What is B2B Marketing?

Marketing is all about inspirational actions. Your job is to communicate the value of your product or service in a way that motivates people to learn more, start trying, or make a purchase. But exactly who these customers are can change how your marketing looks – business-to-business (B2B) marketing requires a slightly different approach than business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing.
What is B2B Marketing?

Maximizing the results of your B2B marketing strategy requires constant adjustment. Measuring digital marketing is fairly simple; you can attribute leads, conversions, and website traffic to specific campaigns. If a tactic or channel isn't delivering the results you expect, reallocate your resources based on those results.

But when you add in a buyer's offline behavior (word of mouth or a tendency to move from a mobile device to a desktop), it becomes more difficult to measure every action in the sales funnel. Focus on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most to your company and be agile - experiment with different channels, messages and tactics.

It can be difficult to follow the high-level strategy and all the elaborate tactics. Advanced B2B marketing teams use roadmap software to show how their campaigns and day-to-day work ties in with high-level goals. After you visualize a plan and monitor its progress, you can better evaluate what is working and what is not.

Marketing is all about inspirational actions. Your job is to communicate the value of your product or service in a way that motivates people to learn more, start trying, or make a purchase. But exactly who these customers are can change how your marketing looks – business-to-business (B2B) marketing requires a slightly different approach than business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing.

Commercial buyers tend to take a longer and more complex path to purchase than individual consumers. Research shows that most organizations take at least three months to reach a purchasing decision. Business buyers often need to gather input from multiple people internally, consider factors such as integration and data security, and evaluate the return on investment (ROI) for purchase. As a B2B marketer, you need to know what this process looks like for your ideal customer and tailor your efforts to each stage of their buying journey.

Before you create your marketing plan, you need to understand the nuances of B2B marketing. This way, you can create a strategy that effectively reaches potential customers in the right channels.

History of B2B Marketing

Early B2B marketing was called "industrial marketing" until the 1990s. Primarily driven by sales teams. Few B2B organizations had marketing departments to generate leads and nurture leads through the sales funnel. Instead, sales teams relied on cold calling, direct mail, advertisements at trade shows or trade publications to reach potential customers. They built personal relationships with potential customers to influence their purchases.

The proliferation of the Internet in the 1990s changed the landscape. Businesses have been able to reach potential customers online through advertising, email marketing, and other digital marketing tactics. But even with these new ways of reaching customers, the combination of the long and complex sales process and the lack of advanced digital marketing tools meant that sales continued to play a primary role in the buyer journey. Back then, the goal of B2B marketers was to generate leads and drive leads to the sales team. From there, sales would guide buyers through the rest of the process.

This marketing-to-sales turnover structure still exists in many businesses. But B2B marketing teams are now playing a more active role in delivering quality leads. Buyers today want to do research (or even independently purchase solutions) before interacting with a salesperson. So as a B2B marketer, you need a strategy to differentiate your business online and engage potential buyers when they first start researching solutions and products.

What is the Difference Between B2B Marketing and B2C Marketing?

B2B marketing is very similar to B2C marketing today. Both invest in the same fundamentals – building brand awareness, making data-rich decisions that inform digital tactics, and using personalization to engage with potential customers.

Of course, there are exceptions. Consumer marketing strategies for large and expensive products (e.g. vehicles) can be similar to B2B tactics – more touch points, more educational content, and calls to action that don't require immediate purchase. Similarly, organizations that sell consumer goods to other businesses, such as office supplies or cleaning supplies, can take a B2C-like approach.

How Can I Create a Successful B2B Marketing Strategy?

A marketing strategy defines the business goals you will support and the work you will do to achieve the marketing initiatives and goals. Because the B2B buying journey can be complex, it's important to deeply understand your typical buyer and the steps they take to reach the purchasing decision. These details inform about the messaging, channels, and tactics you choose.

Start with goals

Marketing goals define exactly what you want to achieve in a given time frame and set the direction of your work. These should relate to specific business-level goals - so you can ensure your work contributes to overall company success. Typically, marketing objectives are centered around brand awareness, customer acquisition and retention.

Your customer

get to know your company's ideal customer. Look at your personalities to identify firm charts such as company size and industry. And identify the needs and pain points of both decision makers and end users within the organization. For example, users may be concerned with certain functions, while decision makers may be more concerned about security and price.

Document the buyer journey

Map out the journey your typical customer takes to make a purchase. Traditionally, the buyer's journey is divided into four stages:

  • Awareness: Expectations have a problem to solve, but they may not be aware of the existence of your company or product.
  • Caution: Prospects become aware of your product and wonder if it can fix their problem.
  • Conversion: Potential customers who want to make a purchase are ready to decide which company to buy from.
  • Loyalty: Customers have made a purchase and may need incentives to maintain and grow their account.

At each stage, you need to know the behavior of the potential customer. What information are they looking for? What will motivate them to take the next step? What can prevent them? These answers will help you determine which channels, tactics and messages to include in your strategy. Your organization may have planned this ahead of time. If not, work with sales and customer success teams, conduct external research, or speak directly to customers if possible.

The B2B buyer journey will not always be linear. You may need to interact with buyers multiple times at each stage of the journey. You may also find that a potential customer only seems close to deciding to engage with a new stakeholder in their organization, resetting the need for more time and information.

Strengthen your messaging

Create messages that will resonate with potential customers at every stage. For example, buyers in the awareness stage typically seek out a specific problem. Messaging should focus on the benefits of using your product. You can customize key points to show how they meet the needs of both users and decision makers.

Tactics and channels for each buyer journey stage

Map out the marketing mix you will use to reach buyers. Some channels and tactics may be better suited for one phase than another. For example, thought leadership content is often developed for awareness-raising leads, while account-based retargeting ads are designed for repeat website visitors.


Monitoring and adjusting your B2B marketing data

Maximizing the results of your B2B marketing strategy requires constant adjustment. Measuring digital marketing is fairly simple; you can attribute leads, conversions, and website traffic to specific campaigns. If a tactic or channel isn't delivering the results you expect, reallocate your resources based on those results.

But when you add in a buyer's offline behavior (word of mouth or a tendency to move from a mobile device to a desktop), it becomes more difficult to measure every action in the sales funnel. Focus on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most to your company and be agile - experiment with different channels, messages and tactics.

It can be difficult to follow the high-level strategy and all the elaborate tactics. Advanced B2B marketing teams use roadmap software to show how their campaigns and day-to-day work ties in with high-level goals. After you visualize a plan and monitor its progress, you can better evaluate what is working and what is not.

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