There are a large number of free marketing resources out there that you can use to easily learn how to market your b2b business. Most of these resources focus on paid advertising techniques, but you can still learn a lot from them even if you don’t have the budget for paid advertising. There’s a lot about paid advertising that is very useful for anyone trying to learn more about digital marketing.
The B2B marketing strategy is the approach taken to market products and services to businesses. This section will outline the key ways in which these strategies are different from those used for B2C markets.
Essential B2B Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Professional Services Firm
B2B Email Marketing
Email marketing is a tried and true method of reaching both individual consumers and business customers. Did you know that 93% of B2B marketers use email? Are you one of them? You should be. Emails lead to engagement which turns subscribers into leads … and then customers.
Unlike B2C customers who respond best to emotions and entertainment, B2B customers look for logic and positive ROI. Essentially, they’re asking themselves, How can your business help my business grow? Because of this, your email marketing must consistently resonate with your business customers and focus on things that matter to them — like time, money, and resources.
Email marketing is also a powerful vehicle for sharing your brand’s content. 83% of B2B companies use email newsletters as part of their content marketing program, and 40% of B2B marketers say these newsletters are most critical to their content marketing success.
With the constant barrage of emails flooding our inboxes today, it’s more important than ever to create and send out effective marketing emails.
B2B Email Marketing Best Practices
- Write enticing subject lines. Think about your email subject lines as a Netflix trailer — if you can’t hook your audience with a two-minute clip (or, in this case, a few dozen characters), don’t expect them to open and watch (or read) the whole thing. We recommend spending almost as much time on your email subject lines as you do on the emails themselves.
- Stick to one call-to-action (CTA) per email. If you think the number of emails you receive is a lot, take a look at the CTAs in those emails … some are packed with two, three, and sometimes up to 10 different CTAs. Don’t make this mistake, which can leave your recipients’ heads spinning, asking “What should I click on first?” and ultimately clicking on nothing. With one CTA per email, you allow your audience to focus on your email content and ultimately one action … a welcome reprieve from today’s frequent decision-making and analysis paralysis.
- Segment your email to reach the most relevant audience. Not every email you send will be appropriate for everyone on your list. Your subscribers may be at different stages of the buyer’s journey or be seeking different solutions. That’s where email list segmentation comes into play. Not only does this help you relate to your audience better, but it gives your emails that personal feel that says “Hey, I’m listening and I know what you’d like to see.” Consumers prefer email quality over quantity anytime.
- Make sure your email designs are responsive. Over 80% of email users access their inbox on their phones, and emails that don’t show up correctly on mobile devices are often deleted in three seconds. Ouch. Don’t let your email be one of those.
- Don’t be afraid of the cold email. As uncomfortable as it is, the right email can convert new customers — like this cold sales email that won 16 new B2B customers.
👉🏼HubSpot Tip: You can’t send marketing emails without any recipients — these people make up your lists. There are plenty of easy ways to grow your email list. Begin with opt-in forms on your website homepage, About page, and blog. Check out HubSpot’s Free Form Builder tool to get started.
B2B Digital Marketing
Every business, whether B2B or B2C should have a digital presence — which is comprised of paid ads, search engine optimization, a website, and any other place your B2B company is active online. Let’s walk through a handful of tactics that can strengthen your B2B digital marketing strategy.
Define your target audience
A strong B2B digital marketing strategy starts with defining your target audience, or buyer persona. This demographic and psychographic information will inform almost every other marketing activity thereafter, ensuring your content and digital material is absorbed by the right eyes and ears (and that no resources go to waste on your end).
Create your website
Secondly, digital marketing can’t quite function without an informative, engaging website. Over 80% of buyers visit a website before making a purchase. Moreover, since the typical B2B sales cycle often involves many key players (such as gatekeepers, decision-makers, and other folks who have to buy into a purchase), websites are easy, straightforward ways for influencers to share information about your product or service.
Optimize your digital presence
Your website needs to be more than informative and engaging, though … it needs to be discoverable. You can do this with on-page SEO and technical SEO tactics. These include everything from image alt-text and meta descriptions (what your visitors can see) to structured data and site speed (what your visitors can’t see). Off-page SEO is also at play here, which refers to external linking strategies and social sharing — SEO tactics that take place off your website.
Run PPC campaigns
Finally, round out your digital presence with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which allows you to get your content and brand in front of new audiences via search engines and other advertising platforms. I recommend maximizing your PPC investment by advertising more than your specific products or services — such as your brand personality, blog or social media content, or company tagline.
