Developing a B2B marketing strategy
- Ask your customers
- Perform market research
- Make it different
- Complimentary marketing
- Value vs vanity
No two B2B brands are the same, and their marketing strategies shouldn’t be either. Because each brand has a different positioning, different customers, and different aspirations – applying a one-size-fits-all concept doesn’t do anyone any justice… “Post once a day on social media, write how-to blogs for your website, and build a lead gen funnel!”… the list of platitude-like strategies goes on and on.The antidote: apply strategic thinking to unearth gaps in your marketing landscape and set out to understand what type of marketing and messaging will resonate with ideal clients.
Step 1: Vanity or Value?
Gone are the days of “me, me, me!” marketing. Well, I shouldn’t say that that’s the case for everyone (seems to work for Apple) but for most of us, especially in the B2B space, this strategy rarely works. Over time the landscape shifted and the internet ushered in a new era affording consumers the ability to conduct research and find products with relative ease. This is summed up nicely by Marty Neumeier’s graphic, “The Old VS New Business Model.”
Instead of shouting “buy my product” or “buy my service” from the rooftops, we must aim to provide value and in turn build trust with our prospects. The question of “how can we sell more of our offering” needs to evolve into “how do we create more customers”.
The short answer: produce marketing materials that make the lives of your customers easier. In turn, you will gain the upper hand in perceived authority, get their thinking aligned with yours, and shift a bit of power in the buying process over to your side.
Now it’s up to you to determine which avenues and types of marketing will work best…
Step 2: Ask your clients
Yes, it’s really that simple. Although before you get started, you must delineate between what types of clients you want versus the ones that simply happen to buy from you.
For example: Roger takes very little of your time, the work is highly profitable, and you’d gladly continue the type of work you’re producing for him. Julie, on the other hand, is constantly inundating you with emails, is harping you about budget, and is on retainer for a service you are looking to quit offering. The choice of who you want more of becomes obvious.
Once you’ve made that delineation and therefore “designed your customer”, you must set out to understand how they found you (marketing) and ultimately why they chose you (messaging). This can be done via survey or in-depth interview conducted by someone that’s a part of your organization or by a third party.
A few questions to ask your ideal clients:
- How did you find out about us?
- What other methods of searching for a company like ours were enacted, if any?
- Why did you choose our company over the competition?
- Do you consume content regarding [your category here]?
- What is one thing that irks you about content regarding [your category here]?
- On what platforms do you consume [your category here] content?
- What type of content do you search for?
- What topics do you want to learn more about?
With these questions answered, you’ll have a solid understanding of channels and ways of marketing to your ideal clients.
Step 3: Perform market research
Being able to create marketing content that answers your clients’ questions is great, but it means nothing if it’s buried and can’t be found. By looking into what competitors are doing (and not doing) in your space, you’ll get a better idea of what type of marketing is ownable.
What does this mean, you ask? Well, if three of your top competitors have podcasts discussing category-related topics, it might make sense to do something else. More generically speaking, if everyone in your category simply posts their work on their social media, you may benefit by providing value instead of sharing what your company has accomplished.
A few areas to focus research on…
What is working for your competitors? A quick glance at the engagement on their social media accounts will tell you a lot, as will a Semrush report of their organic and paid efforts. You can also see if competitors are attending events and tradeshows on company social profiles or personal profiles, too.
What type of messaging is commonplace? In the digital marketing world, many agencies claim to be “full-service”, “omni-channel”, and provide “digital transformations”. As a consumer, running into the same lingo time and time again each brand begins to blend into the next. We need to think of ways to be better and stand out in doing so.
What do the brands look like in your category? Many brands fall into the trap of being too contextual with their identities. Some of the worst offenders can be tech companies…
With competitor research complete, it might make sense to create an identity that embodies a stark contrast to what the market has already seen.
Are users searching for your services? SEO is a large part of many marketing strategies but doesn’t make sense for everyone, especially if your goods and services are overly complex and are hard to distill linguistically. Tools like Moz, Semrush, and ahrefs can be great tools in determining search traffic and looking at competitor rankings.
Are prospects attending events regarding your category or offering? Understanding places to meet other industry partners or prospects is essential. Perhaps there is a world that exists where you become known for trade show appearances?
How essential are referrals? A lot of times it’s not what you know, it’s who you know in the B2B space. What sorts of resources, settings, and conversations need to be had to build brand awareness and leave a lasting impression with your connections?
What channels and social profiles already exist? A quick scour of several content platforms and social media sites (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Spotify Podcasts, etc.) will give you a good idea of who the players are in your category.
A construction firm in Los Angeles may have their own podcast but that doesn’t mean that the industry partners and prospects in your neighborhood couldn’t benefit from one you might create.
Alternatively, solopreneur web developers may lend advice on Instagram with fancy TikTok-like Reel videos but are any web firms sharing their perspective? Perhaps in carousel format or with IGTV videos?
What type of content is being produced already? Once you understand who the players are in your space, you can begin to look at what content they are producing and develop strategies to fill in the gaps.
To stick with our construction example, there are videos on YouTube about what “BIM” is in commercial construction but very few on how it will develop over time. Perhaps that is an episode worth making?
Step 4: Activate your findings
With all of the proper areas of research conducted, it’s time to launch your initiatives. MOST marketing strategies will include both paid and organic elements, but not all. Some marketing strategies will be highly targeted, others may not. Regardless, here are a few principles to apply.
Determine KPI’s. In order to launch initiatives, KPI’s (or key performance indicators) must be determined to measure success. For some, building awareness with their marketing will be top priority while others will be solely focused on conversion and new sales. Here are a few metrics to consider tracking:
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV)
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
- Follower / Subscriber Growth
- Social Media Mentions
- Customer Retention
- Conversion Rate
- Website Visitors
- Event Attendance
Choose marketing avenues wisely. Even with all the insights and research gathered, it will still make sense to vary your approach. This is not, however, permission to bite off more than you can chew. A tactic we use a lot is combining both top of funnel awareness marketing (or marketing that the general public responds to) with bottom of funnel marketing (highly targeted content or ads). By interlacing a wise choice of marketing avenues with properly curated KPI’s – and optimization over time becomes easy.
Ask for feedback. “It’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.” You could come up with the greatest marketing strategy of all time (in your opinion) but if it swings and misses when it steps up to the plate – everyone loses. Ask your customers, audience, and industry partners what they think of your marketing.
“Layla, what were your thoughts on our latest podcast episode? What other topics would you want us to cover in the future?”
Stick the course. A lot of marketing nowadays is content-heavy or organic in nature – these strategies take time. Just because a social following is taking awhile to build doesn’t mean it’s not going to pay off, especially if the feedback is positive and what you’re creating is different and good
From looking at the purpose of marketing itself to discussing applicable concepts you can apply today – we have covered a lot.
Marketing is an opportunity to be seen by the world, whether “the world” is our ideal clients, industry partners, or the general public – an impression is made. Ultimately it’s up to us as marketers to determine what to say and how to say it…
Do we shout our name from the rooftops, or do we help out our customers while we do it? Do we guess what type of marketing will work, or do spend time unearthing the answers to these questions before starting?
There are no wrong ways of doing marketing, only better ways. How will you get started?