Digital marketing is one of if not the most important part of a company's marketing strategy. For businesses selling to other businesses (B2B) digital marketing has taken a bit longer to be taken seriously.
What is B2B Digital Marketing?
B2B (business-to-business) digital marketing refers to any digital marketing strategy or content that is geared towards a business or a company. Any business that sells services or products to other businesses (vs. consumers) typically uses a B2B digital marketing strategy.
Is Digital Marketing Good for B2B?
Digital marketing is very good for B2B companies. The potential return on investment can be exceptional, especially for companies that work with large value deals. As an example, the cost of a Google Ad Click could be £100 but if that user converts and you win their business, the value of the deal can be in the thousands and even into the millions depending on what you do
B2B vs B2C Digital Marketing
B2B marketing has always been a little behind B2C when it comes to marketing strategies and often companies look at B2C tactics such as influencer marketing and social media marketing and try to figure out how they should build these elements into their own marketing plan.
The ugly truth is that B2B marketing is not as interesting for most people as B2C marketing and emotions do not play as big a part. I’m not saying emotions don’t play any part in B2B marketing, of course as a company you will buy from the supplier that you like if nothing else splits the suppliers.
B2C marketing is much more emotional because you are spending you’re own money and what you buy has to be aligned with your personal image. You buy from brands that you think mirror how you want to be perceived as a person.
In B2B marketing, you buy from the company that you think is the best decision for the business, you are trying to look good in job and then you may move in 2 - 5 years to another job then that decision is irrelevant.
B2B buyers are much more risk averse and they are looking to buy from the ‘best’ business. The one that has done it before, has the best service and product and it’s going to make you look good.
This is why building authority and trust are key parts of the B2B digital marketing strategy.
Most users will only view 2 or 3 pages on your website. Users don’t read your whole website. Companies often have this belief that when prospects browse your website they will read everything and look through your whole site. This is the furthest from the truth. The website
is just the small tip of the buying cycle, most B2B websites have an average number of page views of 2 and 3.
Mistakes B2C Marketers Make in B2B
Trying to increase lead volumes by investing more money and assuming a linear approach to performance.
The B2B buyer journey is often long and complex unlike an impulse buy on an e-commerce website. Whilst performance is often improved in B2C digital marketing by optimising and investing more money, B2B performance marketing doesn’t work that way.
The B2B Digital Marketing Funnel
The B2B digital marketing funnel is a very useful framework used by agencies and in-house teams alike to identify the broad stages that a B2B buyer goes through. It is typically split into 3 stages often called Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel & Bottom of Funnel.
The funnel analogy is useful because it neatly describes how you may get a lot of website visits, fewer people downloading content and then even fewer actually getting in touch or signing up.
The measurement of efficiency for each of these stages are the conversion rates. The more efficient your website and your funnel the better your conversion rates and the better return on investment you are getting for your online marketing strategy.
Top of Funnel: Awareness & Attract
At the top of your funnel your goal is to build awareness of your company and attract visitors to your website. This is typically done through creating useful content and answering buyer questions when they are in research mode.
Middle of Funnel: Consideration & Interest
At this stage the buyer is aware of your company or at least they may have visited your website. At this stage in the funnel you are looking to cement your place as a potential suitor.
Bottom of Funnel: Decision & Conversion
At the bottom of the digital marketing funnel your aim is to drive conversions. From a marketing perspective a conversion is a marketing qualified lead. Not necessarily a sale.
What is B2B Inbound Marketing?
B2B Inbound marketing is a digital marketing strategy for attracting and converting visitors to your website. It’s become a very popular approach in the marketing world, especially for growing businesses that don’t have big marketing budgets and are looking to get a really good return on investment.
6 B2B Inbound Marketing Examples
The majority of tactics and best examples of B2B inbound marketing revolve around educational content that enables buyers to learn about relevant topics and your business at the same time.
- Blogs content based in search data
- Social media campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
- Informational Ebooks.
