b2b marketing strategies

How to Develop a B2B Marketing Strategy (Instead of a List of Tactics)

04 June 2021 by

Lots of marketing articles promise information on B2B marketing strategies…and then deliver a list of tactics. While that can be useful, all the best marketing tactics in the world won’t lead to the results you want—unless they’re informed and tied together by an explicit, defined strategy.

  • Disparate, one-off marketing tactics don’t work together cohesively to move leads through the funnel

  • When there’s no concrete end-goal for all of your marketing activities, it’s hard for team members to work together toward a common purpose

  • Without an overarching strategy, it’s basically impossible to know whether you’re even using the right tactics to begin with

The reality is, you can’t pick your B2B company’s marketing strategy from a list in a blog post.

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Your marketing strategy has to be created with your specific customers in mind. It needs to take into account your business, your positioning and unique value proposition, and the resources (financial, team, and otherwise) you have available for marketing. And it needs to flow from your current position and situation as a company.

So instead of listing out a bunch of disparate tactics or prescribing a generic, one-size-fits-all strategy, we’re clarifying (once and for all) the difference between a tactic and a strategy—and why that matters. Then, we explain our actionable four-step process for developing your own B2B marketing strategy:

  1. Lay out your position in the market

  2. Explain your target audience and buyer personas

  3. Set goals

  4. Outline your marketing tactics and how you’ll implement them

Note: If you want to skip ahead and read about how we built Leadfeeder to solve for some of the challenges we saw B2B marketers face when developing, implementing, and measuring their marketing strategies, click here.

What’s the Difference Between “Tactics” and “Strategy”?

There’s a lot of confusion in the marketing world between “tactics” and “strategies.” Even seasoned marketers talk about or search for strategies when they’re really looking for tactics—and vice versa.

If you fall into that boat, too, here’s a simple way to think about it:

  • A strategy is a plan

  • A tactic is a tool that helps make that plan a reality

Your marketing strategy lays out your goals for marketing, how you’ll measure success, who you’ll target, where you’ll target them, and how. That how piece details the marketing tactics you’ll use.

b2b marketing strategies 1

For example, a super baseline B2B marketing strategy might say:

Our goal is to grow signups to one million over the next 12 months. We’ll do this by targeting tech-savvy salespeople between the ages of 20-50. We’ll target these people across the web by utilizing email marketing campaigns, social media advertising, and paid search engine ads.

In this example, your marketing strategy calls for three different marketing tactics:

b2b marketing strategies 2

A full-fledged marketing strategy would then go into depth on the strategy underlying how you’ll use these three tactics—creating an email marketing strategy, a social media strategy, and a search strategy.

Why Tactics are Useless Without Strategy

Your overarching marketing strategy details goals and success metrics—both overall and for each tactic you’ll use. So if you don’t have an explicit guide to success, what’s driving your social media activity? Or your email campaigns?

Without a strategy, it’s impossible to create or track marketing campaigns and efforts that work together toward a common goal. It’s also really hard to figure out whether your efforts are successful at driving results for the business.

In a nutshell, deploying disparate marketing tactics without a strategy tying them together is throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping it sticks—and then turning away before you can even see whether it stuck.

Instead, when all of your marketing tactics build on each other toward a common goal, you can map efforts to the buyer’s journey. You can visualize and optimize how every single asset and every single campaign works to move leads through the funnel. You can ensure otherwise separate tactics (like email and social media) work together, so that they’re each more effective.

How to Develop a B2B Marketing Strategy

Okay, now that we’re on the same page about why your list of tactics isn’t a strategy—and why you need to actually develop a true marketing strategy—let’s talk about how to do that.

In part because of the confusion surrounding strategies and tactics (plus all the content that doesn’t bother to correct that confusion), building out a B2B marketing strategy seems to have developed an intimidating character.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. For most B2B marketers, developing a marketing strategy is mostly just writing down and solidifying much of the information you already have and use in your marketing efforts every day. For that reason, we won’t go into too much depth on researching and surfacing this information.

