Marketing your products or services to other businesses is difficult.
As an individual consumer, you’re familiar with other businesses marketing their products to you, so you have an idea of what marketing looks like. However, selling your products/services to other businesses is quite different from selling to individuals.
And that’s why I built this guide to B2B marketing—to clearly explain what it means to market your products to other businesses.
In this guide, we’ll discuss:
- what B2B marketing really is
- how B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing
- the most effective B2B marketing strategies
Let’s dive in.
What is B2B Marketing?
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing refers to the process of selling a product made by one company to other companies. Any company that markets its products or services to other businesses, as opposed to individual consumers, uses B2B marketing strategies.
B2B marketing is used by businesses that manufacture physical products as well as those that offer software solutions across different industries. What matters is that their target audience are other businesses.
What’s the difference between B2B and B2C Marketing?
While B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing share similar practices and guidelines, there are some key differences between the two.
The major difference, however, between these two types of marketing is their target audiences and how they communicate to them.
B2B marketing targets the interests, challenges and needs of people who purchase products on behalf of, or for, their business (rather than for their personal use). As a result, the business is the customer, not the individual. Here are some examples of B2B companies:
- A talent acquisition solution for companies looking for professionals to scale their teams with (like Upwork)
- An AI-powered tool that helps organizations create and distribute legal documents to employees, vendors and partners (like DocuSign)
- A marketing company that sells software products for sales, inbound marketing, customer service, etc. to other businesses (like HubSpot)
B2C marketing targets the interests, challenges and needs of individual consumers who purchase products for themselves. In this case, the individual is the customer. Here are some examples of B2C companies:
- An online streaming platform that gives mass-market consumers access to a vast library of films and television series (like Netflix)
- An online retailer and cloud services provider that lets individuals sell books, movies, electronics, housewares, toys, etc. (like Amazon)
- An online marketplace that lets individuals rent lodges and homestays for vacations or tourism activities (like Airbnb)
Take a look at this table comparing B2B and B2C marketing.
Take a look at this table comparing B2B and B2C marketing.
|B2B marketing||B2C marketing|
|Target audience||Other companies||Individual consumers|
|Communication||Uses special industry terms||Uses easy-to-understand language|
|Goal||Customers want expertise, efficiency and high ROI||Customers want great deals and entertainment|
|Purchase process||Customers work with salespeople and account managers||Customers make purchases directly|
|Motivating factor(s)||Customers are motivated by needs and financial incentive||Customers are motivated by emotion|
|Decision-making process||This process can take quite some time because customers often have to consult members of their chain of command before making a purchase decision||Customers don’t take too much time to make a decision because they rarely consult others before purchase|
|Purchase purpose||Customers purchase products for long-term solutions, which results in longer contracts and relationships with companies||Customers don’t really want long-term solutions or relationships with companies|
Five effective B2B marketing strategies
While B2B marketing primarily targets businesses, not every piece of B2B marketing material is the same. Below, we’ll talk about six B2B marketing strategies you can apply to reach your specific target audience.
B2B email marketing
Email marketing is a very effective way to reach, nurture and convert prospective clients. In fact, 93% of B2B marketers use emails to forge new business relationships. So if you’re not on the bandwagon, you should join now.
However, it’s not advisable to send just any kind of emails.
Because your customers make purchasing decisions based on logic and ROI, they want to know how your products/services can help grow their business. That’s why the emails you send should provide prospects with reasons to purchase your offer(s). Your emails must always resonate with your target audience and focus on the things that matter most to them.
A good way to do this is by sharing your brand’s content.
Sharing your blog posts, eBooks, videos, etc. in your emails is a powerful way to educate your prospects about the ways in which your product can solve their problems. HubSpot reports that 83% of B2B companies use newsletters in their content marketing program, and 40% of B2B marketers attribute their content marketing success to these newsletters.
B2B content marketing
An integral part of the decision-making process of B2B customers is understanding what your business is and how it can help solve their problems. Your prospects are driven by logic, so they also want to make sure you’re an expert in your industry. What better way to educate and assure your customers than B2B content marketing?
B2B content marketing involves using valuable information (content) to increase brand awareness, strengthen brand affinity, and drive traffic, leads and sales to your business.
To get the most from your content marketing efforts, you should supplement it with SEO. This involves anticipating what your audience is looking for, ensuring that high-quality leads find your website and content, and potentially converting them into clients/customers.
