13 Marketing and Sales Strategies in 2023: What Works and What Doesn’t

By January 31, 2023 No Comments
13 marketing and sales strategies

What works in marketing, advertising, and sales is constantly shifting. I’ve reviewed 13 tactics that organizations have used over the years to grow their business. See what used to work, what is working today, and see what marketing and sales strategies might work for you in 2023.

13 Marketing and Sales Strategies in 2023

1. Cold Calling

A decade ago, you had a decent chance at getting through to a new prospect over the phone. You might run into a gatekeeper like a receptionist, but if you had a decent value proposition and warmed the relationship up with an email beforehand, you could get them to take your call a decent percentage of the time. Now, with services like Zoominfo, Apollo, and LinkedIn sales navigator, the barrier to prospecting and getting contact is so low that the outbound calling process is too busy and mostly junk. Most businesses have dial-by-name directories and direct numbers for contacts, but good luck getting anyone to pick up if they don’t recognize the number.

Your best chance with phone call prospecting today is:

  • Send a cold email or two and hope that they read it or respond.
  • Follow up with a phone call and have a short value proposition that can hook them on why they should care before they hit delete.

This process can still work to build high-value relationships, but this is likely to be ineffective at scale if you’re selling a commodity service or product.

2. One-off Cold Emails

Yes, you can send one-off unsolicited emails from your email account without worrying about CAN-SPAM compliance. As long as you have a legitimate reason to reach out to them and they are a reasonable prospect for your business, there is nothing wrong with directly emailing someone.

To succeed with this method you really need to do your research.

When doing bulk sending it’s a bit more of a numbers game, but when you’re sending a one-off email, it’s important to do more research. Investing 10 to 20 minutes of time researching a prospect can help you find a way to build quick rapport, stand out as unique, and have something to hook them. Sending a cold email or two is paired nicely with a phone call and likely a voicemail message, and then another email afterwards.

It’s important to remember that you’re not trying to make a sale with an email. Your only goal is to get an earnest reply, start some dialog back and forth to start building rapport, and then move on to a phone call or video conference.

3. Bulk Sending Emails

I’m not an attorney, but it is back to the wild west of spamming at the moment. Despite CAN-SPAM, the latest rules in the US (at least in Michigan) appear to be as simple as providing your physical address in each email and an unsubscribe option from bulk emails, and honoring that unsubscribe. It’s probably not as simple as that but, based on what I’m seeing in everyday practice, that’s the low bar where organizations are operating. The European Union and some specific states in the US have more strict privacy rules.

You can find/filter/sort online lists of contacts through third party services like ZoomInfo, Apollo, LinkedIn to get contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses for people in specific industries, with certain job titles, in certain states, and use those lists for sales and marketing purposes.

The trickiest thing with going this route is that an unsolicited email that is clearly not personalized and has an unsubscribe link in it is often automatically marked spam or quickly marked spam after it’s received. To bulk send email you either have to use your own email provider (Outlook 365, Google Business, Zoho, Exchange, etc.) or use a transactional email service like Mailchimp, Active Campaign, on HubSpot. The problem is that none of these services want you to send unsolicited emails. They only want you to send emails to people you already have a business relationship with and often have legalese with you agreeing to these terms. If you bulk send and you get marked as SPAM too often you’ll get your entire email account shut down or blocked from the service.

This is still a viable place to operate, but your prospects must be laser targeted, and it just needs to be done in a much lower volume to keep a good email reputation.

4. Automated Email Nurturing

Using tools like HubSpot, Active Campaign, and Mailchimp, you can automate future emails to your prospects. Instead of doing a one-time bulk email to a bunch of contacts, you could enroll them in a sequence that sends them 10 emails over the course of 3 months.

If prospects open emails or click on links, you can note that and follow up with a phone call or a more targeted email to reach out and have a discussion.

This is best used once you’ve had a conversation with someone and you know what they might be interested in. You could schedule a sequence that includes case studies or testimonials, and show what you can do for them by showing what success others have had working with your business.

5. Email Newsletters

Sending out email newsletters is still a great way to stay in touch with your prospects and customers. The secret to running a good email newsletter is education, not promotion. If you’re able to provide your customers with useful tips they can use within their business or life, then they are more likely to stick around and continue reading your newsletter month after month.

If you are constantly pushing products and trying to sell them, then the value of the newsletter will slowly go to zero. Or, they’ll just keep it around to see if you’re running a major discount or sale on your product.

You don’t have to take your newsletter to the point where you expect everyone to be waiting for it each month. However, it should be something that provides readers with something they can use to be better at their job or help them realize how you can help them get better results.

