What is B2B Marketing?
B2B marketing is the processes, strategies, and tactics used by one company to sell its products and services to another company. While most people immediately think of consumer brands when they hear the term ‘marketing’, the reality is that B2B marketing is much larger than consumer (B2C) marketing. Because of the immense size of the B2B marketing landscape, it is important to have a well-conceived marketing plan in place to achieve your business goals. The growth of technology and digital marketing channels has complicated the B2B marketing environment, forcing B2B companies to rethink how they promote their business and gain new customers. Generally speaking, B2B companies have been slow to embrace digital marketing solutions, and continue to rely on more traditional marketing methods because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’. This provides an excellent opportunity for your business to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace by utilizing current technologies and digital marketing tactics to position your company as an industry leader.
For most B2B companies, lead generation is the number one marketing goal. Traditionally, leads were generated via word of mouth referrals, cold calls by the sales team, trade shows and catalogs. These tactics have become less effective, and in today’s business environment it is necessary to include digital marketing in your plans to remain relevant to your customers. Particularly as a younger generation of employees move into decision-making roles, your company needs to provide information and market itself in the formats that they prefer. Increasingly, this means through your company website and other online channels.
Your digital B2B marketing efforts should begin by identifying your target markets and building out buyer personas for each customer type. These buyer personas should help define the needs and wants of your customers, their goals and motivations, and their potential objections to purchasing from your business. For example, what motivates an existing customer to continue working with you may differ from what a potential new customer is needing or might respond to. Determining who your target audiences are and how to present them with the most relevant information is core to your B2B marketing program’s success.
A major reason why defining target audiences and buyer personas is so important is that, in B2B marketing, content is king. Or more correctly, content marketing is king. Content marketing is perhaps the most critical piece of a successful B2B marketing campaign, for a few reasons. First, as mentioned, each of your target audiences is seeking information–but likely not the same information. Second, because B2B sales cycles tend to be longer, it is important that your business is producing content not only for each distinct buyer persona, but also for each distinct phase of the buying cycle–from awareness to consideration to decision to purchase. Third, your customers are increasingly conducting research online to learn more about your product and service offerings (as well as those of your competitors) before contacting you. By providing the right content for each user’s specific needs, you position your business as an industry thought leader and as the best choice to help them solve their problem. This way, when they are ready to make a purchasing decision, your business is likely to gain that lead, and to ultimately convert them into a customer.
The central component of your B2B marketing content strategy should be, of course, your company website. Having an informative, well-designed, functional website is no longer optional; it is absolutely required. Again, because your customers and prospects are going online to research vendors and potential partners, your website is one of the first things they will see. So it needs to reflect the quality of your business. If it doesn’t, you risk losing that opportunity to acquire a new customer. Even if your firm offers the best products in your industry, if your website and other digital content offerings don’t measure up, these prospects will likely reach out to a competitor for the help that they need.
You also need to make sure that your website displays and functions properly on mobile devices. More and more web activity takes place on smartphones and tablets, and if users find your company’s website difficult to navigate they will leave–and visit your competitors’ sites instead.
Content marketing also factors into search engine optimization (SEO). Because your customers are conducting searches online, your company needs to implement a focused SEO marketing campaign to rank for the keyword phrases that they are searching for. SEO is more than just content, though, so you should work with an agency partner that specializes in SEO to make sure your search strategy is effective and optimized.
Why is B2B Marketing Important?
B2B marketing, particularly digital marketing, is so important these days because in today’s environment of consumer choice, it is imperative that you are providing users with the information they need, when and where they need it, on their terms. Remember, your company website serves as your 24/7 salesperson. Whether your content marketing focuses on text, infographics, white papers, emails, blogs, videos, or likely some combination of these and other formats, make sure that you are creating pieces of content for each of your target audiences, and for each stage of the buying cycle. This approach builds brand awareness and brand equity, positions your business as an industry thought leader, and ultimately generates leads for your sales team.
With a proper digital B2B marketing strategy in place, you can effectively steer prospects through the buying process. Start with more general information that establishes your firm’s credibility and demonstrates your expertise and thought leadership. Then engage these users with more specific information about your products and services, and how you can help solve their problem. Finally, provide even more specific information with a concrete call-to-action to generate qualified leads for your team.
Another great advantage of digital B2B marketing tactics is the ability to track data points and measure performance. Whether visits to your website, email newsletter open rates, clicks from a social media post to your blog, or improvements in SEO rankings, digital marketing offers nearly limitless opportunity to track data. It is important however, to have the ability to convert raw data points into meaningful, actionable marketing insights. An agency partner skilled in marketing analytics can help you separate the signal from the noise. This ability to track and analyze performance leads to continual optimization of your marketing efforts, helps uncover opportunities for new and sustained growth, and provides tangible evidence of your B2B marketing return on investment.
The B2B marketing landscape has changed; those firms that are willing to embrace these new digital marketing opportunities rather than shy away from them will be best positioned for success in the future. As technologies continue to evolve and infiltrate the business world, this mindset will become even more imperative. Make sure that your business is at the forefront of this digital marketing revolution.