- Search Engine Optimized (SEO)
- Educational videos & tutorials
- Educational Podcasts
Blogs content based in search data
One of the most popular tactics in B2B inbound marketing is using search data found in platforms such as SEMRush and AHREFS to discover the questions users are asking in search engines and then answering these questions using educational blog content.
This is beneficial because you are not only educating your audience but you are positioning your company and brand as a thought leader in the sector. Even if you think the questions may be basic, there is a reason people are asking them.
You have to remember the reason a search engine exists is to answer questions. Most people want to be educated.
Social media campaigns (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
Social media campaigns can help attract more traffic to your website but it all relies on interesting and engaging content. For B2B companies this can often come in the form of visual graphics and videos. One common tactic is to use things like infographics.
Producing graphics on certain topics and sharing them on platforms like Pinterest is a good way.
Ebooks are downloadable resources that are educational in nature and can help buyers along their journey. These are useful tools for inbound lead generation. Where blog posts are open and any-one can read them without supplying any information.
With an e-book, usually a website user will have to supply at least their email address so that the ebook can be delivered to them.
Search Engine Optimized (SEO)
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important and most popular tactics in inbound marketing. It can even be argued that SEO is 80% of inbound marketing as when people are searching for services online they use a search engine.
Search engines are used by people who are looking for something. This means they are the perfect opportunity to help them find your company or organisation. By ranking on the first page in Google, and more importantly in the top position you are going to gain lots more exposure to an audience that may have never heard of you before.
Educational videos & tutorials
Educational content is key in B2B marketing and it’s particularly useful as a tactic for inbound marketing. The rise of video content on platforms such as YouTube has helped people learn everything from coding to how to play a guitar. The same educational videos are useful for your audience when they are trying to inform themselves on a certain subject.
It’s always worth producing a video version of your educational content because a lot of people find it easier and more engaging to follow a video rather than read an article online.
Similar to the above point on educational videos and tutorials, podcasts have seen an explosion in popularity recently. A lot of companies are now engaged in running their own podcasts as a way to build a captive audience whilst also being informative and interesting without trying to sell anything.
A podcast is also a useful tool for an SEO strategy because you can transcribe your podcasts and then include this transcription on your website. This extra text content will be picked up by search engines and will help your rankings too, so it is a win-win situation.
HubSpot & Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing was a term coined by HubSpot initially. HubSpot built a business on inbound marketing and then basically sold their software and strategy into lots of other businesses.
HubSpot is a very powerful CRM, Marketing & Sales tool. It’s used by a lot of B2B companies around the world to run their marketing automation. Along with being able to run marketing campaigns through HubSpot you can build a great quality website through HubSpot too with help from a HubSpot consultant.
SEO for B2B Companies
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the best digital strategies that can be employed by any company with a website. We all use search engines every-day to answer all of life’s questions. Anybody who uses a search engine like Google will also tell you that in most circumstances you will tend to trust the results that appear on the first page the most.
Very rarely do people go beyond the first page when searching for something in Google, nevermind the 3rd or 4th page. Companies that can appear in these top search results benefit from a lot more traffic on their website and therefore have a much higher probability of generating more leads and more customers.
B2B SEO and Search Intent
B2B SEO is all about the intent behind the search. A common mistake made by many companies is assuming that targeting very popular keywords/queries with lots of search volume each month are the best terms to target as logically more volume = more visitors which in turn leads to more conversions and leads.
The reality however is that the terms with the largest search volumes often relate to information search terms and the intent of the searcher is usually relating to educating themselves rather than buying or converting.
As an example, someone searching for “email marketing” may be looking for general information around the subject. But someone searching for “email marketing solutions” is in the market for a purchase.
Also queries with large search volumes are often broad and generic and therefore non-specific and it is very hard to determine why someone typed it in. If someone just typed in “email” it is almost impossible to figure out what they are looking for.
The term for a longer more specific search query is usually called ‘long-tail’ search terms.