If a quarter of the people receiving your newsletter read it each month, then you’re doing just fine. A couple unsubscribes a month is also no big deal as long as you’re adding new prospects weekly.

Anyone who is interested in your products or services should get added to your newsletter. Again, I’m not an attorney but in Michigan and the majority of the US, this seems to be standard practice, as long as they can unsubscribe themselves. If you’re in the EU or working with international customers, you may need to follow GDPR rules and require positive consent to be enrolled in this type of communication.

This allows you to build a long-term relationship with your prospects, even if they aren’t interested in buying today. We have had prospects engage in our marketing content on our website or download e-books, and take over a year to be ready for a discovery call and move forward with a deeper evaluation of their online marketing.

6. SEO – Search Engine Optimization

“Showing up on page 1 of Google” is one of the marketing goals for most businesses. What it takes to accomplish this and how it is done, and what it even means has changed dramatically in the last couple of years, even within the last month!

What’s new in the search engine world:

  • On desktop, Google is no longer paginating search, and is instead using “infinite scroll”. This gives folks that might have been on page 2 or 3 a chance of getting seen by prospects. This also gives Google more opportunities to show paid ads.
  • There is so much more shown during a search now. You might see products listed with images and pricing, the answer to your question might be revealed immediately right on the page, a map of local businesses might show up, other questions or similar questions and answers might be displayed. In some cases, it feels like more than 50% of the content shown is paid advertisements, and there is less room for organically ranked content.
  • Directories that aggregate similar businesses in categories are having their heyday. In some instances I see more and more directories showing up for service searches than I do businesses that provide those services. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are clicking on them and finding value in them. However, I suspect some do and, as long as Google continues to favor some of these aggregation sites, it might be prudent to pay for a listing if you see industry directories showing up for search terms.
  • Many services, even if they can be provided at a national level, are showing results that are closest to the person searching. Having a physical address with a Google Business profile is more important than ever if you do a lot of work locally. If you want to make a dent nationally, you might consider getting a satellite address in some other cities to have a presence there in the map search.

7. Inbound / Content Marketing

This is SEO’s cousin. When we think of SEO, we think in terms of big categories, like someone searching your specific service or product name. The lead generation aspect of content marketing is usually seen in the form of drafting more niche content or questions. This content helps customers find answers or solutions that your product or service provides.

This content is not made for someone who knows the exact thing that they want. This content is often designed for someone who is doing research on how to solve a specific problem, or has questions about how a certain service is delivered. These are questions that help prospects during their research phase while they’re trying to figure out what could even help them.

An example of this would be a blog post we have for our product. The product itself automates the process of collecting video testimonials. However, maybe someone is just getting started with the process, and asks Google “how to ask for a client testimonial.” We have a great blog post—9 Examples of Testimonial Request Emails That Work— that shows up on Google with example testimonial request emails. On this page, we even have a resource where they can download all the example emails. This gives us a lead that we can then nurture via automated emails, and some of these leads eventually turn into Boast paid customers.

To come up with great blog or content ideas you often have to run back in time and put yourself into the shoes of a novice in your industry. What kinds of things are the less sophisticated buyers asking? What kinds of naive questions do they have? Those are great places to start when thinking of content that could rank in Google and drive leads to your site.

We have created inbound marketing campaigns, blogs, and downloadable resources that generate multiple leads per day for products that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

8. Google PPC / Adwords

Google paid ads are growing in popularity, growing in cost, and growing exposure potential. They are also making a lot of changes that have been making it harder to have a large ROI on this ad spend.

  • The current state of Google paid ads (the ads that show up when you “Google” something):
    There are lots of paid ads now. The drawback of this is that organic SEO gets less exposure. The advantage is that you can get exposure quickly with little effort, just cash. It’s likely that people will be trained to click on ads more or just not be as discerning as they used to be, which can help drive more qualified leads if your ads are on-point.
  • Due to the amount of paid ads and paid opportunities on Google (even in the map area), it’s getting more and more “pay to play” to show up in search. We used to be able to focus on niche, long-tail keywords to pay less and get less exposure for each keyword, but take advantage of numerous niche search phrases. In many instances, Google has forced us to stop this practice and just focus on the more popular terms which require a premium click rate. For more niche terms, they’ll just pause your ads due to the low volume of search. Those used to be gold because many of our clients are on a low search volume budget of $30 – $80/day.
  • PPC prices have increased. Five years ago, we might’ve paid around $1 a click for a reasonably popular term for a client. Now, even niche industry terms could cost up around $5 per click to your website.

