Business-to-Business Marketing: A Guide to Marketing Online
by Aden Andrus • July 30, 2018
Business-to-business marketing doesn’t quite work the way it used to. Before the internet, business-to-business (B2B) marketing was largely a matter of finding and cultivating in-person relationships with the right people in the right businesses.
While the importance of relationships in business-to-business marketing hasn’t changed, the internet has given B2B companies the ability to market to anyone, anywhere.
This is great, but if you aren’t careful, it can be easy to lose track of who you’re marketing to and how best to win their interest. Done right, business-to-business marketing in the digital era can be a great way to grow your business. Done wrong, it can be a huge waste of money.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at different ways you can market your B2B business online and how to create a business-to-business marketing strategy that will deliver profitable results for your business.
Business-to-Business Marketing Strategies
There are a lot of ways to market your B2B business online. Things are constantly changing and evolving in the marketing space, so this list is by no means comprehensive, but here are some tried and true approaches you should consider:
Content marketing is a fairly broad business-to-business marketing term. Content marketing covers any online marketing effort that uses content assets (blog posts, infographics, eBooks, videos, etc) to build brand awareness or drive clicks, leads or sales.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is actually a broad term that covers any type of business-to-busines marketing where you pay for every user who clicks on an ad. For example, Google AdWords is a form of PPC advertising called “paid search advertising” (which we’ll go over in a second). Facebook Ads are another form of PPC advertising called “paid social media advertising” (again, we’ll get into that shortly).
Paid Search Advertising
Google, Bing and Yahoo all allow you to run text ads on their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Paid search advertising is one of the best ways to target potential customers who are actively searching for a product or service like yours.
Paid Social Media Advertising
Most social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat will allow you to run ads on their site. Paid social media advertising is great for building awareness with audiences that might not be aware that your business, product or service exists.
Social Media Marketing
Like SEO, social media marketing is the free, organic way to use social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter to market your business. And, just like SEO, organically marketing your business on social media takes a lot more time and effort, but in the long run, it can deliver much cheaper results.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you don’t want to pay to show up in the SERPs, you can also use search engine optimization (SEO) to try and rank pages or blog posts on your site organically. You don’t have to pay directly for every click, but getting a page to rank usually takes quite a bit of time and effort (for a more in-depth comparison of paid search and SEO, check out this article).
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the art and science of improving your online user experience. Most of the time, B2B businesses use CRO to get more conversions (leads, chats, calls, sales, etc) out of their existing website traffic.
Email marketing is the oldest form of business-to-business marketing and it’s still going strong. Most B2B marketers use email marketing to advertise special deals, highlight content (often as part of content marketing) or promote an event.
Ever get to the bottom of an article and see a list of suggested articles? That’s native advertising. Most native advertising falls under content marketing because it uses content to attract clicks (“you’ll never believe what happens next!”). Often, native advertising can be a bit hard to spot, since it is usually mixed in with non-paid content recommendations…but that’s kind of the point.
Affiliate marketing is essentially paying someone else (a person or a business) to promote your products and services on their website. Many B2B businesses form partnerships with affiliates that help market their business online (and offline, too).
Clearly, there are lots of ways to market a B2B business online. For this reason, many businesses pay a business-to-business marketing agency to manage their online marketing or hire an in-house marketing team to take care of things (for an in-depth comparison of these options, check out this article).
Getting B2B Marketing Right
As you can probably imagine, jumping into paid search advertising and content marketing and doing SEO and testing your website can be a bit overwhelming. To really succeed at business-to-business marketing, you need to figure out what works and really nail your strategy.
That takes some time, effort and persistence.
However, there are several ways you can speed up this learning process and ensure that your marketing efforts are paying off. Let’s take a look.
Put Your LTV to Work
Lifetime value (LTV) for B2B companies often ranges from $20,000 to over $200,000+. Even at a profit margin of just 10%, that means that you can pay thousands per sale and still produce a fantastic return-on-investment!
So, what does that mean for business-to-business marketing? Well, the bigger your profit margin, the more wiggle room you have to figure things out.
Even the best-managed campaign is rarely optimized out of the gate. The right campaign setup will save you a lot of money from the get go, but there’s still going to be a learning period between launch and optimal performance.
If you’ve got a small profit margin, that can be a big problem. But for a B2B company with a $50,000 profit margin, you can still make a lot of money while you get your campaigns running right.
For example, a while back we started running AdWords campaigns for a B2B company in the insurance industry.
We knew that they would profitable at $150 per lead, but since the client was new to AdWords, we took advantage of their long-term profit margin ($1,000-10,000+) and ran a blast campaign to identify their best keywords.
