A plan is not a strategy. A budget is not a strategy. A tactic is not a strategy.
Every B2B business, no matter how successful, should have a clear marketing strategy. A strategy defines how you’ll achieve your goals. It clarifies how you’ll win against the competition. Without a marketing strategy, your efforts are likely to be scattered, rudderless, and frustratingly ineffective.
A marketing strategy is especially important for businesses that sell products or services to other businesses (B2B). B2B businesses often have complex sales cycles and long decision-making processes. Additionally, there are typically multiple individuals involved in a single B2B sale.
If you are eager to develop more effective B2B marketing strategies, follow the steps outlined below.
What Is a B2B Marketing Strategy?
A B2B marketing strategy is an overarching roadmap for winning consistently in line with your marketing goals. It’s as simple as that.
Sorry, but advertising is not a marketing strategy. Nor is SEO, content marketing, WOM, email marketing, or PR. These are marketing vehicles that may support your strategy.
Google, YouTube, and LinkedIn do not represent a strategy either. Instead, they are platforms.
Aiming to deliver the best customer experience, for example, is a strategy. The specific steps you’ll take to achieve that include your marketing plan, budget, and tactics. The specific platforms you use may include your website, resource center, microsites, marketing automation software, and customer support infrastructure.
When Salesforce entered the CRM market, it went all-in on a market disruption strategy. They used a variety of tactics to achieve that. So when they cut a deal with a taxi company to allow Salesforce employees to pick people up at the airport leading up to the market leader’s annual conference (enabling them to sell them on the benefits of Salesforce during the ride), that was a means to activate the strategy. It was not a strategy in and of itself.
The Difference between a B2B Marketing Strategy vs. B2B Marketing Plan
It’s important to make a distinction between a B2B marketing strategy and a B2B marketing plan. A strategy is an overarching direction. A plan outlines the steps to bring the strategy to life in the real-world.
An effective B2B marketing strategy takes into account your marketing goals, business opportunities, target audience, your positioning/differentiation, competitive landscape, etc. It provides you with a holistic view of how all the pieces of your marketing puzzle will fit together.
A B2B marketing plan, on the other hand, is a more tactical document that outlines the specific steps you’ll take when implementing your strategy to achieve your marketing goals. Your plan is the step-by-step process for your marketing program. It includes things like channels, platforms, tactics, offers, messaging, creative, budget, timing, etc.
Both a strategy and a plan are important for making B2B sales, but your strategy should come first. Once you have a strong strategy in place, you can develop a plan for attracting attention, connecting with your audience, driving engagement, increasing conversions, accelerating lead velocity, and more.
B2B vs. B2C Marketing
The difference between B2B marketing and B2C marketing lies in the demographics of the target audience. B2B companies are focused on selling to other businesses, while B2C marketing is focused on selling to individual consumers.
The most significant difference is that B2B marketing tends to be much more complex than B2C marketing.
This is because B2B marketing often involves selling products or services that are high-priced and require a significant investment from the buyer. Because of the higher pricing and potential impact to business operations, the sales cycle for B2B products/services is usually much longer than for B2C products.
Another key difference between B2B and B2C marketing is that B2B marketing typically involves selling to various team members. There’s an executive buyer, but there may also be an internal champion, main user, financial buyer, technical evaluator, and others. With this in mind, B2B marketing is focused on building relationships and consensus, while B2C marketing is primarily focused on driving transactions.
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Effective B2B Marketing Strategies
There are a variety of B2B marketing strategies for your business to consider. What’s important is that you select strategies on which you can effectively execute. It’s one thing to declare a marketing strategy, and it’s an entirely different proposition to activate it and achieve significant marketing results.
The following are B2B marketing strategy options:
The Marketing Flywheel
The marketing flywheel represents a system by which the more you do, the faster you see real marketing results. The more you do within your marketing flywheel framework, the more momentum you gain. When done right, a marketing flywheel produces compound results, where you get greater returns with less effort over time.
