A significant difference exists between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. In B2C marketing, your messaging encourages an individual to purchase a product or service. In B2B marketing, businesses targetother businesses.
The automotive industry is an excellent example of B2B. Automotive companies such as Ford, Chrysler and Honda don’t manufacture every piece of a car. Instead, they sign contracts with smaller manufacturers to supply items as small asscrews or as large as door modules.
The B2B Buyer’s Journey
The B2B buyer's journey consists of three stages:
To effectively target B2B marketing communications, you must understand how organizations move through this journey.
For instance, with a B2C strategy, you typically only have to convince one person to make a purchase. But in the B2B sphere, an average of six to 10 people are involved in buying decisions, according to Gartner. And each of those peopletypically collects four to five pieces of content they’ve gathered independently to present to the group.
B2B marketing also requires more patience, as nearly 75% of B2B sales to new customers take at least four months to close, and nearly 50% take seven months or longer. Even the majority of existing B2B customers take up to three monthsto come to buying decision. B2C sales, on the other hand, can sometimes take as little as a few minutes.
Related Article: The Role of Journey Orchestration Engines in 2022
The Four Ps of Marketing
Product, price, place and promotion. These are the four Ps of marketing strategy — also called the marketing mix — laid out by E. Jerome McCarthy in his 1960 co-authored book “Basic Marketing, A Managerial Approach.”
The concept was later popularized by Neil Borden, an advertising professor at Harvard, in his 1964 article The Concept of the Marketing Mix.
The marketing mix assists companies in overcoming the barriers that prevent the widespread adoption of products. Although these ideas are decades old, companies still use them today. However, adopting this approach requires regulartweaking and updating, especially as your products or buyers change.
Companies make products or services that provide a solution for another company's problem or demand. The product may also be so unique that it creates demand.
All products have a life cycle, and your marketing strategy must provide for that cycle. When you market a product or service, you need to know where your buyer is in their journey, as this will dictate how much content you need toattract the buyer, where you should place that content and how much you will charge for that solution.
Price your product or service according to its value, both real and perceived. When calculating this number, consider factors like supply costs, what your competitors are charging for similar items, if you plan to offer discounts andwhat customers will pay before you hit a price pain point.
Some companies choose to price items higher to make them appear more luxurious. Others opt for a lower price to attract more buyers.
Be careful with how low you price items, though, as a low price point could indicate a budget item or something that’s not up to the standard as similar but higher-priced items.
Where you sell your products is also important. Consider the buyer's journey carefully; you'll want to get your product in front of the buyer when they’re most likely to make a purchase.
In some cases, this will means placing content or ads on a specific website. Other times, it means putting your product in a particular store or location within that store.
For example, say you have a prospect in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. In this case, it might make sense to place an ad on social media that points out a problem and how your product is the solution.
Use promotion — whether content or ads — to show existing and potential customers why they need your product or service and why it’s worth the price they’ll pay.
In past years, most promotion occurred in print, radio or television. These days, you can place content or ads online or on social media platforms.
One great example of non-obvious promotion is FedEx in the movie “Castaway.”
Although the film features the story of a man stranded on a desert island, it opens with him working for FedEx and ends with him delivering one last package.
Types of Business-to-Business Marketing Strategies
B2B marketing falls into three categories: digital, traditional and face-to-face.
You'll need to decide which type will work the best for you or if you want to use a mix. Also, consider what resources you’ll put into each category.
Digital marketing started slowly in the late '90s, gathered steam at the beginning of the 21st century and now dominates many market segments.
You can scale digital marketing quite effectively. Your ability to receive real-time reports on how a digital marketing campaign performs allows you to shift resources into a particular area quickly and efficiently. Tracking ROI on adigital campaign also becomes more accessible because of these tools.
Traditional marketing techniques can’t be targeted as effectively as a digital campaign but can help with increasing brand awareness. This type of marketing strategy relies on print, radio and television to create that awareness.
When a business requires a vendor for your product type, you want to be the company that comes to mind. For instance, when you think search engine, Google might be the first thing to come to mind. Or for soda, you might think Coca-Cola.
This strategy is still one of the most effective marketing methods available. It involves developing relationships through face-to-face meetings with potential customers.
Face-to-face doesn’t mean you have to meet with prospects in-person, though that never hurts. In today’s digital-first world, it can also mean phone calls, personal instant messages and video chats.
Related Article: Are You Suffering from Account Blindness in B2B Marketing?
The Top B2B Marketing Channels & Resources
The types of B2B resources you create — and where you place those resources — make an enormous difference to the success of your campaign. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to meet your target audience.
