As business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketers, we often use the word “marketing” in a general sense that can apply to any and all situations.
But in reality, there are many subsets of marketing. And as the audience and interactions change, so should the tactics.
In this guide, we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of B2B marketing:
- what it B2B marketing?
- how B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing
- what it takes to develop a B2B marketing strategy and
- best practices for B2B marketing via email, content, social media, and more!
Let’s get right into b2b marketing…
Table of Contents
What is B2B Marketing?
B2B marketing, which stands for business-to-business marketing, is one of two major types of marketing. (The other being B2C marketing, or business-to-consumer marketing.)
The technical definition of B2B marketing is the promotion of products and services to other businesses, typically involving more complex products, longer sales processes, increased sales volumes, and multiple decision makers.
The simpler, layman’s terms definition is that B2B marketing is one business promoting its products and services to another business with the intention of ultimately making a sale of that product or service.
In today’s business world, successful B2B marketing involves a combination of strategies, mediums, and marketing channels, social media channels. It combines both digital marketing and traditional marketing tools with the ultimate goal of maximizing exposure, driving engagement, and ultimately producing conversions.
How Does B2B Marketing Differ From B2C Marketing?
One of the big questions people often have is, how is B2B marketing different from B2C marketing?
After all, don’t they both involve the same goal of promoting a product and eventually closing a sale?
While B2B and B2C marketing might share the same goals, the approach is very different. Their respective strategies and applications are quite unique. (And so, too, are their target audiences and the ways in which they consume information.)
B2B marketing is all about targeting the needs, challenges, and interests of the individuals who make purchasing decisions on behalf of their organizations. (They aren’t technically the buyers.) In other words, the organization is the customer.
The individual being marketed to is merely one of the decision makers.
B2C marketing is much more direct. It targets the needs, challenges, and interests of individual consumers who are making their own purchase decisions. There’s no additional layer to consider. (There are situations where this can get somewhat complex – like if your target customer or target audience is a five-year-old boy, but the mother is the one making the purchase – but, for the most part, the customer is purchasing the product for themselves.)
To better understand the differences, check out this chart comparing B2B and B2C marketing (and how business customers differ in each category).
The B2B customer is a rational buyer who makes logical decisions based on a predefined process.
The B2C customer is a much more impulsive buyer, often making purchases decisions on the fly.
These customers are typically driven by very logical and financial incentives. They’re hardly ever swayed by something that doesn’t align with their organization’s established goals and processes.
These customers can be highly emotional and may make impulsive decisions in the moment. However, it all depends on the customer and their personality and needs.
Customers will usually work with others, including account managers and salespeople. They want to get approval before proceeding.
Customers prefer to make purchases directly and don’t usually need to involve others in the decision. (Though in major purchases, they may.)
The focus is to generate leads and build up a list of qualified buyers who could eventually become customers.
The focus is on brand building. Businesses want to create a brand that people recognize, like, and trust.
Lead nurturing is the main aim of B2B marketing. There’s no anticipation of making a sale on the spot. Leads must be “dripped” on and given time to consider the purchase.
Each “type” of customer is sent through a personalized customer journey that speeds up the process and moves them from awareness to purchase at a much faster rate.
Most of the content created is going to have a very professional, educational feel.
Most of the content created is going to be highly-relevant and personal. Depending on the brand, it could be quite casual and relaxed.
Primary channels are email, video, mailers, etc.
Primary channels include email, SMS, social media, etc.
B2B marketing strategies rely a lot on the company, industry, location and other basic information that’s known about the company based on their website and industry insights.
B2C marketing strategies use whatever information is available, including age, gender, purchase history, interests, hobbies, income, demographics, location, etc.
In b2b marketing Customers generally make purchases for long-term solutions. They’re making major investments. This results in longer sales cycles, extended contracts, and (perhaps most importantly)longer relationships with the companies.
Customers aren’t usually looking for long-term solutions, nor do they enter into a purchase with the intention of developing a long-term relationship. The purchase is designed to satisfy an immediate want or need.
Developing a B2B Marketing Strategy (Funnel/Stages)
Every customer, regardless of whether it’s a B2C or B2B situation, goes through a journey. However, the B2B buyer’s journey looks a lot different. Understanding what it looks like will help you understand how to craft an effective marketing strategy that moves a lead through the process from awareness to conversion.
While the B2B buyer’s journey rarely plays out in a predictable, linear fashion, it can be broken down into a logical series of stages and decisions. It usually looks something like this:
- Identification of the problem: We need to do something about this so that we can [insert goal or desire].
- Exploration of the solution: What products and services exist in the marketplace to help us solve these problems?
- Building out requirements: What features do we need in a solution?
- Selection of supplier: Based on what we know, who is the right supplier for us to work with?
- Validation of supplier: Now that we think we know who to work with, let’s make sure by validating and verifying.
- Consensus is reached: Now that we have an idea of which company to work with, let’s get all decision makers on board and in agreement.
