Today’s business buyers are better informed than ever before, armed with an endless list of research options that can help them make an educated purchase decision. But they can also face a winding path to purchase, sprawling buying committees, and a dizzying number of channels vying for their attention.
For B2B marketers, that means the challenge of effectively reaching, engaging, and converting their target audience is more complex than ever. As competition intensifies and buyer expectations evolve, the need for a well-defined and comprehensive B2B marketing strategy becomes paramount.
A carefully crafted strategy not only helps businesses navigate the complex B2B landscape but also empowers them to connect with prospects, drive revenue growth, and foster long-term customer relationships. Here’s how to make sure your B2B marketing strategy gets results.
What is B2B Marketing?
A B2B (business-to-business) marketing strategy describes how one business will promote its products and services to other businesses, coordinating with the sales team to convert them into customers.
How Does a B2B Marketing Strategy Differ from a B2C Marketing Strategy?
The biggest difference between a B2B marketing strategy and a B2C, or business-to-consumer, marketing strategy tends to be one of scope.
B2B marketing strategies are typically focused on discrete sectors of the economy, and sometimes even specific industries or company sizes, that best fit the products and services offered by the seller.
B2B marketing strategies often target multiple people within a single company to persuade them to purchase a product or service. Often, there is a salesperson or account management team involved in facilitating the sale, and the buying committee at the prospect company is making decisions on behalf of the business.
B2C marketing strategies, on the other hand, are much broader in focus — even products with a specific target demographic, such as parents between the ages of 30-45, have millions of potential buyers.
B2C sales often happen directly between the business and the consumer without a salesperson, or with a very short sales cycle — once someone walks in the showroom door, they are ready to buy. Consumers make decisions based on their individual needs, rather than the needs of a broader business.
How to Create a B2B Marketing Strategy
Whether you’re building a B2B marketing strategy from scratch or revamping an existing one, there are four main components to consider: target audience, market positioning and messaging, success criteria, and marketing channels.
Define your target audience
Having a clear target audience gives your team a defined group of customers to prioritize based on certain characteristics. This also makes it easier to create messaging that’s relevant to those accounts.
To define your target audience, you need to conduct market research to better understand the needs of your potential customers. Identify industry trends, market size, growth potential, and the competitive environment. Look for gaps or underserved areas where your product or service can provide a unique advantage. This research will help you refine your target audience and align your marketing efforts with market opportunities.
If you’re looking to get even more specific, then you can look to develop an ideal customer profile, or ICP. Analyze your existing customer base and identify the common characteristics of your most successful and satisfied customers. Look for factors such as industry, company size, location, annual revenue, purchasing power, and specific pain points or challenges they face.
Within your ICP, you’ll also want to consider the profitability factors of potential customers, such as revenue potential, growth rate, and the estimated lifetime value of their business. Focus your efforts on segments that offer the greatest potential for long-term profitability and alignment with your business objectives.
Create clear market positioning and messaging
At the core of any successful B2B marketing strategy is a clear market position and messaging map. Market positioning is not a job for marketing to figure out — it’s a collaborative process across teams. Market positioning is a combination of:
- Competitive differentiation: Clearly define how your brand and product offerings are different from the competition.
- Value proposition: Highlight the value that you can bring to customers and how your product can help them overcome a challenge they may be facing.
- Market opportunity: Define the niches where your product thrives and how it solves problems for customers within those markets.
Establishing a clear market position is the foundation for marketing teams to develop strong messaging. Messaging requires a combination of:
- Core framework: Create a standard set of messages that can be used as your core framework. This framework is the starting point for all subsequent messaging and can be tweaked if needed.
- Content creation: Every marketing strategy needs a core set of materials that speak to your products, explain your company mission, and showcase how you can support other businesses.
- Sales enablement: Messaging needs to be consistent across channels in order for it to resonate with your intended audience. Work closely with your counterparts in sales and enable reps to speak from talk tracks that align with your marketing messages.
Set clear goals and define success criteria
One of the first steps when building a B2B marketing strategy is to set goals and determine how success will be measured. Once you have your goals established, it becomes easier to work backward and determine the necessary steps to help you achieve your goals.