All that said, Google is where people go to solve problems and find businesses to help them. It’s getting more and more expensive, but it still drives a lot of quality traffic and converts visitors into leads at the most predictable rate. The best part about Google paid ads is that you can still start generating leads immediately for any existing or new business for as little as a couple thousand dollars a month.

9. Social Media Content Marketing

At Web Ascender, we do not do a ton in this arena. If you want to grow a large social media following on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap, TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. it will take a substantial amount of human effort—Herculean, even.

If growing a social media brand would help your business reach a bigger audience, sell more products, or provide more services, then this is best done by someone who is very passionate about your business, knows the specifics ins and outs, and has a minimum of 4 hours a day available to them to focus on making great content. Realistically, it’s a full-time job to do well. It’s also not a great use of time and effort for a lot of our industrial and manufacturing businesses. Areas where this can work well are non-profit, associations, and B2C organizations.
Perfunctory Social Media is where we tend to operate for some of our clients. We post enough to have a presence, but we’re not working hard to grow followers. This generally includes sharing blog posts with engaging visuals, and coming up with a handful of ideas to schedule throughout the month.

10. Social Media Advertising

The majority of for-profit businesses that we consult with are in the industrial / manufacturing arena. It’s rare for industrial companies to build a huge organic following and consistently reach their ideal customer over social media. Even if it doesn’t make sense to grow an organic following, you can still get a ton of exposure with carefully-placed, targeted paid ads:

  • LinkedIn: This platform has leveled up in the last 5 years. Where it was once only a place to dust off your resume and look good for recruiters, it’s now an ecosystem of communities and groups of like-minded people having conversations about their industry with one another. Instead of talking about tailgating, they’re talking business. You can run paid advertisements targeting specific industries, specific job titles, even specific businesses. LinkedIn ads are on the more expensive side, but if you have a niche audience it can work wonders in B2B.
  • YouTube: It’s possible to get your products and services placed at the front of or in the middle of popular internet videos. If your prospective client is doing research and they run into a video online about a related topic, your advertisement can be shown to that captive audience.
  • Facebook: Running paid image and video ads to local markets can get you a ton of eyeballs for as little as a couple grand a month. Facebook is best for B2C.
    Instagram: This platform might work for some businesses, but is even more B2C-focused than Facebook. Instagram is rarely a good fit for B2B, unless you’re focusing on people interested in starting businesses or encouraging entrepreneurship. It’s possible to have success, but it’s not the first thing people think of when they want to market professional services to other businesses.
  • Others: TikTok, Snapchat, and similar platforms oriented towards general socialization are similar to Instagram and Facebook as far as B2B organizations are concerned. These platforms can be effective for B2C marketing, but are generally less relevant for B2B.

This category shouldn’t be ruled out; many social media platforms are growing fast as younger generations move into more prominent industry roles. In fact, younger generations use platforms like Instagram and TikTok as a search engine. As these generations gain more power in the workplace, this practice could reshape how users and businesses utilize social media.

11. Online Directories

Online directories are getting more love from Google than they have in the past. There are industry-specific directories that showcase businesses by their product or service specialty, and it typically costs $50 to $199 a year or a month depending on the level of exposure you’re looking to get for your organization. Directories also provide valuable inbound links to your website, which can be a positive signal to Google that your website is relevant to others around the internet.

12. Conferences

Conferences scrambled to deliver their value online versus in-person over the last couple years with mixed results. Majority of the big conferences are back to meeting in-person and these can provide opportunities for your team to make good contacts in your industry.

As an attendee, you have the opportunity to network with others in your industry to build relationships and meet cool people. As a vendor, most conferences have sponsorship opportunities or a way to have a booth in a tradeshow area. There is a real chance that some of the attendees have come to the conference specifically to talk to vendors to get quotes for their business. These booths typically cost thousands of dollars and, at some conferences, tens of thousands of dollars, so make sure you track who you meet and what sales ultimately come from your attendance.

The absolute best way to attend a conference is as a speaker. As a speaker, you get a captive audience to educate on a topic for an hour. During your session, you get a chance to weave in stories about your business and the ways you’ve helped others, and build a rapport with your audience. These attendees will then be more interested in chatting with you during social hours.

13. Webinars

Webinars are more of a call-to-action or a tool to promote using some of the other methods listed above. You could promote a webinar in your online ads, in cold emails, and as a low-risk / high-value offering to prospective customers to get to know you better and learn a little bit more about your products and services. The webinars with the best attendance are valuable to your prospects whether they work with your business or not.

If you have noticed any interesting trends in these or other marketing tactics over the last couple of years, send us a message. We’re always interested in learning from first-hand experiences in what’s working for new business development, and helping others businesses expand their reach.

Interested in talking about digital marketing and ways to get more leads and sales?


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