It’s often hard for B2B marketers to resonate with their audience. Buying cycles can last months, purchase decisions can require multiple approvals, and distribution channels that work in B2C—social media, Medium, loyalty programs—often fail to register with industry decision makers.
On top of that, B2B products and services are frequently complex, niche, localized, or so cutting-edge that people don’t know they exist yet.
Despite the challenges, there are still ways for B2B marketers to connect with customers, create brand affinity, and generate qualified leads that convert. These four B2B marketing strategies can help your team do that.
Marketing Strategies for B2B: The Basics
B2B marketing strategies, regardless of their tactics, perform the same function: they signal how to reach a goal and how to allocate resources along the way. That means that the first step on any strategic journey is to define that ultimate goal. After all, marketing goals keep team members on track and allow team leaders to judge progress.
To lock down your marketing objectives, or goals, consider where your brand is positioned right now in the market. Choose two or three objectives that make sense in terms of the overall business direction and competitive landscape. Most B2B marketing strategies will work toward at least one of the following common goals:
- Lead generation
- Lead nurturing
- Customer retention
- Brand differentiation
- Customer education
- Profit increase
- Revenue increase
Once you define a goal, decide how much you can spend on reaching it using a marketing strategy. Marketing strategies can contain dozens of activities, from live events to outsourced tasks and public relations, making them tough to budget for accurately.
Sagefrog found that CMOs of B2B healthcare, technology, industrial, and business services companies are spending 10 percent or more of their yearly budget on marketing in 2019. Not sure if you’re spending enough (or wondering if you’re spending too much)? A marketing budget template can help you keep track of just how much you’re spending and the value you get in return.
Now let’s dive deep into the strategies.
1.Influencer Marketing for B2B
Influencer marketing conjures images of millennials posting Instagram Stories. But it’s actually a powerful B2B marketing strategy in its own right. 84% of business decision-makers initiate their purchasing process by researching opinions from industry experts and peers. B2B marketing teams can tap into that behavior by using an influencer marketing strategy.
Start out by identifying industry influencers. These don’t have to be people with enormous social media followings necessarily; rather, they should be people who are seen as thought leaders. Targeting so-called ‘micro-influencers’—professionals with under 10,000 followers on social media platforms—is a good way to identify people with an established community and a high niche relevance for your target audience.
Find influencers using Alexa’s Audience Overlap tool. Get started by entering into the tool the URL of a website that has the audience you want to target. Alexa reports back with a list of sites with similar audiences. Get in touch with the site managers to open up opportunities for collaborative social media publishing, guest blogging, and even events.
Once you’ve identified relevant influencers, consider what kind of marketing activities would be of mutual benefit for both you and them. For example, webinars are often a good way to leverage an influencer’s existing community and grow brand credibility within the group.
An influencer marketing example for B2B:
Amex did exactly that when they launched the ‘Love My Store’ campaign with bloggers Grace Bonney and Emily Henderson. Both the influencers have a committed following of small business owners in the lifestyle sector.
Bonney and Henderson created designs and content to encourage business owners to place Amex signage in their store windows. The influencers documented the project via online platforms, boosting trust among target customers and creating a network-effect distribution among communities.
The campaign resulted in 400,000 Amex store window stickers being distributed, and 5 million impressions on YouTube.
Find out how to create an influencer marketing strategy from start to finish.
2. Emotion-led Marketing for B2B
B2B marketing is often thought of as an emotion-free zone, a place of numbers and quantifiable results. While it’s true that B2B selling often involves marketing to multiple decision-makers, the individuals in those groups are motivated by emotions. In fact, Think with Google found that B2B purchasers are almost 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they see personal value in it.
But the emotional factors behind B2B buying are different than those behind B2C buying. In B2B, purchase decisions are often motivated by two forces:
- Risk Aversion: B2B decision-makers play for high professional stakes when making a purchase decision. A decision that impacts the bottom line negatively could cost someone their job or at least their personal status within the company. IBM’s iconic sales pitch ‘Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’ tells a truth about B2B marketing.
- Groupthink: B2B decisions are made collectively. While combining executive expertise is helpful sometimes, it can also lead to groupthink, when people strive for consensus rather than choosing the best option for the organization.
An emotion-led marketing strategy can help marketers tackle these factors head on—countering risk aversion with reassurance and groupthink with peer-to-peer marketing. This could mean a personalized referral program that connects existing and potential executive customers or a strong claim like IBM’s pitch. Both are effective ways to reassure B2B decision-makers that they’re not going out on a limb by choosing your product.
For example, business software suite Zoho allows existing customers to earn commission by becoming Partners. These third-party referrers provide personal reassurance to peers. That kind of tactic pays off: B2B companies with referral programs log a 70 percent higher conversion rate than those without and a 69 percent faster close time on sales.
But emotion-led marketing for B2B doesn’t stop at risk aversion or groupthink. Take the example of Xerox, which used emotionally positive paid ads to sell their Genuine Rewards program.
Let’s be honest: Of all the elements that make up a professional office, photocopiers are probably the least fun. Yet in a campaign that reinforced the motivational aspect of a rewards program, Xerox used goofy content videos to sell the program to team leaders looking to motivate their employees.
B2B marketing teams that take an emotion-led approach to strategy will be able to tap into the often-neglected psychological drivers behind B2B purchases. This could give you the edge over competitors solely focused on selling through logic.
3. Event Marketing for B2B
Thankfully, digital marketing has hardly done away with real-world events because meeting clients out in the real world is still an effective way to generate leads and close sales. In fact, almost 75 percent of B2B marketers agree that hosted events are becoming more integral to their marketing success, not less.
