For 13+ years in marketing, I’ve never seen a B2B company who think they have a poorly planned B2B marketing strategy.
But at the same time, 6200+ B2B marketers say that their biggest challenges are generating traffic and leads, and proving the ROI of marketing activities.
Which can be interpreted in simple words as: “We simply don’t know what to do next and don’t know whether what we’re doing now is a good strategy”.
What Is a B2B Marketing Strategy?
A marketing strategy sets out how you plan to raise brand awareness about your products and your services among potential buyers. It involves identifying the channels and tools you’re going to use to get from one to the other, and the resources you’re going to need to make that journey.
In this guide, I’ll share with you a proven B2B marketing strategy framework that will help you identify the most prolific market segments, your ideal customer profile, and the right marketing channels to generate leads.
What Are the Main B2B Marketing Channels?
Let’s start off by looking at some of those marketing channels and strategies, and then dive into how you create your strategy the right way.
Getting your website right is absolutely crucial to successful marketing. More than half of all purchasers are going to visit your website and make a judgment about your company based on what they find there. So your website has to be fast, secure and visually appealing. It has to function properly on mobile, since more than half of all visits now come from mobile devices (and even B2B companies still get a significant proportion of traffic that way). Finally, your website needs to be more than a brochure for your company. It needs to lead into the top of your marketing funnel, capturing user data and channelling visitors towards products they may want to buy.
2. B2B Content marketing
Increasingly, high-quality content is becoming a primary way to demonstrate expertise. Companies produce white papers, original research and blogs, and many other forms of writing, on their own websites and elsewhere. It’s a key form of collateral in many of the other forms of marketing mentioned on this list, and it’s more and more vital to do it well, as search engines get better at identifying the high quality content that readers want to read.
3. B2B Email marketing
Email marketing seemed as if it might die away in the face of newer and sexier technologies, but it’s been far from the case so far. Instead, capturing email addresses in order to build regular newsletters and provide notifications has become an ever more important function of other marketing channels. Having a powerful email list is as important as it ever was for marketers.
4. Search engine optimization (SEO)
Another thing which isn’t going away is the importance of organic search. Typically, this is going to be the channel that drives more people to your products than anything else – although the quality of the traffic can’t always be guaranteed. If you’re not positioning yourself to take advantage of your prospective customers’ searches, you’re losing a lot of business.
5. Social media marketing
More and more marketing is taking place on social media, and it’s a particular type of traffic as well – both more likely to be encountering you for the first time, and interested in doing so. Social media is also a great place to gain validation from third parties and strengthen and stretch the brand. For B2B marketing, LinkedIn is the social medium it’s necessary to use. Others may or may not meet your needs, depending on the business you’re in, but LinkedIn is a must.
6. Pay per click (PPC) B2B advertising
On both search and social, it’s increasingly vital to target your customers with a mixture of organic and paid traffic. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to identify those who are on the cusp of engaging, and use specific phrases to nudge them over the threshold with the suggestive advertising.
7. Video marketing
Video content is experiencing explosive growth, and professional, focused B2B video is becoming ever more key. More and more of the other channels mentioned above have become avenues for video, in the same way that they have for written content, and it’s becoming an ever-more vital part of the mix.
8. Field marketing
Up until the pandemic, there was nothing to suggest that speaking and taking stands at conferences had lost any of its power as a marketing channel. It remains to be seen how behaviours will change in the aftermath of repeated lockdowns, but it seems likely that events will retain much of their power.
How Do You Write a B2B Marketing Strategy?
Having taken a quick look at different strategies for getting your marketing message across, let’s look closely at how to figure out what you actually want to achieve. I suggest using this process.
- Segment your market and focus on a target segment
- Create an ICP for every market segment
- Run a competitor analysis
- Develop a USP for each market you want to target
- Take your prospects through the buyer journey
- Identify channels and resources to use
1. Segment your market and focus on a target segment
Imagine you’re scaling a tech startup and you’ve decided to invest in CRM. You’ve read tons of information and stopped on 2 variants.
One of them is a CRM which gets your sales organized.
Another one is a specialized CRM which help to organize your sales, track recurring revenue, and the churn rate. Which one will you choose? The answer is obvious!
That’s the power of marketing segmentation.
When we focus on a specific market segment, we can personalize our offer not only by *NAME*, *ROLE*, and *INDUSTRY* but according to the needs and challenges of the companies who belong to this segment.
This always leads to higher conversions, ROI, and revenue.
To figure out your segments, start with these 2 simple questions:
- Who can be a potential buyer of my products (your target audience)?
- Why do they buy products or services like mine? What kind of problems or tasks do they want to solve?
