Is B2B marketing really that different from B2C marketing? What kind of strategies should you implement for your company? How would you know which B2B Marketing strategy will be right for your company?
You’ve probably read on blogs, social media and even heard on different podcasts many comments about what’s working in B2B now.
But can you really copy and paste those strategies for your B2B company? How applicable is it?
In this article, we go to the roots of what really makes B2B marketing tick. You will learn strategies that are working now.
What is B2B Marketing (Definition)
B2B marketing is also known as Business-to-business marketing. When a company sells to other businesses, companies, and organizations, they are considered B2B Businesses. The Marketing strategy and practice needed to sell to other companies is called “B2B marketing”.
B2B businesses can come in the form of products or services. As long as the target audience is another company, they are considered B2B.
B2B vs B2C Marketing: What’s the difference?
- One of the biggest differences is the long sales cycle for business-to-business Marketing. It usually takes months or even years in a B2B sales process.
- Unlike B2C marketing, the majority of B2B marketing campaigns involve multiple customer personas. They are also known are “decision-makers”. A typical buying group could contain almost 6 to 10 decision-makers. That’s also why the buying process is long. Other than the decision-maker, there are also champions, users, and financiers within the typical B2B purchasing decision process.
- B2B marketing mostly pushes products or services that are expensive. How expensive? They could range from a few thousand to millions of dollars. It’s not something that anybody off the street can easily open their wallet and pay for. Successful B2B Marketing businesses usually have high Customer Lifetime Value.
- The marketing channels that B2B marketers rely on might be different. There are certainly overlaps but the key difference is the “intent” of the users in the marketing channels. For example, B2B marketers seldom use platforms like Tik Tok, Facebook & Instagram as the first channel because the intent of the users is usually about fun. Audiences are not on Tik Tok to buy B2B products are you can imagine. Common channels for B2B marketers would be Linkedin, Search Engine Marketing, content syndication, events (Live and Virtual). Of course, retargeting can also be used even across low intent channels like Facebook. We cover more advance B2B Marketing strategies and Lead Generation tactics here.
- You might have heard that B2B marketing activities are rationally driven. It is a myth that emotions have no effect on B2B marketing. Although you’re marketing to a buying committee, remember that they are still made up of humans. And human beings resonate more with stories and emotions. A study by IPADatabank showed that B2B marketing strategies with emotional appeal increased revenue by x7.
11 effective B2B marketing strategies (With Examples and Case Studies)
When it comes to discovering new products (or services), Social media marketing is your go-to channel. 4 out of 10 users mention that they use social media to learn about new brands and products. In particular, Linkedin makes the most sense for B2B businesses as they have the largest network of professionals and buying committees. Mostly, this channel would fit nicely for awareness campaigns. For conversion objectives, best to use retargeting in social media advertising. Social media platforms like Linkedin also have in-built Account-based marketing targeting options. These platforms also provide marketers with various ad formats to deliver their messages. Here’s are some examples of Linkedin ads for your B2B Campaigns. These are B2B social media advertising best practices as well.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an overlooked strategy for B2B marketing. This strategy helps a company to rank higher on the Search Engine Results Page (Organically). In a B2B context, it’s all about helping your prospects find you through the search engine results page (SERP). This is also known as “inbound marketing” where prospects are finding you themselves through the useful content you post on the internet. Hubspot is one of the most notable B2B companies that leveraged SEO to become the giant it is today.
Podcasting is also growing in popularity as a channel.
On the surface, this seems similar to traditional radio marketing but it actually is much more effective than that.
For a start, Podcasting is easy to start and you don’t need a “radio” studio to get started. Your podcast episodes are also easily searchable on the internet especially if you’re hosting it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
This means it’s evergreen and forever on the internet for someone to search and find your brand. And let’s be real, radio has been on the decline as a medium as compared to Podcast.
When done well, many marketers repurpose their audio podcasts into blog posts, social media posts, and even other content types like infographics.
Even if your podcast has very low download rates, Marketers still use this as a channel to build relationships with experts and potential customers. A common tactic used would be to invite your prospects on the platform to speak and understand their business better. Ultimately, all these are user-generated content that would also be distributed and leveraged.
“I interviewed people who were SVPs of growth at certain companies, and then the person who works underneath them comes inbound to me six months later,” Chris Walker
Whitepaper, eBooks, Reports
Whitepaper, eBooks, and Reports are common ways of influencing your buyers. It still works to this day but in a very different context. During the 2000s, companies used to gate all this content in an effort to generate leads. Fast forward to today, using these assets solely with gated lead generation will not work as well. Why? Because we live in the age of digital where we can find information elsewhere other than a brand’s whitepaper or eBook. People can rely on other sources without surrendering their personal info to you. Buyers spend almost 90% of their buying journey online, by themselves, without reaching out to a sales rep.