SEO Tips for B2B Companies
SEO is a huge topic to try and cover but what I have done is put some of my top B2B SEO tips below that will get you started along the right path to increasing your search rankings in platforms like Google & Bing.
Make your H1’s descriptive
Your page titles (H1’s) should describe your service/solutions not your messaging. This is a common mistake made by a lot of companies who over think their website content and messaging.
For example, if you are a Digital Marketing Agency your H1 should read something like, “A Digital Marketing Agency for…” not something vague like “We increase your website leads” - this is simply because when a search engine crawler like the Google Bot is trying to rank pages, if someone types in “digital marketing agency” it will serve the user the content that matches that search as closely as possible.
So no matter how clever your tag line may be, you should always lead with what you actually are. You can add your messaging underneath as part of the page content.
It’s also worth remembering here, the point of SEO is to get people who have never heard of your business to discover you so your page titles need to explain exactly what you do.
Ensure your website loads quickly
Technical SEO is an important part of your strategy. There are a lot of variables but having a fast loading website can improve your usability scores and therefore increase your search rankings.
One thing that can help your page load times is making sure your images are not too large, you should never have an image on your website that is over 1mb, ideally they should all be below 200kb or even 100ks if possible.
Create breadcrumbs between pages
A web crawler follows links between pages, so the more links there are the easier it is to crawl your page and therefore rank it. Creating breadcrumbs is a good way to not only build links but provides a useful UX tool for website visitors to navigate easily back and forth between pages.
Create blog posts based on search data
Blogging gets a bad rep. But in the B2B marketing world blog posts can be used to increase your ‘authority’ on certain subjects or topics. Buyers are often researching topics and solutions when it comes to selecting the right product for their company's problem so creating informational content in the form of blog posts can actually be really beneficial to your business.
A lot of companies or marketing teams make the mistake of only producing blog content based on opinions and ‘thought leadership’. But from a search engine perspective you need to answer questions rather than provide opinions. This is why using tools such as SEMrush and AHREFs to discover the questions people are asking online can be beneficial as it allows you to create blog content that answers questions and contributes to the broader goals of increasing lead on your website.
SEO takes time
One important thing to remember is that SEO takes time and it’s not guaranteed, these are the two main reasons companies don’t invest enough in it. As such another strategy that is part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is PPC or Pay Per Click.
What’s the difference between SEM and SEO?
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and covers both paid and organic strategies whereas SEO is focused purely on search engine rankings. PPC and SEO together make up your search engine marketing strategy.
PPC targets the same audience as SEO but it’s based on the search queries you think users are typing in and you are paying every time someone clicks on your link, unlike an organic search listing.
PPC is popular because if done correctly you can start to generate traffic and leads very quickly in comparison to SEO which can take a long time. Generally most companies will have an integrated PPC & SEO strategy that work in tandem to gain the best results possible.
PPC for B2B Companies
Running pay per click (PPC) campaigns is a great channel for a lot of B2B companies and can provide a great ROI and ROAS (return on ad spend). Depending on the LTV (lifetime value) of a client, spending £5,000 through Google Ads to acquire a client that could spend £1million with you is a great return on investment.
Google Text Ads & Buyer Intent
One of the most common mistakes made by marketing teams when conducting PPC ads through channels such as Google and Bing is bidding on broad terms that have little intent behind them.
For example, someone typing in “cloud computing” can be looking for educational information around the subject whereas someone typing in “cloud computing companies” is obviously more likely looking to get in touch with a company in regard to their services.
Often the search volume around these longer tail terms is very small which is what puts people off bidding on the more general terms. The problem with bidding on the more general terms is that you will be serving ads to people who are not looking for what you are advertising for, this drives up your quality score, which is a key factor when determining how much you have to pay for a click.
In some cases you can be paying up to 30% more than other advertisers in an auction because your quality of advert is poor in comparison.
This is an attempt by platforms such as Google to ensure the user experience of the search engines is as good as possible and it wants to serve the most relevant adverts for each search.
