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B2B Marketing Basics

Updated: Nov 11, 2023


B2B Marketing Basics

When I started in marketing I wished I had a guide like this one to use! B2B marketing is different from B2C marketing. We put this B2B marketing basics post together to explore how it's different and more. I hope you get value out it.



What is the Definition of B2B Marketing?

B2B marketing, or business-to-business marketing, refers to the strategies and tactics a company uses to promote its products or services to other businesses. This is different from B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing, which targets individual consumers.


In B2B marketing, the focus is on meeting the needs of other businesses and helping them to increase their efficiency, productivity, and profitability.


This can involve marketing products that these businesses can use in their operations, or services that help them to serve their own customers better.


B2B marketing can take many forms, including digital marketing (such as email marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing), direct marketing (such as telemarketing and direct mail), and event marketing (such as trade shows and webinars).


The decision-making process in B2B marketing is often more complex than in B2C marketing, as purchases can involve multiple stakeholders and can have significant financial implications for the buying business.


As a result, B2B marketing often involves building long-term relationships with customers and providing detailed information to help them make informed purchasing decisions.



What is the Importance of B2B Marketing?

B2B marketing plays a crucial role in the economic ecosystem for several reasons:

  1. Facilitating the Supply Chain: B2B marketing is essential for the smooth operation of the supply chain. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers all rely on B2B relationships to get the products and services they need to operate their businesses.

  2. Driving Innovation: B2B marketing often involves businesses marketing new and innovative products to other businesses. This can drive technological advancement and innovation as businesses compete to offer the best products and services.

  3. Building Long-Term Relationships: B2B marketing often involves building long-term relationships, which can lead to ongoing business and revenue. These relationships can also foster collaboration and strategic partnerships.

  4. High Value Transactions: B2B transactions often involve higher value than B2C transactions. This means that successful B2B marketing can lead to significant revenue for businesses.

  5. Targeted Marketing: B2B marketing can be highly targeted, focusing on specific industries or types of businesses. This can make marketing efforts more efficient and effective.

  6. Economic Growth: By facilitating trade between businesses, B2B marketing contributes to economic growth and development. It helps businesses to expand, create jobs, and contribute to the economy.

  7. Customer Education: B2B marketing often involves educating potential customers about complex products and services. This can help to increase understanding and adoption of new technologies, practices and problem solving solutions.

  8. Market Expansion: Through B2B marketing, businesses can expand their market reach. They can enter new markets, reach out to new customer segments, and increase their customer base.


The Four Pillars of B2B Marketing

The four pillars of B2B marketing are essential for developing a successful strategy in the business-to-business context. Let's delve into the importance of each pillar:


1. Target Market

Understanding your target market is the first step in any marketing strategy. In B2B marketing, this is particularly important because businesses often serve niche markets with specific needs.


By comprehending who your potential customers are, the industries they operate in, and the challenges they face, you can tailor your marketing messages to resonate with them and meet their specific needs.


This increases the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and enhances the likelihood of converting prospects into customers.


2. Product or Service Offering

Your product or service offering is what you're selling to your target market. Clearly defining what it is, how it works, and why it's unique or superior to competitors' offerings is crucial.


This clarity allows you to communicate effectively about your product or service and convince potential customers of its value.


Additionally, it helps in positioning your product or service in the market and differentiating it from competitors, enabling you to capture the attention and interest of your target audience.


3. Value Proposition

Your value proposition is the unique value that your product or service provides to customers. It is what makes your offering attractive and worth purchasing.


In the B2B marketing landscape, where purchases often involve significant investment and have long-term implications for a business, having a strong and clear value proposition is particularly important.


It helps potential customers understand why they should choose your product or service over others and can be a decisive factor in their purchasing decision.


4. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

In B2B marketing, sales cycles are often longer and involve multiple stakeholders. This makes managing relationships with customers and leads particularly important.


Effective CRM involves not only making a sale but also building and maintaining long-term relationships that lead to repeat business and referrals.


Providing excellent customer service and support is crucial in this regard, as it helps build trust, loyalty, and satisfaction among your customers.


In summary, each of these pillars plays a crucial role in a successful B2B marketing strategy by:

  • Understanding and reaching your target market

  • Effectively communicating about your product or service

  • Convincing potential customers of its value

  • Building and maintaining strong customer relationships


These are essential elements in driving growth and achieving success in the B2B realm.



How do B2B customers make purchases?

B2B customers typically follow a more complex and longer purchase process compared to B2C customers.


This is due to the higher stakes involved, the complexity of the products or services, and the fact that multiple stakeholders are often involved in the decision-making process.