This means that gating too many Whitepaper, eBooks, and Reports would increase the friction of a buyer’s research process. Imagine if your competitor chooses to ungated all their content, where would the buyer go for more accessible ungated info? Yes, your competitor. It’s time to rethink how we distribute Whitepaper, eBooks, and reports.
Tools and ROI calculators
Tools and calculators are also effective in B2B marketing. One of the most common examples would be an ROI calculator. This helps buyers understand how much they will save or make if they use your product/service. Some B2B companies like F5 hire analyst firms like Forrester to help design an ROI calculator for prospects to use. This could double up as a lead generation opportunity if you’re able to send a customized downloadable report. Another way to build your B2B brand is to offer free tools that show a taster of your main product. For example, Ahrefs has a free SEO chrome extension that professionals can use for basic SEO tasks. This helps build the momentum for their target audience to purchase their main SEO product in the future, especially if the free tool adds a ton of value.
B2B Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing in B2B is slightly different. An influencer in B2B are usually industry insiders, recognized analyst, industry thought leaders, famous subject matter expertise or sometimes just popular employee advocates. Sometimes, it could also be your best B2B customers who share about the success with your products. There are many ways to execute B2B influencer marketing. A great example would be Qualtrics. Their events are driven by big-name influencers like Barak Obama, Nir Eyal, and even Oprah. They also feature their customers in their webinars. This creates an always-on social proof effect. This survey software company is now valued at $15 Billion. That’s the power of influencer and content marketing.
Video Marketing In the latest Wyzowl state of video report, 87% of marketers shared that they had a positive business impact from video content. Audiences want more videos. When it comes to learning about a new product or service, 69% would choose a short video to learn about it. We’ve compiled all the best Linkedin video ad examples here. My favorite video content is from Slack. Check it out.
There are rumors going around that email marketing is dead. Many say it’s no longer effective as a B2B Marketing strategy. Well, It’s only dead if you don’t have a good strategy and content around it. Adobe found that people spend up to 5 hours a day checking their emails, so it’s definitely not dead.
If you have an email that’s performing well, you can test it as a message ad or conversation ad on Linkedin as well. Linkedin message ads average around 38-50% open rate while emails average below 21.6%.
Another B2B marketing strategy to explore is to have a live chat on the website. Visitors can use the live chats to ask questions about products and services. Great customer assistance and personal selling experience can be provided by companies to these visitors. Based on a study by Techjury, it’s possible to improve conversions by 12% with the addition of this widget to your website. Companies such as Drift, Salesforce, Slack use the live chat very effectively to provide 24/7 selling and customer service to B2B buyers.
Is there a way to get others to help you promote your B2B product/service? Absolutely. Marketers leverage referral programs to get others motivated to share their products. A great example below is none other than Google. They let referrers earn every user they recommend to Google workspace app.
Another more lucrative referral program is from Unbounce. You’ll get to earn a 20% recurring revenue for every user you introduce.
Live and Virtual Event Marketing
A Live in-person event is a highly effective B2B marketing strategy. It gives companies the opportunity to interact with everyone all one place – From customers, prospects, and even partners/vendors. Events like Dreamforce by Salesforce, Inbound by Hubspot, Content Marketing World, are key events that drive organically generated opportunities for companies.
When the pandemic hit, Marketers needed to pivot to a new form of events: Virtual Events. And the prediction is that this is here to stay. A great example would be B2B Marketing Exchange. This in-person event about the latest ABM marketing strategies was moved purely online, on-demand. 52% of marketers say they will continue to host virtual events since it is pandemic-proof and scalable.
Both in-person and virtual events will target different parts of the marketing funnel. Virtual events will continue to be effective for upper-funnel marketing strategies like awareness. Virtual events will be able to target a wider audience. In-person events will evolve to be more exclusive and intimate. These will likely fit better in lower-funnel objectives where quality time can be spent on key accounts. If there’s enough budget, capabilities, and planning, companies could also look at a Hybrid event model. These are events that are live but also hosted virtually. An example would be Microsoft’s Build Conference.
Thought Leadership as a Strategy for B2B marketing
B2B companies that succeed most often excel in Thought Leadership content.
What is thought leadership? Edelman describes thought leadership as free deliverables from an organization (or individual) on a topic that they know a lot about. It helps others benefit from understanding their perspectives. Thought leadership does not focus primarily on an organization’s product or services An example of excellent thought leadership would be this Deloitte Tech Trends Insights. It’s also interesting to see Deloitte using the latest Linkedin ad format.
Many companies mistaken thought leadership as an opportunity to push and sell their products. That’s not thought leadership, that’s sales.
Whether through a webinar, whitepaper, or research piece, thought leadership is about sharing your perspective and opinions. Which should be useful to influence how your target audience thinks. Thought leadership affects purchase decisions and increases conversion rates.