The best way to see an ROI from your paid ads is by 1) incorporating your buyer persona data and 2) boosting content that they can relate to. For example, it’s highly unlikely a brand new consumer who’s never heard of you is searching for your exact product. They may be searching for a location-based solution or product feature. To reach the greatest number of potential customers, pay to target relevant categories within your brand vs. promoting your product or services.
B2B Content Marketing
We’ve talked about how B2B customers are focused on expertise, driven by logic, and desire to be educated. What better marketing tool to satisfy these priorities than B2B content marketing?
Whereas a traditional PR marketing strategy interrupts a consumer’s day-to-day with promotional material, a content marketing strategy adds valuable information and informs the consumer — which is precisely what B2B customers are looking for. Not to mention that content marketing supports SEO efforts, which involves anticipating what your audience is searching for, helping them discover your website and content … and potentially converting them to customers.
It’s important to note, content marketing is most effective when you align your content to various stages of the buyer’s journey. As Jonathan Franchell, CEO and Founder of Ironpaper, points out: “Effective content in the awareness phase educates the buyer on their pain points.”
“A frequent mistake B2B organizations make is educating the buyer on their own company, product, or service. The buyer isn’t ready for that; they are just beginning to understand their problem.”
Franchell adds, “Additionally, B2B companies should test content. Run a test on an incentive and vary the type of content – use a webinar, an eBook, or a video. Understand what format of content attracts the right types of buyers and measure it down to an individual human level.”
80% of business decision-makers prefer to get information from an article than an ad. Knowing this, I’d say you should be putting the same (if not more) resources into your content marketing than your traditional advertising strategy.
Because the B2B buyer’s journey is slightly different than the B2C buyer’s journey (which has shorter sales cycles and fewer decision-makers involved), the content you create for your B2B content marketing strategy may vary more than the content you’ve seen as a consumer yourself, as illustrated in the below graphic.
Before you start creating content, though, I recommend creating a business blog. (Don’t worry, growing your blog readership is easier than you think.) Your blog will house all the content you create and serve as a home base for readers to visit and subscribe to.
B2B Social Media Marketing
Did you know that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-Suite executives use social media when making a purchase? That’s right — social media marketing isn’t just for brands targeting individual consumers.
Many B2B companies struggle with social media marketing, though. It can be harder to use social media to connect with business customers, especially because (as we mentioned above) there’s typically a lengthier sales cycle and longer chain of command.
Honestly, B2B social media marketing might not be where you convert the greatest number of leads, and that’s OK. It likely comes into play near the beginning of your customer’s buyer’s journeys.
Social media is a powerful tool for building brand awareness, giving your company an online personality, and humanizing your business — all very powerful factors when it comes to marketing and connecting with potential customers. Like email marketing, social media is also a highly effective channel for sharing your content and enhancing your brand expertise, the latter of which we know B2B customers appreciate.
While your social media accounts might not convert as frequently as your content or email marketing, they’re just as important. In this case, followers are just as valuable — you never know when they might convert to leads or customers.
👉🏼 HubSpot Tip: Why? Content shared by employee advocates receives over eight times more engagement than content shared by brands. So, involve your employees in your B2B social media marketing strategy. Encourage them to create their own social media channels and share about life at your company. Create a culture account (like our @HubSpotLife Instagram) to show what’s going on at work, not just what you’re selling. You never know — this might attract strong talent, too.
B2B Marketing Examples
A B2B marketing approach that works for one business may not work for another, but that’s not to say we can’t learn something from the pros. Here are four B2B marketing examples of businesses that did it right.
Email Marketing: Mattermark, Raise the Bar Newsletter
Raise the Bar is a daily digest newsletter from Mattermark that features insights from leaders in sales, marketing, and growth engineering. It’s hand-picked by Mattermark executives and easy to scan, which is valuable in a world of elaborate, complicated newsletters and daily digests.
This is a good example of B2B email marketing because Mattermark takes the time to educate its subscribers without blatantly selling to them. This action builds trust with their audience while also equipping them with everything they need to know to make a purchase and become a paying customer.
Digital Marketing: Maersk, Website Homepage
It’s nearly impossible to know the intent of everyone who lands on your website, but Maersk’s homepage design makes it easy for visitors to find their way around.
