Marketing to businesses requires a definite set of skills, processes, and methodologies compared with marketing to individual consumers. Business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategies target unique buyer personas along a modified customer journey.
Whether you’re conversant in business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing or you’re approaching B2B marketing from a fresh perspective, this comprehensive guide will assist you not only frame your thinking but also begin to develop engagement strategies that will work for your brand.
What is B2B digital marketing?
B2B digital marketing refers to the practice of selling products and services to other organizations via online channels. In today’s complex and competitive marketplace, B2B marketing strategies often target multiple personas within an industry.
B2B marketing efforts tend to focus totally on how products and services will impact the target company’s revenue. Because business buyers are highly concerned with return on investment, B2B marketing materials usually consider providing the audience with factual information, as against emotional appeals.
B2B marketers may develop content for all types of business buyers, from sole proprietors to decision-makers at large corporations. Effective B2B marketers make some extent to find out the maximum amount as they will about their audience’s needs. Trust plays a crucial role in these efforts. the power to quickly establish thought leadership may be a crucial skill for B2B marketers.
B2B vs. B2C digital marketing
As their names suggest, B2B and B2C marketing strategies target different audiences:
- B2B businesses sell products and services directly to decision-makers at a particular set of businesses. Examples of common B2B services include software-as-a-service (SaaS) products and outsourced HR services.
- B2C businesses sell products or services to consumers. Common examples include retail products and home services.
While B2B and B2C marketers often use equivalent tools and technical best practices, there are many crucial differences in these strategies. B2C marketers can often target a wider audience than B2B marketers. for instance, a B2C retail company that sells shoes might target men who play team sports.
B2B marketers, on the opposite hand, must target more specific decision-makers. for instance, a B2B company might target business decision-makers who need an answer which will help them lower their daily operating costs. meaning that B2B buyer personas usually have very specific job titles.
In addition, B2B sales cycles tend to be for much longer than B2C buyer journeys. B2C consumers may even see a billboard then immediately make a sale. because of one-click shopping options, consumers can make impulse purchases with little or no consideration. this is often not the case for B2B customers, who are usually beholden to departmental budgets also because of the input of other decision-makers. In some cases, the B2B sales cycle can take several months to finish. As a result, B2B marketers need robust customer management tools to nurture and convert leads.
Ultimately, B2B and B2C customers have very different motivations. Consumers want and wish for products and services that fulfill their individual needs and needs. B2B customers, on the opposite hand, want to enhance their business. Decision-makers at larger enterprises might not have a private investment within the business beyond their direct job performance. At the top of the day, both sorts of customers are people with unique needs, but marketers got to follow distinct strategies when targeting one or the opposite.
Here are some quick differences between B2B and B2C marketing:
- B2B offerings are intended to improve a business’s operations and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line.
- B2C offerings seek to improve the customer’s life in some way or satisfy a need.
- B2B products and services tend to be more expensive.
- B2C products and services are usually more affordable, though they can carry a hefty price tag.
- B2B marketing materials tend to be informational and they rely on sales teams to close deals.
- B2C marketing materials often appeal to shoppers’ emotions.
It’s also important to keep in mind that many businesses blur the line between B2B and B2C products. In some cases, companies will market different versions of their products to consumers and businesses. For example, a furniture company might sell its office furniture to both end-consumers and businesses.
How B2B marketing works
Before we dive into how companies use B2B digital marketing strategies, it’s important to possess a general understanding of how B2B marketing works at a high level. With any effort, the primary step is to get brand awareness. After all, it’s hard to sell a product that nobody has heard of before. Companies spread brand awareness through digital channels like social media, email, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and traditional advertising.
The next step is to nurture leads through engaging content. Digital marketing assets like blog articles, white papers, and case studies demonstrate the worth of products and services and help the audience understand the “why” and “how” of the offerings.