If 89% of senior decision-makers say that thought leadership enhances their perception of a company, then you’d better make this the cornerstone of your marketing strategy.
How to build a B2B marketing strategy, program, and plan
Getting Executive’s Buy-in
B2B marketers are usually faced with limited resources. When developing a strategy under constraints, Marketers need to find out the priorities of the executives. Find out which of these are a priority now with the executives:
- Acquisition: Is the company struggling to get more leads? Are more leads needed in the short term for the business?
- Expansion: Is the company looking to expand current deal sizes within existing accounts? This can be through upselling or cross-selling.
- Retention: Is the company facing a lot of customers leaving? Is the renewal rate low? If churn rate is an issue, this can be a priority to look into.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Companies with great sales and marketing alignment saw an increase in revenue by 34%. That’s how important this step is.
How to aligned sales and marketing teams though? Start with joint success metrics and develop a service level agreement (SLA) between the teams. Other than revenue, you can also look at qualified pipeline through inbound product demo requests, sales cycle length from those inbound conversions, and win rate. The win rate can be a proxy metric to lead quality. Many companies are using the MQL, SQL models but it’s broken and needs to be simplified.
B2B Marketing Metrics – Set Objectives and Measurements
When sales teams and marketing teams have the same goals, it’ll be easier to set metrics. These are the various metrics to work towards for different stages.
Awareness Marketing Metrics:
Consideration Marketing Metrics:
- Website Demographics (Use Linkedin’s website demographics to see if there is more of your ideal buyers visiting your site)
- Qualified Leads to opportunity conversion rate
- Pipeline created
- Inbound product demo or service request
- Number of qualified subscribers or followers
- Enrollment in product-related webinars, analyst reports, brochure downloads, product/service comparison offers.
Conversion Marketing Metrics:
- Win Rate
- Incremental revenue stream
- Shorter sales cycles
- Opportunity to closure conversion rate
- Cost of Customer Acquisition
- Customer Lifetime Value
Develop your ideal customer profile and target audience
The fastest way to develop your ideal customer persona is to look for commonalities among your B2B customers. Also, speak to your sales team and customer support teams since they are in the front lines to see which companies would find your product/service useful. Design a set of firmographics, demographics, and technographic for your buyer persona.
Then, segment your accounts into tiers. Prioritize high-potential accounts with high potential for revenue and value.
Identifying the Buying Committee
An average of 6.8 people is involved in a typical B2B purchase. Think about who the decision-makers, users, champions, and implementors are. Senior individual contributors are also often overlooked in the process. They are a valuable B2B audience. While they may not have direct reports but their advanced domain knowledge within the team certainly gives them a large say in the decision-making process.
Determine the right scale of B2B Marketing
There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. This is why it’s important to identify the right scale for your objectives. You can apply one or more approaches below (Strategic Account-based marketing, Scaled Account-based marketing, Programmatic Account-based marketing).
Build a Strategy for B2B Content Marketing
When planning for content creation, think about the customer journey. Design your marketing message according to your visitor’s stage of awareness.
- Most aware: This group of audiences is very aware of your product and services. They likely see you as the choice for them and just need a little nudge to bring them across the line.
- Product-aware: Audiences here are aware of various products and solutions to the problem (Including yours). They’re comparing at this stage as they’re not sure which is the best product for them. At this stage, content needs to be product-focused to show “why buy you, and why buy now”.
- Solution-aware: Audiences know the problem and are exploring various solutions to that problem at this stage.
- Problem-aware: Audiences here feel the pain but are unaware of any possible solution yet.
- Unaware: This set of the audience has not experienced any need, pain, or problem.
On average, B2B customers consume more than 5 pieces of content during the entire sales funnel. You’ll need to ensure relevant content is surfaced at the right time. A good balance of both informational content and transactional content is needed within the 5 awareness stages (mentioned above).
Explore having 60% of your content that’s more informational while the other 40% is transactional content.
|Stage of Awareness||Content Approach||Content Weightage|
|Problem Aware||Build brand awareness
by showcasing customer stories through
engaging testimonial videos and relevant
case studies and sharing thought
leadership through ebooks and guides
|Solution Aware||Nurture consideration & engagement with customer stories, hosting events, webinars, and share expertise through
industry trend analyses and research
|Product Aware||Nurture consideration & engagement with more focus on customer stories, industry trends, research, and product launches||20%|
|Most Aware||Drive lead generation
with events, webinars, whitepaper
downloads, product guide downloads, demo requests
Final Thoughts and Next Steps
After designing a B2B strategy, it’s about executing. I’d strongly recommend exploring Linkedin as one of your main distribution channels. If there is a budget, accelerate your demand generation process with Linkedin ads. They have the largest first-party data for ad targeting towards senior decision-makers.
Got more questions? Connect with me on Linkedin