Effective marketing is difficult to get right. Between creative demands, budget limits, and channel decisions, marketers have a lot to juggle when developing their marketing strategy.
The biggest determinant of effective marketing, however, is your audience.
If you’re not properly targeting your buyer persona, your promotions and advertisements will likely fall on deaf ears. You might as well not be marketing at all.
Where target audiences vary the most, though, is between individual consumers and businesses. Some companies serve individual shoppers, while others cater to companies and organizations.
Marketing to businesses is very different than marketing to individual consumers. That’s why an entirely different marketing method — B2B marketing — exists, and that’s why we built this guide. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of B2B marketing, the most effective B2B marketing strategies, and how you can tap into and convert your business audience.
What is B2B marketing?
B2B (business-to-business) marketing refers to any marketing strategy or content that is geared towards a business or organization. Any company that sells products or services to other businesses or organizations (vs. consumers) typically uses B2B marketing strategies.
HubSpot is an example of a company that engages in B2B marketing. HubSpot’s customers are other businesses, not individual consumers. Therefore, all of our marketing efforts can be classified as B2B.
B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing are very different. B2B and B2C marketing differ in their respective strategies and applications, as well as in their audiences and how they communicate to them.
B2B marketing targets the needs, interests, and challenges of individuals who are making purchases on behalf of, or for, their organization (rather than for themselves), thus making the organization the customer. Here are a few examples of B2B companies:
- A coworking space that leases office spaces to remote teams and freelancers (like WeWork)
- An on-demand order fulfillment, warehousing, and screen printing service (like Printful)
- A marketing software company that sells social media management tools, lead generation software, and other marketing tools to businesses and organizations (like HubSpot!)
B2C marketing targets the needs, interests, and challenges of individual consumers who are making purchases on behalf of, or for, themselves, thus making the individual the customer. Here are a few examples of B2C companies:
- An e-commerce company that sells office supplies to remote or self-employed individuals (like Poppin)
- A store that sells t-shirts and other clothing and accessories (like Target)
- A music platform that sells streaming subscriptions (like Spotify)
Take a look at this chart comparing B2B and B2C customers.
|for b2b marketing||for b2c marketing|
|Goal||Customers are focused on ROI, efficiency, and expertise.||Customers are seeking deals and entertainment (which means marketing needs to be more fun).|
|Purchase Motivation||Customers are driven by logic and financial incentive.||Customers are driven by emotion.|
|Drivers||Customers want to be educated (which is where B2B content marketing comes in).||Customers appreciate education but don’t always need it to make a purchase decision.|
|Purchase Process||Customers like (if not prefer) to work with account managers and salespeople.||Customers like to make purchases directly.|
|People Involved in Purchase||Customers often have to confer with decision makers and other members of their chain of command before making a purchase decision.||Customers rarely need to confer with others before making a purchase decision.|
|Purchase Purpose||Customers make purchases for long-term solutions, resulting in a longer sales cycle, longer contracts, and longer relationships with companies.||Customers aren’t necessarily looking for long-term solutions or long-term relationships.|
As much as they differ, though, B2B and B2C also intersect in many ways. While Poppin sells office supplies to remote or self-employed individuals, they also design corporate office spaces and branded supplies. On the flip side, Printful not only offers order fulfillment and warehousing to businesses; they also fill e-commerce printing orders for individuals.
As distinct as the B2B and B2C marketing audiences can be, B2B marketers can always learn from B2C campaigns, too.
As I said above, marketing depends on its audience. While B2B and B2C marketing vary, not every piece of B2B marketing material is alike, either.
In this section, we’ll talk about various B2B marketing strategies you can implement to reach your specific business audience. Before we dive in, though, make sure you understand the B2B buyer’s journey. Take note of how each of these stages may affect your marketing strategies and how you implement them.
B2B Email Marketing
Email marketing is a tried and true method of reaching both individual consumers and business customers. Did you know that 93% of B2B marketers use email? Are you one of them? You should be. Emails lead to engagement which turns subscribers into leads … and then customers.
Unlike B2C customers who respond best to emotions and entertainment, B2B customers look for logic and positive ROI. Essentially, they’re asking themselves, How can your business help my business grow? Because of this, your email marketing must consistently resonate with your business customers and focus on things that matter to them — like time, money, and resources.
Email marketing is also a powerful vehicle for sharing your brand’s content. 83% of B2B companies use email newsletters as part of their content marketing program, and 40% of B2B marketers say these newsletters are most critical to their content marketing success.
With the constant barrage of emails flooding our inboxes today, it’s more important than ever to create and send out effective marketing emails.
