When I need to buy a television, I would go to a store nearby or I would shop online. The marketing that a television company would do to reach out to me is referred to as B2C marketing. It is short for Business to Customer marketing. But when that same television company is trying to get a bulk order of 20 televisions from a hotel chain, B2C won’t work.
The television company will not go to each of the hotels for a television or two. The company will speak to the procurement department of the hotel chain for bulk purchase. When a business is approaching another business entity for bulk sales, it is referred to as B2B Marketing or Business-to-Business Marketing. In our previous post on some top marketing strategy tips, we have briefly touched B2B marketing.
Business to business marketing isn’t what it used to be before the internet and social media. The importance of B2B marketing hasn’t changed, but the way business need to do marketing and generate sales and revenue has changed drastically.
We all know that relationships are a very important aspect of doing business with other businesses, however establishing relations and getting in touch with other businesses and people have never been easier.
If you and your business adapt well and train your employees in the era of digital marketing, SEO, PPC, growth hacking and much more you will benefit from all the new possibilities. If not this can be very costly and and inefficient process for your business and might not be as profitable as you thought.
Today, we will be discussing business-to-business marketing in detail.
Business-to-business marketing strategies
Table of Contents
- 1 Business-to-business marketing strategies
- 1.1 Search engine optimization (SEO)
- 1.2 Pay per click (PPC)
- 1.3 Social media marketing (ads)
- 1.4 Content marketing
- 1.5 E-mail marketing
- 1.6 Affiliate marketing / referral marketing
- 2 The ZMOT of B2B Marketing
- 3 Basic Elements of B2B Marketing
- 4 A Typical B2B Marketing Plan
- 5 Types of B2B Marketing Campaigns
- 6 B2B Marketing Trends for 2019
- 7 Roles in A B2B Marketing Team
- 8 Wrapping Up:
There are endless ways that you can advertise and market your business, and there are no right or wrong way of doing so. However I’ll compiled some of the most effective ways to stay ahead of the competition, and some strategies that would benefit almost any business 2 business related company.
However you will need to adapt this accordingly to your own niche, product/service and audience. These recommendations are based on statistics, our own clients and case studies as well as heavy research by our team.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine marketing or search engine optimization is extremely popular by many business already both B2C and B2B. The beauty of SEO is that once you get the traffic going, there is a good chance that you will “keep” this traffic for a long time and will be FREE. Organic traffic by Google is of course free and can therefore be very lucrative if you get some serious targeted traffic to your landingpages and get in contact with potential clients.
Remember you can rank both product pages, blog posts/articles, e-books / whitepapers or any other page on your site that you want to generate traffic.
Benefits of SEO
- Free organic traffic
- Stable traffic source
Disadvantages of SEO
- Can take very long time to build up
- Require many resources in competitive industries
- Require technical expertise
Pay per click (PPC)
PPC advertising is often just referred to as advertising on search engines, by marketers. Pay-per-click advertising can actually be any “per per click” platform and doesn’t have to be anything related to Google or Bing. However Google and Bing both offers great PPC opportunities with Google Ads and Bing Ads.
PPC ads are ads where you can per click, as it’s know suggest. The good thing about this type of marketing is that if you run PPC campaigns on Google ads for example, you’ll only pay when someone clicks on your ad. If no-one clicks you won’t pay anything, even though your ad did show up in the search results (SERPs)
Using this type of advertising especially on search engines are a good way to attract new clients and customers, because people are actively searching for keyword related to your business, brand or product which makes them much more likely to convert into paying customers/clients.
Benefits of PPC
- Very targeted keywords and traffic
- High conversion rates
Disadvantages of PPC
- Can be extremely expensive click prices
Social media marketing is still our favourite channel when it comes to generating revenue, brand awareness and much more and yes this also works very well for B-to-B. Facebook and Instagram isn’t the only platforms you can choose, and even if they were, they are still a good way to attract new customers for B2B businesses.
Because organic reach is so low for businesses on social media, we only recommend those platforms if you run ads, which still is an incredible opportunity. This can require quite some time because of their changing algorithms and the need of optimization of the existing campaigns and ads, but can also be very profitable.
If you are looking for relations consider Twitter and LinkedIn instead.
