Marketing can be tricky. What worked last year may be passé today; and what works on a specific demographic may not work for yours. In addition, there are other factors to keep in mind, such as whether you’re a B2B or B2C company. At the end of the day, how to approach a campaign varies significantly on that issue alone.
So what’s an entrepreneur (or a marketing team) to do? Developing a strategic blueprint will set the stage to effective marketing. And you’ve come to the right place to learn how to do so.
B2B marketing is the process of marketing products or services to businesses and other organizations. It typically focuses on selling to companies with complex needs, rather than individual consumers. Think project management and payroll software vs. stocking your mini fridge with La Croix.
B2B buyers are generally more concerned with finding a solution to their problem than they are with getting a great deal. As such, B2B marketing should focus on how what you’re offering is ideal to solve your target audience’s pain points.
B2B differs from B2C in many aspects. Due to the nature of the investment, the sales cycle is longer, and buyers usually need to get approval from someone higher up within their company, or the green light from a Board of Directors. This is because B2B services require:
A Bigger Investment
Ok. So B2B clients aren’t exactly looking for bargain prices. However, they do work within a budget, so they have to make sure that whatever they’re investing in makes sense financially for their company. Therefore, they take their time to research products and features, as well as to check how they compare with competitors.
Since they will be spending a significant amount of time looking at their options, good B2B marketing includes ways to educate consumers about what they have to offer. Not just about Product A or Product B, but also how it benefits the buyer within the context of their industry. A good way to do this is through inbound marketing, which is further explained below.
When prospective buyers visit your website to read about your product, they may also come across your blog, lead magnet, or a landing page that piques their interest. When they do, they may provide you with their email address to either subscribe to more content or to receive whatever the lead magnet or landing page is offering. This provides you with the perfect opportunity to nurture those leads as they go through their buyer’s journey.
Due to the longer sales cycle (and the nature of monthly B2B subscription services or renewable contracts) the relationships between seller and buyer tend to be long-term. So you have to plan accordingly. This entails everything from lead nurturing, to providing an extraordinary user experience, customer support, and delighting them beyond their expectations.
There are several advantages to taking the time to develop B2B marketing strategies that align with your business goals.
When businesses focus their efforts specifically on their target audience — and provide content for all stages of the sales funnel — this will inevitably lead to more sales, since the people reaching out to your team for more information will be qualified leads.
Improved Brand Recognition
B2B marketing increases brand awareness by coming up in online searches and PPC and social media ads of your target audience. Even if you’re not paying for ads, developing content that addresses common questions they may enter into a search engine (and using SEO best practices) significantly increases the likelihood that you’ll pop up every time they do a search.
Greater Customer Loyalty
When there’s greater brand awareness from your target audience, they start seeing you as the industry expert that you are. As such, they are more likely to make a purchase from you — and if your strategies include personalization and a good UX, they are likely to stay with you long-term.
Reduced Marketing Costs
When you’re just throwing around everything you have, hoping that something will stick, you’re being wasteful — of time, money, and resources. On the other hand, being strategic about what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it eliminates what doesn’t work; and thus reduces your overall marketing expenses.
Being strategic about how you conduct your marketing means that there’s a purpose behind every task. Your team does what needs to be done instead of just going through the motion blindly. This results in only working on what has a higher likelihood of success.
Alright. Grab a cup of coffee and get your pens and notebooks ready. We’re going to go down a list of action items to come up with an effective B2B marketing strategy for your business.
Define Your Goals
When Alice was lost in wonderland, she came across the Cheshire Cat and asked him: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cheshire Cat, being wildly wise beyond his years, told her that it depended on where she wanted to go. Alice, being the kid that she was, said that she didn’t much care. So the Cat replied: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
This applies to everything in life, but since this is a B2B marketing blog, use it within that context. You gotta know what you’re aiming for. If it’s more website visitors, focus your strategies on that. Want to increase sales by 35% by the end of the quarter? Very good. That’s very specific. Start developing strategies to get you there.
Establish Your Budget
The bigger the budget, the more you can do. Insightful, isn’t it? But don’t let limited funds discourage you. There are plenty of B2B companies that benefit from tiered marketing services. Others even offer useful features for free — like HubSpot does with their free CRM and their Marketing Hub Starter Plan.
So figure out how much money you have to play with, then reach out to inbound marketing agencies (bonus points if they’re also an Elite HubSpot Partner) to see what you can do with what you have.