Additionally, having a set of metrics to track will help determine the success of your efforts. Here are some of the most common success metrics to consider:
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): Marketing qualified leads, or MQLs, are leads that enter the funnel as a result of marketing efforts. Tracking MQLs is one of the clearest indicators of success when it comes to your B2B marketing strategy.
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC): Customer acquisition cost, or CAC, is the total amount your business has to spend in order to acquire new customers. Understanding whether your CAC is increasing or decreasing will help determine how your B2B marketing strategy is performing.
- Lead-to-demo ratio: A lead-to-demo ratio shows how many open leads are accepting demo requests from sales. This metric indicates the quality of leads that are passed from marketing to sales.
- Account lift: Reviewing traffic from a company before and after ads are served can show how engaged that company is with your campaigns.
- Conversion rate: The conversion rate shows how many leads completed the buyer’s journey and became a customer. A higher conversion rate indicates that your marketing efforts are resonating with the intended audience, which means more revenue.
Pick the core marketing channels for your strategy
Once you’ve outlined the goals for your B2B marketing strategy, it’s time to determine which channels will help you achieve your goals. Analyze the performance of your campaigns from previous quarters. Which channels had the best performance rates based on your success metrics?
Next, look into the channels where your existing customers are most active. For example, B2B customers are likely more active on Linkedin compared to other social media channels, like Snapchat. For new customers, you might find that they are attending in-person events again, so you might choose to invest more in this channel compared to virtual events.
Finally, test and learn. You can always start with your core channels and then test other options over time.
Align with key stakeholders
Cross-functional alignment is an essential yet often overlooked step in building a B2B marketing strategy. Achieving alignment can be challenging due to differences in goals, metrics, and strategies. Without cross-functional alignment, you run the risk of miscommunication, which can lead to ineffective lead management, inefficient sales processes, and missed opportunities.
Aligning with key stakeholders requires clear communication channels, shared objectives, regular meetings, and a unified approach to lead generation, nurturing, and conversion. Consistency is key when it comes to marketing. Prioritizing cross-functional alignment will help drive consistent messaging in the market.
Which Channels Should a B2B Marketing Strategy Include?
According to McKinsey, the number of sales channels people use across the entire buying journey doubled from five channels in 2016 to 10 channels in 2022. The result: Buyers early in the sales cycle are increasingly evaluating suppliers through digital technologies such as mobile apps, social media, and texting.
When choosing the channels to include in your B2B marketing strategy, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, adopting a multi-channel approach will maximize reach and increase variability when it comes to acquiring, upselling, and retaining customers. Here are some of the most common channels to consider incorporating in your B2B marketing strategy:
Email marketing has long served as a core communication channel for B2B marketers. That’s because it can help teams achieve goals across different customer segments. For example, you can create different email drip campaigns to send to prospects and existing customers in order to keep your brand top of mind and continually deliver value right to your customer’s inbox. This is a great way to share company news, new content, product updates, and upcoming events.
Email marketing is also a source of key engagement metrics, such as clicks, conversion, bounce rate, open rate, and unsubscribe rate. These metrics can be used as a pulse check to determine what’s working when it comes to the communications and content preferences of your target audience.
With recent advancements in generative AI and automation, launching email campaigns is also easier than ever. Scheduled sends, suggested copy, and integrations with your CRM are some of the best features to save your teams time and drive greater efficiency.
Content marketing is the fuel for all of the other channels in your B2B marketing strategy. Creating high-quality content is essential in order to build a brand, educate customers, and establish your business as a trusted thought leader and partner.
Content marketing is a broad channel that can include different types of content such as blogs, eBooks, research reports and one-pagers. You can adjust the types of content that you produce based on the needs of your business. For example, if your goal is to become a thought leader in your industry, you might choose to invest more heavily in blogs and eBooks where you can share opinions, interview experts, become a trusted source, and generate traffic through organic search.
The content that your team creates needs to be multidimensional and engaging. It needs to be adaptable across all of the other channels that you incorporate in your B2B marketing strategy, such as email campaigns, paid advertisements, and social media posts.
Content syndication is another key channel to explore to drive more top of funnel leads. With content syndication, you can take existing content that your team has produced and promote it on third-party sites. It’s a great way to expand the reach of your content and target high-intent audiences at scale.
