types will reach their audiences? How might business intelligence and reporting deepen those relationships over time? How do they quantify trust and loyalty?
If they don’t know, we help them get the answers. A rewards program should include all of this and more. Loyalty and trust, as we all know, are anything but commodities. Strategic rewards, like training, learning, and competitions can give your channel a return you can’t produce elsewhere. Rewards generate cohesive measurable results in real-time, and best of all, alignment in your channels.
So is a rewards program just about capital? No. It’s a powerful, customized mix of communications, peer-to-peer recognition, acknowledgement, and useful business tools that make everyone better at their jobs. With the assistance of AI and machine learning the options for running a program more effectively and with fewer resources is growing quickly.
The key benefit of a channel rewards programs is to make your key audiences feel seen, felt, and heard. A good rewards program gets your partner interested in your product, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for you to make them know you’re interested and invested in your customers’ success and happiness.
A recent Harvard Business Review article described the opportunity to better customer experiences and in some cases, channel partnerships, like this:
“What is different is when brands reframe their approach to focus on how they can help to elevate their customers’ sense of self, instead of simply elevating customers’ perception of their products and services alone. Customers crave a better understanding about themselves. In doing so, they will be more successful at meeting their objectives or reaching their goals.”
A loyalty program creates a two-way relationship and positions your brand to be both the listener and speaker. Rewards platforms enable this form of optimized engagement to carry on, from the past into the future.
When brands focus on their common target: the customer (not the product!) they always work better as a channel. In fact, we believe our role is to help you help your partners understand the customer better and go from there.
At EGR, we have proof positive of program growth. We’ve seen that as people become more attached to your brand, rewards programs grow more popular with time. With this continued momentum, excitement and competition also build, creating a net positive for your brand.
Great programs are planned on an annual basis to fulfill the company’s unique business goals. By adopting a purpose-driven mindset, marketers can bring audiences many meaningful options — way beyond cash rewards and points. At the end of the day, rewards are really about relationships.
So what’s the pay-off then?
When you combine all of these initiatives into one comprehensive engagement marketing strategy for your channel, your ROI might look like this…
(Gallup’s statistics show the returns you get from creating engaged workplaces).
EGR International works with brands to enhance their channel engagement strategies
From personalized loyalty rewards programs, to designing engaging chatbots, to producing one-of-a-kind, unforgettable sales summits, EGR has extensive experience guiding brands in delivering superior strategic customer journeys. Whether it’s through the use of AI, channel marketing, interactive media, virtual events, content creation, or any of our other specialties, we’ll help you inspire engagement among your targeted audiences. Contact us today to learn more.