Here's a general outline of the B2B purchasing process, also referred to as the buyer's journey:


Identifying a Need

The process begins when a business identifies a need or a problem that needs to be solved. This could be anything from needing new software to streamline operations, to requiring a supplier for raw materials.


Research

Once the need is identified, the business will typically conduct research to understand potential solutions and vendors. This could involve online research, attending trade shows, or speaking with peers in the industry.


Request for Proposal (RFP)

In some cases, particularly for large purchases, the business may issue a Request for Proposal (RFP). This is a document that outlines the business's needs and invites vendors to submit proposals detailing how they can meet these needs and at what cost.


Evaluation of Vendors

The business will then evaluate the different vendors based on their proposals, reputation, pricing, and any other relevant factors. This stage may involve product demonstrations, meetings with vendors, and seeking references from other customers.


Decision

Once all the information has been gathered and evaluated, the decision-making team will make a choice. This decision is often made by a group of stakeholders, including representatives from different departments like procurement, IT, finance, and the end-users of the product or service.


Purchase and Implementation

After a vendor is chosen, the business will make the purchase and the product or service will be implemented. This could involve signing a contract, setting up new software, or scheduling delivery of physical products.


Review and Repeat Purchase

After the product or service has been implemented, the business will typically review its performance. If the product or service meets the business's needs and the vendor provides good service, the business may make repeat purchases and the vendor could become a preferred supplier.


IMPORTANT: This process can vary depending on the size of the business, the industry, and the specific product or service being purchased. The process can take anywhere from a few days to several months or even longer.



What is the role of branding in B2B marketing?

While the B2B buying process is often more complex and rational compared to B2C, brand perception can still greatly influence purchasing decisions.


Here's how:

  1. Trust and Credibility: A strong brand can signal trust and credibility. Businesses want to be sure that the products or services they purchase will deliver as promised. A well-known and respected brand can provide that assurance.

  2. Risk Reduction: Purchasing from a reputable brand can reduce perceived risk. If a business is investing a significant amount of money in a product or service, they want to minimize the chance of something going wrong. A strong brand can provide the perception of reliability and quality.

  3. Brand Values and Culture: Businesses may also choose to purchase from brands whose values align with their own. For example, a company that prioritizes sustainability might prefer to purchase from brands that demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility.

  4. Ease of Decision Making: In a market with many similar products or services, brand can be a deciding factor. A strong brand can stand out and make the decision-making process easier.

  5. Relationship Building: B2B purchases often involve building long-term relationships. Brands that demonstrate they understand and can meet the needs of their customers over time can have an advantage.

  6. Brand Loyalty: Once a business has had a positive experience with a brand, they are likely to stick with that brand for future purchases, assuming the product or service continues to meet their needs. This brand loyalty can lead to ongoing business and can also result in referrals to other businesses.

In summary, while the specifics of the product or service, its price, and the terms of service are often the primary factors in B2B purchasing decisions, the role of the brand should not be underestimated.


A strong brand can influence purchasing decisions and lead to long-term customer loyalty.



B2B Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Effective B2B marketing strategies often involve a mix of traditional and digital tactics. Here are some strategies that are commonly used in B2B marketing:


Content Marketing

This involves creating and sharing valuable content to attract and engage a clearly defined audience. The goal is to establish your business as a thought leader in your industry, build trust with potential customers, and ultimately drive profitable customer action. This post, for example, is part of a content series on marketing for small businesses (up to 99 employees).

​TIP: Start by identifying the topics that are most relevant to your target audience. Then, create high-quality content around these topics, such as blog posts, white papers, or videos. Promote this content through your website, email newsletters, and social media channels.

Email Marketing

Despite the rise of social media, email remains a highly effective B2B marketing strategy. It can be used to nurture leads, share content, promote products or services, and maintain relationships with existing customers.

​TIP: Build an email list by offering valuable content or incentives in exchange for email addresses. Use a reputable email marketing platform to send regular newsletters, promotional emails, and personalized messages to your subscribers.

SEO and SEM

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are strategies used to increase visibility on search engines like Google. This can help businesses attract more organic and paid traffic to their websites.

​TIP: Conduct keyword research to identify the search terms your target audience is using. Optimize your website and content for these keywords. For SEM, consider using Google Ads or Bing Ads to bid on relevant keywords and display ads in search results.


 
 

Social Media Marketing


While B2B businesses may not rely on social media as heavily as B2C businesses, platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook can be highly effective for B2B marketing. They can be used for networking, sharing content, and targeting specific audiences with ads. See this real world example below.

