B2B marketing is a high-stakes game.
Get it right and you can scale your company exponentially. Miss the mark and you’ll have a bored and hungry sales team breathing down your neck.
But just because it’s a high-stakes game doesn’t mean that it’s a gamble.
It's simple: if you know your customers inside and out, your strategy is well developed, and you choose the right tactics and channels, you will succeed.
Read on to learn what it takes to thrive in the world of B2B marketing.
What Is B2B Marketing?
It’s kind of in the name really.
B2B marketing is a form of marketing practiced by marketers in business to business companies. B2B companies are those that sell a product or service to another business, as opposed to direct to the consumer.
B2B companies may provide a product or service to help their customers succeed, such as SaaS platforms or security services, or they may also be selling a product that is required for the customer to be able to operate their business, such as timber supplies.
As a B2B marketer then, you need to understand just how different your customers are from regular consumers, particularly if you are looking to predictably grow your B2B SaaS company.
B2C vs B2B Marketing - What’s the Difference?
The major difference between B2C and B2B marketing strategies and activities is the intended audience. Defining and understanding your audience is the key to any successful marketing strategy, but it is especially crucial when marketing in the B2B space.
There are three major differences between business and consumer purchases:
- Buying motivation
- Purchase process
When consumers are considering a purchase, their goal is generally to satisfy a personal need, or more likely, a want. These decisions are for the most part made out of desire (“I really want this new blue widget.”), or fear (“What will happen to me if I don't buy this blue widget?”).
The goal of business decisions however is generally less emotionally-focused.
B2C Buying Goals
B2B Buying Goals
Seeking fun or entertainment
Seeking efficiency, expertise, and return on investment
Looking to make a personal impact in their life
Looking to increase revenue or reduce costs
In sales and marketing theory, buyer motivation is typically considered to be based on one of two things: emotion or logic. B2C buyers tend to be more emotionally motivated, with B2B purchasers typically making a more logic based decision.
B2C Buying Motivation
B2B Buying Motivation
Emotional decision making
Logical decision making
This, of course, is a generalization, in many cases consumers will take into account logical reasons for their purchases, and business buyers will indeed be emotionally motivated by the impact your product or service will have on their company. However as a general rule, you should consider B2B buyers largely logical decision makers.
The final way in which B2B customers differ from consumers is in the way they go about making a purchase. There are several key differences between the purchase processes of B2B and B2C customers:
B2C Purchase Process
B2B Purchase Process
Customers like to be educated, but it isn’t required for a purchase
Buyers want to be educated by you - it demonstrates your expertise and builds trust
Customers generally like to make purchases directly, even avoided personal interaction altogether by purchasing online
Buyers typically prefer to work with a salesperson or account manager
Customers are often able to make a purchase decision on their own
Buyers generally need to consult with other team members or decision makers before purchase
Customers are not always looking for a long-term relationship with the company
Buyers typically prefer long term solutions
A great takeaway from this is that B2B purchasers still rely significantly on the input of the company they are buying from, seeking educational content and preferring to work with an account manager or salesperson.
By contrast, the consumer decision making process has changed significantly in recent years, putting more power in the hands of the buyer and making it in some ways more difficult for B2C marketers to influence a purchase.
B2B Marketing Strategies
The foundation of any successful marketing strategy is first understanding your customers, and secondly, dedicating a significant chunk of time to planning, strategizing, and organizing.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” - Benjamin Franklin
Yes, it’s a huge cliche. But it’s a cliche for a reason.
Before you even think about publishing a blog or running a social media campaign, take a step back and get these five areas nailed down:
- B2B Marketing Goals
- Customer Personas
- Tactics and Channels
- Creation and Distribution of Assets
- Measures and Metrics
B2B Marketing Goals
You don’t jump in the car with no idea where you’re heading, so why would you do the same with your B2B marketing campaigns?
Defining your high level goals at the outset is crucial to determining the effectiveness of your campaigns too. If you don’t have a reference point for success, how do you know when you’ve made it?
Chances are, your B2B marketing goals will include a few of the following:
- Brand awareness
- Generate leads
- Thought leadership
- Lead conversion
- Customer engagement
- Brand loyalty
- Nurture leads
It’s important not to go overboard with the goals. Sure, all of the above are desirable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are relevant to you and your company.
In order to properly define and measure the success of any of your marketing campaigns, you should go a step further than simply saying “we want to increase lead generation”. How are you going to measure when you’ve hit that goal?