Custom Landing Pages
Another common mistake is not having custom or bespoke landing pages for each of your Ad Groups or at least Campaigns. You need to change the content and CTA or your landing pages to match the search queries and keywords in your ads. A disconnect between these two things makes for a jarring user experience and again will lower your quality score and conversion rates.
Too many companies send their Google Ad campaigns to the homepage of their website, you should always try and create custom landing pages with one conversion goal for your PPC campaigns.
When setting up your Google Ads campaign you should ensure you have your desired conversion goals correctly configured through Google Analytics and potentially Google Tag Manager if it’s required.
By setting up your conversion goals correctly in Google Analytics you can them import these goals into Google Ads and use them in your campaigns to track the success of them in relation to the amount of leads generated.
The most common conversion goal used by a B2B website is a form submission. The easiest way to track if a form submission has happened on your website is to redirect users when they have submitted a form to a unique page with a confirmation message. You can then use the URL of that page, for example www.yourwebsite.com/confirmation in your goal configuration.
By using the Destination Page goal in Google Analytics you can track every time someone views this page, therefore meaning you can track every time someone successfully submits a form.
Micro-conversions & Smart Goals
Sometimes in B2B PPC you don’t have much conversion data to optimise on. This is because the number of conversions is much lower than on an e-commerce website as an example.
A B2B website may get a or 2 conversions a day vs an e-commerce site may get thousands or even tens of thousands. This means when Google is attempting to optimise your ads based on conversion data it doesn’t always make the right choices because it doesn't have enough data to act upon.
The work around for this is to either enable something called smart goals or to build what we call micro-conversions with Google Ads. These can be actions taken on your website that indicate intent but don’t go as far as submitting a form.
As an example, visiting 2 or more pages, visiting your case studies or spending longer than 3 minutes on your website can be good indications that someone has an interest in your company services but they may not have reached out to submit a form.
This is data we can use to tell Google Ads that the traffic is good quality and therefore by setting up micro-conversion goals for the examples I have mentioned above you can optimise your Google Ads campaigns with automated bidding strategies without having lots of form submission conversion data.
Outbound vs Inbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is when you reach out to prospects. Inbound marketing is when prospects find you. SEO and PPC are two elements of an Inbound Marketing strategy and they are probably the most popular channels in use by successful companies today.
In my opinion Inbound marketing is the best approach for a growing business because it is focused around the user/buyer’s choice. With outbound marketing you are often approaching people who may not want to be bothered and they are not in the market therefore providing a bad experience for them and a bad experience with your company.
Inbound marketing targets people who are already searching for a solution and you are helping them find the answer so it is already part of a better customer experience before you have even spoken to them.
Many companies grow initially through outbound sales but they often hit a glass ceiling because it is difficult to scale and you are often speaking to people who are not interested.
Inbound marketing strategies including PPC and SEO can bring users to your website, but what then? It’s not enough to just have people visit your website, you want them to take action and convert based on your key conversion goals.
Key Conversion Goals
A key conversion goal is something you want a user to do on your website. Usually for a B2B company this involves getting in touch via email or filling in a form on a website. A form is usually the most popular choice because it is easy to track and allows you to ask the user to provide some useful information upfront such as name, email and phone number.
The number of conversions your website gets is a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for a B2B website. An increase in the number of conversions indicates greater performance.
Website Efficiency & Conversion Rates
One important part of your B2B digital strategy is ensuring your website is easy to use and efficient. There is little point in sending thousands of people to your website if they can’t use it effectively.
The aim of a B2B website is to increase the number of conversions and importantly you want as many people on your website to convert as possible, the % of people who convert after visiting your website is called the rate of conversion, or conversion rate.
An average conversion rate for a B2B website is around 2-3%. This means for every 100 visits, you may get 2 or 3 people converting. This can be higher or lower but as you can imagine if your conversion rate is low you need a lot more people to visit your website to ensure you get the right number of conversions.