However, content marketing is most productive when you align your content to all stages of the buyer’s journey. In the awareness stage, your content should educate the buyer on their challenges and pain points.
A good way to do this is through articles. In fact, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get new knowledge from articles rather than ads. So creating a blog with topics related to your industry is a great idea. Not only will you provide your clients with relevant information, you’ll also educate them and promote your products/services as you go.
The B2B buyer’s journey is different from the B2C buyer’s journey, because the latter has fewer decision makers and shorter sales cycles. So the content you create for your B2B content marketing strategy may be different from the content you see as an individual consumer yourself.
That’s why you should run tests on the content you create, especially incentives. Whether it be a video, an eBook or a webinar, run some tests and compare your results. This way, you’ll understand the kinds of content that attract the right types of buyers for your business.
Example: HubSpot – Blog + Resources
HubSpot is a marketing company that sells software products for sales, inbound marketing and customer service. At its inception in 2006, HubSpot was funded by a public company. Now, 15 years later, HubSpot is a public company worth about $36.86 billion.
A huge part of their growth can be attributed to their content marketing strategy, which is a major driver of traffic.
HubSpot’s content marketing strategy is pretty simple. They created two kinds of content to address customers at different stages of the sales funnel.
- Their blog contains top of the funnel content that teaches small businesses about inbound marketing. The articles cover themes like customer retention, social media marketing, email marketing, sales processes and SEO, to name a few.
- Their resources section has an impressive library of case studies, eBooks, webinars, free courses and certifications, partner programs, a marketing kit and a community that targets customers at the middle and bottom of the sales funnel.
B2B social media marketing
Social media is a powerful platform for humanizing your business, increasing brand awareness and connecting with your target audience. From nurturing potential customers to flexing your industry expertise, social media has a ton to offer B2B businesses.
In fact, recent statistics show that social media influences the purchase process of 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-suite executives. Yep—social media isn’t just for B2C brands and individual consumers.
Despite this, B2B social media marketing is tricky business, especially if your product is very technical. It can be harder to engage prospects through social media, especially because the sales cycle is longer and many decision-makers are involved.
Although your social media accounts might not convert the largest number of leads (as opposed to email or content marketing), they are still important because they help you spread word about your business.
Your followers are also valuable—you never know when they might convert to customers.
Example: Salesforce – Facebook
With a market cap of over $300B+, Salesforce is one of the most well-known customer relationship management (CRM) companies in the world. And their brilliant use of social media adds to their success.
They constantly interact with their followers, sharing useful information and funny jokes in equal parts. They also post relevant content through eye-catching graphics and longform written content.
But the most impressive part of Salesforce’s social media marketing is how they focus on real people—specifically, their community members. Trailblazers, they’re called.
A common struggle that B2B companies have is humanizing their brands, especially when they offer technical products/services. Salesforce’s product offerings are technical, but they are able to humanize their brand by featuring Trailblazers in the content they publish on social media.
Scroll through Salesforce’s Facebook and Twitter profiles, and you’ll see numerous posts that celebrate their customers’ achievements, highlight their company culture, and demonstrate the ways in which their teams get involved in important social causes.
An important thing B2B brands can learn from Salesforce’s social media marketing is that social media platforms are the best way to show your audience that your brand consists of real human beings.
B2B digital marketing
Understanding digital marketing is a crucial step in attaining success as a B2B brand.
B2B digital marketing involves using the internet and online resources to promote products and services.B2B digital marketing consists of a website, search engine optimization, paid ads and any other channel through which a business can connect with its target audience.
Below are some of the best digital marketing practices:
Define your target audience
The first step to creating a strong B2B digital marketing strategy is to define your target audience, or create a buyer persona. This information will be the basis of all your other marketing efforts. This ensures that your content and ads are seen by the right people and no resources are wasted.
Build a website
The next step would be to create an informative website. This is vital as over 80% of B2B buyers visit a website before purchasing a product. So your website should clearly explain to decision-makers what your product is, what it does, and how it can help them solve their problems, streamline their work processes and/or improve their lives.
Implement SEO tactics
After creating your website, you need to make sure your audience can find it. You can do this by implementing on-page SEO and technical SEO practices. This consists of keyword research and implantation, image alt texts, meta descriptions, site speed, structured data, etc. You should also focus on off-page SEO, which mainly comprises link building strategies and social shares.
