What is B2B Marketing?
B2B, or Business-to-Business, Marketing encompasses a wide variety of strategies that businesses use to spread the word about their products and services when their target clients are also other companies. B2B companies provide products and services that directly or indirectly help other companies accomplish their goals, with everything from physical office supplies to cybersecurity monitoring services. Marketing to other businesses comes with its own share of special considerations, meriting a distinct strategy from your marketing team.
Important Considerations in B2B Marketing
While B2C companies can use a wide variety of appeals, depending on the types of products and services they offer, the vast majority of B2B companies want their marketing to be driven by a strong understanding of their target market and the current needs of their potential customers. There is less need for flash in their campaigns, but creating clear, compelling marketing still requires a knowledge of human responses to persuasive appeals.
Many B2B companies sell a product or service that, if implemented at a large company, would create an extremely high-dollar-value contract. For this reason, many B2B companies can focus on gaining and maintaining key accounts rather than needing to create a broad range of low-volume sales. Clearly, this isn’t always the case, but it is often true.
The purchaser of B2B products or services is often not the end user, but rather a person involved in purchasing for a company. Understanding the logistics of helping the purchasing party understand the need for a product or service is another unique aspect of B2B sales and marketing.
Having a plan ahead of time is a major component of B2B success. While it is possible to create isolated marketing campaigns for B2B or B2C companies, B2B companies tend to see the most success when they plan a vision for where they want their company to go and strategically market with that vision in mind.
For instance, if you have one service to offer right now, but you know that you want to have two premium options available within two years, your relationship building now is not building toward one sale, but rather a potential of 3 tiered sales.
B2B companies are in a growth industry, so marketing for them is growing as well. B2B e-commerce sales are currently growing at such a rate that they are expected to outgrow B2C sales by 2020, according to a study by Ecommerce Platforms.
Why is B2B Marketing Important?
Even though B2B companies rely more on their expertise and ability to generate revenue gains for other companies, they still have to create demand for their products by making sure the right people know what they are and who they are. B2B Marketing is about finding a market and convincing those stakeholders that your product would help them do business better or more efficiently. This often requires research into the challenges of a variety of large companies, as well as an understanding of any shortcomings of your competition’s products, support, or pricing. The competition is fierce, so excellent marketing can be a way to pull ahead of the pack after you already have a great product.
Marketing campaigns that would work for B2C companies are unlikely to translate perfectly to B2B contexts, though there is always something to learn from the effective marketing strategies of others. For B2B companies to compete against a wide variety of other potential vendors, they need to have an edge in their marketing and sales divisions. The changing strategies of marketing, as well as the ever present changes due to the internet and computing technology, contribute to marketing’s prominent role in each successful B2B company.
How has the B2B Marketing Landscape Changed in Recent Years?
While B2B Marketing changes extremely rapidly, some of the trends have persisted and have now become important aspects of the marketing landscape.
In industries like Software as a Service (SaaS), security, and other technological products, the competition has become extremely intense between B2B companies. The ability to sell globally, rather than focusing on a geographical area, means that buyers can shop around, expect much more for their money, and hold the power. Excellent marketing, sales, and support can be the edge that helps you stand out.
With greater buyer power comes a greater need to create an excellent experience, start to finish, for each customer. In an era of internet-based reviews, a reputation for poor service or even just a few extremely negative reviews can make it hard to compete. Thus, engineering an excellent customer experience and promoting one’s ability to support customers along the way has become a key to building a loyal customer base.
The customers are often well-informed from the beginning making sophisticated decisions that weigh the pros and cons of all the options available to them. When industry experts are the potential clients, offering them valuable products can be augmented by also providing excellent training and documentation of one’s product features, such that they can quickly and clearly see the advantages of what you have to offer. Much of the marketing information you’ll provide will need to be focused on substantial claims that you can make about your product; a fluffy presentation will simply mean they turn to a company they regard as more serious.
At the same time, B2B marketing is getting more technological and more personal. This means that powerful marketing tools, including Customer Relationship Managers (CRM), are being used to do as much of the rote marketing work as possible, but no one stops there. The time freed up by the automation is now used to create hyper-personalized marketing that aims at the key accounts that would put your company on the map. A CRM creates the ability to scale one’s marketing efforts effectively while remaining connected to any and all interested customers.
B2B Marketing requires the combination of the thoughtful application of technology, careful research into the needs of your potential customers, and a willingness to keep the personal aspects of sales that have proven to be most effective in a world of many, many choices.
Five Critical Components of Successful B2B Marketing
Statistics tell us that attracting a new customer costs six times more than keeping an existing one. In light of this, B2B marketers should ask themselves one question: is generating new leads always worth it? Especially when it comes at the cost of nurturing and fostering current client relationships?