Paid search advertising
Paid search advertising targets potential customers while they are browsing the web for topics related to your business. Once your team determines the top keywords that your customers are searching for, you can configure search ads so that information about your product or service appears in the search results or on related web pages.
Search advertising is effective because you can also target buyers who may not be known to your business yet, but are searching for a product or service that your business sells. It’s a great way to start building brand awareness and recognition for your business related to those keywords.
Since B2B sales cycles are long and include multiple stakeholders, ads are a great opportunity to keep encouraging a potential customer to schedule a demo, register for an upcoming webinar, or read a new piece of content that provides value.
Some 40% of B2B buyers use social media to help inform purchasing decisions. As a result, the average marketing leader devotes 12% of their annual budget to a social media strategy. Social media has emerged as a core channel in B2B marketing because it enables businesses to reach new customers where they are most active, with rich data and insights about their preferences and profiles.
There are two avenues to explore: organic social media and paid social media. Organic social media posts are free for your business to create and publish to your social channels in order to attract the attention of a broader audience. Paid social campaigns promote posts to contacts in your target audience based on parameters such as job titles, specific companies, or location. Paid social media posts grant your business a bit more control over showing content to the right people at the right companies.
While Linkedin is the go-to channel for B2B businesses to engage and attract new customers, there are a number of channels to consider incorporating into your B2B marketing strategy:
Creating a mix of paid and organic social media marketing campaigns will help increase brand awareness and the attention of key prospects.
During the pandemic, virtual events took off as the core event marketing channel for many B2B businesses. The global virtual events market size was valued at $114 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to expand more than 21% year over year until 2030.
But now that businesses are heading back into the office, do in-person events once again reign supreme? Not quite. Successful B2B marketers will need to embrace every event format in order to maximize ROI.
Hybrid events enable you to reach a wider audience beyond geographical limitations. While in-person events have their benefits, they often come with restrictions such as travel costs, time constraints, and limited capacity.
By incorporating virtual elements, you can engage with a larger audience globally, including those who may not have been able to attend the event in person. This expanded reach can lead to increased brand exposure, potential leads, and business opportunities.
Direct mail campaigns are a great way to create more personalized experiences for your customers. Direct mail campaigns involve sending a physical piece of content, a letter, or package to a prospect in order to pique their interest and create a more personalized approach to outreach.
Leaning into intent data is a great way to surface trends, news, and topics that are top of mind for prospects at high-priority accounts so your teams can lean into those signals and provide more personalized experiences. For example, let’s say people at a company are visiting high-intent pages on your website, such as product demo pages or pricing pages. You may notice marketers at that company downloaded an eBook about creating a foolproof marketing plan.
You may decide to create a printed version of that eBook and directly mail it to the CMO at that high-intent account. In doing so, you’re creating a more personalized experience that speaks to the needs of that business.
Another way to use direct mail campaigns is to help promote an upcoming event, exciting announcement, or product launch. You could target VP-level executives at 15 top accounts and send them some fun swag to increase excitement for an upcoming event. It’s all about creating personalized experiences that can help build stronger relationships.
How Account-Based Marketing Drives Personalized Experiences
Account-based marketing, or ABM, consumes a large share of marketing budgets. Leaning into ABM is a great way to create more personalization in marketing campaigns for high-priority accounts that yields greater results for your business.
Having a single, connected ABM tech stack for sales and marketing teams to use as their source of truth makes the process of targeting key accounts much more seamless. Plus, building a tech stack with rich, accurate company and contact data will create a more efficient workstream.
Deciding which accounts to target can make or break your ABM strategy. With ZoomInfo’s dynamic Audiences, you can find and reach your most valuable prospects without inefficiencies or waste. Once your teams determine who you want to target, you can easily build a list of contacts, anonymize those contacts, and activate a campaign based on the attributes your team deems most important in terms of demographics, firmographics, or unique buying signals.
How to Overcome Common B2B Marketing Challenges
Before developing a strategy, it’s important to understand some of the common challenges businesses face so your team can start thinking about how you’ll get ahead of them. Here are some of the most common challenges that B2B marketers face when trying to build a successful strategy:
Challenge: Budget Allocation
Solution: Lean into Automated Reporting
According to a Gartner survey, 75% of CMOs are being asked to do more with less. This means unexpected budget cuts, reviewing spend allocation, and deprioritizing certain channels. During times of uncertainty, tracking spend across channels and the ROI of that spend is a necessity.
