Learn how to reach your business’s audience and drive growth through effective B2B marketing strategies and tactics.
Here, you’ll find:
- Definition and benefits of B2B marketing
- How to create a B2B marketing plan
- B2B marketing tactics and best practices
- Examples of B2B marketing strategies
The largest factor of successful marketing is your audience. If you’re not properly targeting your buyer persona, it’s unlikely your advertisements, promotions, and general marketing tactics will thrive.
Target audiences vary greatly between consumers and businesses, though. That is, some companies cater to individual shoppers, while others serve organizations.
Marketing to businesses is an entirely different beast. That’s why business-to-business marketing (B2B marketing) exists.
Used by companies to sell products and services to other companies, B2B marketing aims to help build, maintain, and expand relationships with other businesses.
As a seasoned marketing professional, there’s a lot to consider when taking your B2B marketing efforts to the next level. From channel decisions to budget limits to creative demands, effective B2B marketing can be a challenge to get right.
To help steer you in the right direction, we’ll break down what B2B marketing is, the most effective B2B marketing strategies and tactics, and how you can help tap into and grow your business audience.
What is B2B marketing?
Just like in its name, B2B marketing refers to the marketing of services or products to other businesses and organizations. B2B marketing’s purpose is to attract other businesses, familiarize them with your brand, showcase the value of your product or service, and eventually convert them from leads into customers.
In today’s digital landscape, this means marketing teams need to be able to capture a prospect’s attention quickly — and retain it. There are various tactics to do this, which we dive deeper into below.
B2B can include various industries and forms: car parts, security solutions, office supplies, restaurant equipment, software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions, and much more. Essentially, B2B marketing campaigns are targeted at any individuals — from entry-level salespeople to C-suite executives — with the ability to take on purchasing decisions.
How does B2B marketing work?
B2B marketing involves nurturing prospects through the buyer’s journey. This journey begins when a business identifies a problem it needs to find a resolution for.
Say your office has been recently renovated, leaving you in need of fresh office supplies and furniture. At this point, you’d research the appropriate products, services, and other businesses to help. Then, you’d evaluate your options, settle on the best choice, and commit to a purchase.
Ultimately, the goal of B2B marketing is to guide prospects along each step of the buying process.
So, your B2B marketing efforts should:
- Clearly identify the problems your business can solve
- Showcase how you stand out from competitors
- Provide trials/demos so your customers can better evaluate your products
- Allow for a swift and easy purchasing process
Benefits of B2B marketing
You’re likely wondering how your business will benefit from a B2B marketing strategy. Even with its complexities, B2B marketing provides several benefits to your company, including:
More qualified leads: An extensive B2B marketing strategy — complete with a thoughtful plan and effective tactics — will help place you in front of more prospective buyers looking for your product or service.
Increased traffic: Strong marketing content will drive more traffic to your business and allow relevant leads to become familiar with what you have to offer.
Nurtured relationships: Once you develop a B2B marketing plan that establishes your business as an expert in your field, you can reduce customer churn by building strong client relationships. This is also known as lead nurturing.
Stronger brand awareness: Potential clients need to know what your business can offer and how they can work with you. Having a presence on various marketing channels will help with this, ultimately increasing your brand exposure and getting leads to choose your business over another.
Improved rankings: You want prospective buyers to easily find you when searching for the type of service or product your business offers. With a successful B2B marketing plan, you can improve both your search rankings and visibility.
How to build a B2B marketing plan
In B2B marketing, your strategy will inform how you plan to increase brand awareness about your business offerings to potential buyers. This process involves everything from determining your target market and brand positioning to selecting the channels and tactics needed to take leads through their buyer’s journey.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees success for every B2B company, the basic steps of putting together a B2B marketing plan are applicable to all B2B companies.
Follow these six best practices when building out your plan to ensure it meets your business goals.
1. Determine your brand positioning
First, you’ll want to define your brand positioning in your respective market. Brand positioning is what helps your offering stand out from competitors. This statement outlines the who, when, why, and how of your brand identity — or what makes it unique through the eyes of the customer.
Think of your brand highlights, including excellent customer service, competitive pricing, ease of use, superior quality, and the like. This essential step is how you’ll maintain a consistent brand image and loyal customer base.
2. Define your target market and target audience
Now that you’ve defined your brand statement, you need to understand and define who you’re marketing to. Since your products or services may be better suited for some types of buyers versus others, you’ll want to make sure your marketing efforts are aimed at the right target audience and target market.
Let’s begin with your target market, or the broader group of people who would be interested in your brand. In the B2B world, you’ll identify your target companies with data including:
- Company size
- Company region
- Number of employees
- Company industry
Next up, you’ll define your target audience. This is the specific segment of that broader target market who will also be the focus of your marketing campaigns. To determine these individual prospects, we recommend using demographic data including:
- Job title
- Education level
Once you’ve gathered this information, you can begin creating buyer personas to help you understand how your potential customers make purchase decisions, as well as which marketing channels they’re likely to use.