​TIP: Identify the social media platforms where your target audience spends their time. Create a profile on these platforms and post regular updates, including links to your content, product announcements, and engaging posts that encourage interaction.

Webinars and Online Events

Webinars and online events can be a great way to engage potential customers, share expertise, and generate leads. They can be particularly effective in the B2B space, where purchases often involve significant research and consideration.

​TIP: Choose a topic that is relevant and interesting to your target audience. Use a platform like Zoom or GoToWebinar to host your event. Promote the event through your website, email list, and social media channels.

Trade Shows and Conferences

Although these are more traditional forms of marketing, they remain important in many B2B industries. They provide opportunities for networking, demonstrating products, and meeting potential customers face-to-face.

​TIP: Research industry events that are relevant to your business. Book a booth or apply to give a presentation. Prepare promotional materials and a strategy for engaging with attendees.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

This is a strategic approach to B2B marketing based on goals for specific target accounts. It involves creating highly customized campaigns for individual accounts (or groups of similar accounts) with the goal of driving engagement and conversion.

​TIP: Identify key accounts that you want to target. Research these accounts to understand their needs and challenges. Develop personalized marketing campaigns for these accounts.

Customer Testimonials and Case Studies

Sharing success stories from satisfied customers can be a powerful way to demonstrate the value of your product or service. This can be particularly effective in the B2B space, where purchases often require significant trust and confidence.

​TIP: Ask your satisfied customers if they would be willing to provide a testimonial or participate in a case study. Use these testimonials and case studies in your marketing materials and on your website.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Partnering with other businesses can be a great way to reach new audiences and add value for your customers. This could involve anything from co-hosting a webinar to offering a bundled product or service.

​TIP: Identify potential partners that offer complementary products or services. Reach out to these companies to propose a partnership or collaboration.

Remember, the most effective B2B marketing strategies will depend on your specific business, industry, and target audience. It's important to continually test, measure, and refine your strategies based on what works best for your business.



How Important is Content Marketing in B2B?

Content marketing is extremely important in B2B marketing for several reasons:


Thought Leadership

High-quality content can help establish your company as a thought leader in your industry. This can build trust and credibility with your audience, making them more likely to choose your company when they're ready to buy.


Lead Generation

Offering valuable content in exchange for contact information is a common lead generation strategy. For example, you might offer a free white paper or webinar to visitors who fill out a form on your website.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Regularly publishing fresh, relevant content can help improve your website's search engine rankings, making it easier for potential customers to find you.


Customer Education

Particularly in industries where products or services are complex, content can play a crucial role in educating potential customers about what you offer and how it can benefit them.


Nurturing Leads

Once you've generated leads, content can help you nurture those leads until they're ready to buy. For example, you might send a series of educational emails to new subscribers to help them understand your product better.


Building Relationships

Sharing valuable content can help you build long-term relationships with your audience. Over time, this can lead to increased customer loyalty and repeat business.


In summary, content marketing is a powerful tool in B2B marketing. It can help you attract, educate, and nurture leads, build trust and credibility, and ultimately drive more sales for your business.



B2B content marketing examples

Here are a few examples of successful B2B content marketing:


1) Mi6: We're producing content around two key topic areas, so far, that we love: Grey & Bruce counties and Small Business Marketing (up to 99 employees). The goal is demonstrate our content marketing chops and educate website visitors like you. To promote our Grey Bruce guide we posted it our Facebook company page and our friends at Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce (SSCC) shared it. Thanks SCCC!


2) HubSpot: HubSpot is a marketing, sales, and service software provider, and they're known for their exceptional content marketing. They offer a wealth of free resources on their blog, covering topics related to SEO, content marketing, email marketing, and more. They also offer free tools, webinars, and comprehensive guides, which not only provide value to their audience but also attract a significant amount of organic traffic to their site.


3) Mailchimp: Mailchimp, an email marketing and marketing automation platform, provides a wide array of content that helps businesses improve their marketing efforts. Their resources include guides on email marketing best practices, tips on improving email open rates, and case studies showcasing the success of their clients.


4) Salesforce: Salesforce, a leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform, uses content marketing to educate its audience about the benefits of CRM software. They offer a variety of content, including blog posts, white papers, and webinars, that provide valuable insights into sales strategies, customer service, and marketing automation.


5) Adobe: Adobe's CMO.com is a great example of a B2B brand providing valuable content for their audience. The site offers a wealth of articles, digital marketing insights, and interviews with industry leaders, positioning Adobe as a thought leader in the digital marketing space.


6) Slack: Slack, a business communication platform, uses case studies as a key part of their content marketing strategy. These case studies showcase how different companies use Slack to improve their communication and productivity, providing real-world examples of the value their product offers.


