As a business owner or marketing executive, you’ve most likely heard about business-to-business (B2B) marketing. Most of us in the niche get multiple messages about B2B marketing, usually on a daily basis.
Based on the type of business and products you wish to sell, following a B2B strategy could be a great option for you. This approach lets you make high-value sales to a smaller range of customers, which could help simplify your operations since you have to deal with fewer entities.
The profit margins in a B2B setting can also be higher, especially since it may have less competition compared to a business-to-consumer environment.
However, B2B marketing also has its own unique challenges. For instance, it can have a longer sales cycle while qualifying leads can be harder.
Before you jump in on a B2B marketing strategy, it’s important that you assess the pros and cons of this approach and see if it meets the goals of your organization.
We’ve prepared for you a guide on B2B marketing that explains what B2B marketing is all about, how it works, how it differs from B2C marketing, what strategies are used in B2B, and its best practices. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about B2B marketing.
What Is B2B Marketing?
As mentioned above, B2B marketing is the short form of business-to-business marketing. It’s one out of two primary categories in the world of marketing and it has significant differences from its counterpart: business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing.
The technical definition of B2B marketing is the promotion of products and services to other companies. This advertising process typically is done using large volumes of business offerings with large sales cycles while involving several decision-makers. It’s also more complex compared to consumer products.
On the business side, the definition of B2B marketing is the marketing of goods or services to other companies for use in general business operations, resale, or production.
The most straightforward definition of B2B marketing is a business that promotes its offerings to another business.
How Does B2B Marketing Work?
One of the first steps in B2B marketing is getting other businesses to know that your company exists. It’s also important to get the word out that you have a product or service that can benefit them.
Besides raising brand awareness, B2B marketing increases the interest of other businesses in your brand while nurturing prospects. The goal here is to convert all of them into paying customers. The ideal scenario is that they will develop a harmonious and profitable working relationship with your brand for years to come.
Since the products in a B2B setting are more complex and costly compared to those intended for consumers, it’s vital to develop long-lasting relationships with partners.
A lot of B2B marketers follow traditional strategies, such as hiring a team of sales representatives or going to trade shows, to develop key relationships. When these techniques are combined with the right digital tools, they can continue to market to businesses without necessarily compromising the personal touch that comes with conventional methods.
Consider the scenario below:
A sales representative named James works for a chatbot building company. He connects with Sarah who works at a web design agency and shows interest in what James and his business have to offer.
James adds Sarah to the company database where their marketing team nurtures their relationship in the B2B marketing process. They send resources to Sarah which they believe would be helpful and invite her to attend a special event.
As time goes by, Sarah converts into a customer. The web design agency where Sarah is working starts using the chatbot builder from James’ company to add artificial intelligence functionalities to their digital solutions.
Sarah begins getting the word out to other businesses, which eventually makes her a participant in the B2B marketing process.
In a successful B2B marketing strategy, you can expect an ideal combination of traditional and digital marketing tools being used to help prospects understand what a business can do for them. This could be through providing a solution that can make their processes more efficient or by helping solve one of their pain points.
No matter what benefit you provide, the goal in B2B marketing is to allow businesses to know that you’re around, you have a valuable product, and that companies should convert if they wish to leverage it.
What About B2C Marketing?
Although the goals in B2B and B2C marketing are similar, the techniques used on both sides vary significantly. These two aren’t the same and shouldn’t be treated as if they’re identical.
Compared to B2B marketing where business offerings are advertised to other businesses, B2C marketing is the act of promoting products or services to people for personal enjoyment, use, or consumption. Nearly any store that you visit in real life offers products that are provided through the B2C marketing scheme.
Apart from in-store purchases, B2C marketing also incorporates high-end purchases such as first-class travel tickets and luxury sports cars. Many B2C entities also provide solutions such as accounting services, training, and consultation.
What Is the Difference Between B2B and B2C Marketing?
To further understand how B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing, let’s take a look at the characteristics of each one to compare them easily.
The offerings in a B2B scheme are intended to be used by businesses.
The offerings in a B2C scheme are intended to be used by individual consumers.
Most B2B purchases come at a high price since they are sold to businesses that have more budget than a regular customer.
Most B2C purchases are usually less expensive since these only cater to individuals.
The sales cycle in a B2B marketing approach usually takes a long time and can be quite complex.
The sales cycle in a B2C marketing approach typically gets resolved quickly with not much thought placed in decisions.
Several factors are taken into account for B2B purchases such as involving multiple decision-makers and interpersonal relationships with partners.
Purchasing decisions in B2C marketing tend to be more emotional. They are often based on need or impulse.
The priority of B2B marketers is to penetrate the busy schedule of professionals from other businesses.
The priority of B2C marketers is to leverage digital channels to promote their offerings to individual customers.