Our 2-week blitz resulted in a $250 cost-per-lead (CPL), which was unprofitable for the client. However, we used the data from this unprofitable period to identify several highly profitable keywords.
Using those keywords and a killer landing page strategy, we quickly cut their CPL in half. In fact, the campaigns were so profitable that they redefined success for the company—as a result, they’ve since received millions in VC funding!
The moral of the story? By leveraging your LTV, you can produce the kind of campaign results B2C companies only dream of.
Target the Right Audience
When it comes to business-to-business marketing, who you think you’re targeting isn’t always who you’re actually targeting. For example, one of our B2B clients spent $60,000 on AdWords text ads that were targeting the keyword “translate”. Now, they ran a B2B translation service, so that keyword seemed like a good idea.
However, despite the fact that “translate” gets searched for over 150 million times a month, this client spent $60,000 and didn’t get a single lead for their trouble.
In contrast, here’s what happens when you can figure out the right way to target potential clients with your business-to-business marketing.
By increasing the accuracy of our targeting, we eliminated irrelevant clicks (and their associated cost). Then, as we targeted the right audience, we built traffic volume back up. Only this time, it came with more conversions.
This particular client is now spending 48% more than when they started with us, but they are producing 9x more leads!
Speak to the Pain Point
In addition to poor targeting, many B2B businesses struggle to communicate effectively with their audience. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses assume that everyone cares about all the specifics of their offering. After all, they put an awful lot of work into all those features.
The problem is, most people aren’t looking for a list of features—they are looking for solutions!
Potential customers don’t click on your ad because they want to know all about your product. They click because they think you can solve their problem.
So, if you want people to convert, you need to identify the problem that motivated their search and speak directly to that pain point in your ad and landing page (the page they land on after they click your ad).
Many companies fall into the trap of thinking that their landing page needs to address every possible question or scenario. Let your sales team do that. The goal of a landing page is to show how your offer solves their problem.
If your ads are properly targeted, 90% of your traffic will come to your page with some version of the same pain point in mind. Speak to that pain point and you’ll win their business!
Keep Your Messaging Consistent
No matter what industry you are in, the key to an effective landing page is messaging consistency. In other words, the messaging of your ad should match the messaging of your business-to-business landing page.
In fact, messaging consistency is the primary reason why landing pages exist. A home page has to meet dozens (if not hundred or thousands) of different needs. A good marketing campaign delivers traffic with one specific need.
If that traffic lands on a home page with a hundred different options and messages, what are the odds that they’ll actually find what they’re looking for and convert?
Business-to-business marketing campaigns perform best when they deliver a consistent experience. If your ad appeals to a certain type of person, your landing page should appeal to that person as well. That way, when they arrive on your page, they think, “This is exactly what I was looking for!” not “Wait, where am I and what am I doing here?”
Of course, it doesn’t do you much good to be consistent with your messaging…if you aren’t sending the right message. To put it bluntly, without great analytics, you won’t know what’s working…and what isn’t.
And, if you don’t know what isn’t working, how can you optimize your business-to-business marketing?
Unfortunately, most B2B businesses aren’t very good at tracking. For example, just 57.7% of AdWords accounts are tracking conversions. That means almost half of AdWords accounts are effectively running blind.
To make matters worse, of the 57.7% of AdWords accounts with conversion tracking, only half are actually tracking all of their conversions.
Now, this begs the question, how big of a difference does analytics tracking make? Well, according to Hubspot’s State of Inbound report, tracking your campaigns improves your odds of success by 1,700%.
1,700%? That’s a huge difference!
In fact, if we look at the numbers in Hubspot’s report a little differently and run a bit of math, it becomes clear that without good analytics, 97% of online marketing fails.
Essentially, trying to run a business-to-business marketing campaign without good tracking is the same thing as setting your money on fire.
Business-to-business marketing is all about reaching the right people at the right time in the right way. The good news is, with the internet, you can reach anyone, anywhere, anytime!
However, if you don’t take the right approach, all that marketing potential won’t mean anything.
The trick is to figure out who you want to reach and the best way to get on their radar. Then, with the right messaging and tracking, you’ll be well on your way to success.
By the way, if you’d like some help marketing your B2B business, let me know here or in the comments! We’ve helped hundreds of B2B companies succeed online and we’d love to help you succeed, too.
Have you tried your hand at business-to-business marketing? Do you have any thoughts you’d add to this article? Questions you’d like answered? Leave your thoughts in the comments.