Does just one more lead than last year count as an increase? Chances are you probably wouldn’t be happy with that outcome. So, set some clear, measurable goals from the outset.
“Generate more leads” becomes “Improve monthly lead generation by 25%”. “Improve brand loyalty” might be developed further into the goal “Reduce customer churn by 15%”.
We said it before and we’ll say it again: the foundation of any successful marketing strategy is first understanding your customers.
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Do we know what our customers really want from us?
- Can we define our customers by demographic, occupation, and challenges?
- Do we know what makes our customers buy from us?
If the answers to any of these questions is no, maybe, or anything short of a resounding YES, then you need to develop some customer personas.
A buyer persona is a generalized representation of your company's customers - both current and potential.
If you don’t have a clear understanding of your audience then you won’t understand your customers’ challenges and needs, you won’t properly comprehend your customers’ buy cycle, you won’t produce meaningful content, and you’ll possibly even choose the wrong marketing channels.
So how do you go about creating a buyer persona?
Start by collecting and analyzing data you have on all of your current clients. Most customer personas focus on these five areas:
Personal interests and information
Don’t stop at simply analyzing the data you already have, go and collect some more!
Interview your sales team, your current clients, and even prospective clients, to get a properly holistic view. You could even consider interviewing your non-buyers, to get an understanding of what kind of people don’t buy from you. This is called a negative persona, and can come in handy down the track when scoring and prioritizing leads.
Tactics & Channels For B2B Marketing
Even the most amazing piece of content is futile if it's delivered via the wrong channel.
Selling to the Silent Generation through Snapchat? Not going to work. Marketing to millennials via snail mail? Not going to work. Taking out newspaper ads to target Gen Z buyers? Not. Going. To. Work.
This is why creating customer personas is so critical. Once you know exactly who your customers are, you have a pretty good idea of what channels are going to work best. That said, you might need to go through a bit of trial and error, or run a few A/B tests, to determine the ultimate channel(s) for your B2B marketing efforts.
There are however a few universal rules. We’ll discuss these in greater detail soon, but for now, file these tips in the section of your brain marked “Top Secret Awesome B2B Marketing Ideas”.
- If you’re in B2B, chances are LinkedIn should be part of your social media strategy
- SEO is always worth focussing on
- If you’re not creating content, you won’t be closing clients
You know what you’re trying to achieve, you know just who you’re targeting, and you know the channels you’re going to use to get to them. Now it’s time to create some assets.
Your marketing assets are things like:
- Blog posts
Chances are, you own a bunch of marketing assets already. You probably don’t even realize just how many you have at your disposal. A good starting point is to run an asset audit. This is a potentially time consuming, but fairly straightforward exercise.
The easiest way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet that lists all of your assets by type, title, purpose, location, and effectiveness.
Now that you know what you already own, you can perform a gap analysis. This is the process of comparing your database of owned assets with your marketing plan to determine what types of assets need to be created.
Naturally, you need to have created that plan first:
- Determine the key marketing messages you want to communicate
- Decide how these messages can be conveyed via different assets
- Align your messages and assets with the customer buying cycle
- Create a planner which outlines what assets need to be created
Once you have a plan for asset creation, compare this with your asset audit spreadsheet. Chances are, you’ll find certain marketing assets that can be repurposed to fit the new plan. This is a great way to keep costs down in a B2B content marketing strategy.
Make sure that you create a plan for the assets that still need creating, which includes when they are due by, and who is responsible for producing them.
Measures and Metrics
Setting goals, even specific numeric ones, is very different to measuring and tracking metrics. Of course, these two concepts are inextricably linked.
Your metrics help you determine whether you’re on track for your goals. Exactly what you track and measure will ultimately depend your own goals and strategy, but here are a few common B2B marketing metrics:
- CVR - Conversion Rate (% of leads that become customers)
- Traffic - no. of unique website visitors
- Engagement - likes, comments, shares, new followers
- Email - Open Rate, Reply Rate
- CTR - Click Through Rate (% of ad viewers that click through to your site or landing page)
- Lead Channel Origination -tracks which channels your leads are coming from
- CAC - Customer Acquisition Cost (sales and marketing costs divided by number of new customers gives you average cost of acquiring one new customer)
- Bounce Rate - % of people that landed on your site, took no action, and left soon after
Bounce rate is a great metric to understand whether or not your landing pages are effective. Unbounce is a fantastic conversion optimization tool that focuses on just that.