Benefits of SMM
- Very detailed targeting options
- Push ads to people and businesses who don’t know you
- Amazing retargeting
Disadvantages of SMM
- Can be very expensive depending on industry
- Require a lot of time and resources
- Changing advertising algorithms
Content marketing is a broad term and be done in many different variations. Content marketing can be anything from an article/blog post like this, an e-book, infographics, videos, guides or any other type of content that you know of. The key for content marketing is to generate value for your audience.
The main goal is to generate sales and revenue for your company, but you have to look at the funnel a few steps back. Before you get a sale, you might need a lead (potential client), before this you might need some traffic (clicks to your website), and before that you will need some awareness and attention. In the middle of this funnel you will need content marketing.
Content marketing should any kind of content that can inspire, help, motivate, engage etc your audience. Because of the help, motivation etc this will gain you trust and credibility and then this will lead to sales.
Benefits of Content marketing
- Works very well with SEO
- Easy to get started with
- Works well long term and with other marketing campaigns
Disadvantages of Content marketing
- Might not be as profitable as the other options
- Can take a lot of time
E-mail are known by everybody. However it’s still working like a charm. Just because e-mail marketing might be the oldest form of digital marketing, especially on this list, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
E-mail is inexpensive, very targeted and a great way to communicate and distribute offers, special deals, events, content or anything else you want to show to your customers and clients. E-mail marketing can be setup with a lot of automation to save you a lot of time, but can also be an impulsive campaign to do a launch of a black friday campaign or something similar
Benefits of E-mail marketing
- High conversion rates
- Always relevant (because these people know you already)
Disadvantages of E-mail marketing
- Need a complete e-mail marketing funnel to maximise the potential
- Needs segmentation and filtering of existing and new customers
Affiliate marketing / referral marketing
Affiliate marketing is one of the buzz words of digital marketing for marketers. Affiliate marketing might be referred to as referral marketing for some people, but is essentially a marketing method of paying other people /businesses to send clients your way. With affiliate marketing you pay other people to promote your products and services and you can pay per lead or per sale or whatever you want, there are no rules of affiliate marketing.
And yes, this can also be a very good opportunity for B2B companies as well, but works best with business who sell their products online (e-commerce and SAAS).
Benefits of affiliate marketing
- Predetermined cost per acquisition (CPA
- Doesn’t require much time
Disadvantages of affiliate marketing
- Really needs to be pushed in order to get started
- Needs to be lucrative for the affiliate
- Product /service has to be really on-point
The ZMOT of B2B Marketing
There is no doubt that the volume of B2B e-commerce has been steadily increasing. But below the numbers, some other things have changed as well. The following two important changes have taken place in B2B Marketing:
- Earlier, when a business decided it needed to by something, it would go to another business (the potential supplier) and ask what they had to offer. With the rise of online e-commercetoday, a prospective buyer can easily make an assessment of multiple options without leaving the office or home.
- The second change is that earlier B2B marketing would target those who they felt might need the product or service. But now it is more of a pull rather than a push. Prospective buyers are now out there searching on the internet. The B2B marketer needs to catch their eye at that point and make an entry into the consideration set.
These two developments have given rise to a new term in B2B Marketing. It is what Google refers to as the Zero Moment of Truth. The word zero is used because it is the first time that the prospective buyer leans towards a particular purchase.
Basic Elements of B2B Marketing
Before we begin to dig deeper, let us start off trying to understand the elements of B2B Marketing. If a digital marketer has a good grasp of these five aspects, he can design the best possible B2B Marketing campaign.
The online marketer needs to be very clear as to what exactly he or she wants to achieve from the online B2B Marketing campaign. Yes, the final goal is to affect the sales of your product and service. But that might be preceded by more steps. Different B2B campaigns could be designed targeting those smaller goals.
Let us understand this with the help of an automobile example. A particular company might be promoting or sponsoring a car rally. A B2B marketer’s goal could be to get corporates to participate. Such a campaign is not targeted at sales of cars. So the marketing campaign would have to be designed accordingly.
2) Mode of Communication:
Depending on the product, the industry, and the intended recipient, a B2B Marketer needs to decide which medium to use. For example, a youth fashion brand might prefer to lean on social media marketing to reach out to online retailers. This is because those retailers are more likely to have a social media presence. But if an office stationery company target corporates, then the mode would change. A directed email marketing campaign using the official email ids might be more effective.