Evaluate these segments with these criteria:
- Competition level
- The breadth of the market
- Lifetime value
- Segment growth
- Your past experience
- Ease of getting past gatekeepers
After this exercise, you’ll realize 2 things:
- Not all market segments are equal. Some segments can generate higher ROI but require more resources. On the contrary, some have less potential but you can generate revenue easily.
- All market segments are unique and have different needs. Which means you’d create a different proposal for every market segment you want to prospect and use different approaches.
2. Create an ICP for every market segment you want to target
What’s the difference between an ideal customer profile (ICP) and simple customer profile?
Well, this is a good question which points to a common marketing mistake.
I see so many companies just look at all their clients from different segments and try to create an average persona from all the data they have.
As a result, instead of adapting their product, proposals, and lead generation marketing campaigns according to this, they try to create a universal product pitch.
The biggest difference between ICP and a “simple” customer profile is that an ICP focuses on attracting high-quality leads who are similar to your key customers, instead of prospecting everybody who might buy your product.
There are 3 benefits of such an approach:
- You’ll be really able to personalize all your marketing materials: sales pages, proposals, ads, lead nurturing emails, etc.
- You can figure out the most effective lead generation channels instead of guessing what works.
- You’ll be able to choose the right marketing qualification criteria to evaluate the efficiency of every marketing campaign.
Here is an exact process to create an ICP:
- Choose one market segment
- Select top 10 customers from this segment
- Gather all the data you have on them
- Collect additional data about these customers from social media
- Survey your customers
- Create an ideal customer profile from the data you’ve collected
The easiest part here is to collect the data as sex, age, location, job role, industry. On LinkedIn, you can simply open a profile and scrape the data.
Questions to ask when you survey your customers:
- What leads you to buy products like ours?
- Can you explain your current challenges?
- What are the problems our product solves for you?
- What might happen if these problems won’t be solved?
- Where did you hear about us?
- What do you love most about our product?
- Are you satisfied with everything (quality, service, support, results, etc) or is there something which can be improved?
- What features would you like to see in our product?
- Do you feel able to recommend our company to others?
- What social media do you use the most?
- Which industry blogs, websites or influencers do you follow?
- Who are the key stakeholders in your company?
I also highly recommend collecting data such as:
- Websites your customers are sharing content from on their profiles. This will give you an idea about where you can apply for guest posting or collaboration.
- Experts whose content they engage with. This will give you an idea about whom you should start to build relationships with.
- Communities where they contribute. You can use these communities for co-marketing, contribution, and content distribution.
3. Run a competitor analysis
It’s smart to work on your foundation before implementing any marketing tactic.
There are dozens of marketing channels, tools, and growth hacks you can implement. We looked at some of the core ones above. The truth is that they all at the same time work on some markets and don’t work on others.
How do you figure out what marketing channels you should focus on?
- Survey your core customers (what we covered in the previous step)
- Spy on your competitors
I highly recommend using tools like SimilarWeb, Ahrefs, and BuzzSumo to understand where your competitors’ traffic comes from.
This data will give you a better idea about the channels you should really focus on instead of diluting your efforts.
The second part of competitors analysis is devoted to learning more about the sales process, strengths, and weaknesses, USP (unique selling proposition), pricing policy, etc.
The list of things you analyze is largely dependent on the industry but there are some mandatory points you should always check.
Evaluate your competitors’ TOFU and MOFU activities:
- What kind of tools do they use to generate leads? Webinars? White Papers? Demos?
- How do they get your contact? Do they use pop-ups?
- Do they try to nurture you after getting your contact? Do they overcome your objections and answer your questions? Do they nail the benefits of their approach?
- Do they use case studies? ROI calculators?
- Do they segment you and send relevant content?
- Do they try to build relations and learn more about you, or try to sell from the early beginning?
- Do they retarget you on social media?
Next, analyze their BOFU activities:
You must do 2 mandatory things: talk to the sales team and ask for a proposal.
During the sales call pay attention to these questions:
- Does the sales team know their product? Can they answer specific questions?
- Are they prepared for the conversation? Do they try to understand your challenges or focus solely on the product benefits?
- Can they clearly answer what makes them different from the competitors and why should you buy from them?
- How did they try to close you?
4. Develop a USP for each market you want to target
Many companies think that positioning and a USP are the same.
This isn’t true.
Positioning is how the customer perceives your company, brand, or product. In simple words, it’s what you do, how are you different from your competitors and how you can help a prospect.
Here’s a five-step process I use to develop a USP:
- Reach out to your core customers. Ask them what their favorite features are.
- Select top-10 features and rank them by their importance
- Compare your product/top features with your top three competitors.
- Choose the criteria where you top your competitors.
- Formulate your USP by focusing on some of these factors: impact, feature, need, target audience etc.