Here at Stratabeat, we’ve built a marketing flywheel built on:
- Long-form content
- Organic search
- Content promotion
- Organic traffic
- IP detection
- Behavioral analysis
- Continual optimization of the framework
By building a marketing flywheel as one of your strategies, you ensure ongoing traffic, leads, and revenue.
Be the Most Creative
Creative marketing is about thinking outside the box. It’s about being different and standing out from your competition.
Many marketing teams are timid, aiming to avoid risk. As such, their marketing can be stale, outdated, and boring. The marketing produced is undifferentiated, leading to a sea of sameness with competitors.
Creative marketing is an effective B2B marketing strategy in which you zig while your competitors zag. With creative thinking, you ideate marketing initiatives that take you beyond the standard boilerplate for your industry.
For example, for one client, Stratabeat launched 100 knowledge hubs for their target accounts in a single day. For another, we shipped giant 4’ x 3’ movie tickets with a custom URL to an account-specific video. The more creative you are, the more you cut through the noise, attract attention, and create memorable experiences for your target audience.
Learn how to inject more creativity into your B2B marketing by reading the book Rethink Lead Generation by Stratabeat CEO, Tom Shapiro.
Be the Most Customer-Centric
Some companies want to be the technology leader in their industry. Others want to be the largest company in their industry. And yet others want to be known as the most sophisticated or as the design leader. None of these approaches, though, focuses on the customer.
A B2B marketing strategy that will always be in style is to focus on the customer more than any other company in your industry.
By being the most customer-centric, you listen and learn from your customers. You essentially include them in your marketing planning. And everything you do is based on thrilling them and bringing them more value.
The Market Leader
If you’re already the market leader, than it makes senses to develop strategies based on your #1 positioning in the industry. You can brag about the number of customers you have. Or your market share. Or the number of countries you’re in.
In essence, you built trust with your audience through social proof.
The Challenger Brand
The challenger brand is a good B2B marketing strategy in the case that you’re not the market leader. In this case, you might stress how you try harder and lavish love on your customers more than the market leader. As a challenger brand, you have the freedom to not only focus on the “extras” you deliver to the customer, but you also get to poke fun at the big guys, too.
The Market Disruptor
I mentioned Salesforce earlier. They are a great example of a company that came into a crowded market with an 800-pound gorilla (Siebel Systems), and completely upended everything everyone knew about enterprise CRM.
As a disruptor, you shake things up. You force your audience to think differently about the solutions they need. Through market disruption, you leapfrog competitors and blaze a new path. Originality is key for success as a market disruptor.
Among common B2B marketing strategies, data-driven marketing is highly popular. As digital marketing has grown in use, marketers are relying on data to make strategic decisions more and more. When your marketing strategies are based on data, not gut instinct, you increase the likelihood that they are aligned with your audience and are aligned with what works.
Data should guide every aspect of your marketing, from the channels you use to the messaging in your marketing to the content you create. Data helps you to define your audience personas, and where they are spending their time online. It also helps you to reliably determine engagement, conversion, and lead generation strategies that will outperform the rest.
Some of the most effective B2B marketing strategies are focused on niches. In other words, they’re focused on a highly specific target audience.
While it may be tempting to try to appeal to a broader audience, it’s often much more effective to focus on a specific group. The more specific you can be in your targeting, the more effective you’ll likely be.
To succeed with niche marketing, understand your target audience’s pain points. Once you have a deep understanding of your audience, you can create content and marketing initiatives that are tailored specifically to them.
The best way to reach your niche audience is to use marketing channels and platforms that they’re already using. For example, if your target audience is on LinkedIn, you should focus your efforts on that platform. Or, if your audience gravitates towards a specific influencer, you could explore a collaboration partnership.
Apply Brain Science to Your Marketing
When you apply brain science to your marketing, you cut through all the noise to capture their attention and to engage with them more deeply. You’re also more likely to produce marketing initiatives that stick in people’s minds.
Brain science includes neuroscience, psychology, as well as behavioral economics.
For example, the human brain is hardwired to love stories. It’s not enough to just sell the benefits of your product or service. When wrap your offering in a story, they are 22X more likely to remember the information, according to psychologist Jerome Bruner.