Instead, here are four quick and painless steps to building out your B2B marketing strategy.

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Step 1: Lay Out Your Positioning in the Market

Marketers know that in order to set reasonable goals and decide how you’ll achieve them, you need to understand the market you’re operating in. That includes:

  • Competitors: Their positioning in the market and their strengths and weaknesses

  • Your own unique value proposition

  • Where that value proposition situates your business among the patchwork of companies in the market

Your competitive analysis may identify a particular opportunity in the market (price, for example) that only your business solves. That’s your unique selling proposition.

Step 2: Explain Your Target Market and Buyer Personas

The next step is to dig into the who of your market: your target audience. You should have, or find answers to:

  • Who are the people you’ll market to? How old are they? Where do they live?

  • What do you know about them? What are their pains? How does your business solve those?

  • Are they all similar or do they fall into separate buckets or personas?

  • Are they different from the companies your competitors target? How?

  • Where do they hang out? Where can you reach them, both on- and offline?

Your marketing strategy needs to include an in-depth profile of the people you’re trying to sell to—otherwise you don’t know how to sell to them.

Note: Looking for more in-depth information on the companies who visit your website—even if they don’t convert and never fill out a form? Sign up and try Leadfeeder free for 14 days to get website visitor identification and behavioral data on the companies visiting your site.

Step 3: Set Goals

After pulling together the foundational information in the first two steps, you’re ready to start goal-setting. While we could write an entire ebook on setting goals for B2B marketing, we aren’t here to do that. For our purposes today, your marketing goals should be:

  • Made in conjunction with the sales team 

  • Laid out on a timeline (e.g. goals for the next month, quarter, year, etc.)

  • Relatively easy to measure and gauge success

  • High-level—you’ll get into more nitty gritty marketing success metrics in the strategy for each tactic

Step 4: Outline the Tactics You’ll Use and Create a Plan for Each

In this last step, all of those articles that list marketing tactics can finally be of some use. That said, the tactics your team will use to fulfill the goals from step three shouldn’t be pulled out of a hat. Your goals should dictate the tactics that can most effectively get there—and they can and should be an evolving mix that gets tested and tweaked and optimized.

For a really basic example, if one of your goals is to increase brand awareness among Gen Z, you probably don’t need to worry about advertising in print newspapers. And if your target personas are in the tech space, you probably won’t use content about knitting to attract them.

Each tactic you employ should have its own, more specific strategy outlined, too. That includes:

  • Channel-specific success metrics and goals

  • A tactical plan for campaigns and assets

  • An explanation of how each tactic fits into the buyer’s journey and works with your other marketing efforts to turn potential customers into actual ones

A Note on Implementing and Measuring Your B2B Marketing Strategy

Regardless of your marketing strategy, at some point in B2B you’ll start to see inbound traffic to your website. But the reality is that conversion rates for the average B2B company hover around 2%, so most of that traffic won’t convert. Those companies may disappear into the ether and you’ll never even know they visited the site.

But to really gauge the efficacy of your marketing strategy, you need to know who these companies are. Are they best-fit companies? Do they fit your buyer persona? Why didn’t they convert? How can you tweak your tactics to get them to convert?

We built Leadfeeder, in part, to solve for that missing 98% of website visitors and enable B2B marketers to tie them back to the tactics that brought them to the website in the first place.

b2b marketing strategies 3

With our visitor identification tool, you can see all the companies who didn’t convert—right alongside the ones who did. You’ll also see in-depth company details, source and campaign data, and behavioral info on the pages they looked at, how long they spent there, and how many employees from the company have visited your site.

B2B Marketing Strategies, Not Tactics

While a lot of marketing articles are content to spoon feed generic marketing tactics, that isn’t a recipe for success. Every marketing tactic and effort needs to flow from a defined, overarching strategy that drives the business forward—and that’s the only way to really gauge and find success with your B2B marketing.

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