Are you looking to start a B2B business? We think that's a great idea! B2B, or business to business, is one of the fastest-growing segments for new and established businesses.
According to MarketWatch, the global B2B e-commerce market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.5% to reach $13 trillion by 2027.
Aside from the growth prospects, the B2B business model can prove profitable if you have the right skills. Why? Because companies usually have a larger budget to pay premium prices and more money to spend than the average consumer.
However, the nature of this type of business requires you to have strong marketing skills to survive in the ever-competitive marketplace.
But what exactly is B2B marketing?
In this post, you'll learn everything you need to know about B2B marketing, including the best B2B marketing strategies and how this type of marketing works.
What Is B2B Marketing?
There are many answers to the question, "what does B2B mean in marketing?"
In fact, Google finds over 100 million results that include the phrase "B2B marketing." The problem is, most of the definitions you'll find online are lengthy and difficult to understand.
We'll iron out the confusion and set the record straight.
B2B stands for business to business. As the name suggests, business-to-business marketing refers to marketing products/services to other businesses and organizations.
Simply put, in B2B marketing, the buyer is a business. Or, more specifically, you're selling to decision-makers in any particular business.
That said, B2B marketing strategies target an organization and not consumers at an individual level. Typical B2B marketing examples include:
- A live chat service provider (picture Intercom) attempting to market and sell their software to a digital marketing agency
- A water pump manufacturer trying to market and sell their product to a borehole drilling company
- A heavy equipment dealership attempting to market and establish a contract to sell machinery to a construction company
The best B2B marketing strategies use a variety of tactics to reach the target audience. We'll look at these tactics later in the article.
Why Is B2B Marketing Important?
B2B marketing is essential because most companies rely on the outputs or products of other businesses to function. It's rare to find an organization whose production and distribution processes are 100% self-contained.
For example, your favourite apparel brand most likely sources its raw materials from textile manufacturers. Your favourite gaming console brand likely sources their chips from third-party providers and pay shipping companies to distribute the end products.
So, how are these vendor relationships formed?
You guessed right; through marketing.
Typically, you identify B2B opportunities and then tailor your marketing messages to companies that need your products/services.
Another reason why B2B marketing is important is that it helps companies build long-lasting relationships that often lead to increased revenue and business growth.
Selling to individual consumers typically involves a single purchase of a low-cost item. But when you sell to another business, the price will likely be higher.
Plus, there is the possibility of securing a contract worth millions of dollars or one that spans months or even years. And to secure such contracts, you'll need to up your B2B marketing game with result-driven strategies like account-based marketing.
How Does B2B Marketing Work?
We've established that B2B marketing targets businesses as opposed to individuals.
So, for you to devise a B2B marketing plan that drives results, you'll first need to understand your target audience's business needs.
Armed with this knowledge, you can structure your campaign to convince your target business that your products/services will yield a high ROI for them.
The trick is to focus on strategies that seek to build relationships with other businesses and highlight how doing business with you will add value to their bottom line. The exact way to do this will depend on your business type and the business plan you have in mind.
For example, let's assume you run a digital marketing agency. In this case, your B2B sales campaign should focus on how you can help to boost their site's organic traffic and secure higher rankings on SERPs for their business.
B2B vs. B2C Marketing: What are the Differences?
Before we delve into the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, we first need to understand what B2C means.
B2C or business-to-consumer is a retail model in which a company sells products or services directly to consumers. Unlike in B2B, where the end-user is a business, the end-user in a B2C transaction is an individual consumer.
While the main difference between B2B and B2C is the intended customer, the two business models also operate differently. That said, here are the main differences between B2B and B2C business models that every marketer should know.
1. Business Focus
The primary focus of B2B companies is to build personal relationships.
B2B marketing and lead generation strategies focus more on building personal relationships that drive long-term business.
Because of the importance of repeat business, developing these personal relationships can make or break a business. According to Business Wire, 77% of B2B marketers believe personalization is the key to building lasting relationships.
In contrast, B2C companies aim to establish "transactional relationships."
The goal of B2C marketing is to push consumers towards the sales funnel and convince them to buy. While B2C companies also focus on building personal relationships, the time spent building these relationships is less than in a B2B model.
B2C companies value efficiency and therefore minimize the time spent getting to know the customer, which ultimately causes the relationship to become highly transactional.
2. Buyer Intent and Decision-Making Process
One of the key differentiators between B2B and B2C business models is buyer intent.
As consumers, we make a lot of small, unplanned purchases.
For example, when you go to a supermarket, you'll probably make a lot of impulse purchases. Furthermore, you might buy one brand of toothpaste over another simply because it happens to be on offer.