This is where automation comes into play. Automating campaign reports helps create a unified view of campaign performance. You can see when customers are moving in and out of the funnel and how that affects your bottom line. This also reduces unnecessary spend on campaigns that simply aren’t performing.
Establishing clear priorities to measure performance at each stage of the B2B marketing funnel will reduce friction if budget cuts are needed. This will also help you understand how well companies and individuals are moving through the funnel and where to focus your efforts.
Challenge: Building effective relationships
Solution: Target the buying committee
One of the biggest mistakes marketing teams make is targeting one person at their prospect company. This becomes increasingly inefficient when moving up market because there are often buying committees within each company that you need to influence.
Multithreading is a great way to build relationships with all of the key members at a business and convince them to purchase your product. Creating a flow-chart style buying committee within each account based on title will help narrow your focus to the right stakeholders.
A simple framework for visualizing a company’s buying committee is to start with the contacts who will use the product in their day-to-day work and expand out to include the influencers and ultimate decision-makers. This can easily be automated through preset filters such as job title, department, or management level.
Challenge: Building a Franken-stack
Solution: Lean into tech stack consolidation
Building a tech stack with separate point solutions, also known as a Franken-stack, makes it nearly impossible to track success, understand which channels are performing well, and make your operation much more inefficient.
Research by Gartner found that 60% of respondents prefer an integrated approach to selecting technology. Leaning into tech stack consolidation will help increase awareness across teams, and ultimately create better cross-functional alignment because all internal stakeholders will have a full picture of success. Teams can also easily create and launch campaigns when working out of a single, connected platform rather than multiple point solutions.
Before you even begin creating your B2B marketing strategy, it’s worth conducting a tech stack gap analysis to determine opportunities for consolidating tools and leaning into integrations. Pull usage reports for all of the tech tools that your marketing team uses and see where you can reduce spend and drive efficiencies.
How to Measure the Success of Your B2B Marketing Strategy
Before you launch a B2B marketing strategy, you need to establish success metrics for the marketing team and channel owners to track, as well as shared metrics across the entire go-to-market team. Having clear B2B marketing metrics will make it easier to track the ROI of your efforts.
Here are some of the most common B2B marketing success metrics to track:
- Conversion rate
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
- Cost per click
- Cost per lead
- Cost per acquisition
- Organic search traffic
- Annual Contract Value (ACV) generated per Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
- ACV generated per Marketing Qualified Account (MQA)
- ACV generated per demo
Next, make sure you have the proper reporting capabilities in your platform to track all of these metrics. Visualizing performance metrics in one place makes it much easier to track the success of your strategy and the individual channels.
ZoomInfo’s MarketingOS platform has robust reporting capabilities that include two funnel reports: The high-level funnel report shows where all of your prospects are in the funnel from awareness to consideration, while the funnel movement report shows how prospects are progressing at each stage of the funnel. This reporting structure becomes especially useful when measuring the performance of your overall marketing strategy.
Creating a B2B Marketing Strategy: Key Takeaways
Creating a successful B2B marketing strategy requires research, analysis, and creativity. By understanding your target audience, identifying key pain points, and aligning your marketing efforts with the business objectives, you can position your team for success.
Whether you are building a new strategy from scratch or modifying an existing strategy, here are the key takeaways to keep in mind:
- Stay aligned: Without alignment, your strategy will not take off. All internal stakeholders need to be on the same page about who you are targeting, how you will target them, and what success looks like. Without each of these steps outlined, it will be difficult to gain traction internally or externally.
- Be adaptable: Continuously monitor and optimize your strategy based on data-driven insights and feedback from both your customers and internal teams. With a constantly evolving technology landscape and innovations across the business sector, it’s important for your business to be flexible and adaptable to new advancements.
- Test and learn: Even if you take all of the precautions and proper steps to plan a really strong B2B marketing strategy, the reality is that things change and what worked six months ago might not work now. Test new channels, try new messaging, and keep track of what’s resonating with your customers.
Ready to take your B2B marketing strategy to the next level? Check out The Big Book of Modern Marketing Plays today to get started.