Similarly, the human brain is wired for emotion. When you evoke an emotional response, you’re much more likely to get people’s attention. Emotionally-charged content is more likely to be shared and remembered.
The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio found that people who don’t feel any emotion due to brain damage can’t make decisions, including purchase decisions. They don’t feel strongly enough about any options, so they cannot choose. They endlessly waffle in their decision-making. Put another way, without emotion, your audience is far less likely to take any action to engage with your brand.
Inbound marketing is the strategy of attracting traffic through educational content, and then moving them through the funnel via a nurturing program.
Inbound marketing is all about creating content that’s useful and relevant to your target audience. Once you’ve created that content, you promote it through various marketing channels so that your target audience finds it precisely at the time that it’s of interest to them. The goal is to attract people to your website and to fill the top of the funnel with as many potential customers as possible.
Some of the most effective inbound marketing channels include SEO, blogging, content marketing, WOM, and PR.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing strategy that’s focused on a specific group of target accounts who match your ideal customer profile (ICP). Unlike inbound marketing, which is focused on getting as many leads as possible, ABM is focused on quality over quantity.
With ABM, you strive to build relationships with your target accounts. You accomplish this through continual targeted marketing.
ABM is a long-term strategy that requires patience, dedication, and persistence, yet over time, it’s powerfully effective. According to ITSMA, “Account-Based Marketing delivers the highest return on investment of any strategic B2B marketing approach. Period.”
Thought Leadership and Authority Marketing
The goal of thought leadership and authority marketing is to establish your business as an expert in your industry. Once you’ve established your expertise, people will be more likely to trust your business and do business with you.
To succeed with thought leadership, create content that is forward-thinking and unique. This may be in the form of conducting original research or writing a book or speaking at industry events.
The point is to have a unique voice and to stand out from the crowd. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a thought leader in your industry.
Marketing Automation and Nurturing
Marketing automation and nurturing allow you to develop one-on-one relationships with many prospects at the same time. Using tools like email marketing and drip campaigns, you can automate the process of engaging with prospects within your CRM.
The goal is to keep your prospects engaged with your brand until they’re ready to buy. By providing them with helpful and relevant information on a timely basis, you can build trust and turn them into customers.
Marketing automation and nurturing require a lot of effort up front to set up. But once you have things set up, it can be a very effective way to grow your business.
Guerilla marketing is all about the element of surprise. It’s about using the resources you have to create a big impact. Though guerilla marketing is often used by small businesses to get noticed, it can also be used by large companies. The key is to be creative and think outside the box.
The term “pattern interrupt” is appropriate when it comes to guerilla marketing. The goal is to interrupt people and grab their attention.
Guerilla marketing is NOT about spending more marketing dollars to get results. Rather, it’s about being creative with your existing resources to get big results.
Cause marketing, as you would guess, is about aligning your brand with a particular good cause, such as reducing the amount of trash in the ocean or providing clean water in a country.
The benefit of cause marketing is that it can help you attract new customers while also making a difference in the world. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
To succeed with cause marketing, your cause needs to be something that both you and your target audience care deeply about. You also need to make sure that your cause is in some way relevant to your business model. To be clear, the cause doesn’t need to be perfectly aligned with your brand, but there should be at least some clear connection.
1-to-1 Marketing (Relationship Marketing)
1-to-1 marketing focuses on building close relationships with your prospects and customers. It’s about thoroughly understanding their needs and then tailoring your marketing efforts accordingly. You can then offer your B2B buyers a wider array of solutions. With 1-to-1 marketing, it’s about solving as many problems for an individual buyer as opposed to broad-based marketing where you’re striving to sell to as many buyers as possible.
The goal of 1-to-1 marketing is to create a bond between you and your customer. This bond should be strong enough that the customer feels like they would be missing out if they did business with anyone else.
To succeed with 1-to-1 marketing, establish systems and processes to track data about your prospects and customers. Understand who they are, their goals, their strategic opportunities, their pain points, their frustrations, etc.
To succeed with any of the above marketing strategies, it’s important to build trust with your prospects.