By offering three main options (“Become a Customer,” “Access Your Account,” and “Start a Career”), Maersk segments their audience and allows visitors to easily navigate to the site content that corresponds with their intent.
This small design tweak also helps Maersk build trust and authority within each of these niche audiences — potential customers, current customers, and even employees.
Content Marketing: LeadPages, Blog + Resources
LeadPages has been bootstrapped since its inception in 2012 … yet it hit over $16 million in revenue just three years later. Its owner attributes its rapid success to its content strategy, which makes it a great example of B2B content marketing.
LeadPages produces many different types of content resources, such as a blog, customer stories, a podcast, and a webinar. The variety in these resources allows the company to reach customers where they are using the method that best resonates with them.
LeadPages offers a blog that covers themes such as A/B testing, lead generation, and other topics that relate to the product and brand, a weekly podcast that chats with everyday entrepreneurs, and even a definitive guide to landing pages, which equips its customers to properly use and optimize the LeadPages product — all for free.
Social Media Marketing: MailChimp, Instagram
Social media is an effective channel on which to engage with your audience. It’s also a fun place to post gorgeous graphics and show off your brand personality. On Instagram, MailChimp has excelled at both.
Fewer than half of its Instagram posts have to do with email marketing or the MailChimp product, but the MailChimp team always finds a way to make the posts relevant to its audience and followers — all while featuring fun, engaging, on-brand graphics and videos.
MailChimp also uses its Instagram to feature real customer stories and testimonials, which can have a big impact on potential consumers in the Consideration and Decision stages. Finally, MailChimp makes use of a tool called LinkinBio, which allows Instagram users to click-through to its homepage or other digital content (since Instagram doesn’t offer live links on its platform). This creates a clear conversion path for consumers who discover or research MailChimp on Instagram and want to learn more on its website.
Invest in B2B Marketing and Reach Your Business Customers
Marketing isn’t effective unless you keep your audience in mind, and no other audience is as fickle and critical as business customers. Your marketing should communicate how your business can help theirs … and if it doesn’t, you may as well not be marketing at all.
Use these tips and strategies to understand your B2B audience, round out your buyer personas, and effectively use B2B marketing strategies that reach them. When you’re focused on your audience, your marketing will do the same.
When some firms think of B2B marketing strategies, they think primarily of direct and outbound techniques – messages that you might send straight to clients or prospective buyers that you’ve identified. In this approach, the goal is to be compelling and persuasive enough that the audience responds and engages with your services.
These kinds of techniques certainly have a place in your marketing tool belt. But the world of B2B marketing strategies has expanded, and the behavior of professional services buyers has changed. Buyers are much more likely to do a Google search to find and evaluate a firm than to check personal references.
This has broadened the range of B2B marketing strategies at your disposal. Today, staying competitive means taking full advantage of a wide spectrum of strategies.
But which ones are essential for success in today’s hyper-competitive environment? Let’s take a look at ten fundamental B2B marketing strategies that will not only help your firm keep up, but help you get ahead.
Research is the bedrock of any modern marketing effort. From marketplace research to brand research, detailed scientific studies will help you make more informed decisions. They’ll give you an objective basis for your marketing and provide you with valuable baselines for measuring your results.
By conducting research, you’ll know your clients better — which puts you in a position to serve them better. The market research also gives you insight into how your processes are performing. You’ll know which aspects of your firm are performing most successfully and develop a better understanding of which services you should offer.
The impact of research is clear. Our studies on the impact of research have shown that firms that conduct systematic research on their prospects and clients grow three to ten times faster and are up to two times more profitable than peers that don’t pursue research.
2) Niche-driven Strategy
One of your most important business considerations – period – is specialization and niche targeting. Our research has repeatedly shown that the fastest-growing firms tend to be specialists in a carefully targeted niche. This should be an area of the industry that you understand thoroughly, a space in which you can become an undisputable expert and leader.
Specialization makes all of your marketing efforts easier because it tends to define exactly what you do and immediately distinguish you from the competition. A specialization is a differentiator that proves itself.
3) A High Performance Website
In today’s professional services marketplace, your firm’s website is one of your most crucial assets. It is much more than a digital billboard or brochure, as some firms believed in the past. A successful website is the hub of a firm’s online presence and an information-rich projection of its expertise into the marketplace.
Your website is a critical tool for building visibility. Potential clients search online to find service providers, and they need to be able to find your firm’s website for you to have a chance at winning their business. Plus, your website enables you to demonstrate your firm’s expertise and become well-known throughout the marketplace.