For example, if you’re trying to target entry-level employees ages 18–22 in the entertainment industry, it’s safe to say you can use content on social media platforms to attract them.
3. Identify the buyer’s journey
Before a potential buyer makes a purchase, they’ll navigate through a process known as the buyer’s journey. This process has three stages for audiences:
- Awareness: The buyer identifies that they have paint points and want to understand more about them.
- Consideration: The buyer begins to look for and compare potential solutions to their problem.
- Decision: The buyer is ready to purchase the best solution that fits their needs.
To help guide your potential buyers through their journey, it’s important to build a trusting relationship with them. So, your B2B marketing plan should meet the following:
- Generate demand using top-of-the-funnel marketing tactics that boost awareness of a problem and spark interest in your offering;
- Generate and convert leads using middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel marketing tactics that convert interest into action;
- Build customer loyalty using marketing tactics that transition one-off customers to returning customers.
After understanding and identifying your buyer’s journey, we recommend creating a customer journey map for your company. This visual tool will help you define your customers’ needs and how they engage with your brand.
4. Choose your tactics and channels
This operational stage is where you’ll begin using different marketing tactics and selecting the channels that make the most sense for both your brand and target audience.
By implementing inbound or outbound marketing tactics (even a combo), you can generate more leads at the top of the funnel. Then, you can make strategic decisions about things like acquisition, conversion, and retention.
5. Create assets and execute campaigns
Now that you’ve decided on the best tactics and channels to reach both your marketing goals and potential buyers, it’s time to start creating assets. These can — and should — continue to evolve as you test and optimize your campaigns.
71% of B2B buyers state they consume multiple assets to help with their decision-making process before moving on to communicating with a sales team. For many prospective buyers, this is their first interaction with your brand. That’s why it’s essential to create meaningful ones that’ll guide them to the final stage of the buyer’s journey.
Having a range of attention-grabbing, relevant content will help your brand stand out and prospective buyers see how your product or service is the best option out there. Keep in mind the lengthier B2B sales cycle when it comes to executing and launching your marketing campaigns.
6. Measure and improve
After your content has been published, monitor its performance metrics, collect data, and determine how to maximize its greatest reach. This information will help ensure you’re achieving the best ROI on your B2B marketing efforts and help assess which tactics are the most effective.
B2B marketing tactics (that actually work)
B2B marketing tactics make up the how that you’ll use to serve your overarching strategy. The difference between a B2B marketing plan and a tactics is as follows:
- A B2B marketing plan is the strategy you’ll define to meet your business objectives.
- A B2B marketing tactic is a tool you’ll utilize to achieve the objectives outlined in your plan.
There are two main goals to keep in mind when selecting which digital marketing tactics are best suited for your B2B marketing efforts: generate demand and generate and convert leads.
At the top of the marketing funnel, the main purpose of generating demand is to highlight a problem that potential buyers have and show them your solution.
1. Content marketing
Content marketing is a digital marketing tactic that involves creating and publishing content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience. This is essential for B2B businesses as it has a great ROI and positions you as an expert in your field.
The goal with B2B content marketing is to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads, and ultimately convert prospects into buyers.
The goal of SEO is to drive more traffic to your website from search engine result pages (SERPs), which should ultimately lead to more buyers. To take advantage of this digital marketing tactic that goes alongside content marketing, you’ll optimize your website and online content with specific, relevant keywords.
We recommend conducting a full content analysis, keyword research, and content audit, followed by implementing link building, page title and meta description updates, and high-value keywords.
For example, if your company offers SaaS tools to other large companies, you could implement the keyword “enterprise SaaS tools” into your web content. This will help increase visibility and improve the ranking of your web page on search engines like Google and Bing so that more people find your website when they’re searching for information related to your products or services.
3. Paid search/pay-per-click (PPC)
Another effective B2B marketing channel is paid search, or PPC marketing. This tactic involves utilizing Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and other ad channels to display your ad beside specific keywords when someone searches for them online. B
2B companies can generate a great number of leads and reach potential customers with paid advertising, as it allows them to target specific groups of people who have already shown an interest in your offering.
Pro tip: Combine your paid search efforts with other marketing activities like email marketing, SEO, and content marketing for the best results.
4. Social media marketing (SMM)
Even though B2B focuses on targeting potential customers within other businesses, those B2B customers still serve as individuals who you’ll be solving a problem for.
With social media marketing, you can interact directly with prospects by learning what they want and getting feedback on your products or services. This tactic is especially important considering 72% of B2B buyers indicate using social media to research solutions, and 84% of B2B executives state using social media as a source for making buying decisions.
Popular social media channels for B2B are Twitter, Meta (Facebook and Instagram), and LinkedIn, with each platform having its own unique features that make it ideal for various audiences.
Generate and convert leads
Once you’ve used the above tactics to generate demand and reach your target audience, you’ve reached the middle and bottom of the marketing funnel. Your goal here is lead generation — to encourage potential buyers to move to the purchase or decision-making stage of their buyer’s journey.