And one of the best ways to do that is through social proof. Social proof is when you show your prospect that other people have used your product or service and had a positive experience. This could be in the form of customer testimonials, online reviews, customer logo collages, association logos, case studies, statistics related to your market share in the industry (“65% of the Fortune 500 use ABC Brand”), etc.
The goal is to show your prospect that you’re a credible company with a track record of success. This will help them feel more comfortable doing business with you. If it’s a large deal, it helps to mitigate the risk in the mind of the buyer. This is a key factor for expensive purchases, where a buyer may be concerned that the success of the solution will impact whether they receive a promotion or are instead shown the door.
Ongoing Testing and Optimization
Finally, success with B2B marketing strategies requires ongoing testing and optimization. Experiment with different marketing tactics and see what works best for your business.
What works today might not work tomorrow, so you should always be testing and validating your approach. The only way to do this is to have key metrics in place for tracking your results.
Use conversion rate optimization (CRO) techniques like A/B testing, user testing, and behavioral analysis to identify potential areas for improvement. Based on the results of your tests, optimize your marketing activities for improved results.
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What Are The Main B2B Marketing Channels?
Once you decide on your marketing strategy, explore the specific channels and types of marketing to use to activate the strategy. To that end, here are a number of marketing channels for you to consider.
Your website should be the foundation of your B2B marketing efforts. After all, it is your home base of digital marketing operations. Many of your marketing efforts will ultimately drive people back to your website, with the aim that some people will convert from visitors to qualified leads.
It’s important to make sure that your website is optimized for B2B lead generation and that it contains relevant, up-to-date information about your products or services. Focus on helping the site visitor understand how you solve their particular problems.
Your website should also be mobile-friendly, as more and more people are using their smartphones to browse the internet. Check your web analytics to confirm the percentage of your visitors on desktop vs. mobile.
Conduct CRO on your site to increase the likelihood that visitors will take the desired actions, such as filling out a form, watching a video, or signing up for a free trial.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Few things are more powerful than SEO when it comes to B2B marketing and your digital marketing strategy. Through strategic B2B SEO, you can get your web pages to rank on the first page of the search engine results pages (SERPs) for important keywords.
SEO (including technical SEO, on-page SEO, SEO copywriting, and offsite SEO) enables you to connect with your audience at the precise moment that they are most receptive to your message.
You can also use SEO to engage with potential B2B customers at every stage of the marketing funnel. For example, you can use SEO to generate awareness among people who are not familiar with your brand. You can also use it to drive consideration among people who are aware of your brand and exploring options. And finally, you can use SEO to drive conversions among people who are ready to buy.
One of the benefits of SEO is that the results compound over time, making it one of the most profitable B2B marketing options.
B2B content marketing is another powerful marketing option. By creating high-quality content, such as blog posts, research reports, video, podcasts, ebooks, infographics, and whitepapers, you can attract prospects to your website and educate them about your products or services.
You can also use content to nurture relationships with your target customers. For example, you can send educational emails to prospects who have signed up for your mailing list. Or, you can use social media to share your content and engage with your audience. Or, you can use a podcast to speak in depth about the various topics throughout the customer journey that your prospective customers are interested in.
When done correctly, content marketing can help you build trust and credibility with your target customers. It can also be an effective path for showcasing your differentiation and brand personality. Plus, it provides marketing coverage throughout the funnel.
Public Relations (PR)
Through PR, you can generate media coverage for your business, which can help you raise brand awareness and build credibility with your target customers.
If you develop relationships with journalists and other important voices in your industry, you can also use PR to position yourself or your company as an expert in your industry by acting as a source for news stories. Using PR, you can also get articles published in third-party publications or websites, give interviews, speak at events, or host events. PR may include community, investor, and analyst relations, as well.
If you’re creative enough, PR is an effective way to cut through the noise to grab attention for your brand.
Email Marketing and Marketing Automation
Email marketing is a great way to nurture relationships with your target prospects and with customers. You can use email to send informative content, such as blog posts, whitepapers, and ebooks.
To make your email marketing more effective, segment your database. Sending more customized messages per segment will help to ensure your message resonates with recipients.
