Without a clear and proactive vision, a B2B marketing strategy can be challenging to get right.
If your product’s USP is an innovation of an existing product – doing something with established value and doing it smarter, faster, etc, this requires one approach.
But what if the product you offer is truly disruptive, and solves a problem that people aren’t aware they can resolve or prevent? How do you market to potential customers who don’t even know to look for your solution? How can you generate demand? This often requires an element of trial and error. It’s important to test different ways to connect with your potential buyers, and find the approach that resonates.
In this article, we’ll not only explain best practices for this testing process but also how to take advantage of a connection with potential customers and leverage it into a lasting working relationship. B2B marketing is not B2C marketing, and one of the things we’ll explore is their differences and similarities – including what can be learned from B2C.
In brief, the key ingredients lie in having a strong plan in place, implementing compelling content and visuals, building a core voice and core understanding of both your brand and your audience, making the most out of your data, and embracing experimentation.
Free Guide to B2B SaaS Marketing
The Faster Horse Problem
There’s a quote famously – if somewhat dubiously – attributed to Henry Ford, in which he states
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”
This remains a popular soundbite because it captures the essence of a particular marketing dilemma – customers understand their situation is unideal, but can’t envision what the solution would look like. Because an unnamable problem is an unsolvable problem, disruptive innovations need to utilize demand generation effectively to gain traction. You know how your product can help your potential customers – but how do you get them to make the connection?
Thankfully, successful demand generation has concrete strategies behind it that you can apply.
Understand the differences between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers. Identify your target market. Experiment with cheap, small campaigns to learn how to get through to them. Know that qualified leads are extremely valuable in B2B – quality over quantity. Why? Because, in the B2B market, your customers are organizations – there is a limited audience and targeting them precisely is crucial.
Differences Between a B2C and B2B Marketing Strategy
B2B companies have longer sales cycles than B2C companies, in part because the customers come with longer chains of command.
They may also have the most success on very different marketing or social platforms (for example, LinkedIn is a major advertising hub for B2B businesses, whereas B2C businesses might have an easier time getting noticed on TikTok).
In their respective marketing funnels, B2B vs B2C companies may also use different types of content to entice and win over potential buyers – whitepapers and industry reports vs viral content and buyer guides, for example.
B2C Marketing Strategy
In B2C marketing, the consumer is an individual and is more likely influenced by fun and intuitive ads or marketing that makes them feel.
They may feel less need to focus on long-term solutions, and are more likely to make impulse decisions, especially with ‘cancel anytime!’ deals a lot of B2C companies offer.
Conversions of this type of customer come from results, yes, but also from compelling and aspirational branding. Repeat customers are also a key goal in B2C success, as is reaching ever larger groups of people.
B2B Marketing Strategy
In B2B marketing, your buyers are professionals or specialists at another business or organization tasked with finding a product, rather than an individual consumer. The organization itself is your customer.
This customer is thinking in terms of the best interests of their company, so is therefore motivated by results, efficiency, and ROI. They are also often focused on finding a reliable long-term supplier of their required product.
Conversion of these customers comes from both concrete results and demonstration of knowledge, via thought leadership.
Where B2B Marketing Strategy Meets B2C
In both cases, some best practices are universally applicable. Building a buyer persona, for instance, is always going to be necessary, regardless of whether your buyer is a corporation or an individual consumer. As is the case with employing a human element in your advertising – connecting the buyer’s needs with your offer will always involve an element of empathy. Word of mouth marketing, be it via testimonials or reviews, will always have considerable impact.
Ultimately, demonstrating a strong ROI to customers is necessary whether customers are purchasing for business or pleasure.
Even impulse buys are made with the promise of a powerful result in mind (although that envisioned result may be as nebulous as ‘a feeling of success or comfort’).
Demonstrating your USP memorably and compellingly never stops being ground zero in marketing strategy.
The Buyer’s Journey
Awareness → Consideration → Decision → Retention
The buyer’s journey describes a potential customer’s path to purchase. Today’s buyers are more informed than ever before. In fact, the average B2B buyer spends 27% of the time in the purchase journey independently researching online. This is in part why content marketing is so important in B2B marketing strategy – establishing yourself as a thought leader helps you rise above the information overload your buyers might be experiencing.
We’ll cover content marketing in more detail later on, but for now, let’s look at the steps in the buyer journey:
Awareness stage: The buyer is aware their situation is unideal and seeks to change that.
Consideration stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches potential solutions.
Decision stage: The buyer evaluates and eventually decides on the right provider to solve their problem.
Retention stage: The buyer is satisfied with the impact of their chosen solution, and continues to implement it in the longer term. (This is not always included in infographics describing the buyer’s journey, but we believe it’s a critical part to consider, right from the start. It still costs more to obtain a new customer than to keep an existing one, and building long-lasting, positive relationships with clients is important to your scalability in B2B marketing strategy.)