3) Long-Term Vision:
A B2B Marketing campaign needs to be designed in such a way that it can be scaled up to a bigger scope when required. It might not always be possible to keep on coming up with fresh ideas and content. That is the content prepared must be neutral to time. That would help the marketer to reuse the idea 2 years later, maybe with slight modifications. Also, the previous material should be updated from time to time to keep it relevant. That will allow it to be used again when required.
4) Overarching Theme:
A good B2B campaign needs to decide upon some standard elements and themes. This could be about the brand’s messaging to businesses, which might be different to the USP that would appeal to an individual buyer. It could also be about layouts and fonts for websites, blogs or even mailers. There should be a common thread through all the campaign elements. This will also aid in a recall, and help avoid overlapping messaging.
Any good B2B campaign must incorporate elements which are measurable. This would help the marketer understand the effectiveness of the campaign. A marketer needs to know what is working and what is not. There are a number of free online tools to measure how effective the presentation and content of a B2B Marketing campaign are. Depending on the effectiveness, or lack of it, the campaign can be suitably modified.
A Typical B2B Marketing Plan
It sounds very nice to talk about B2B Marketing. It gives us the feeling that prospects will get converted to customers in droves. But carrying out B2B Marketing in bits and pieces can be counterproductive. It would entail loss of time and money without giving commensurate results. That is why it is important to have a plan in place. The irony is that even though it is so important, less than half the organizations have a well thought out plan.
Let us look at the following four simple steps to set up a B2B Marketing Plan:
a) Goal Setting:
Like we said earlier, the first thing to create an effective plan is to know for sure what is sought to be achieved. The best marketing plans usually look at 3 different horizons for setting up goals.
- The first is the immediate goal, which could be needed in a month or maybe six months at most.
- The next is the medium-term goals, which should be reached in the next 2-3 years.
- And finally, there should be a long-term goal, which could be for longer periods beyond 3 years.
Let us take the example of a technology startup which has built an app for localized food delivery. The immediate goal would be to get local restaurants and home kitchens enlisted with them. This would need a B2B marketing effort explaining the app and how it works.
It should also have some idea of the possible returns. A couple of years down the line, the marketing would need to expand its horizons to reach out to other locations in the same city, or even target possible business partners in different cities. In the long term, the founders might be looking to cash out, and so the B2B Marketing would be directed at potential buyers of the business.
b) Marketing Strategy:
Before the plan is put in place, the business owner would need to decide on what strategy would work best. The sector that the business is in would decide the strategy. The way the business would market itself to other businesses would need to be decided.
The marketing strategy would also be dependent on what media would be used. The strategy discussions would also help the business to come up with its unique selling propositions. That would, in turn, decide the target audience as well as the mode of promotions to be used.
c) Marketing Activities:
The goals and the strategy to reach those goals would help decide the marketing activities that are needed. Some of the most common B2B online marketing activities are search engine optimization efforts for blogs and websites. Social media marketing also works well for certain industries and sectors. Additionally, advertisements (on Facebook or Google Adwords), Webinars, and sales enablement activities are some of the most common activities.
So the goals are set, the strategy is laid out, and the activities have been decided on, what next? Well, it’s time for executing those plans, and this is where most businesses falter. That is why it is safest to create a 1-year plan for executing your strategy.
The plan should also include estimates of the costs involved. The business owner also needs to decide whether the execution would be done by employees or an agency. The 12-month execution plan should be as detailed as possible. Most importantly, the plan needs to be reviewed every three or four months. According to progress, some or all elements of the plan for the remaining months might need to be modified.
Types of B2B Marketing Campaigns
Depending on the marketing plan created, there could be different types of B2B marketing campaigns. There are more than 20 types of B2B marketing campaigns but they can broadly be grouped into three categories. This categorization is according to which part of the marketing funnel they are directed at. A marketing funnel is a series of steps that the prospective buyer or partner goes through. It usually starts at the recognition of a need that he has, and finally ends with the purchase of your product or service to fulfil that need.
Three Types of B2B Marketing Campaign:
- A B2B Marketing campaign could be top of the Funnel, which is directed at anonymous visitors. The aim of the campaign is to bring that visitor to your website or blog. Once they are there, they get converted into serious leads by downloading some content you are offering or simply by filling out a form.
