If you own a B2B business, you’re probably aware that marketing to other businesses is generally more complex than consumer marketing. B2B products and services are typically sold at larger volumes with longer sales cycles and involve multiple decision-makers. Unless you sell a one-off product or service, your overall goal should be to develop a long-term relationship with your brand. Here are some strategies to set you up for success.
B2B vs. B2C Marketing
As you probably know, B2B companies target other businesses and provide services that individuals are unlikely to buy. B2C companies, on the other hand, do sell products or services to individuals. These sales approaches have ramifications for each type of company’s ideal marketing plan.
B2C marketing is often more predicated on captivating content that introduces consumers to easy solutions. For example, a B2B marketing strategy might instead prioritize messaging about return on investment (ROI) and a long-term relationship between the B2B company and the client. That’s why B2C marketing content is often more fun, emotion-focused, and quick than B2B marketing, which can be big on jargon and educational material.
Why B2B Marketing?
Rare is the business that launches and then spontaneously finds clients. This notion is especially true in the B2B world, as most B2B services aren’t just sitting on storefront shelves waiting to be bought. In fact, it stands to reason that without B2B marketing, your company would struggle to find paying clients at all.
B2B marketing also matters since it gives your target audience the information it needs to make purchasing decisions. Most B2B purchases are a choice that several people in a chain of command, make rather than one person. The heavily educational, ROI-focused content of B2B marketing can help the people in these chains of command understand why your company might solve the problems they currently face.
The 15 Best Marketing Strategies for the Business to Business (B2B) Market
Here are some strategies to set you up for success in business-to-business marketing:
1. Integrate Marketing Channels
The sales funnel is complex these days. Ninety-four percent of B2B buyers research online during the buying process, according to an Accenture study and more than 70% of consumers use three or more channels when researching a purchase.
Because of this, businesses need to create an integrated approach to marketing both on and off-line. For example, you could place a paid ad to promote an upcoming industry event. At that event, attendees could receive a free gift or other incentive for subscribing to your newsletter or following you on social media. Explore creative ways to introduce your target audience to additional channels. This helps solidify the customers link to your goods or services.
To successfully integrate, make sure your brand is represented consistently across every channel. That means logos, colors, language and layout need to be in line with each other.
Hinge Research Institute has shown a strong correlation between research and B2B business growth/profitability. In fact, B2B firms that conduct frequent research (at least quarterly) grow almost 12X faster and are almost twice as profitable as firms that do no research.
From researching your specific marketplace to brand research, detailed information helps you get to know your clients better and gives insight into how your marketing efforts are performing.
3. Increase Website Performance
You’ve probably come across clunky, difficult to maneuver websites. If you don’t absolutely have to use that site, you’ll likely exit and never return. Poorly optimized websites can have issues that include slow loading times, being formatted poorly for mobile, browser incompatibilities, and more.
You’ll want your website to rank well in search, highlight your goods and services and ultimately convert visitors into leads. This article can help determine where you stand and changes to make, if needed: 4 Metrics To Measure Your B2B Website Performance.
4. Carve Out a Niche
Research from B2B marketing firm Hinge shows that the fastest-growing firms tend to be specialists in a carefully targeted niche. It’s important that you establish yourself or your company as an expert and a leader in your space.
Elevate your profile by offering to speak at an industry event or contribute an article to a top trade magazine in your industry.
5. Set up a Referral Program
Referrals are a big source of B2B sales. When a customer comes to you via a direct referral, they’ll be more trusting and open to your pitch. Here are three tips suggested by FitSmallBusiness to help build and nurture a referral program:
- Take customers for coffee or lunch one month after they have made a purchase from you to check that they are happy with their purchase. Schedule follow-up reminders in your CRM to make this a habit.
- If they are happy with their purchase, ask your customer if they can introduce you to other potential customers like themselves.
- Ask them to call or email people that they can refer to help set-up your meeting. If this doesn’t work, ask if you can use their name when making contact yourself.
6. Gather Feedback
There’s no better way to determine where you stand than to ask your current customers. B2C feedback is fairly easy because of the high-profile consumer sites out there like Yelp or Google Reviews. But because your B2B company might be complex, generating feedback can be challenging.
The best way to spark feedback? Simply ask.
This can be done easily by automatic email requests generated through CRM software. If a customer doesn’t respond to your review request initially, they might in the future as B2B relationships can be lengthy. Instead of emails or surveys, have your account manager or salesperson go directly to your customer.
You can get great feedback during this process if you have targeted questions. Be sure to ask for permission to use a positive quote on printed marketing materials or your website.
7. Increase Engagement Online and Offline
Increasing engagement is easier when you have integrated marketing channels. (see above) You can spark online engagement through an email campaign, company newsletter or posting and responding on social media channels.