B2B Email Marketing Best Practices
- Write enticing subject lines. Think about your email subject lines as a Netflix trailer — if you can’t hook your audience with a two-minute clip (or, in this case, a few dozen characters), don’t expect them to open and watch (or read) the whole thing. We recommend spending almost as much time on your email subject lines as you do on the emails themselves.
- Stick to one call-to-action (CTA) per email. If you think the number of emails you receive is a lot, take a look at the CTAs in those emails … some are packed with two, three, and sometimes up to 10 different CTAs. Don’t make this mistake, which can leave your recipients’ heads spinning, asking “What should I click on first?” and ultimately clicking on nothing. With one CTA per email, you allow your audience to focus on your email content and ultimately one action … a welcome reprieve from today’s frequent decision-making and analysis paralysis.
- Segment your email to reach the most relevant audience. Not every email you send will be appropriate for everyone on your list. Your subscribers may be at different stages of the buyer’s journey or be seeking different solutions. That’s where email list segmentation comes into play. Not only does this help you relate to your audience better, but it gives your emails that personal feel that says “Hey, I’m listening and I know what you’d like to see.” Consumers prefer email quality over quantity anytime.
- Make sure your email designs are responsive. Over 80% of email users access their inbox on their phones, and emails that don’t show up correctly on mobile devices are often deleted in three seconds. Ouch. Don’t let your email be one of those.
- Don’t be afraid of the cold email. As uncomfortable as it is, the right email can convert new customers — like this cold sales email that won 16 new B2B customers.
👉🏼HubSpot Tip: You can’t send marketing emails without any recipients — these people make up your lists. There are plenty of easy ways to grow your email list. Begin with opt-in forms on your website homepage, About page, and blog. Check out HubSpot’s Free Form Builder tool to get started.
B2B Digital Marketing
Every business, whether B2B or B2C should have a digital presence — which is comprised of paid ads, search engine optimization, a website, and any other place your B2B company is active online. Let’s walk through a handful of tactics that can strengthen your B2B digital marketing strategy.
Define your target audience
A strong B2B digital marketing strategy starts with defining your target audience, or buyer persona. This demographic and psychographic information will inform almost every other marketing activity thereafter, ensuring your content and digital material is absorbed by the right eyes and ears (and that no resources go to waste on your end).
Create your website
Secondly, digital marketing can’t quite function without an informative, engaging website. Over 80% of buyers visit a website before making a purchase. Moreover, since the typical B2B sales cycle often involves many key players (such as gatekeepers, decision makers, and other folks who have to buy into a purchase), websites are easy, straightforward ways for influencers to share information about your product or service.
Optimize your digital presence
Your website needs to be more than informative and engaging, though … it needs to be discoverable. You can do this with on-page SEO and technical SEO tactics. These include everything from image alt-text and meta descriptions (what your visitors can see) to structured data and site speed (what your visitors can’t see). Off-page SEO is also at play here, which refers to external linking strategies and social sharing — SEO tactics that take place off your website.
Run PPC campaigns
Finally, round out your digital presence with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which allows you to get your content and brand in front of new audiences via search engines and other advertising platforms. I recommend maximizing your PPC investment by advertising more than your specific products or services — such as your brand personality, blog or social media content, or company tagline.
The best way to see an ROI from your paid ads is by 1) incorporating your buyer persona data and 2) boosting content that they can relate to. For example, it’s highly unlikely a brand new consumer who’s never heard of you is searching for your exact product. They may be searching for a location-based solution or product feature. To reach the greatest number of potential customers, pay to target relevant categories within your brand vs. promoting your product or services.
We’ve talked about how B2B customers are focused on expertise, driven by logic, and desire to be educated. What better marketing tool to satisfy these priorities than B2B content marketing?
Whereas a traditional PR marketing strategy interrupts a consumer’s day-to-day with promotional material, a content marketing strategy adds valuable information and informs the consumer — which is precisely what B2B customers are looking for. Not to mention that content marketing supports SEO efforts, which involves anticipating what your audience is searching for, helping them discover your website and content … and potentially converting them to customers.
In fact, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get information from an article than an ad. Knowing this, I’d say you should be putting the same (if not more) resources into your content marketing than your traditional advertising strategy.
Because the B2B buyer’s journey is slightly different than the B2C buyer’s journey (which has shorter sales cycles and fewer decision makers involved), the content you create for your B2B content marketing strategy may vary more than the content you’ve seen as a consumer yourself, as illustrated in the below graphic.