B2B marketers often work with sales teams to nurture customer relationships and build trust. Sales demos and trial periods are common tactics wont to win the trust of consumers. B2B brands usually want to take care of strong relationships because they will still sell new products and services to existing customers over the future.
If you’re able to see some samples of B2B marketing in action, be happy to leap to the rock bottom of this text. Next, we’ll examine how B2B marketers use online and offline tactics to appeal to their customers also because of the best channels for achieving business goals.
Understanding the B2B sales funnel
Every B2B company must have a firm understanding of its sales funnel — the path prospects take from becoming aware of the brand to finally converting to paying customers. But keep in mind that sales funnels do not appear spontaneously. Rather, it takes skilled marketers and salespeople to structure a funnel that meets strategic objectives and reduces friction along the customer’s journey.
The typical B2B sales funnel consists of five stages:
- Brand awareness.
- Customer consideration.
- Brand preference.
- Purchase decision.
- Brand loyalty.
By visualizing this funnel, B2B companies can identify where customers are losing interest and leaving the funnel. Then, marketers can determine how best to remove barriers and help customers move from one stage of the funnel to the next. This process will occur continuously as customer needs change, as competitors disrupt the market and as the company’s products and services evolve. Sales funnel optimization is an ongoing process that requires a keen understanding of buyer personas and the market in which they operate.
Top of funnel: Generating leads
When B2B customers enter a company’s sales funnel, they’re unlikely to understand much about the brand. The lead generation process begins when prospects click on a billboard, find a blog article through organic search, encounter a social media post or hear a referral from a colleague or associate.
At this stage within the funnel, the customer may or might not yet understand their pain point and the way the corporate can help them. confine mind that the highest of the funnel contains the best number of prospects. instead of designing a funnel to tug in as many prospects as possible, it should be structured to tug within the prospects who are presumably to convert to the subsequent stage of the funnel. Therefore, marketing content like blogs should aim to assist prospects to understand the difficulty at hand and supply a preview of the potential solution. At this stage, the corporate begins to determine trust, authority, and thought leadership.
Downloadable assets like eBooks and white papers can help move prospects from the highest of the funnel to the center. Gated content encourages prospects to exchange their contact information for a meaty piece of content that begins to answer questions around their pain point. Their information should enter a customer relationship management (CRM) platform where the marketing and sales teams can begin to trace the connection.
Middle of the funnel: Nurturing leads
Once prospects are during a CRM system, the corporate can then target them with content that appeals on to their unique needs and pain points. Companies with long sales cycles will avoid going for direct sales as soon as possible because they don’t want to risk scaring away prospects. Remember, many B2B products and services carry a hefty tag. Prospects need time to try to do their research, consult their teams, and make their decision.
Lead nurturing practices still build trust and establish the corporate as a pacesetter. At this stage of the funnel, it’s all about customer education. for instance, a corporation might get prospects to check in for a newsletter where they publish stories about ongoing trends and current events associated with their industry. This content will help to tug prospects back to the company’s website where they’re going to encounter more marketing materials.
This stage of the funnel can take the longest time to finish. It could take weeks or months for prospects to convert at this stage, so it’s important to optimize the content they receive. Marketers should continually test their content to work out what information prospects need before they’re willing to succeed in bent the sales team.
Middle of the funnel: Building customer relationships
Not all prospects will continue moving down the funnel, and that’s OK because once potential customers approach the sales team, it takes more work and resources to convert them into paying customers.
For example, let’s say that a corporation sells a SaaS solution that, when adopted, becomes an important part of the target business’s operations. Making a sale may be a huge decision for the customer. it’s going to be one of the foremost significant decisions their business makes all year. Therefore, the decision-makers got to be convinced and guaranteed that they’re making the proper choice. They’re not just buying a product just one occasion, after all. They’re also forming a long-term relationship with the vendor.
This is where sales demos and meetings play an enormous role. Meeting face-to-face with customers is an important part of the sales process. But content still features a role to play, too. At this stage of the funnel, marketers can create in-depth technical white papers, one-pagers, and slide decks to assist the sales team close the deal.