What Type of Businesses Use B2B Marketing?
Businesses that sell their offerings to other businesses are considered to be using B2B marketing. Although the companies involved in B2B marketing aren’t as diverse compared to B2C, there can still be a wide variety of solutions and industries involved here.
The most common entities that use B2B marketing are:
- Marketing agencies: Marketing agencies work with businesses by providing them with solutions that can earn them more money. Most of these companies are using digital marketing especially with the growing number of brands and customers taking their businesses online. The demand for agencies that can develop quality websites, improve search results, and streamline the checkout process in ecommerce continues to grow each year.
- Software firms: The apps we have nowadays can help businesses meet the demands of their customers while allowing them to function more efficiently. Whether it’s through promoting collaboration between teammates using project management software or monitoring expenses, every business can find a solution for their needs through the right application.
- Accounting and bookkeeping: Business owners know how tax preparations and accounting, in general, can be time-consuming and tedious. These areas are good reasons why they should outsource these services to B2B companies that can handle them.
- Office suppliers: Despite more and more work moving to the digital realm, workspaces still have to be kept supplied well with physical resources to continue operating. Things such as phone systems, furniture, security cameras, printing materials, and more are still necessary for employees to work. All of these needs can be supplied by B2B companies.
The companies above are just a few entities that use the B2B strategy. With many industries and resources necessary to develop product offerings, it’s not hard to see the huge scope of B2B businesses.
What Marketing Channels Do B2B Businesses Use?
To connect with potential customers in the B2B space, marketers must use the appropriate channel available to them. The channel that they use often dictates the type of messaging that would best fit the users there.
For instance, your website is a great place to share lengthy and technical content about your product. This is especially true since you can provide downloadable links to the necessary documents there. Twitter, on the other hand, is no place to discuss specifications in-depth.
B2B channels can be broken down into the following groups:
- Online: Anything that involves marketers connecting with their audience through digital means.
- Offline: Anything that doesn’t happen on the internet is considered an offline channel.
Marketers in the past had to rely only on offline channels, but with the advancements we’ve had in the last few decades, new ways of connecting with one another now exist. Today, we have more channels we can leverage to develop relationships with our target audiences.
Similar to marketing strategies, these channels continue to evolve based on the technology available. For instance, TV commercials were just limited to offline channels but with the advent of streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix, people can now see these ads on their mobile devices.
The great thing about marketing channels is that you don’t need to focus on just one. B2B marketers can select and use a combination of online and offline channels if they want. They can test the performance of these channels and see which combinations work for them.
Following a multichannel approach is one of the best ways to make the most of a limited marketing budget since it allows you to develop a system that is more powerful than using each part individually.
Offline B2B Marketing Channels
Online B2B Marketing Channels
Attending trade shows and meeting industry insiders allow B2B marketers to nurture them as potential customers.
B2B marketers can use websites to publish blogs, showcase positive reviews, gather customer information, and let businesses know what they offer.
B2B marketers use direct mail to send items their recipients will appreciate to open doors and start relationships.
B2B marketers leverage social media platform popularity to answer customer questions, share relevant content, and show company values.
Print ads help offline B2B marketers reach their target audience by targeting specific trade publications, newspapers, and magazines in a cost-effective way.
Regular emails allow B2B marketers to stay in touch with their prospects and encourage them to convert into customers.
Sponsorships provide B2B marketers with the ability to develop personal connections and relationships with their customers
Digital advertising through banner or pay-per-click ads helps online B2B marketers promote their businesses.
B2B marketers can work with firms that provide research, consulting, and publicity to increase brand awareness.
Digital B2B marketers can choose to publish content outside of their own website by using publications, forums, and Q&A sites.
Top Strategies Used in B2B Marketing
Selecting the right B2B marketing channel is just the first part of your B2B journey. The next, and probably most important part, is choosing the right marketing strategy to employ.
Running marketing campaigns that lack engagement is a waste of time and money but when you have defined an ideal marketing approach, you can focus your resources for maximum effectiveness.
This is especially important since the sales cycles in B2B can be extremely long and complex. Identifying leads, growing them, and eventually convincing them to invest in your brand can’t all be done overnight. But, with winning B2B marketing strategies, you can have a better time converting prospects into paying customers.
The following are some of the most popular B2B marketing strategies used today:
B2B Marketing Strategy: Inbound Marketing
In inbound marketing, marketers carry out a strategy that attracts a target audience, pinpoints potential leads, and converts them into customers. This is done through the use of helpful and relevant content, search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, social media marketing, and more.
A major aspect of inbound marketing is content marketing together with SEO performed on the content itself. SEO is all about increasing the rankings of a website on search engines so that your content will show up when people search for them.