Configure your marketing automation solution to distribute the right sequence of emails to the right people at the right time. Include conditional logic in your sequences based on their actions for even better results.
Finally, you can use email marketing to stay in touch with your customers and build long-lasting relationships with them. By sending consistent emails to your customer base, you stay top of mind when the time comes for them to purchase, resubscribe, etc.
Social Media Marketing on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is undoubtedly the best social media platform for B2B marketing. This is because LinkedIn is a platform where professionals network with one another, share content, and engage in business-related discussions. Unlike other social media platforms, where every type of content is shared, LinkedIn is focused primarily on business.
LinkedIn can be used to generate awareness for your brand, as well as to drive leads. You can also use LinkedIn to position yourself or your company as an expert in your industry and build relationships with prospective customers. The platform represents an amazing marketing opportunity in that it provides you with a platform to voice your opinion on a regular base to a wide audience…without cost.
Live events, such as workshops, webinars, meet ups, roadshows, and conferences, can be an effective way to connect with potential customers and generate leads. Live events also provide an opportunity for you to build relationships with your target customers. They are experiential in nature, leading to greater recall and memory by your audience.
Additionally, when done correctly, live events help you to establish trust and credibility with your audience. They allow you to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry and as a trusted source of information. On top of all of this, they are an effective platform through which to showcase your brand personality.
Wtih referral marketing, you look to customers or partners to refer new business to you.
This is especially effective as it enables you skip a layer of trust-building in the marketing and sales process.
When customers or clients refer your business to their friends or colleagues, they are essentially giving you a testimonial. This is much more effective than any type of advertising you could do.
There are a few different ways to go about referral marketing. The ideal is if you build a team of unpaid advocates who are so impressed with your solutions that they refer others to you naturally. In this scenario, it’s still important to implement a communications plan to stay in touch with your network and to let them know of major accomplishments or new offerings of your brand.
Another form of referral marketing is to pay for referrals. For example, you may offer certain individuals in your network a 5% fee per closed deal, incentivizing them to bring as many deals your way as possible.
Whatever method you choose, make sure you let them know that you appreciate their referrals. This will make them more likely to do it again and again in the future.
When you and a complementary business (NOT a competitor) join forces, that’s a strategic partnership. For example, if you sell email marketing software and team up with a company that sells landing page creation software, you build a partnership that benefits both parties.
Why are strategic partnerships so effective? Because you’re teaming up with a company that has a similar target market. This means that you can reach a larger, already interested audience with your marketing message. Partnerships create a symbiotic relationship between your brand and your partner brand, with each of you benefiting from the other.
Strategic partnerships can take different forms. For example, you could team up with another company to offer a joint solution. You could also co-host an event or webinar. Or you could simply refer business to one another.
No matter what form your partnership takes, make sure that it benefits both parties involved. Otherwise, it’s not likely to last very long.
If your target audience has returned to the office, direct mail can be an effective way to drive new leads and nurture existing ones. Direct mail allows you to send physical materials, such as postcards, gifts, and creative packages, to your prospects.
One of the advantages of direct mail is that it can be personal. You can include a personalized message or even a handwritten note in each piece of mail. This can help you build rapport with potential customers. If you’re employing ABM, direct mail can help you get the attention of prospects in highly creative ways.
Paid Media / Paid Search
Paid media, including paid search and various forms of online and offline advertising, is a marketing option that is effective at the bottom of the funnel. Google Ads and Facebook Ads are examples of paid media.
With paid media, you can specifically target your ads to people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service. You control the budget. The immediacy is a clear benefit. You control the timing. If you want to launch a campaign this afternoon, you can easily do so.
Retargeting is another form of paid media, where you target those who have already been to your website. This is an effective method for reminding them of your solutions and bringing them back for reconsideration.
As you can see, there are a variety of B2B marketing strategies, platforms, tools, and tactics. To maximize your marketing results, think strategy first. With the right strategy, you’ll have options for the specific steps to achieve your goals.
Just as a GPS ensures you’re heading in the right direction when you’re driving in a car, a B2B marketing strategy guides you to your intended destination successfully.