Retargeting is a great opportunity to place your business in front of the prospects who are familiar with your brand and have already taken certain actions on your website. For example, they may have visited your site and added items to their cart, but ultimately left without making a purchase.
Retargeting displays targeted ads for your products or services on different websites, social sites, and SERPs to entice potential buyers to visit again — and hopefully make a purchase.
B2B referral marketing involves leveraging your existing customers to generate your company’s new B2B business leads. You can do this through a referral program which incentivizes prospects with an offer.
Referrals allow you to increase reach, grow your business without spending money on ads, and help build trust and credibility for your brand.
3. Email marketing
One of the best ways to convert leads into customers is through email marketing. You can use this personalized tactic alongside other types of marketing activities, like social media marketing and content marketing. It allows you to send newsletters, updates about your products or services, invitations to events, and any other brand-specific information you feel is beneficial for potential buyers to learn.
Email marketing lets you engage in a more personalized way with your audience by targeting them with specific messages. The greater your engagement, the more prospects that are likely to come your way. And more prospects mean more conversions, which ultimately leads to increased sales.
4. Marketing automation
This strategic method is commonly used to guide leads throughout their buyer’s journey, particularly at the point when they need a greater level of information and trust in a company before making a purchase.
Once you’ve identified that a user has visited your website or downloaded one of your free resources, marketing automation allows you to automatically follow up with them in hopes of building that trust to choose your brand as the solution to their problem.
B2B marketing examples
Now that you know what to do to get your B2B marketing plan up and running, we’ve put together a list of three successful B2B marketing plans to give you a spark of inspiration ahead of your next campaign.
Roche Diagnostics: Marketing automation
Roche Diagnostics is a leading healthcare company that provides pharmaceutical and healthcare testing solutions to companies worldwide. To help avoid marketing to prospects who may not be a good fit for their specific products and services, the company places a premium on targeting their ideal customer base. This is an especially important consideration for an industry as large as healthcare.
Roche leverages marketing automation tools to qualify and nurture leads. This also helps them understand where prospects are in their buyer’s journey. Marketing automation also allows them to compare customer data between business units to further increase engagement with existing customers.
Shopify: Content marketing
Content marketing is essential for any B2B company that wants to attract a large customer base. Shopify has invested in almost every type of content marketing, including free business courses and how-to guides, podcasts, and blogs.
One aspect of its content marketing roster that stands out amongst competitors is their offering of over 20 free tools. These tools help solve problems for entrepreneurs, including generating a business name, making a logo, or creating a catchy slogan. Queries for these specific types of tools have thousands of monthly searches on Google. In turn, this increases the number of visits to their overall website.
IBM: Social media marketing
IBM does an excellent job using social media marketing in a compelling way to reach current and potential customers. The company showcases its legacy in the tech industry by sharing photos and videos on Instagram. Which, of course, builds trust and credibility with their target audience. IBM also shares videos of employees talking about their work experience and what new technologies they’re researching.
This humanistic approach of storytelling reinforces the brand’s company values around innovation, trust, and personal responsibility, as well as making them a company that has seen repeated success for the last 100 years.
What is the difference between B2B and B2C marketing?
Now that you understand how to put together your marketing plan, you may be wondering how B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing.
The main difference between B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing is the targeted buyer. B2B marketing is focused on selling to businesses, while B2C is about selling to individual consumers.
B2C companies look into the interests and needs of individual consumers who often make a purchase out of desire. On the flip side, B2B organizations provide a specific solution to another business’ challenge or need. This makes the B2B marketing funnel and sales cycle much longer as there are more decision-makers.
B2B marketing poses some unique challenges that B2C doesn’t have to deal with — all of which are important to keep in mind as you develop your marketing plan. These include:
B2C generally has one individual making a purchase decision, while B2B often requires many people. This is because with B2B, purchase decisions are typically sent up the management chain for approval and involve greater effort and team input.
Longer sales cycle
Since there’s only one decision-maker involved in B2C, the sales cycle is much shorter than B2B. On average, B2B sales funnels take between four and eight months.
With B2C, branding is all about speaking to and reaching customer emotions. B2B branding, on the other hand, focuses more on customers’ intellect by gathering data and conducting case studies to determine how the service or product is the most reliable solution.
Since B2C aims to reach customers rather than other businesses, they typically use digital platforms for engagement. (Think Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram). B2B marketing focuses primarily on strategizing efforts in search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, LinkedIn, and email.
Although B2B is more involved than B2C, and the same strategies won’t work for each of their respective audiences, there’s a lot B2B marketers can learn from B2C campaigns.
Yes, there’s a lot that goes into a B2B marketing plan. And it should continue to evolve over time. So it’s important to keep track of metrics, try out new methods, channels, and tactics, and continuously optimize your strategy. The marketing tactics outlined above should all be added to your marketing toolbox.
Remember, even though it’s business-to-business marketing, you’re still speaking to other humans. The most effective B2B marketing is thoughtful, conversational, targeted, and relevant. Take action to maintain an understanding of your customers’ motivations, pain points, and what they need most.
Looking for more insight on how to improve your marketing efforts? We’d love to chat.