Bottom of the funnel: Conversion
Closing the sale isn’t the top of the connection. Once a commitment has been secured, the corporate not only must deliver on its promises, but also maintain an in-depth relationship with the customer to make sure they need a positive experience. Follow-up calls and meetings could also be necessary to make sure the client is satisfied with their purchase.
Once again, the marketing team can leverage content to stay clients happy and engaged. for instance, email content can help to stay clients up so far on new features, upcoming trends, and more. Over time, because the relationship develops, the marketing and sales teams can encourage existing clients to form additional purchases or refer the corporate to their colleagues. Retaining clients is typically more profitable than making new ones, so it’s important to take care of a robust reference to customers after they’ve converted.
What is the role of traditional marketing?
Though we’re discussing digital marketing in this guide, we cannot ignore traditional marketing efforts. While business buyers are likely to conduct most of their research online, traditional media still has a role to play. In fact, some of the most successful B2B marketing strategies incorporate both traditional and digital channels, allowing marketers to nurture leads in a more natural and comprehensive way.
Some common forms of offline B2B marketing include:
- Direct mail: In an environment where decision-makers are bombarded with cold emails every day, direct mail can cut through the noise. And it’s not just about mailing brochures. B2B marketers may send out freebies like branded office supplies or chocolates to endear themselves to new and existing customers.
- Print ads: While most print ads these days target retail consumers, there’s also room for B2B material. Print ads in business magazines and strategically placed billboards can be an effective way to grab the attention of business decision-makers. Anyone who has been to Silicon Valley knows that most of the billboards around the San Jose airport are targeted at tech company stakeholders.
- Events: In-person and virtual events are excellent venues for making personal connections with decision-makers. Events are a great way to obtain contact information that marketers can use later to nurture leads with digital content.
Aligning digital and traditional marketing efforts allows B2B brands to connect with their customers across every stage of the buyer’s journey.
The most popular B2B digital marketing channels
An effective B2B digital marketing strategy leverages any channel that a possible customer might use to find out more a few specific product, service or pain point. When attracting a specific buyer persona, B2B marketers should know which channels will make the foremost impact. Both B2B and B2C customers tend to maneuver between several channels throughout the decision-making process.
Remember, a B2B audience remains made from people that use social media, email, and other communication channels. A company’s inbound marketing strategy should remember which channels are likely to draw in, qualify and convert customers.
Let’s take a look at seven of the most popular B2B marketing channels:
- Content marketing: By creating and distributing digital content, a B2B business can generate brand awareness, improve program rankings and generate audience interest. Content marketing is one of the foremost effective ways to get and nurture leads.
- Email marketing: Email marketing is one of the foremost popular ways to succeed in potential customers because it allows a B2B marketer to place targeted, personalized messages directly ahead of qualified prospects.
- Paid search: PPC advertising makes it easier for B2B prospects to seek out the knowledge they’re trying to find. Because PPC ads tend to be highly visible, they attract prospects and help them to convert to paying customers.
- SEO: program optimization helps to maximize the likelihood of prospects finding and clicking on your website when checking out an answer to their pain points. By outranking their competitors, companies show that they’re industry leaders.
- Social media marketing: B2B customers expect brands to possess a presence on popular social media channels. this sort of selling content helps to offer brands a personality that customers can relate to.
- Webinars/Video: Live and pre-recorded video represent a number of the foremost engaging sorts of digital content. Videos help customers get the knowledge they have while going to know the brand a touch better.