You should be tracking, reporting on, and analyzing metrics on at least a monthly basis. Not only does this allow you to reflect on what’s been working well (and what isn’t), but it gives you indicators as to potential changes you can make in the coming months.
Even if your B2B marketing strategy seems foolproof at the beginning, chances are you’ll need to make some adjustments as you go. Regardless of whether you’re creating a B2B, B2C, or SaaS marketing plan, you should expect to make some changes. Tracking and reviewing your metrics regularly helps you make these decisions.
Types Of B2B Marketing Tactics And Channels
As already mentioned, the specific marketing tactics and channels you’ll use will be dependent on your company and it’s strategy. However, there are some tactics which are just too valuable to ignore.
These are four of the most effective channels to use in your B2B marketing strategy.
Content marketing is the favourite child of B2B marketers right now. The reason why: it’s super effective.
It’s effective for building an audience, it’s effective for building trust, and it’s effective for building and scaling your company. Plus, it’s incredibly cost effective. Okay, we’ll stop saying effective now.
So why is content marketing so...powerful?
Well, for starters, content marketing leaders see almost 8x as much unique traffic growth than their less content-savvy counterparts.
Not good enough? How about the fact that content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing.
Plus, it costs 62% less. Seriously. It’s why industrial content marketing is crucial for B2B industrial product and services companies.
Some of the most common content marketing forms include blogs, whitepapers, webinars, guides, case studies, infographics. and eBooks. Not all of them will be suitable for your intended audience, so start with what you think might work best based on your customer personas, and adjust from there as required.
It can be difficult to come up with new content ideas on a monthly basis, so dedicate some time during the planning phase to content planning for 6-12 months. Still stuck for ideas? BuzzSumo can help you come up with new content topics.
Social Media Marketing
Often considered the domain of B2C marketers, social media actually has a huge place in B2B marketing strategies.
The truth is that B2B buyers are people too, and they have Facebook and Instagram accounts just like everybody else. That said, you may want to be cautious when using these platforms, as they are typically personal accounts, and some prospects may not appreciate seeing business related advertising during their private time.
If you are concerned about this, then LinkedIn and Twitter might be your platforms of choice. Ultimately, it depends on your customer personas and your overall strategy.
Increase Your Reach
Social media marketing is regularly used to share your content assets, especially blog posts. You should definitely be sharing blog posts on all of your persona targeting platforms, but consider also posting within groups, or running paid ads.
Increase Your Leads
Grow your audience by running social campaigns that showcase your top of funnel content resources such as white papers, e-books or guides. Social platforms allow you to be very targeted, so make sure you are only spending marketing to an audience who your content will resonate strongly with.
Giving something away for free (well, for an email address) will allow you to build up your list of prospects. Once you have captured their email address and they have self identified as one of your customer personas, let your marketing automation take things from there!
You’d think given almost 300 billion emails are sent each day that email marketing would be a lost cause. Though it is easy to get lost in the noise, email marketing is still a solid strategy for B2B marketers, with an expected ROI of more than $40 per $1 spent.
The trick is to provide incredible value. It’s not enough to simply send out a template email each week and consider the task done. You need to be providing actionable insights, you need to create killer headlines, and you need to be sending the right stuff to the right people.
As your email list grows, you should consider segmenting subscribers into seperate lists and writing more targeted messaging. This will greatly improve your email open and click-through rates, as well as lead conversion metrics.
You should also stop using complex spreadsheets, and get your email list into an email marketing automation client such as Mailchimp.
Search marketing, search engine marketing, or simply search, refers to tactics that involve getting your company found when customers use a search engine such as Google.
This is typically seen as two seperate tactics:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Organic
- Pay Per Click (PPC) - Paid
SEO involves optimizing the content on your website, blog, and landing pages to attract searchers. It also focuses on building links to your web pages in order to boost their authority.
PPC activities are, in a way, paying to cheat that system. Where SEO seeks to improve your position in the SERPs organically, PPC basically pays to jump the queue.
In the Google search below, the first result is a result of PPC, signified by the word “Ad” in front. The second result is an authority post based on organic SEO.
Planning and executing a successful B2B marketing strategy is no easy feat. Many start-ups fail here, but those that nail it? They win big time.
Develop your customer personas, choose your assets and channels wisely, and you’re well on your way.
We get it, setting up your B2B Marketing strategy can seem complex, especially if it's your first time doing it. Fortunately, we've been doing it for 10+ years and have developed a streamlined, formula for success. If you need a hand, don’t hesitate to contact us.