Event marketing isn’t without its challenges though, particularly when you host the event from scratch. Tracking revenue back to events is notoriously tough, and event budgets can spiral upwards faster than most marketing strategy spend. Making an event marketing strategy work for your B2B business is about aligning activities closely to goals and keeping a tight rein on activities.
Consider these 3 tactics when incorporating an event into your B2B marketing strategy:
Define Event Type
Start by figuring out the right type of event for your goals. If your marketing goal is strong growth, large events like trade shows or conferences can generate a large number of leads. If your objective is to shorten the sales cycle, intimate self-hosted events can move leads down the sales pipeline faster.
You’ll probably find yourself choosing one of the following event types:
- Trade show
- Invite-only self-hosted event
- Public self-hosted event
Remember, a 360 strategy could involve more than one type of event as long as your budget stretches to it. Once you have your event type and budget in place, you’ll need to set goals and define what success looks like for your event.
Promote the Event
Effective promotion is vital for a successful B2B event. Email marketing is best for events that aim to move existing leads down the sales funnel. When it comes to lead capture, you could experiment with paid ads on niche industry sites, or engage your micro-influencers in event promotion. Also, it might be worth experimenting with social media promotion depending on your B2B niche.
Even if you’re attending someone else’s event, promote your company’s attendance with relevant Twitter hashtags and perhaps even Facebook Live videos. If permitted by the event organizer, get a list of attendees ahead of time to reach out on LinkedIn to connect with possible leads before event kick-off.
Capture Leads Effectively
Make sure you’ve got processes in place to capture as many leads as possible from the event. That information will need to get into your CRM system without any leaks. Three out of four B2B marketers say their current mix of technology and resources doesn’t work for them, resulting in lost data around leads, spend, and revenue according to The 2018 State of B2B Event Marketing Report.
As the event gets closer, keep an eye on your lead count. Are you on track to accomplish the goals you set out when you defined what success looks like? If not, circle back to the step above and find new ways to promote your event.
Cutting-edge software like Leadature allows marketers to collect lead information by scanning QR codes on attendee badges. That information is then sent to the cloud and integrated into a CRM. If your budget doesn’t stretch to that kind of software, promoting the event on a platform like Eventbrite also allows you to collect email addresses of everyone who signed up. You can then manually export these.
GE’s Healthymagination events are a great example of B2B events for a niche audience. The Healthymagination initiative brings innovative healthcare technology to underserved communities worldwide. The campaign’s events help sell the initiative—and the GE-produced technologies it uses—to health and development professionals.
GE’s Healthymagination B2B event in action. Image from AgencyEA.
Seven hundred industry professionals attended the event to watch giant movie screens on which doctors shared how GE’s healthcare technology improved health in rural communities. GE not only generated a pool of 700 leads and potential brand advocates, but they also built positive associations for the company and their products.
4. LinkedIn Marketing for B2B
B2B topics may not often (ever?) go viral on Twitter or Instagram. But B2B digital marketing strategies can crucial role in your overall marketing plan. LinkedIn in particular can be a rich source of leads and traffic.
The professional network is 277 percent more effective at generating B2B leads than Facebook and Twitter and generates 64 percent of all social media visits to corporate websites. Marketing consultant Louis Camassa goes so far as to claim that “LinkedIn is where 80 percent of B2B leads are generated on social media.”
Marketers that choose a LinkedIn-focused digital marketing strategy can follow this three-step playbook.
Identify Potential Customers
Proactively identify potential decision-makers for your brand. LinkedIn provides Advanced Search features that allow you to filter profiles by company, industry, location, school, profile language, and nonprofit interests.
For teams using Premium LinkedIn features, the Sales Navigator feature recommends possible leads based on your brand’s specifications and integrates that information in your CRM.
Connecting with these potential customers will expose them to more of your brand’s content. If you’re using more aggressive tactics, Premium LinkedIn users can send prospects Sponsored InMails.
Segment Audiences Using Showcase Pages
Just like you create specific landing pages on your website to speak to different audiences, Showcase Pages allow your brand to target specific customer segments within LinkedIn. Large, multi-faceted companies like Salesforce have a ton of Showcase Pages.
By breaking out pages for different customer groups such as sales teams and development teams, Salesforce uses Showcase Pages to deliver targeted content and build brand awareness on a micro-level.
On top of that, the platform recently introduced native video, similar to Facebook Live or Instagram Stories. This feature won’t be right for every B2B brand, but streaming native video can help certain B2B companies appear more authentic and extend their brand presence on the network.
Frictionless lead capture is the Holy Grail for B2B marketers. You can avoid having potential leads fall out of the pipeline by using LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms. When a potential lead clicks on your brand’s sponsored content ad, an in-app form is automatically filled with their profile data. They can submit that form without ever having to navigate away from the app.
Once submitted, marketing teams get the lead’s name and contact info, company name, seniority, job title, and location.
Enterprise software multinational SAP is a great example of a multi-pronged LinkedIn marketing strategy. They use Showcase Pages to connect with different audiences, employ prospecting tool Sales Navigator to connect with leads, and distribute their message through short-form video.
This broad-brush LinkedIn playbook can be tweaked into a leaner B2B digital marketing strategy based on ongoing results.
Looking for more B2B and B2C tips? Check out our Complete Guide to Marketing Strategies.
Marketing Strategies Help You Achieve B2B Objectives
B2B marketing comes with its own set of challenges, from risk-averse customers to baggy buying cycles. Having an effective B2B marketing strategy helps overcome these obstacles and sets marketing teams up with stronger sales pipelines going forward. Without marketing strategies for B2B, your well-intentioned marketing goals becoming unfulfilled dreams instead.
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