As you can see, there are a lot of steps involved in a B2B customer’s journey. And to further complicate things, many of these steps are happening at the same time. Buyers may even jump from one stage to another and back again.
If you’re looking for a simpler, top-down view of what happens, it may be best to think about the process in terms of three distinct stages:
- Awareness Stage: The prospect or business experiences a problem and recognizes an opportunity. They begin doing educational, high-level research to learn more about their problem (and put a name to it).
- Consideration Stage: The prospect now has a very clearly defined problem their opportunity and is aware that solutions exist to address it. They begin to research and understand the different options that are available.
- Decision Stage: The prospect is now aware of the solutions that exist and is ready to make a decision based on which ones are most likely to solve the problem and meet the criteria they’ve identified as important (such as features, cost, ease of use, etc.).
A good B2B marketing strategy considers the buyer’s journey and where they are in the process of making a decision. Marketing is then tailored to each stage so that prospects are gently pushed through the funnel without getting stuck in one stage for too long.
B2B Email Marketing Best Practices
Email is still one of the preferred methods of B2B marketing.
Email marketing works well for a couple of reasons:
First off, it’s very easy to find a potential prospect’s email. Almost every business has a list of employees on its website. Sometimes their contact information and email addresses are included. If they’re not included directly on the site, it’s usually fairly easy to find scrape email addresses using another resource or tool. This makes it easy for B2B marketers to get in touch with the right people.
Secondly, email is still very much a part of business culture. While a business decision maker might not be active on social media, you know they have email (and that they check it multiple times per day).
In order to win with B2B email marketing, consider some of the following best practices:
- Play the long game. No B2B customer is going to make a purchase after receiving a single email. You’re dealing with a long buying cycle. As such, you need to invest in email campaigns or marketing campaigns that drip on prospects for several weeks or months.
- Keep it educational. Super salesy emails and promotions don’t work with a B2B target audience. In fact, one study found that in 90 percent of cases, an email call-to-action like “more info” or “learn more” out-performed calls-to-action like “buy now.”
- Segment your list. It’s very important that you know who you’re engaging within an email. Ideally, you’ll be reaching out to decision makers. And depending on who the decision makers are, you’ll need to segment your list to craft messages that speak directly to them. (For example, your message will look different if it’s being sent to a department head vs. CEO vs. purchasing manager.
Email is a very powerful tool that should be properly wielded in order to get maximum results from your B2B marketing strategy. However, it’s not the only resource in your toolbox.
B2B Content Marketing Best Practices
Advertising certainly works in the B2B space, but it’s not nearly as effective over the long haul as organic marketing/content. In fact, 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get their information from an article rather than from an ad.
Content creation is one of the most time-consuming aspects of B2B marketing, but it’s also one of the most important. And if you’re going to invest the time and resources into content marketing, you might as well do it right.
Here are some key principles and best practices:
- Have a clear USP. Make sure you know what your brand’s unique selling proposition (USP) is. This will underscore all of your content creation efforts or marketing efforts.
- Be consistent. The key to good content is to be consistent – both in messaging and timing. While quality is more important than quantity, you never want to go very long between creating content. Whether it’s a blog post, email, social media post, or news article, consistency is all about saying in front of the right audience with the right message.
- Content-stage alignment. Certain types of content perform better at certain stages of the buyer’s journey than others. For example, checklists and white papers do well in the awareness stage. In the consideration stage, things like webinars and case studies are ideal. Then in the decision phase, ROI calculators and testimonials do well.
- Focus on the customer. Always put the focus on the potential customers. Stop focusing on why you’re so great and start focusing on the customer’s needs and wants. Selfless content performs the best.
If you do these four things very well, your content marketing strategy will work. It probably won’t get you results overnight, but it will deliver results over the long haul.
B2B LinkedIn Marketing Best Practices
Most B2B companies aren’t going to have a lot of success with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Instead, it’s one of those investments that you have to make to keep up appearances and maintain a sense of legitimacy in the marketplace. However, there is one social media platform that’s quite significant for B2B marketers: LinkedIn.
While most B2C businesses don’t waste their time with LinkedIn marketing, it’s a ripe platform for B2B marketers. Not only is it a place where prospects gather, but it has a rich internal search engine that can be used to filter and find top prospects.
To win with LinkedIn marketing, you need a defined strategy that consists of:
- Finding the right prospects. This is usually done via manual boolean searches and using the paid Sales Navigator feature.
- Connecting with the right prospects. In order to engage with prospects and leads, you’ll need to send connection requests.
- Engage and educate prospects. This is where 90 percent of your time will be spent. You must find ways to reach out (usually through direct messages) in a way that isn’t spammy. The best way to do this is by providing value and starting a conversation.
Like the other methods, LinkedIn isn’t a fast play. It’s all about slow, gradual relationship building that moves the right prospects through the funnel from awareness to consideration to decision.
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Please contact us today to learn more about how we can partner together!