The practice of improving the conversion rate on your website is known as conversion rate optimisation (CRO).
What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a broad term that covers the practice of improving the efficiency of your website. This is done by increasing the percentage of people that convert on your website after visiting it.
Conversion rate optimization is usually measured by the number of goal conversions divided by the number of sessions on your website. Obviously to be able to measure your conversion rate you need to be able to first measure your conversions.
How to set up conversion tracking
To be able to measure the performance of your digital marketing strategy you need to be able to measure how many conversions you get. This can be done manually by counting the number of enquiries you get and cross-referencing this with the number of sessions on your website.
The problem with this is that it isn’t very scalable and can be very time consuming. I’ll outline below some basic steps to setting up conversion tracking for your website that should make things easier.
Step 1: Decide what your key conversion goal(s) are
The first step is to decide what you think is your hero or key conversion goal. Usually on a B2B website this involves submitting a contact form. But less important goals are still worth tracking, such as if somebody downloads a piece of content or clicks on a certain button on your website.
Step 2: Map out your conversion goals
Once you have decided what your conversion goals are it’s a good idea to write these down on a spreadsheet so that everybody is clear what they are. Write down what define a conversion goal and also give them a priority. So for example, someone filling in your contact us form would be a high priority conversion goal.
Step 3: Install & set-up the correct tools
Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics are two key tools you should be using as part of your B2B digital marketing strategy. They are both free tools provided by Google and they are essential for measuring the performance of your marketing and your marketing website. With these tools you can easily measure the conversions on your website.
Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics combined allow you to measure when users visit, browse and take actions on your website. You can measure events such as page scrolls, button clicks and form submissions to name some of the most common actions.
Website & CRM Integration
Form submissions and enquiries are the main goal of a B2B website if you want to keep a record of them. To build a list of contacts is an important goal of your marketing strategy. Most companies realise the importance of maintaining an accurate list of contacts and nurturing them over-time, this is where a CRM system is essential.
HubSpot CRM System
A popular and easy to use CRM software is HubSpot. HubSpot is cloud-based so you don’t need to download anything on your computer and the starter version is free. You can integrate HubSpot with your website by embedding forms into it.
Content for B2B Marketing
Content can mean anything from a social media post to a long report. In B2B marketing content is the fuel of your strategy. The companies with the most useful content will often find themselves winning more business.
B2B buyers are often in a stage of research and are essentially looking for the best tool for the job and ensure they are spending their companies money wisely.
B2B marketers are often risk-averse and when shopping for tools they are not spending their own money so they are very careful about selecting a solution that will not only enhance their career but also not get them sacked!
The best way to plan content for your buyers is to match content of different stages of the digital marketing funnel we mentioned earlier, so awareness, consideration and decision.
Content for Funnel Stages
Matching content to the different funnel stages means you are ensuring you have the right answers to buyer questions at the different points in time.
Top of Funnel Content
Top of funnel content should be focused on answering questions early on in a buying process, this can include answering basic questions about the services you offer and the topics in general.
The objective of top of funnel content is to build awareness of your company and hopefully attract them to your website to read, watch or listen to your content.
Middle of Funnel Content
Middle of funnel content should be aimed at people who already know about your company and are potentially considering your company's services.
Examples of middle of funnel content can be your service and product pages, your company pages and potentially your case studies as initially buyers are looking at qualifying whether or not your company is worth getting in touch with.
An important factor for this type of content is building trust with your audience quickly, for example having logos of your clients and testimonials are great examples of this.
Opinions vs answers
It’s important to recognise when you are answering a question vs voicing an opinion when it comes to B2B content. Answers help build awareness and attract new people to you whereas opinions come further down the funnel as people are aware of you.
