Building an effective B2B marketing strategy is easy, right? Create a few campaigns, track a few KPIs, and you’re on your way to a million-dollar company.
If only it were that easy 😭
B2B marketing is complicated — to win, you've got to focus on generating demand, finding the right buyers, and tracking those buyers through the funnel so you can connect at the perfect moment.
But, before we dive into generating demand, qualifying leads, and all that other fun stuff, let's get back to the basics.
What is B2B marketing? And how has the industry changed in recent years?
B2B marketing refers to the strategies companies use to sell products or services to other businesses or organizations. This might include selling sales and marketing software, offering manufacturing machines to businesses, or offering business consulting services.
Basically, if your customers are other B2B businesses, you use marketing strategy to drive growth.
It's also worth noting the B2B customer lifecycle and buyer journey has changed dramatically in recent years. The traditional B2B marketing → lead gen → sales → close process is no longer the path to instant success it was a decade ago.
Businesses have more options than ever.
To win at marketing and build successful b2b marketing strategy, you need to focus on generating demand and getting in front of your buyers on the platforms they’re engaging on—not hiding behind lead capture forms.
Note: Want to know what companies visit your website—even if they don’t fill out a form? Try Leadfeeder free for 14 days and see who is on your site and what pages they visit.
B2C marketing focuses on encouraging people to make a purchase decision. Those decisions are primarily made by one person and are generally lower-cost purchases (though not always.)
B2B focuses more on the buyer journey — which is longer, more complicated, and includes more people than ever before.
B2B marketing has unique challenges B2C doesn't have to deal with, including:
More decision-makers: The average B2B buying decision has an average of seven people.
Longer sales cycle: The average sales cycle in B2B takes between four and eight months.
Different platforms: B2B marketing primarily focuses on strategies like SEO, content marketing, email, and LinkedIn. B2C companies have more platforms to engage on, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. (Of course, some of those platforms can be used for B2B, but only do well in certain industries.)
That's really just the tip of the iceberg on the differences, but you get the idea. The B2B cycle is longer, more complex, and harder to navigate. This means the same strategies simply won't work for both audiences.
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
In B2B marketing, the 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.
For example, a basic 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 B2B marketing strategy calls for three different marketing tactics:
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.
Now that we've answered the question "What is B2B marketing" let's talk about how to do it. Your strategies must be created with your specific customers in mind.
You'll need to consider your business, your positioning, and unique value proposition, and the resources (financial, team, and otherwise) you have available for marketing. You'll also want to consider how to target and reach your specific audience.
And it needs to flow from your current position and situation as a company.
It doesn't sound very easy, I know.
To make your life easy, we've created this four-step process for developing and launching a B2B marketing plan:
Layout your position in the market
Explain your target audience and buyer personas
Outline your marketing tactics and how you’ll implement them (including targeting)
B2B marketing gets a bad rap — and there's no doubt it's gotten more complicated in recent years.
But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time-consuming.
For most B2B marketers, developing a marketing strategy is mostly just writing down and solidifying 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, we're offering four pain-free steps to creating an effective B2B marketing strategy.
Step 1: Layout your positioning in the market
Before you can set reasonable goals and decide how to achieve them, you need to understand the market you’re operating in.
Competitors: Their positioning in the market and their strengths and weaknesses
Unique value proposition: What makes your business different? Do you offer transparent pricing, better customer service, or more accurate data? What problem does that solve?
Your current position: Where does your company land 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: Define your ideal customer profile and target audience
The next step is to dig into the who of your market: your target audience.
You should have, or find answers to:
Who are you marketing to? How old are they? Where do they live?
What do you know about them? What are their pain points? 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?
B2B marketing should be based on an in-depth profile of the people you’re trying to sell to—otherwise, you don’t know how to sell to them.
Step 3: Set your B2B marketing goals
After pulling together the foundational information in the first two steps, you’re ready to start setting your B2B marketing goals.
This is the fun part. ;)
While we could write an entire ebook on setting goals for B2B marketing, we're going to keep it simple here. That's because your goals will vary based on your industry, stage of growth, and a dozen other factors.
Instead of writing a thesis about marketing goals, here are four rules for creating more effective B2B marketing goals:
They should be made in conjunction with the sales team
Set a timeline (e.g., goals for the next month, quarter, year, etc.)
Goals should be easy to measure and gauge success
Main goals should be high-level—you’ll get into more nitty-gritty marketing success metrics in the strategy for each tactic
Step 4: Outline the targeted B2B marketing tactics you'll use to reach your goals
Now it's time to get down to business. How, exactly, will you reach your goals?
The tactics shouldn't be pulled out of a hat. Your goals should dictate the tactics and targeting you'll use to get there—and they can and should be an evolving mix that gets tested and tweaked and optimized.
Here's a 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, right?
And if your target personas are in the tech space, you probably won’t use content about knitting to attract them. (Unless it's a tech tool for knitters — hey, you do you.)
Each tactic should have its own, more specific strategy outlined, too. That includes:
Channel-specific success metrics and goals
A targeted 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.
Before you begin your marketing efforts, you need the right tools. In other words, you need to know what kind of channels you need to cover and then how to use them. Here's the breakdown of the top B2B marketing channels you should consider using:
Content marketing is one of the most popular B2B marketing channels. It involves creating relevant content for your target audience in order to establish your brand as an expert in the field (e.g. video content, white papers, ultimate guides, podcasts, case studies, blog articles)
Email is one of the best ways to turn leads into customers. It's quick, it's easy, and it's personal. It's often used in conjunction with other types of marketing strategies, such as content marketing and social media marketing.
For example, if you're selling software to businesses, you could use social media to get them interested in your product and then use email to follow up with them when they visit your website or download one of your free resources.
Paid search is another popular B2B marketing channel. It involves paying Google or other search engines to display your ad next to certain keywords when someone searches for them online. This can be effective because it allows you to target specific groups of people who have already shown an interest in what you're selling (or trying to sell).
Partner marketing involves working with other companies who already have established relationships with your target audience so that they'll promote your product or service through their own channels.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO helps increase visibility on search engines like Google and Bing so that more people find your website when they're looking for information related to your industry or products/services.
The goal of SEO is to make sure that when people are searching for things relevant to your business, like "web analytics tool," your website appears at the top of the results. That's how people will find you, and if you're not ranking high enough, you might lose out on potential customers!
Social media is an effective B2B marketing channel that allows businesses to interact with their customers. It is a great way to engage with your audience, learn what they want, and get feedback on your products. The most popular social media platforms for B2B are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Each platform has its own unique features that make it ideal for different types of businesses and audiences.
B2B referral marketing is a great channel to leverage your existing customer base. You can ask them to refer your business to others, and in turn, you offer incentives for those referrals. By doing this, you're able to increase your reach and grow your business without spending money on advertising.
How to measure the hidden impact of your B2B marketing strategy
At some point, you’ll start to see inbound traffic to your website. Well, hopefully.
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.
To gauge your marketing strategy's efficacy, 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.
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.
You can use that data to turn those missed visits into leads — or adjust your marketing strategy if you see a ton of visits from companies that don't fit your ICP.
What is B2B marketing? It relies on intent, not just bland strategies
Most B2B marketing articles just spoon-feed you generic marketing tactics, but that isn’t a recipe for long-term success. Neither are strategies from five years ago.
Every strategy and tactic you employ should be based on finding prospects with intent to purchase and guiding them through the buying process, not just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what might stick.
Note: Leadfeeder is a B2B marketing tool that identifies companies visiting your site. Sign up for a free trial and start seeing leads in an hour (or less.)
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