Offline engagement can include a phone call or face-to-face meeting. If you attend industry trade shows, host a cocktail party for customers and prospects.
Need some inspiration? Check out these examples: Seven Examples of Outstanding B2B Marketing Campaigns.
8. Prioritize Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When business owners realize they need help with certain business needs, they often turn to search engines to find solutions. Your B2B company can rank highly in these search results if you prioritize SEO in all your content. Doing so requires the consistent use of relevant search terms and adherence to best practices in your blogs, website, and social media posts. Learn more via the SmartBiz Loans Blog: Small Business SEO Checklist
9. Maintain a Social Media Presence
Almost every major B2B company maintains a highly active social media presence. Great examples include Slack using its Twitter channel as a customer service portal and Salesforce using its Twitter to congratulate its clients on their achievements. These examples may seem like regular old posts, but they’re actually parts of social media marketing strategies that show how much each brand cares about its clients. Read the SmartBiz Loans blog Social Media Guide for Small Businesses for more information.
10. Incorporate Marketing Automation Into Your Lead Generation
When someone fills out the lead capture form on your B2B company’s website, don’t let their response go unattended for long periods. Instead, set up marketing automation workflows that immediately send an email to the potential customer upon completing the form. You can also automatically add people who complete the form to your email list so they receive all your email marketing campaigns and learn more about your company. Speaking of which...
11. Lean on Email Marketing
Just because everyone gets tons of emails all the time doesn’t lessen the value of B2B email marketing. An email with a strong subject line pertinent to your target audience can further progress your leads along your sales funnel. Emails can also be great places to offer signup discounts and provide the depth of information that B2B customers need to make decisions. Head to the SmartBiz Loans blog for more tips: Email Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners
12. Set Up a Content Marketing Strategy
Email marketing and content marketing go hand in hand. In both emails and blogs (which are often the crux of content marketing), you can go long about your B2B services. You can also include links to your newest blog posts in your marketing emails. One difference between the two: Whereas marketing emails are often clearly sales-focused, blog posts often discuss relevant subjects without explicit calls to action. The SmartBiz Loans blog has more information: Solid Reasons to Use Content Marketing for Business Growth
13. Don’t Neglect Word of Mouth
Business owners need to minimize risk, and as they shop for B2B solutions, they can keep their risk low by choosing brands for which other business owners vouch. That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing: It puts social proof behind your products, thereby making purchases more likely. Learn how to tactfully employ word-of-mouth marketing via the Act-On blog.
14. Consider Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a tricky, but not impossible, proposition for B2B marketing. You can’t quite have an influencer hold up your product and talk about it in a video the way they can with most B2C products. However, you can commit to establishing yourself as an influential voice, or thought leader, in your field. As you establish a reputation for innovation and reliability, your B2B company’s client base might grow.
15. Give Pay-Per-Click (PPC) a Go
PPC campaigns result in your company automatically ranking first or near-first in search engine result pages for queries relevant to your services. They essentially achieve the same outcome as SEO, but at a potentially higher cost and only temporarily. That said, if you’re looking to get new B2B clients now, there’s nothing wrong with using Google Ads (f.k.a. Google AdWords) to reach potential customers.
How to Develop Your B2B Marketing Strategy
In an ideal world, you’d use all the above methods in your B2B marketing strategy. In reality, you likely have limited capacity. To figure out how exactly you’ll go about your B2B marketing, take the below steps:
- Narrow your target audience . B2B marketing is about more than knowing who might need your services. It’s also about understanding why clients might use your services and what kind of problems your services solve. Keep all these concerns in mind as you craft your strategy.
- Qualify your leads . Lead generation is fundamental to B2B marketing, but not every lead will be worth continuing to target. You can figure out who’s worth pursuing by creating a buyer persona. Base this persona on your current customers and their attributes, and consider putting less effort into leads who don’t check your boxes.
- Get to know your competitors . Although exactly replicating your competitors is ill-advised, you can learn plenty from how they market their services. Look at the channels your competitors use, and scour the internet for reviews. These reviews may include information about your competitors’ prices and weaknesses, which you can use to position yourself as superior. Whatever you do that your competitors don’t is your unique selling proposition, which you can also promote.
- Target the entire sales funnel . It’s tempting to market solely to potential customers who show a clear interest in your services. However, doing so prevents you from reaching people who don’t yet know your services exist but would strongly benefit from them. That’s why top-of-the-funnel approaches such as content marketing are as important as later-stage methods such as automation.
- Look at your resources and available channels . An in-house marketing team is well-equipped to handle a multi-channel approach. A lower-resource operation might only be able to afford a few low-cost channels at a time. B2B marketing, then, is a balance between your budget and your capabilities. Know not only what you can afford, but how you’ll use your money to make the best use of your channels. New B2B leads could quickly result.