For this reason, many B2C purchases tend to be driven by want as much as by need. As a B2C e-commerce retailer, you can increase the likelihood of impulse purchases with relevant upsells, down sells, and an optimized checkout process.
However, the same cannot be said for B2B retailers.
While you might buy something cheap without much thought to it, more expensive products require careful consideration.
For example, you'll likely take a couple of weeks researching the product, seeking an expert opinion, and reading the brand's online reviews. And B2B products usually fall in this category. The buying procedure for B2B businesses is also somehow complicated.
The B2B decision-making unit can include multiple levels of seniority as well as multiple departments. A 2017 study on the B2B decision-making unit found that B2B transactions require a sign-off from an average of 7 stakeholders.
In most cases, decision-makers will evaluate big B2B purchases based on the product's expected return on investment (ROI). And unlike in B2C purchases, B2B decision-making may involve various steps. The decision-makers will, in most cases, follow these steps:
- Justify the need
- Estimate the expected ROI
- Select various suppliers
- Perform competitor analysis
- Settle on the right business and make a purchase
Hence, impulse buying is not practical in B2B.
3. Website Structure
B2C websites are usually designed to optimize the sales process.
That said, B2C sites need to have compelling CTAs and persuasive landing pages built to attract customers and convert.
B2B sites, on the other hand, are mainly used as dashboards for businesses to access account information or products they want to purchase quickly.
While you'll also find a CTA on a B2B site, the approach to site design and marketing is different from that of a B2C site. For instance, you're unlikely to find a line sheet on a B2C website since these tools are essentially designed for wholesale prospects.
4. Content Marketing
B2C customers love content. However, they want something that resonates well with them. They want content that "speaks" their language, even if it's unrelated to your products.
It's no surprise that 61% of B2B companies outsource content creation.
In contrast, B2B customers base their purchase decision primarily based on the content. Decision-makers want to be educated so they can make sound decisions on behalf of their organizations, which is why content marketing is critical for B2B businesses.
Simply put, content marketing for B2B businesses is more customer-centric. These companies take customer centricity seriously as it defines their business's future.
10 Essential B2B Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business
Most marketers are used to the inbound marketing strategies targeting B2C customers.
However, selling to businesses (B2B) requires a different ball game.
While most B2C marketing strategies still apply to B2B, some techniques work best for B2B businesses. Let's look at the seven fundamental marketing strategies to employ for your B2B company.
Strategy #1: Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
As a marketer, your goal is to generate as many leads as possible.
The bigger the number, the better the business, right? Not necessarily! You can tap into account-based marketing and generate more business with fewer clients.
So, what is account-based marketing, and why should you care?
Account-based marketing or ABM is a business marketing strategy that focuses resources on a set of target accounts within a market. The success of this strategy is dependent on strong collaboration and synchronization between the sales and marketing teams.
With ABM, instead of targeting everyone interested in your business, you target a group of senior buyers at a company whose business you want. Typically, ABM enables businesses to target and spend their marketing dollars on top prospects.
And this strategy has proven to drive results.
According to a 2017 survey conducted by ITSMA, 87% of B2B marketers said their ABM initiatives outperformed their other marketing strategies in terms of ROI. In another study by SiriusDecisions, 25% of companies reported a 50% increase in deal size after implementing ABM.
Aside from the increase in ROI, account-based marketing fosters a good relationship between sales and the marketing team. And companies with aligned sales and marketing teams:
- Close more deals
- Generate more revenue
- Create more brand awareness
According to industry experts, account-based marketing also leads to better utilization of marketing resources.
Strategy #2: Search Engine Optimization
Despite the noise from frustrated users, SEO is not dead. It's just changing!
And as a B2B marketer, the best you can do for your company is to stay on top of search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.
So, why SEO?
For your marketing to be effective, your target audience needs to find your site easily. And this is where SEO comes in. Studies show that organic search drives 51% of all visitors to B2B and B2C websites.
For you to get the most out of your B2B search engine optimization efforts, you'll need to approach SEO from two fronts.
On-page or on-site SEO is the practice of optimizing web pages for specific keywords to improve search visibility and traffic.
There are many tools you could use to find the trending keywords relevant to your niche, such as Buzzsumo, AHREFS, and Google Keyword Planner. Once you have the right keywords for your business, use them in your content marketing campaign.
Aside from optimizing your content with popular, high-volume, and searchable keywords, there are other things you may need to do to improve on-page SEO. These may include:
- Optimizing images with alt tags
- Carefully crafting metadata
- Optimizing page speed
- Performing site audit
The purpose of on-page SEO is to communicate to search engines what your website or web page is all about. This allows search engine crawlers to produce better and more relevant results for searchers.