Fine Tune Your B2B Messaging
Once you know what you want to say, it’s time to figure out how to say it. When doing so, consider the following components:
The most effective way to craft your marketing messaging — such as tone of voice, where to publish it, when to publish it, and what to highlight — depends on who’s your ideal customer. Therefore, you need to first list all the details of who this person is. When creating this profile, think of their level of education, where they read their news from, which social media channels they prefer, their geographical location, their job role, and anything else that may be relevant to their decision-making process. This is your buyer persona.
Once you have your buyer persona, you need to guide them through their buyer’s journey. This is a crucial element, since not everyone who visits your website is ready to buy. Maybe they stumbled upon it by chance. Maybe they’re doing preliminary research. Maybe they’ve narrowed down their choices and just need a final little push to enter their credit card information. You need to create content that’s targeted to each of these stages of the sales funnel.
No matter your industry, you likely have plenty of competition. So how can you stand out? Study their marketing strategies. What’s working? What isn’t? Do they have outdated information? Could they expand on issues when explaining something on their blog? Are there recurring concerns from customers on their reviews or social media posts? All of these elements will provide you with insights on how to improve on what they’re doing.
If you don’t have a business website, you’re already losing. I don’t care that you’re so great at what you do, you have referrals calling you around the clock. That’s fine and dandy; but you also want people to be able to find you when doing online searches for your goods or services. You want them to get a clear understanding of what you offer, pricing, contract terms, features, and anything else that will improve their lives.
Bedises, even if people are calling you because their neighbor’s cousin waxes poetic about you, having an effective B2B website can cement their perception that you’re an industry leader.
Once you have developed your strategy, you want to ensure that your ideal audience can find you. This can sometimes feel daunting, considering that no matter what you search for online, there are a myriad of options that pop up. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible — or that search engine results pages (SERPs) are the only way to be at the forefront of their mind.
Inbound marketing is all about attracting your audience in an organic way. No need to disrupt them with ads that they’ll skip or with mailers that will go straight from their mailbox to their recycling bin. Do this by starting a blog that answers questions about your industry. Break them down by topic. Do keyword research and incorporate those with a good search volume. And create an editorial calendar so that you’re not left wondering what to write about at the last minute. The key is to provide value, for free. They have questions, you have answers and actionable steps.
A few paragraphs above, I mentioned lead magnets. But how, exactly, do you create them? In order to entice website visitors to give you their email address, you have to come up with valuable content that will solve a pressing pain point or that will make their business processes easier. Right here, right now; no purchase necessary.
You can do this in the form of templates, tip sheets, eBooks, white papers, webinars, free trials, research reports, or How-To guides. You can determine what would be the best option for your type of business based on your buyer persona and what would be their likely preferences.
Speaking of your audience’s preferences, you also want to provide content in the type of format they typically consume. This could be long-form content, video tutorials, interactive content, infographics, slideshares, live streams, podcasts, discussion forums, social media marketing, or whatever else is new and trendy at any given moment. The key is to really hone in on formats your target audience would actually enjoy or find practical.
You also want to keep in mind the recipient’s category. For example, a repeat customer doesn’t need to see the same marketing materials as a first-time website visitor or someone who’s in the middle of conducting product research. Therefore, it behooves you to have a good customer relationship management (CRM) software to help you segment your contacts. This way, you can send them marketing content that’s relevant to their circumstances. In turn, this makes it more likely that they’ll engage with it and take your desired calls to action.
You also want to include email into your B2B marketing strategies. In fact, of all the elements that comprise your marketing, this one will likely have one of the highest ROIs. It’s also easy to measure its performance, so you can easily identify what’s working and what may need to be tweaked.
Now, when thinking about how to do this effectively, spend some time thinking of creative subject lines. After all, this is what would get them to open your emails in the first place. Study industry best practices, such as inducing FOMO, a sense of urgency, or leading with an interesting question. Also, limit it to 60 characters, so that it doesn’t get truncated. And use action-oriented words on your CTAs. The reader should be able to know exactly what will happen when they click on them.
Next, it’s time to promote, promote, promote! While SEO is extremely helpful in getting your content in front of the right people, you want to use all your resources available to get even more clicks. This includes:
Everyone’s on social media; and at this point in the game, you should know your target audience’s favorite platforms. This is where you’re going to focus your energy. And because no one has time to scroll through Instagram all day, make sure to get social media management tools to monitor all post engagement, shares, mentions, relevant hashtags, and that brings in queries through DMs into your customer service inbox.