With a disruptive B2B marketing strategy, you’re going to face more challenges early on. You will be tasked with bridging the gap between potential buyers knowing they aren’t happy with a situation and understanding there is now a solution (ie, your product) that can unburden them.
Your B2B Marketing Strategy: Step By Step
Understand Your Target Market and Your Buyer Persona
In all B2B marketing strategies, regardless of what individual tactics you employ, your marketing needs to speak to a specific audience. You’ll already have some understanding of your target demographic (because if you can’t think of anyone who would benefit from your invention, it’s unlikely you have a sellable product in the first place!). Now it’s time to chisel your definition down further.
Marketing that is too broad won’t connect with audiences – especially when your product is solving an industry-specific problem. This will ultimately lead to an expensive, time-consuming campaign with little gained.
You need to create buyer personas. Who is your buyer and how do they think? Conduct research on your current customers, competitors’ customers, and ideal customers – what messages are resonating with them? If that’s not clear, do inexpensive mini-campaigns to test your guesses.
Enterprise sales cycles are generally long – between 6-8 months. You need to know you’re on the right track long before then. Use demographics, your customer research, and a certain amount of guesswork to build a buyer persona.
Educated trial and error is an important and unavoidable part of a B2B marketing strategy. Marketing is never one and done – stay agile and pay attention to results – the data you get back tells you more than you think.
Determine Your Brand Positioning
If you scrape your knee, you might go to the store and ask where the band-aids are. In the UK, you may hoover your carpet before having guests over. And if you have a cold, you’ll want to keep a box of kleenex nearby. That these three brands have become so synonymous with the product they sell that they scan as nouns, not names, demonstrating the power of brand positioning.
Your brand will have a perceived persona whether you curate it or not – so leverage that to position your company or solution in the best light.
There are numerous ways to go about this, but the core ideas remain the same. You’ll need to determine your current brand positioning, break down your company values and goals into the essence of your brand, research your competition, create a solid framework and mission statement, and ensure that this is all demonstrated consistently across your marketing, sales pitches and customer service.
Run a Competitive Analysis
Understanding where your competition is succeeding and failing is crucial. Scope the market for competitors’ product offerings, sales tactics, and marketing strategies. It’s said comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s also undeniably the fuel behind staying competitive.
As well as your competitors, running a review of your own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (AKA a SWOT review) allows you to identify potential issues before they happen. You need to be able to understand your company from an outside perspective, not just through your own blood, sweat, and tears in building it.
Plan Your Outreach For Maximum Impact
Understand your toolbox of marketing tactics. Inbound, Outbound, and Paid marketing are all highly effective tools when used correctly. Your outreach strategy is your sequencing of these tools for optimal results. Let’s take a quick look at these three major marketing tools:
Consists of using value-rich content – in the form of blogs, videos, whitepapers, etc – to draw qualified leads to your website or another platform. This marketing approach is effective in establishing you as a trusted voice in your industry and can generate brand recognition with relevant players, even if they are not currently looking to buy.
Consists of email sequences, social media posts, and other strategies that ‘reach out’ where inbound marketing draws in. Email marketing is pretty much a must in this day and age, it’s often most effective when combined with inbound strategies – for example, enriching your emails with informative content makes customers far more likely to click through and convert. Gated content on your website can be used to secure email addresses for further marketing promotions.
Paid marketing includes pay-per-click ads on Google, social media, and other websites. Running ad campaigns can be an excellent way to get your brand in front of a lot of eyes and can be used strategically to push more traffic to your website when needed most. Again, ad usage is usually optimized when combined with inbound, especially in B2B marketing.
The Importance of Digital Presence
While social media probably won’t end up being your brand’s strongest marketing wheelhouse, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful – and necessary. Around 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-Suite executives use social media when making a purchase
If you haven’t already, make a professional blog part of your website and start availing yourself of the benefits of content marketing.
Ensure you are truly Search Engine Optimized by auditing your website – here at Nituno we offer free website audits, in case you’re unsure how to go about this – and asking yourself, is my website compelling and crawlable?
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, a successful B2B marketing strategy boils down to three components: thorough, strategic research, a combination of marketing tactics, and a wholehearted embrace of experimentation.
Understand who you are and who you’re pitching to. You already know how amazing and useful your product is – your marketing should focus not on this, but on empathizing with the customer’s struggle and providing them information to reach that conclusion themselves.
Formatting a strategy that uses your marketing toolbox to its full potential is at the core of what Nituno does. Coming from the B2B space ourselves, we understand that a B2B marketing strategy requires unique, disruptive processes. Now, we partner with B2B companies for mutual success. We use a variety of marketing techniques including inbound, outbound, paid, and video marketing to turbocharge growth. If you want effective, efficient marketing in the B2B space, we can help.