Keywords are crucial in search engine optimization since these are the terms and phrases that people use on Google when looking for something. When you can maximize your keyword strategy, you can improve the SEO and overall traffic to your website.
These are the most common inbound marketing strategies B2B marketers should know:
- Email marketing: Using opt-in email lists help filter people who are interested in receiving content from you via email. When they decide to subscribe to your mailing list, these users will be more likely to interact with the messages you send. You can email useful and relevant content to your contacts to drive them to your website.
- Search engine optimization: Applying the best practices in SEO can increase the probability that your site will rank higher in search engines. Having good rankings results in significantly higher site traffic and lead generation.
- Publishing on forums: B2B marketers who are active on forums and Q&A websites can bring in a lot of traffic to their landing pages and websites by answering pertinent questions from various users. When you establish yourself as a thought leader, you have a better chance of connecting with other businesses since they will see you as an expert.
- Social media marketing: Many B2B marketers are on social media networks to promote their businesses. They connect with influencers, help build communities, and share valuable content to raise brand awareness.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Content Marketing
Although content marketing is a sub-category of inbound marketing, the approach is so extensive that it deserves its own place in this list.
Content marketing is all about creating and sharing valuable material with a target audience to stimulate their interest in the products or services of a company. This could be in the form of written content, such as with blogs or ebooks, or leveraging video on a YouTube channel.
Compared to other B2B marketing strategies, content marketing doesn’t force itself upon people. It instead emphasizes providing them with materials and resources that they’d want to engage with. Oftentimes this is used to answer important questions or by helping solve common pain points.
Many successful B2B brands have turned into vital resource centers for both their prospects and customers. When this happens, it continues to raise brand awareness since prospects will learn about the company through the content and resources it supplies.
Furthermore, content marketing also builds trust in the brand as people interact with it. Although it can be tempting to publish content that talks about your product or brand, it shouldn’t be the only thing to focus on. Instead, you want to provide your readers with content that can help them overcome their problems.
Many people consider content marketing to be one of the newer trends in the marketing world, but the approach has been around for quite some time already. One of the most famous examples of a company that used content marketing was John Deere when they started publishing a magazine for farmers back in 1895.
Content marketing continues to grow in popularity over the years, allowing businesses to research and find the information they need easier than ever before. That’s why B2B marketers should engage in this process the right way to win their trust and their business.
B2B marketers can look into publishing the following types of content:
- Blog content: Creating and publishing blogs are the bread and butter of content marketing because it helps build up credibility. It also sets businesses apart by making them stand out as thought leaders in their niche. Furthermore, blogs can be used to drive traffic to certain pages on your website.
- Reports, white papers, and ebooks: These types of content allow companies to be more in-depth and technical on certain topics that are relevant to their industry. Such resources can be highly appealing to people who are already deep within the sales cycle.
- Charts and infographics: Using visual content allows people to understand the technical content you publish in a format that is easier to consume. Visuals are quite popular on social media which is why they have become one of the most commonly shared content on social platforms.
- Video content: Publishing videos can make B2B brands more personal. B2B marketers can divide video content into smaller portions that are easy to consume and distribute these parts across various marketing channels.
- Podcast episodes: Not everyone has the time to read text or watch videos but they may find listening to podcasts more convenient on their end. Using podcasts allow B2B marketers to gain access to a different type of audience, which can help increase brand awareness.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Marketing Automation
B2B marketers can leverage marketing automation platforms to help automate many of their activities, allowing them to work on other important matters. Rather than carry out tasks individually each day, marketing automation will help do many of these things for you.
Although setting up marketing automation can be overwhelming at first, the results that you can get out of it are worth the effort. Once these systems are in place, they can continue to run and operate automatically. These platforms also let marketers create touchpoints that grow with your prospect database.
Besides helping B2B marketers maximize their time, marketing automation systems also contribute to providing a better customer experience. All of the touchpoints prospects and customers have with your brand will be more personalized according to their actions.
These are the most commonly used types of marketing automation methods:
- Email marketing: Drip email marketing campaigns are designed to nurture prospects and leads. B2B marketers can create premade emails for prospects. Whenever a user signs up, they will have emails sent to them automatically according to your schedule.
- Landing pages: With marketing automation systems, the content on your landing pages can be customized to display the appropriate data to a person depending on where they are in the sales process. For instance, a customer would receive a call-to-action button instead of a button where they can learn more about a product they already know. Alternatively, a person who is not yet a customer may get other resources first so they can better understand how the product works.
- Lead scoring: Lead scoring provides B2B marketers with a way to see how interested a target user is in your brand and offerings. It will indicate how close or far they are from being a paying customer.
- Data management: The value of marketing automation stems from its ability to automate activities on your behalf. With this software, you can keep track of your campaigns and sources, automate email management, and even have leads assigned automatically to sales managers. Furthermore, marketing automation systems are capable of standardizing data for more efficient processing.