Off-page SEO (also called off-site SEO) refers to anything done out of your website with the potential to improve search engine rankings.
Typical off-page SEO activities to include in your B2B marketing toolkit may include:
- Guest posting
- Social networking
- Influencer outreach
- Brand mentions
- Forum posting
- Blog commenting
These efforts work to showcase your authority as a leader in your niche or industry. As more high authority websites link back to your website, it may signal to Google that your website is reputable and trustworthy, hence rank it higher on SERPs.
Strategy #3: Niche Marketing
B2B and niche targeting are a pair made in heaven.
This type of marketing is geared towards a very specific population or niche. With a niche strategy, you leverage your expertise in one particular area. This should be an area you understand thoroughly—a space where you can quickly become an industry expert.
You get increased visibility and reduced competition.
Businesses that serve a niche market tend to be unique and attract a wider audience through referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations. That's because most consumers prefer to work with a specialist rather than a do-it-all "jack of all trades" character.
Research has shown that the fastest-growing companies tend to be specialists in a carefully targeted niche. So, if you want your B2B business to thrive and achieve a competitive edge in a saturated market, your best bet is to find a niche and stick to it.
Strategy #4: Referrals & Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Referral marketing works great for B2C customers.
But can the same be said for B2B businesses?
You can bet on that! Studies show that 91% of B2B consumers' buying decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth referrals.
What's more, according to Capterra, 88% of B2B decision-makers rely on word-of-mouth (online and offline) for information and advice.
With staggering stats like these, it goes without saying that referral marketing is an invaluable tool for any B2B marketer looking to thrive in a competitive marketplace. But word of mouth isn't about doing your work and hoping for customers to refer you.
You need to implement a referral program that will compel your clients to take action.
Sometimes, consumers need an extra push to take action. You can motivate them by providing incentives to those who refer your business. This could come in the form of loyalty points, bonus products, monetary incentives, early access to your products, etc.
Strategy #5: Social Marketing
Social media is another bus you don't want to miss if you're serious about B2B marketing.
Did you know over 4.4 billion people use social media worldwide?
That's more than half of the world's population. It also means that a vast majority of your prospects are active in at least one social media platform.
To take advantage of this vast audience base, you might want to leverage paid social advertising. Facebook, for instance, allows you to target your audience based on many factors, including demographics, age, income, and location.
Does it work?
IDG reports that 84% of C-level and VP-level buyers are influenced by social media when making a purchase decision.
Social media is an essential resource for B2B marketing because it provides the social proof buyers need to make a buying decision.
B2B buyers love to research before they buy.
And social media is the first place they'll go to find out more about your business and what other customers are saying about your company. Business managers, for instance, use social media reviews and cultural cues to determine if a business is a good fit.
Strategy #6: Thought Leadership
Successful B2B companies build authority through thought leadership.
Thought leadership is a type of content marketing where you express ideas and opinions in a way that demonstrates your expertise in a particular field, area, or topic.
Used well in marketing, thought leadership can be a powerful tool for reaching the power brokers within target businesses.
And this strategy has been proven to deliver results. For instance, 47% of C-suite executives say they shared information after reading thought leadership content, according to joint research from LinkedIn and Edelman.
Furthermore, 88% of business executives agree that thought leadership is critical for enhancing their perception of a brand.
From a B2B perspective, the better, the sooner a brand starts building authority through thought leadership. The first step is to establish a niche and then perfect your skills and expertise in that niche.
Strategy #7: Marketing Automation
In an era of supercomputers, big data, and digital transformation, marketers who get a competitive edge are those who embrace technology to the core.
By embracing marketing automation, you'll do more than simplify workflows using tools such as HubSpot.
You're setting your company up for growth. For instance, by automating repetitive tasks such as social posting and email marketing, you can reap real benefits in terms of increased customer engagement which ultimately leads to more sales and higher revenue.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of marketing automation is increased personalization.
Nearly 50% of marketers are using automation to create personalized content and content recommendations on their websites.
Netflix, for instance, has been a pioneer in customer personalization and recommendations through artificial intelligence algorithms. The company says that its AI recommendation engine helps them save $1 billion per year.
B2B companies can also use personalization to follow up on leads with targeted emails at different stages of the buyer's journey.
The Bottom Line
B2B marketing differs from B2C marketing in many ways.
However, both approaches have one thing in common: Both require a customer-centric sales process. After all, behind both approaches are real people.
By following these best B2B marketing strategies and working with the customer in mind, you'll surely thrive in this competitive marketing landscape.
We hope this piece will give you more insights into the world of B2B marketing. Feel free to comment and share!