- Event marketing: In-person and virtual events are powerful ways to interact with B2B customers. Events not only give customers an opportunity to find out a few company’s offerings but also provide prospects with a chance to network and have interaction with their peers.Generating leads through engaging content
We’ve seen how content plays an important role at each stage of the buyer’s journey. We’ve also discussed how content gets distributed through various digital channels. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular content types:
- Blogs: SEO blogs are an excellent way to attract readers at the top of the sales funnel. Not only do blogs help your website rank more highly in search results, but they also provide your target audience with high-level information about relevant topics. Blogs can provide immediate value to readers looking for solutions to their problems. A good internal linking strategy can also encourage readers to explore the company’s website further.
- eBooks and white papers: After browsing through a company’s website, interested prospects may want to learn more about a specific topic. That’s where larger assets like eBooks and white papers come into play. A downloadable eBook allows companies to collect reader information while providing valuable assets prospects can use to make their purchasing decisions. An eBook should be supported by blogs and social media posts to ensure readers can find it.
- Infographics: Another great top-of-funnel asset, infographics provide prospects with a quick bite of information. As the name suggests, infographics usually offer engaging statistics and easily digestible information. Plus, visually appealing infographics can catch readers’ eyes while scrolling through their social media feeds.
- Podcasts: Audio content has been booming in recent years. People consume podcasts to stay up to date on the latest industry trends and hear insights from thought leaders. Plus, podcasts provide a way for company leaders to make a personal connection with new and existing customers.
- Videos: Both short- and long-form videos can engage readers and keep them interested in learning more about a company. Videos can be informational, providing details about specific topics, or more entertaining, such as a recorded interview between industry leaders. Plus, live videos provide a venue for prospects to ask questions and build a sense of community.
B2B marketers need to use a combination of these content types to engage their target audience at various stages of the sales funnel. Therefore, it is essential to align communications so that customers don’t receive redundant messaging.
Bringing everything together: B2B digital marketing strategies and examples
B2B digital marketing strategies can take on many different forms. In this section, we’ll take a look at a few real-life examples that show just how diverse digital marketing efforts can be. Remember, just because a company is selling products and services to another company does not mean its marketing needs to be boring.
General Electric SIGNA Masters Webinar Series
In 2020, GE Healthcare pivoted away from in-person events and hosted a series of webinars to help medical decision-makers learn more about magnetic resonance enterography technology. These webinars, hosted by an MRI specialist, provided viewers with in-depth educational content to help them understand more about GE’s innovative technology.
This campaign also included a virtual exhibit of the company’s latest products. The live scanning demonstrations gave viewers an opportunity to see the products in action, ask questions and learn more about how these products might fit into their existing workflows.
Microsoft Azure Information Hub
Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure has an extensive library of content to help prospective and current customers learn about the product. The information hub provides readers with everything they need to know about Azure’s costs, features, and cybersecurity functions.
The hub also delivers social proof of the service’s effectiveness. Company logos and case studies provide the reader with real-life examples of how other companies have used Azure to support their business needs. Importantly, Microsoft’s marketing team leverages social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linked In, and YouTube to spread brand awareness and connect with customers on a more personal level.
Cisco Enterprise Networks Resource Center
Cisco helps prospective B2B customers to learn more about their products and services via an interactive digital resource center. Among blog articles and how-to guides, customers can also view infographics and case studies.
Plus, Cisco provides assessment tools to assist the reader narrow down their focus and gain a far better understanding of how Cisco solutions can help them perform better. By answering a series of questions, B2B buyers can see what their competitors do to unravel similar issues then get a customized recommendation on subsequent steps. Not only does this keep prospects engaged, but it also provides the Cisco sales team with the knowledge they have to possess a productive conversation with their customers.
Each of the above examples shows that B2B digital marketing strategies rely heavily on several channels to convert customers. counting on one avenue of communication not only reduces visibility into customer needs but may additionally exclude customer segments altogether. the foremost effective B2B marketing strategies use a mixture of content, brand outreach and tailoring of the sales funnel to draw in, nurture, and convert prospects into loyal customers.
Interested in learning more? Get your free copy of “The Definitive B2B Content Marketing Guide” to get the way to tie your content to specific commercial objectives and more.