B2B Marketing Strategy: Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing, simply called ABM, is a well-known approach that B2B companies use when promoting to enterprises. The goal of ABM is to focus on marketing to single companies that can provide them higher revenue than selling to just about any business.
The first step in account-based marketing is to choose high-level target accounts and identify key decision-makers at those companies. Marketing efforts are then carried out to engage these individuals with the goal of building interpersonal relationships that could turn them into prospects.
The research part of ABM takes significant time and effort to do, especially when identifying which businesses and contacts to prioritize. When executed well, however, the time and effort poured into the strategy is well worth it.
Simply landing just a few of these key accounts can lead to major impacts on your company’s revenue generation.
Here are the following methods of carrying out account-based marketing:
- Advertising: Google, together with popular social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, allows B2B marketers to focus on specific audiences. Filters are available that let them customize their audiences based on their location, job titles, and even company sizes.
- Custom offers: B2B marketers work on providing unique offerings to their target accounts. The idea here is to share their expertise or provide something of value to key decision-makers that can easily get their attention. Direct mail is often used here but email marketing can work just the same. Marketers who are great with interpersonal relationship building will do well with this approach.
- Invitation-only events: Another excellent way of establishing interpersonal relationships with key decision-makers is to engage them through invitation-only events. These events can provide you with the opportunities you need to learn about these individuals face to face. Besides having dinner, you could also do breakfast or host networking drinks with colleagues.
- Webinars and training classes: Holding webinars and training sessions that can help clients solve their problems is another effective social-based approach in ABM. Hosting webinars and similar events can provide great opportunities to engage and interact with prospects. However, you want to ensure that the content you provide is valuable enough to be worth their time.
Best Practices in B2B Marketing
With quite a few strategies of B2B marketing, it’s essential that marketers follow the best practices to ensure that the approach they take is the best choice for their goals.
The most crucial best practices in B2B marketing include:
- Identifying your target buyers: Not all types of buyers will be a fit for what your business has to offer. That’s why you want to make sure you know the ideal buyer for your company and that you can focus your marketing efforts on driving a similar type of persona.
- Having an omnichannel presence: To be effective in reaching new buyers, you need to have a presence on multiple marketing channels that allows you to do just that. You want to reach prospects wherever they may be whenever they are searching for products or services similar to what your business offers. For instance, some prospects are more active on social media while others rely on search engines for data. You want to make it easy for all of your buyers to come across your product and company to be effective.
- Qualifying leads: Similar to buyers, not all leads who are interested in your solutions are ideal candidates for closing sales. Some of these leads may not have the right authority, such as not having the authorization to make purchasing decisions, for instance. Meanwhile, there are also those who are in the early phases of research and are not yet ready to purchase.
- Nurturing and educating leads: Driving leads and determining if they qualify is just one aspect of the sales process. Another equally important part is helping leads understand why your product is the best choice for them. Publishing product tutorials and communicating with leads directly are two ways to nurture and educate.
- Measuring results: To ensure that you’re getting the best returns for your marketing efforts, you want to know how much money you spend and how long it takes to close each deal. Such information can help you determine which strategies are effective and which types of customers are the most ideal for your business.
Tips To Create Your Own B2B Marketing Strategy
When setting up your own B2B marketing strategy, there are some core steps you need to follow to ensure success. You should:
- Assess your current market: Begin by analyzing your current market. You want to determine the number of competitors that operate in it and learn about their B2B marketing techniques. This knowledge should help you determine the strategies that can help you craft unique marketing content. Assessing your market could also help you discover underserved buyers.
- Evaluate your buyers: You should then identify who these key decision-makers are at the businesses you wish to engage with. What roles do they hold and how much time do they spend when researching products? Answering these questions should help you create marketing content that speaks to their needs.
- Identify ideal marketing channels: Although marketing through several channels is great, that doesn’t mean you should use each and every one of them. For instance, advertising through a television commercial may not be the best for your target audience. That’s why you should identify which marketing channels your prospects frequent and then design marketing content that will have the most success in these areas.
- Measure your performance: To know what’s working and what’s not, you need to collect and analyze the results of your marketing efforts. You should be knowledgeable about how many qualified leads you generate for your campaigns and how much you spend on each of them. When you can collect and analyze such data, you can make informed decisions on whether or not you should continue using the same campaigns in the future.
B2B marketing can provide businesses with a higher profit margin, especially since they have less competition compared to the B2C approach. However, B2B does have its own set of challenges that are unique to it.
Fortunately, there are techniques and methods that you can follow to ensure that you create the best B2B marketing strategy for your business.
By following the tips provided in this guide, you should be on your way to having a better understanding of how you can use B2B marketing to meet your business goals.