Pay-per-click ads are those little banners you see popping up on websites you visit. They can also show up at the top of your online search result pages — with a bolded Ad label right at the top. When you implement this type of marketing, you pay the owner of the website every time a visitor clicks on the ad.
One of the many SEO best practices includes linking content to reputable sources. This is done with external links — other websites that substantiate your claims — and internal links (those that route readers to additional content within your website). Developing a backlink strategy means that you’re convincing other websites to use your content as their reliable source. This is extremely helpful to drive more traffic to your website, as well as to help establish you as an industry authority.
Having client testimonials on your website provides you with the social proof you need that your products or services work. It’s one thing for you to toot your own horn; but when people who are similarly situated to your target audience can attest to how you turned their lives into a unicorn and rainbows filled utopia, they are more likely to reach out to you so you can do the same for them.
This is a lot of information. Surely there has to be a way technology makes it easier to implement all of it. And indeed, there is. To make this entire process as seamless as possible, make sure to have:
A CRM that fits your needs. While most of them include the same core functionalities, you want to ensure to invest in one that has the capacity to store all of your contacts, enable as many permissions as you require for your team, allows for contacts segmentation, drip campaigns, personalized communications, and collaborations between your departments.
2. Marketing Automation
It would be the most tedious thing in the world to sit in front of a computer, waiting for your target audience to take a desired action so that you can deploy the next step in your marketing efforts. Marketing automation software (which is often already included in a good CRM) enables you to preset certain actions that trigger next steps — e.g. Someone subscribed to your blog, so now they’ll automatically get a Welcome email or be redirected to a Thank You page. Or they’ll enroll in a webinar, then they’ll receive an email with instructions on how and when to watch and what to expect.
A CMS is a content management system. This is the software you’ll use to create blogs, landing pages, case studies, and website copy. There are many alternatives in the market, but I recommend narrowing down your options to those that are user-friendly. For example, HubSpot’s CMS doesn’t require any coding knowledge, and has drag-and-drop functionalities and CTA creators.
4. Customer Support
Customer support is everything. Even if you really do sell the Holy Grail, if your customers have a hard time reaching you or have to jump through hurdles to get their issues resolved, they’re going to drop you like a hot potato. Avoid this problem by using technology to make this easy for you. Features such as a help desk, live chat, and a knowledge base can help provide fast answers to your clients.
When researching your options for all of the tools mentioned above, only consider those that would with the tech stack you’re already using. Make an exhaustive list of your business applications: Gmail, Slack, Salesforce, or anything else you use for calendaring, payroll, video conferencing, email marketing, etc… These answers should be available right on their website or through their app marketplace.
After you develop a marketing strategy, develop your campaigns, and incorporate all the necessary tools listed above, it’s time to track whether they’re as effective as you hope they will be. To do so, follow these practices:
Tracking your KPIs is crucial to determine the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. However, different goals require you to put your focus on different metrics. SaaS solutions that enable you to create customized dashboards make your life easier for everyone, in all of your teams. Make sure to have a standardized way so that once your team gets the hang of it, they’re easy to read.
Sometimes, even the best crafted marketing campaigns need a little tweaking. Or sometimes, you have two great elements, but you’re not sure which ones to implement (say, CTA wording or email subject line). So try both. Conducting A/B testing showcases what your target audience finds more compelling. You can then incorporate similar elements to future marketing efforts.
Want to know the real truth about how great your marketing is? Ask your customers how they feel about doing business with you. You can use software to simplify this process for you. And even if you get negative feedback, there’s no need to fret. They can serve you as insights you may not have otherwise discovered; and they give you the opportunity to make things better.
The best way to know if something is working is by looking at your numbers: How many customers are choosing to remain with you? Not only does this feel like a badge of honor, it’s also more cost effective than retaining new clients. And while you most definitely want to do both, you still want to do what’s most beneficial to your pocket. And those long-term relationships are also great sources of referrals.
As you can see, developing effective B2B marketing strategies require a lot of time, research, and patience. In fact, it can sometimes feel like a full-time job — because it most definitely is. You can consider having an in-house marketing team who exclusively focuses on developing campaigns, drafting content, and A/B testing; or you can hand over these responsibilities to an inbound marketing agency, like (ahem), yours truly.