Build a website that looks professional and that existing or potential customers can easily use. Create navigation that allows them to quickly move from page to page and find the information they seek.
Think like a buyer. You visit many websites yourself and undoubtedly find it frustrating when you visit one that makes it challenging to find something you want. Don’t be that website.
Use content to make your website and other channels stand out. Content is critical in helping buyers during their journeys and is a great way to show your expertise in your field.
Types of content you can utilize include:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Research reports
Keep in mind that some types of content will be more effective than others. For instance, one HubSpot survey revealed that people pay the most attention to video content, followed closely by news articles.
That same survey also showed that people want to see more video content from brands.
When people who make purchasing decisions visit your website, they are often willing to give their email addresses for a particular piece of relevant content. Use these collected email addresses to build newsletter lists or providepotential customers with notices about product developments.
Be careful with email marketing, though. If you send too many emails, you risk annoying people who may send your messages to trash, mark them as spam or unsubscribe.
Search Engine Optimization
If you put time and money into creating dynamic content, you want people to know about it. Fortunately, you can reach those people through search engine optimization (SEO).
With the right SEO tactics — such as tagging content, utilizing keywords, including authoritative outbound links, etc. — you can ensure people find your content when they use Google or other search engines.
Even B2B buyers want to see social media posts from brands. Use this medium thoughtfully, though; some social media platforms used for B2C marketing won’t be helpful for B2B.
For instance, one powerful B2B social media platform is LinkedIn, as it's used by business professionals worldwide. You might also find success with Twitter or Meta (AKA Facebook).
Brands that want to target customers who use search can do so through pay-per-click (PPC), or paid search content, like the ad below. These ads appear at the top of search results and are clearly marked as promotional. However, they’re still relevant to theuser's search query.
You can also place PPC content on other websites, such as social media platforms, directories and email providers.
Over the past five years, influencers have become a meaningful way to market your product. If you know someone who has a popular podcast about your industry or frequently writes about it on social media, develop a relationship withthem. It’s a cost-effective and relevant way to improve your marketing strategy.
Influencers are especially effective when targeting local and niche markets, as they tend to have very loyal followings.
Conferences, Conventions and Displays
Before the pandemic arrived in 2019, conferences, conventions and other industry events provided B2B marketers with one of the best marketing channels. However, we remain to see their effectiveness in a post-COVID-19 world.
It’s doubtful conferences and conventions will completely disappear, but they may be less frequent and see smaller numbers.
Related Article: What's the Best B2B Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Brand?
How to Design a B2B Marketing Strategy
Now that you’ve seen how B2B marketing strategies can help your business, it’s time to design one.
1. Do Your Homework
Developing a marketing strategy out of thin air won’t work. Do your research. Think about your target audience and why it buys products like yours.
Research should also include a competitor’s analysis. You need to look at the competition, how they present their products and if there’s a niche they’re missing that you can fill.
2. Create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs)
Your research should include talking with your marketing and IT departments about the individuals who purchase your product. Marketing data should also reveal when they tend to make a purchase and the channels they use. You can use thisinformation to create an ideal customer profile (ICP) for every marketing segment you use.
Although you may only offer one product or service, an ICP will affect the channel and market segment you wish to use. A potential buyer in the awareness stage will require different information than a buyer in the decision stage, forinstance.
3. Map Out the Buyer's Journey
Once you’ve created your ICP for each marketing segment, plan how you will take these potential customers through the buyer’s journey.
People seldom wake up and think, "I’ll buy that today." That’s why it's called a journey. Move them from the first stage to the last, and consider the pain points and obstacles they will need to overcome.
Remember, buyers are more informed today than ever before, with libraries of information at their fingertips. When mapping out the buyer's journey, don’t think selling — think helping. If you try to push the buyer into a purchase at thewrong point in the journey, you risk losing them.
It can help to think about your own purchases during this step. How did you first learn about a product or service? What made you interested in it? And what steps did you take before you made the purchase?
4. Decide What Channels (and Resources) to Use
Each channel you utilize requires a different type of resource.
For instance, those in the awareness stage perusing your website may want a blog post or white paper. These resources can outline a problem and how your product or service is a solution. On the other hand, those in the considerationstage might be looking for FAQs or influencer reviews.
For each step of the buyer’s journey, consider which channel will entice prospects or customers. Then, decide what type of resource will best push them to the next phase of the journey.
Reach Your Target Audience With B2B Marketing
Although B2B and B2C marketing both rely on planning and preparation, the different audiences require different strategies and tactics.
Building a successful B2B marketing strategy means looking closely at your target audience and what they truly want. With that knowledge in hand, you can focus on the channels and resources that will most effectively guide them to apurchase.