Think of it when you consider whose opinions you value. You are more likely to listen to those of people you know rather than strangers. Therefore I would recommend leaving your opinion pieces of content to further down the marketing funnel
Bottom of Funnel Content
To be honest there is a lot of cross-over between middle and bottom of the funnel of content. But often the content at the bottom of the funnel are the bits that tip you over the edge when making your decision are questions you need answering at the point of decision.
Examples of bottom of funnel content could be pricing sheets, technical documentation (APIS etc) or case studies. These are the types of content that people consume when they are looking to make a decision.
Perform a content gap analysis
One useful process is to do a content gap analysis across the different stages of the funnel. This will show you where you are potentially missing the different types of content for the different stages of the buyer journey.
Content is also not always just consumed on your website. Once you obtain someone's contact details, and especially their email address you can serve contacts content in their own inbox. The thing is every contact is at a different stage in their journey and needs content served at a different point in time.
Serving Content With Marketing Automation
One way to serve the right content at the right time is to use a marketing automation tool such as HubSpot to serve your contacts content based on certain conditions. This enables you to customise the buyer journey for every prospect without having to manually build every campaign for them.
Before you can distribute contain over email you first need to identify (qualify) what stage each contact is at, you can do this based on certain conditions.
Qualify leads using conditions
If you are using a marketing automation and CRM tool such as HubSpot you can make life a bit easier for yourself by automatically scoring and qualifying leads as they appear in your CRM based on certain conditions.
The first point of call with this is deciding what key questions you need to ask to be able to make a decision on whether or not the lead is a good one or not. For example if you only really want to work with companies based in London in the uk then you need to have a question on your web form to ask about location. Based on the response you can use a marketing automation tool such as hubspot to say if the location is not London then set as qualified out and send an automated email to the lead or you can set a score based on a system of points that is not so black or white.
Lead scoring can get complicated if you overthink it. The best approach with lead scoring is to keep it simple, the detail you need to go into will depend on the volume of leads. If you have thousands each week then having a more detailed scoring system will be required to be able to prioritise work. If you are receiving maybe 20 leads a week you probably don’t need a detailed lead scoring system but it may be worth having some simple questions that can help your sales teams qualify them before they spend time talking to them face to face or on the phone.
Reporting & Analysis
Reporting is an important part of any marketer's job but putting together informative reports that really contribute to your overall marketing strategy can be difficult if you don’t have the right elements in place to begin with.
Steps to successful digital marketing reporting:
- Ensure conversion tracking is set up correctly: As mentioned earlier in this article, conversion tracking performs the most important part of this whole process. If you are not measuring your key conversions through tools such as Google Analytics then you have fallen at the first hurdle.
- Track KPIS at each funnel stage: If you imagine the funnel shape, we want to be able to spot at which point of the funnel you need to do more work. There are different conversion rates at the different stages and by measuring these
- Report monthly: With B2B marketing it makes sense to report on these KPIs monthly, if you start to track things day-to-day you will end up too close to it and make decisions based on snap decisions rather than trends. Reporting at the end of the month allows you to see the real trends.
B2B Digital Marketing Reporting
These are the reporting metrics I use for measuring the success of my digital marketing strategies. I’ve found these simple metrics are a great starting point. You can of course customise these to meet specific requirements over-time if you wish.
MQL’s: The Most Important KPI
MQL stands for Marketing Qualified Lead. This is the most important metric to measure as a B2B marketer. Leads turn into clients and clients generate revenue for the business. You could 10x your website traffic but if you don’t generate quality leads then it’s not having the impact it needs to.
What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
Generally a marketing qualified lead is someone who gets in touch with your business inquiring about your services, besides that they must also match a certain set of conditions that mean they are the type of potential customer you would like.
These conditions should be agreed internally with your business owners and sales team so that you can agree when a lead is qualified or not. If you don’t have this company-wide agreement then your measure is purely subjective and therefore meaningless.
There are a lot of components and skills required to execute well on a B2B digital marketing strategy, hopefully some of the contents of this article can help you in some way move your marketing strategy in the right direction. If you have any questions about anything covered in this article then feel free to reach out.