The answer is a resounding no.
Short-lived, ostentatious, and aggressive marketing campaigns are becoming something of the past; companies and clients alike have moved towards building and maintaining ongoing relationships with each other rather than begging each other for attention. Customer marketing is a huge facet of retaining clients, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
We’ve entered the age of the customer; those in marketing positions are no longer running the show in the B2B sector. Clients want to feel empowered– and you can make that happen by growing your business’ ability to connect with and serve those clients.
When clients are engaged with the businesses they buy from, they’re better customers. They maintain business relationships longer, spend more, and become free advocates for your organization. Nothing is more powerful than reputation and word of mouth; and when you have happy clients, your business will have plenty of both.
- Attracting new clients costs business six times more than holding onto existing customers
- Customers want to feel empowered
- You can make it happen with the implementation of thoughtful, actionable marketing
- Engaging in a customer marketing strategy allows you to benefit from free marketing
- Word of mouth
Read more about Customer Marketing.
Conversational marketing (or conversation marketing) is a one-to-one marketing approach. A properly-implemented conversational marketing strategy can help a company learn about their customers and provide a more “human” buying experience– but it can also help shorten sales cycles.
The implementation of conversational marketing hinges on real-time interactions with both people and intelligent chatbots rather than the use of lead capture forms. This means that leads and potential clients are always able to engage with your business– sometimes it may be through your website, other times it could be through email, and at other points still it might wind up being over the phone.
Conversational marketing allows you to offer clients a more human buying experience and, in the process, learn more about them. Knowing more about potential customers opens the door for you to create and offer unique, actionable solutions to clients’ individual problems– and that’s a huge selling point.
- Also known as conversation marketing
- One-to-one approach
- Ideal for shortening sales cycles
- Reliant on real-time interaction
- Chatbots are an option
- Provides a more human buying experience for clients
Read more about Conversational Marketing
Inbound marketing centers around building up relevant and useful content that serves to attract customers. Your content alone should pull potential clients towards your company– there’s no excessive advertising of your brand going on in an inbound marketing scenario. Ideally, a company practicing inbound marketing will take strides to make every stage of the buying journey a pitstop for added value.
A successful inbound marketing campaign drives potential clients directly to you without your organization ever having to hawk or hound. Through the implementation of web design and SEO skills, you’ll be able to lay a path for potential clients to follow in order to learn more about the benefits of working with your business and purchasing your products or services.
From there, content marketing and social media will capture potential clients’ attention. Content marketing is a critical branch of inbound marketing because it allows companies to put out content that they stand behind– this helps them appear reputable and knowledgeable without explicitly having to state that they are. Social media helps further establish a brand as knowledgeable and friendly and allows companies to raise brand awareness.
- Focuses on using relevant, useful content to attract potential clients
- Seeks to add value through every stage of a customer’s purchasing journey
Read more about Inbound Marketing
Six crucial focus areas
- Web design
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Lead generation
- Lead management
Account-based marketing (or ABM) relies on the compilation of key contact data– specifically data from high-value leads and prospects. These leads are then targeted in a personalized manner.
When you utilize an ABM strategy, you’re able to tailor your marketing style and message based on the attributes of the clients you’re working to attract. Research from the Altera Group has indicated that 97% of B2B companies experience a higher ROI when using ABM over other marketing styles.
Utilizing an account-based marketing strategy allows your team to focus on what matters most. Because these campaigns are so targeted, no time or resources are wasted hastily gathering leads that may or may not go anywhere. Instead, you’ll work with a set of leads that you already know have high potential– and you’ll be running programs optimized to get them to buy.
- TargetedPursue high-value leads and tailor marketing to them
- 97% of companies who use ABM experience increased ROI
- Resource waste is reduced
- Sales and marketing alignment becomes simple
Read more about account-based marketing
You can’t sell something that nobody wants. That’s where demand generation comes into play. Demand generation bridges the gap between marketing and sales. Marketers who utilize demand generation seek to bring in leads that are likely to translate into active clients and, essentially, brand ambassadors.
When a company establishes a concise and marketable brand identity and has achieved a level of brand awareness, demand generation tends to be easier. Ideally, your brand will speak for itself and lure potential clients into getting into contact with your team.
The ideal demand generation marketing setup takes potential clients through a few steps.
It raises awareness that they have an issue they need solved
It presents your products or services as a solution to the issue
It increases potential customers’ confidence and trust in your brand
It creates a definite interest in customers for your solutions
- Bridges gap between marketing and sales
- Focuses on procuring and attracting leads with high potential
- Demand generation is about getting people interested in what you’re selling
- The more traditional lead generation centers, instead, around turning interest into names and contact information
Read more about Demand Generation