Hollywood in B2B: Marketing tactics to grow from pony to unicorn - Part 2

Targeting SMEs with consumer tactics

Sarah Nöckel
5 min readDec 9, 2019

As we mentioned in the first part of our Hollywood in B2B series, at Dawn we have observed that within our portfolio of B2B startups, there is one topic that is on everybody’s mind: Marketing. They ask us questions like: How do I successfully communicate value as a B2B startup? In last week’s post, we tackled that by telling a great story and tapping into people’s emotions with the help of creative agency Koto.

This week we answer another very common question: How to build an SME lead generation machine? In this post, we learn how to do that even when resources are limited from Julian Koster, VP Marketing & Sales at Billie.

Julian Koster, VP Marketing & Sales at Billie

Nail the SME market with laser focus

Billie, a german SaaS invoicing platform, invested in branding early on. As a small startup, they had to acknowledge that they could only do a limited amount of marketing activities. That is the most important lesson for any small startup Julian Koster, VP Marketing & Sales believes.

“You have to focus and say no to some of the tactics you may be keen on. If you spread yourself thin, nothing will be done well enough.” For Billie, even to this day, high-reach, low-impact B2C tactics such as display ads (except retargeting), Out of home, and YouTube are out of the question. Here are a few ideas about what you should focus on:

Invest in your website
This window to the world is your most valuable asset. Before you invest in a marketing strategy, make your website nice, shiny, and ready for conversions. Once the distinct Billie brand was created, it was time to figure out how that translated at the website:

  • Keep it fast, simple, and effective. The website should have one anchor, one button, one thing the user has to do. It takes seven minutes for customers to get paid through Billie, so there is little point in making people read for longer than that what the company does.
  • Elevate the recognizable brand. Billie was a minimal brand from the start, and that needed to be translated on to the website. They chose heavy colours, intense-looking elements, and illustrations instead of photos. None of their competitors were doing that, which helped them stand out.
  • Test and personalize — while the website can be minimal, the text on the site has to speak more. Have big compelling headlines to help you harvest every click you get, especially if you are using PPC, which tends to be very expensive in B2B. To get it right, you have to be A/B testing from day 1. This will help you personalize the content as much as possible to be relevant for the search.

Individualize for conversions
B2B buyers have particular needs in mind as they search. You have to make sure that where they land, mentions the same words.

“People will buy not based on the shiny website, but rather if they feel your product will solve their problem.”

What is the most effective way to individualize for conversion:

  • Create individualized landing pages with customized copy based on keywords, especially if you plan to use paid channels, such as AdWords.
  • Use tools to help you: Billie use Fullstory to see all interactions on the website and determine what works; Optimizely, Mutiny, or VWO to easily manipulate and individualize the landing pages based on user interactions.
  • Test easy stuff like headlines, buttons, an original copy, illustrations, and observe user interactions after each change and, only then individualise.

Focus on Paid Search
To get early traction and learn about customer behaviour and market fit, use paid search. This has, by far, had the most impact on Billie. “If you do it right, it will get you a long way,” Julian says. A word of caution: B2B keywords tend to be low in volume and highly competitive, which means you could easily need to bit 10 EUR for a single click. That is why it is all the more important to do it right. Before you get discouraged, here is how to make it work for you:

  • Dedicate a landing page for each keyword ad group. That doesn’t mean that you have to create an individual landing page for each. Use tools like Optimizely to create smart redirections to pages that fulfil the search intent.
  • Write a personalized and compelling ad copy for each keyword. While this may sound like a lot of work, remember that in B2B you are only targeting 50–100 keywords
  • Work on the quality score of your ads. It’s determined by the ad’s relevance, the landing page experience, and the expected CTRs. The quality score, determined from 1 to 10, will impact the price more than anything else. The higher your quality score (five being Google’s benchmark), the less the amount of money you would pay. When ad relevance, landing page experience, and expected CTRs are aligned, the quality score will be high, which could drive your ad costs down (unless everyone is achieving an excellent rating and there is a lot of competition).
  • A/B test for long stretches at a time — sometimes up to 18–20 months to nail the ad copy and get a high-quality score.

Go offline
A lot of B2B customers are still offline. You should have offline marketing tactics as part of the marketing mix. A note of caution — events are hard, so before you attempt them, make sure you have the right resources to do them right. A more accessible alternative for Billie was direct mail. Direct mail (letters) can be expensive, but in their case, it was a highly profitable conversion channel. Here is what you should do:

  • Buy a list — you would be surprised how much easier it is to get a list of physical addresses rather than emails. The beautiful thing is that unlike email, physical addresses do not fall under directives such as GDPR, so it’s legal to acquire the data and send marketing materials to them.
  • Set online tracking. Once you have a list of contacts you will be sending direct mail to, load all the data into your CRM (Billie use Salesforce) and track when any of them sign up on the website, automatically transitioning them from lead to account.
  • Don’t do too fancy-looking materials as people will know it’s an advertisement and are more likely to throw them. Create simple letters instead.
  • Add a voucher code to help you with tracking.
  • Embed the offline activities into the attribution model in your CRM for better understanding of the impact

Doing all this will put you in a much better place for tackling SMEs. How do we tackle the enterprise, we hear you ask. Tune in for the third and last part of our Hollywood in B2B series, where Sorayah Banomyong, CMO of ReachFive, shares invaluable advice that she has gathered in working with enterprises over the last 15 years.