Before you start creating content, though, I recommend creating a business blog. (Don’t worry, growing your blog readership is easier than you think.) Your blog will house all the content you create and serve as a home-base for readers to visit and subscribe to.
B2B Social Media Marketing
Did you know that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-Suite executives use social media when making a purchase? That’s right — social media marketing isn’t just for brands targeting individual consumers.
Many B2B companies struggle with social media marketing, though. It can be harder to use social media to connect with business customers, especially because (as we mentioned above) there’s typically a lengthier sales cycle and longer chain of command.
Honestly, B2B social media marketing might not be where you convert the greatest number of leads, and that’s OK. It likely comes into play near the beginning of your customers’ buyer’s journeys.
Social media is a powerful tool for building brand awareness, giving your company an online personality, and humanizing your business — all very powerful factors when it comes to marketing and connecting with potential customers. Like email marketing, social media is also a highly effective channel for sharing your content and enhancing your brand expertise, the latter of which we know B2B customers appreciate.
While your social media accounts might not convert as frequently as your content or email marketing, they’re just as important. In this case, followers are just as valuable — you never know when they might convert to leads or customers.
👉🏼 HubSpot Tip: Why? Content shared by employee advocates receives over eight times more engagement than content shared by brands. So, involve your employees in your B2B social media marketing strategy. Encourage them to create their own social media channels and share about life at your company. Create a culture account (like our @HubSpotLife Instagram) to show what’s going on at work, not just what you’re selling. You never know — this might attract strong talent, too.
A B2B marketing approach that works for one business may not work for another, but that’s not to say we can’t learn something from the pros. Here are four B2B marketing examples of businesses who did it right.
Email Marketing: Mattermark, Raise the Bar Newsletter
Raise the Bar is a daily digest newsletter from Mattermark that features insights from leaders in sales, marketing, and growth engineering. It’s hand-picked by Mattermark executives and easy to scan, which is valuable in a world of elaborate, complicated newsletters and daily digests.
This is a good example of B2B email marketing because Mattermark takes the time to educate their subscribers without blatantly selling to them. This action builds trust with their audience while also equipping them with everything they need to know to make a purchase and become a paying customer.
Digital Marketing: Maersk, Website Homepage
It’s nearly impossible to know the intent of everyone who lands on your website, but Maersk’s homepage design makes it easy for visitors to find their way around.
By offering three main options (“Become a Customer,” “Access Your Account,” and “Start a Career”), Maersk clearly segments their audience and allows visitors to easily navigate to the site content that corresponds with their intent.
This small design tweak also helps Maersk build trust and authority within each of these niche audiences — potential customers, current customers, and even employees.
Content Marketing: LeadPages, Blog + Resources
LeadPages has been bootstrapped since its inception in 2012 … yet it hit over $16 million in revenue just three years later. Its owner attributes its rapid success to its content strategy, which makes it a great example of B2B content marketing.
LeadPages produces many different types of content resources, such as a blog, customer stories, a podcast, and a webinar. The variety in these resources allows the company to reach customers where they are using the method that best resonates with them.
LeadPages offers a blog that covers themes such as A/B testing, lead generation, and other topics that relate to the product and brand, a weekly podcast that chats with everyday entrepreneurs, and even a definitive guide to landing pages, which equips its customers to properly use and optimize the LeadPages product — all for free.
Social Media Marketing: MailChimp, Instagram
Social media is an effective channel on which to engage with your audience. It’s also a fun place to post gorgeous graphics and show off your brand personality. On Instagram, MailChimp has excelled at both.
Fewer than half of its Instagram posts have to do with email marketing or the MailChimp product, but the MailChimp team always finds a way to make the posts relevant to its audience and followers — all while featuring fun, engaging, on-brand graphics and videos.
MailChimp also uses its Instagram to feature real customer stories and testimonials, which can have a big impact on potential consumers in the Consideration and Decision stages. Finally, MailChimp makes use of a took called LinkinBio, which allows Instagram users to click-through to its homepage or other digital content (since Instagram doesn’t offer live links on its platform). This creates a clear conversion path for consumers who discover or research MailChimp on Instagram and want to learn more on its website.
Invest in B2B Marketing and Reach Your Business Customers
Marketing isn’t effective unless you keep your audience in mind, and no other audience is as fickle and critical as business customers. Your marketing should communicate how your business can help theirs … and if it doesn’t, you may as well not be marketing at all.
Use these tips and strategies to understand your B2B audience, round out your buyer personas, and effectively use B2B marketing strategies that reach them. When you’re focused on your audience, your marketing will do the same.