- When a company needs to revitalize the relations with its prospects, it carries out Middle of the Funnel campaigns. These are typically meant from companies who have shown the initial interest in your projects and services. The advantage a business owner has here is that the targets are not entirely unknown to him or her. Therefore a fair bit of customization could be possible.
- The last category is the Bottom of the Funnel. This is directed at prospects that are most likely to get converted to customers. That is why this kind of B2B campaign is mostly for closing deals. The closure of deals could be achieved through a product demo campaign or a use case campaign.
B2B Marketing Trends for 2019
We are all set to close the year and set foot in the New Year 2019. Let us take a look at some of the trends that will change the rules of the game in 2019 and beyond:
Proactiveness Will Be Key:
There are more people selling, and those people are smarter than before. They know how best to plug an online B2B campaign. That is why it is more important to get the first mover advantage. The moment needs to be proactively seized. It is no longer enough to run a campaign and then sit back awaiting results.
Trends Have To Be Watched:
If you look at the trending topics on Twitter or Facebook, you will see that the top trending topics change several times a day. That gives you an idea of how quickly trends change in B2B marketing as well. You have to be on top of what is trending. In other words, you need to be able to grasp the ZMOTs as soon as they are trending.
Email Is Not Dead:
One of the earliest pillars of digital marketing was email marketing. But emails are still popular in B2B Marketing. The obvious reason is that most of the prospects would be logged on to their office email servers most of the day. That is why a smart B2B Marketer will make judicious use of emails to keep ahead of the race.
B2B Also Needs Stories:
Many B2B marketers tend to forget that the person listening to them or reading their content is a human at the end of the day. The communication might be from an enterprise to another. But the entities on both sides of the communication are humans, not corporates. Therefore B2B marketing would also need interesting plot-lines and engaging stories to interest the prospect.
Data Will Be Omnipresent:
In today’s life, everything is based on data. B2B is no different. Marketers will need robust and credible data at every stage of their efforts. Whether they are putting together prospect lists or gauging viewer engagement, marketers will need data to base their decisions on. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is providing immense possibilities of getting very pertinent user data. B2B marketing campaigns need to be designed around such data.
This is what has differentiated B2C marketing from B2B marketing earlier too. A B2C could sometimes get away with weaving a cute story. But a business who would buy from you would be much more aware of the product. That is why only tall talk won’t cut it. That is why your online B2B marketing efforts need to take the help of subject matter experts (SMEs). This could be through backlinks for blogs or websites, or recommendations through your business profiles on social media.
Social is relevant:
Many B2B marketers suffer from a myth that social media is not for them. They feel that social media is better suited to individual relations or at best for B2C. But as several surveyshave shown, social media has provided several benefits to businesses seeking to market themselves to other businesses. That is why a B2B marketer would be at peril if he ignores social media in 2019.
Roles in A B2B Marketing Team
We have spoken about several aspects of B2B marketing so far. Once a company has understood the aspects and importance of a B2B campaign, it needs to decide who will actually do it. The team needs to be put in place internally. This is a much better idea than giving the job to an agency. It might seem costlier initially, but has more advantages in the long run.
Here are the roles you need to staff on your B2B marketing team:
- a) Marketing Manager:This person would be in charge of conceptualizing the B2B campaign. He would need to be as good at marketing as a B2C marketing professional. But the difference here is that he would also need to have a good knowledge of the industry. A good understanding of finance and economics would definitely help.
- b) Marketing Coordinators:The implementation of the marketing strategy would be his responsibility. You could say that the Marketing Manager looks at the bigger picture, and the Marketing coordinator looks at the nuts and bolts. Good communication skills and organizing abilities are a must.
- c) Sales Representatives:Whatever gains are obtained by a good B2B marketing campaign need to be closed and converted by the sales teams. The sales representatives are there to do just that. They would obviously need good communication skills, and also good knowledge of the product/service.
The above article looks into all the aspects of B2B marketing. It discusses the elements and types of B2B Marketing campaigns. It is very clear that the spread of the internet has given an entirely new dimension to B2B marketing. It is no longer necessary that B2B marketing should be staid and boring. That is why we are set to witness very exciting times for B2B marketing in 2019 and beyond.