These examples show how providing valuable, relevant content can help B2B companies attract and engage their target audience, build brand authority, and ultimately drive sales.



Award winning B2B marketing campaigns

Here’s some general analysis of what makes a B2B marketing campaign successful based on industry best practices.


IBM's "A Boy And His Atom" Campaign

IBM created the world's smallest movie by moving individual atoms, demonstrating their expertise in nanotechnology. This campaign was successful because it showcased IBM's technical capabilities in a fun and engaging way, making a complex topic accessible to a wide audience.


American Express's "Open Forum" Campaign

American Express created an online forum to provide small business owners with resources and advice. This campaign was successful because it positioned American Express as a partner for small businesses, not just a financial services provider.


Slack's "So Yeah, We Tried Slack" Campaign

Slack created a series of videos featuring real testimonials from their customers. This campaign was successful because it showcased the real-world benefits of using Slack, making it easier for potential customers to see the value.


GE's "GE in the Wild" Campaign

GE created a series of videos showcasing the cool and interesting ways their technology is used in the real world. This campaign was successful because it helped to humanize the brand and make their technology more relatable.


Mailchimp's "Did You Mean Mailchimp?" Campaign

Mailchimp created a multi-channel campaign featuring various mispronunciations of their name. This campaign was successful because it was fun, memorable, and helped to increase brand awareness.


Mi6 Agency's Influencer Network for SAP

SAP's performance management and GRC product marketing team were having difficulty getting the attention of CFOs let alone engaging directly with them to discuss strategic issues and solutions. This campaign built a network of subject matter experts CFOs trusted who developed content, case studies and engaged with them at live and through online events.

 
 

Mi6 Agency's Go to Market Campaign for MapsBI

MapsBI used an indirect go to market strategy to accelerate market awareness and adoption of their software in the telematics space. The company was acquired by GEOTAB.


In each of these examples, the companies used creative storytelling, focused on their customers' needs, and leveraged multiple channels to engage their audience. These are all key elements of a successful B2B marketing campaign.



What are the similarities AND differences between a B2B and B2C marketing?


B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) marketing campaigns share some similarities but also have key differences due to the nature of their target audiences and the buying processes involved.


Similarities between B2B and B2C Marketing:


Differences between B2B and B2C Marketing


In summary, while B2B and B2C share some common principles, they require different strategies and tactics due to the differences in their target audiences and buying processes.



B2B Marketing Trends for 2023

Here are some trends that are expected to continue shaping the B2B marketing landscape:


Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

ABM is a strategy that directs marketing resources to engaging a specific set of target accounts. It involves creating highly customized campaigns designed to resonate with each account, making it more relevant and compelling.


Artificial Intelligence and Automation

AI and automation are expected to continue playing a significant role in B2B marketing. They can help automate repetitive tasks, provide insights through data analysis, and personalize the customer experience.


Content Marketing

Content marketing is expected to remain a key strategy for B2B marketers. This involves creating and sharing valuable content to attract and engage a clearly defined audience.


Video Marketing

Video is a powerful tool for B2B marketers. It can be used to demonstrate products, explain complex concepts, and tell compelling stories.


Social Media Marketing

While social media has traditionally been more popular for B2C marketing, B2B marketers are increasingly leveraging platforms like LinkedIn to reach their audience.


Customer Experience (CX)

B2B companies are recognizing the importance of providing a great customer experience, from the initial marketing touchpoints all the way through to post-sale support.


Data-Driven Marketing

B2B marketers are expected to continue leveraging data to gain insights into their customers, measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, and make informed decisions.


Sustainability

As businesses become more conscious of their environmental impact, B2B marketers are expected to focus more on sustainability in their messaging.


Please note that these trends are based on the information available up to September 2021, and the actual trends in 2023 and beyond may vary.


Want to Keep in Touch or Connect?

My social channels of choice are Twitter and LinkedIn. Feel free to follow me on either. I'm open to connecting and meeting with you if there's something we can discuss that is of mutual value and is relevant to the content I'm producing, the project and ventures I'm involved with and clients my agency serves.

Just head over to our connect with us page for all your options to be in the loop, get connected and get involved.


About the Author

Chris Herbert spearheads Mi6 Agency, emphasizing small business growth and entrepreneurship. On the agency's blog, he offers practical marketing insights and solutions to unique challenges faced by businesses. Herbert advocates for sustainable and responsible growth. His "Rural Entrepreneur Podcast" extends this mission, providing essential advice and experiences for entrepreneurs. He adopts a comprehensive approach, focusing on building sustainable businesses, community engagement, and active participation in entrepreneurial ventures.



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