How to formulate your USP
Result + important feature + guarantee
SMM agency example: We guarantee that we’ll attract 1,000 new members to your community that will fit your Ideal Customer Profile within the first month or we’ll return the money.
Need + important feature
Translation services example: We’ll pick the docs from your office on the same day you make an order and deliver them back when the translation is ready, for free.
Result + target audience + guarantee
My example: I help B2B companies implement system marketing and guarantee to increase pipeline, scale revenue, and customer growth.
Ice cream manufacturer’s example: Ice cream from natural olives without sugar and milk.
5. Take your prospects through the buyer journey
According to Hubspot, at any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% is poised to begin.
Another fact: 63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months – and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.
So, if you focus only on bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) activities, you’re leaving 97% of your audience untapped.
What do these stats mean?
56% of your market are in the awareness stage.
To attract their attention you should know the exact process of how the problem which your product solves occurs and how your prospects become aware of it.
Example: The prospects for a B2B marketing consultant company at this stage never search for “B2B marketing consultancy”. They search for: “how to generate leads for…” or “how to improve my campaigns”.
Answer these questions and help your prospects identify the problem and start considering different solutions.
40% are in the consideration stage.
Example: At the consideration stage, prospects might search for “how inbound marketing works” or “how to generate leads with inbound marketing”.
3% are in the decision-making stage.
At this stage, you’d qualify and help your prospects to choose the most appropriate solution.
Example: At this stage, prospects might search for case studies about your solution as “Company X cases”.
When the lead is qualified, he must be nurtured to be aware of all benefits he’ll get upon choosing your product.
Realize that the sales funnel is only a part of the customer journey.
Before working on sales qualified leads, you must attract them (ToFu activities), qualify them (MoFu activities), and nurture them (BoFu activities).
Also, besides the marketing funnel, the buyer journey also comprises a:
- Sales funnel which is responsible for lead nurturing and closing deals
- Post-sales funnel — responsible for educating buyers while tracking customer satisfaction.
- Referrals funnel — responsible for generating referrals, recommendations and case studies.
6. Identify goals, channels and resources to support your B2B marketing strategy
Having been through that research process, you now understand what you actually have to market, and where you can win over your competitors.
So, where to next?
Set clear goals you want to achieve
You know which market segments you want to focus on, and what you have to say to them, because of the earlier analysis. Based on that analysis of yourself and your competitors, you now need to calculate where you think you can reasonably get to. Bearing in mind that everyone else is trying to grow their market share too, what do you think is a reasonable staging post?
Set milestones for success. What are the stages you need to reach at each particular stage to succeed in your marketing plan.
Identify the resources to commit
The resources you commit to your marketing plan should depend on how successful you think you can practically be. The process is likely to see a lot of back and forth as you identify the ROI you expect to achieve. Obviously you should take all the marketing actions with the highest ROI first, until you hit the point where the cost of acquiring the next customer is prohibitive.
In practice, these budgets are likely to have more to do with existing investment than anything else. Scaling up or scaling back too rapidly is unlikely to lead to success, simply because there are significant costs associated with rapid change.
Identify the marketing channels
Now we come full circle and return to the concepts we discussed right at the start of the piece. It’s at this point, having identified which media your ideal customer profile is active on, and the tools which are going to have most success at reaching out to your ICP, that you actually decide on the channels you’re going to use. In all likelihood, you’ll want to use all of them to some extent. Different channels are good for different things. But a strategy specifically involves identifying which things you’ll prioritize and which things you won’t do. A strategy which does not involve making choices is just a wish list.
So a key thing is to identify which channels you think will be most effective. And not just which channels you will use, but how you will use them.
Your strategy as a whole, and each subsidiary element of your marketing strategy should also have these attached to it:
- DRI (Directly Responsible Individual)
- Expected outcome
- Execution and analysis
Then, finally, it’s time to go out and deliver…
Get Started With Your B2B Marketing Strategy Framework
What makes a marketing plan effective?
When you include marketing focus zones into the plan and add activities to every zone which might help to achieve your goals.
What’s a “marketing focus zone”?
Bellow are some examples.
- Lead generation: You’d plan activities for different marketing segments according to the buyer journey stages.
- Lead nurturing: Activities which help increase deal close ratio (e.g. case studies, educational videos).
- Trade marketing: Activities which stimulate sales with existing customers.
- PR: Activities on gaining mentions from the press and influencers.
- Product: Activities which include analysis of current products (ABC, XYZ, etc.)
- Partnerships: Activities to develop partnership relations.
Ready to take the next step and create a Sales Plan that builds on your marketing strategy to generate revenue?
Check out this sales plan template from Sales Hacker founder, Max Altschuler.
Also published on Medium.