Our research paints a clear picture of the importance of a professional services firm’s website. 80% of people look at websites when checking out service providers – the most commonly used information source by far.
And as new visitors reach your site, robust educational content and carefully targeted offers can drive leads to closer and closer engagements, eventually bringing qualified leads straight to you. This process of nurturing leads through content is illustrated below:
The second component of your website you need to consider designs. Web and graphic design can influence your audience’s perceptions, aid recall, and swiftly and intuitively differentiate a business.
The power of design to engage audiences is often underappreciated — which means it offers a tremendous opportunity to set firms apart and convey the credibility firms need to thrive.
Finally, another increasingly essential consideration for your website is its usability across a wide range of devices, including mobile. Responsive design, which allows your website to adapt to suit a user’s device, has become a key feature as more people use mobile devices to do business.
4) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As we alluded to in the previous item, your target audience has to be able to find your site for it to be effective. That’s where search engine optimization comes in.
This is such a key piece of the online marketing puzzle that in our studies, high-growth firms list it as the most effective online marketing technique available to them.
Though SEO is a complex and evolving discipline, it ultimately consists of two primary components.
On-site SEO uses targeted keyword phrases to communicate the concepts on your site that matter to your audience. These keyword phrases typically focus on your services and expertise.
The purpose of on-site SEO is to communicate to search engines what your website is about. This allows search engines to produce more relevant results for searchers. And when audiences search for insight on your area of specialty, they’ll find you.
Off-site SEO takes the form of links to your website, either through outside engagement or guest articles in other publications, for example. These efforts work to increase your site’s authority as a widely recognized leader on your topic.
As a more high authority and relevant websites link to your website, search engines will begin to see your site as more credible – resulting in higher rankings.
7) Referral Marketing
We mentioned that the nature of professional services referrals has changed – and this has major implications for your B2B marketing strategy. Our studies of referral marketing strategies in professional services have revealed an important new facet of the practice – over 81.5% of providers have received a referral from someone who wasn’t a client.
Where do these referrals come from? The vast majority are based on a firm’s reputation for specific expertise.
By using content marketing in conjunction with the rest of the tactics in this list, you can build a brand with a widespread reputation for specialty in your area – and an understanding of your expertise even among audiences that haven’t worked with you directly. This brand recognition can lead to referrals and new business.
8) Marketing Automation, CRM, and Lead Nurturing
Marketing Automation: Marketing automation replaces high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated ones – supported by technology solutions. It brings together all of your online marketing channels into one centralized system for creating, managing, and measuring programs and campaigns.
As with any technological tool, it’s essential to select the right marketing automation software for your firm. Make sure the size, complexity, and scalability of a prospective solution are a good match for your needs.
CRM: Another essential software is a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). Many firms use a CRM to track and organize opportunities and client information. In short, a CRM will help you stay organized and connected, no matter how sophisticated your operations grow.
Your CRM serves as the database for all the information you collect about opportunities and clients, including specific interactions with them. The information can be entered, stored, and accessed by employees in different firm departments, synchronizing efforts across your firm.
Lead Nurturing: But CRM isn’t the end of the story. Remember the lead-nurturing content funnel? Your website is one critical piece of that puzzle – and email marketing is another. Targeted, analytics-driven email marketing campaigns allow you to deliver soft and hard offers for specific buyer roles, tailored to a buyer’s particular place in the buying process.
9) Testing and Optimization
We started with research, but we’re not finished with our scientific approach. Testing and optimization allow you to iterate your marketing efforts and make ongoing decisions based on hard data rather than intuition.
Just as research is the bedrock of your marketing, testing and optimization is your continuous guide. You should never stop testing your marketing campaigns and adjusting them accordingly. This includes:
A/B testing of emails, landing pages– Using A/B testing tools (like Optimizely or Unbounce), learn which of two emails or landing pages converts users more successfully based on variances of language, design, or other elements.
Email and landing page rendering– Use tools like Email on Acid to test how emails will render on different devices and platforms, ensuring that they look and function as they should.
A Final Thought
The important thing is not to stand still or grow comfortable. To remain competitive, your firm must constantly assess your B2B marketing strategies and find ways to improve.
The online marketing world is evolving at a faster and faster rate, but today, the firms that successfully gather and utilize data on their performance – across a wide range of marketing efforts – are situated to win.