Run PPC campaigns
Lastly, run paid ads.
Pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns allow you to reach new audiences via advertising platforms and search engines.
However, it’s unlikely that a new consumer who has never heard of your business is looking for your exact product. So rather than promote just your products/services, company tagline, or blog/social media content, you could also target relevant categories within your business. You can do this by incorporating data about your buyer persona(s) and creating relatable ad content.
Example: Asana – Website Homepage
Asana’s website is evidence of an amazing digital marketing strategy.
As soon as you land on the homepage, you see a huge call-to-action (CTA) waiting in the first fold to convert prospects into users. There are no sliding images, moving animations or any other distractions. Just a short sentence on how Asana can make your life easier, accentuated by a powerful image that demonstrates the collaboration and productivity they provide their customers.
Further down the page, Asana positions more CTAs near interactive illustrations of the product in action, which causes users to navigate to related pages to learn more about how Asana can help them.
In essence, Asana highlights a major challenge that businesses face, and their website clearly explains why they are a solution.
B2B influencer marketing
In today’s fast-paced digital sphere, the average business decision marker or consumer is more shrewd and demanding than ever. This means that people no longer fall for the common marketing strategies that businesses used to implement. Now, they consult other consumers/decision-makers before they purchase anything.
BrightLocal reports that 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations. That’s not all—70% of people trust recommendations from people (even if they don’t know them) over businesses or brands.
That’s why influencer marketing is increasingly popular—and effective. In fact, a study by Tomoson shows that influencer marketing is the fastest-growing consumer-acquisition channel.
Influencer marketing is a process that involves using key leaders in an industry to showcase a brand’s message to the larger market.
Every industry has its influencers. They come in various forms:
- Thought leaders
- Prominent companies
- Innovators, etc.
Rather than marketing your products/services directly to a big market, you can hire market influencers to promote your offers.
- Give you access to professional contacts and valuable networks you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.
- Help you better reach your target audience as they know the market better, or even help you make better products.
- Bring a unique viewpoint that can resonate with your target audience.
- Provide professional credibility that can help address (and solve) the pain points of your target audience.
- Give you the kind of thought leadership that can increase your brand’s visibility and desirability by proxy.
To excel with influencer marketing, you have to find the most authoritative individuals and businesses that your target audience listens to. Then create influencer marketing campaigns with the right KPIs and goals in mind.
Usually B2B influencers have fewer followers than B2C influencers, but that’s okay because traffic does not matter too much in B2B. Conversions do. And that’s what you should be aiming for.
There are multiple ways B2B companies can use influencers in their marketing strategy. Here are a few of them.
- Write and receive guest posts on both your and the influencer’s websites.
- Partner with bigger companies in your industry to promote both brands.
- Create affiliate marketing campaigns with influencers to promote your offers in exchange for a commission.
- Advertise directly on relevant industry-leading channels (websites, LinkedIn, etc.)
Example: SAP – Business Conference
SAP, a multinational software corporation, hosts the Sapphire Conference once every year. This business and tech conference attracts a large number of industry experts, thought leaders, and users worldwide. In fact, ~20,000 people attend the conference in person, while another 50,000 – 100,000 people view the event online.
For their 2016 Sapphire Conference, SAP ran an ingenious B2B influencer marketing campaign.
With Facebook Live, they hosted live interviews with influential industry experts. This allowed online viewers to participate in the event and get answers to their questions. SAP also arranged meetups between physical attendees and influencers based on their areas of expertise.
SAP uploaded these videos to their blog and shared them on social media. The influencers involved also shared videos from the event with their audiences, which resulted in growth for both the brand and the influencers.
SAP understands the potential of B2B influencer marketing. And they leverage it by collaborating with business consultants, authors and academics—people who have significant influence on the decision-makers in SAP’s target audience.
Improve your B2B marketing strategy regularly
While the strategies outlined above are the best B2B marketing strategies right now, it’s important that you don’t grow comfortable with them.
The digital marketing sphere is evolving at an alarming rate. So to stand out from your competitors, you have to constantly evaluate your B2B marketing strategies, find loopholes and ways to improve.
B2B businesses that gather (and use) data on their performance across a wide range of marketing efforts have better chances at winning at B2B marketing than those who don’t.