Digital advertising spending worldwide is about to hit $375 million for 2021. A huge chunk of that colossal figure is B2B digital marketing.
Where traditional marketing so often focused on B2C marketing, digital marketing opened up new possibilities of reaching businesses thanks to the huge variety of channels available. It’s been a complete game-changer for many B2B companies.
If you haven’t already got a B2B digital marketing strategy, chances are you’re missing out. But fear not, our ultimate guide to B2B digital marketing covers everything you need to know to create a great marketing strategy.
What Is B2B Marketing?
Let’s start at the beginning. B2B marketing stands for business to business marketing.
It’s an all-encompassing term that refers to any kind of marketing tactic or strategy where the target audience is another business. So any company that sells products or services to other companies should be using B2B marketing.
Some of the most obvious examples, for marketers at least, include businesses that provide marketing tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Moz. All of these businesses focus their marketing efforts on targeting digital marketing managers so they might subscribe to their service.
B2B vs B2C
It’s important to distinguish business to business marketing from business to consumer marketing because of the intended audience.
Target audiences vary for all types of industries. For example, they vary in age, gender, location, education, and income to name a few.
But probably the biggest difference in target audiences is between B2B and B2C marketing. The former is targeting businesses while the latter is targeting individual consumers.
Marketing to businesses is miles away from marketing to independent consumers. This is because a business doesn’t purchase the same way people do. So a business-to-business marketing strategy is very different from a B2C marketing strategy.
B2B audiences are driven by financial incentives like ROI far more so than B2C customers. The latter are more driven by emotion and fun, which can make marketing to them a lot easier.
Because of this, the purchasing process for B2B audiences takes much longer. They need to trust the company and be sure of its knowledge and authority before making a purchase. This means B2B digital marketing tactics need to educate and inform, rather than entertain like B2C tactics.
All this said many businesses have both B2B and B2C marketing strategies. Amazon is a great example of this. The eCommerce giant advertises products on its site to individual consumers.
But all those products from individual sellers. So Amazon also has digital marketing efforts geared towards encouraging sellers to sign up with them to sell their products.
One of the best ways to highlight the differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing is by using a marketing funnel.
The Marketing Funnel: B2B Vs B2C
Chances are if you’ve been in marketing for any amount of time, you’ve heard of a marketing funnel. It’s a tool that helps break down the customer journey into stages.
Marketers can use it to figure out what the best marketing channel is for each stage of the customer journey. This can help in creating cohesive digital marketing strategies that bring in great leads or conversions.
The traditional marketing funnel has the following stages:
Marketing Funnel Stages
The awareness stage is when a consumer is searching for something they want or need. This could be a product or a solution to their problem in the form of a service. They’re not aware of your company before this point. This is when you need to appear as a trustworthy authority.
The interest stage comes next. The consumer is researching and reading about products or services and learning what is available on the market.
For B2C, this phase may only be a couple of hours or days. Whereas for B2B, this process can take months.
The consideration stage follows interest. The consumer has found the product or service that they prefer and is researching this business only. They’re looking for things like reviews, social proof, and other evidence that this is the right choice.
Again, in B2C this process may not take long, but for B2B consumers this also needs to be presented to other stakeholders and decision-makers within the company. For large companies with lots of red tape, this process alone can take months.
The intent stage is when a consumer is just about to buy a product. For B2C, the product would be in the cart. For B2B, this stage would more likely be a meeting, a product demo, or so on.
The evaluation stage is the final decision about whether or not the consumer wants to buy your product. They may have a couple of other products they’ve researched up to this point as well. They will review all the information available before moving onto the final stage of purchase.
The purchase stage is where all your hard work has paid off. The prospect is now a customer.
B2B Buyer Journey
The marketing funnel works quite well for B2C customers. This is because there is less consideration involved and most often only one decision-maker.
But for B2B, the marketing funnel may be a little simplistic. B2B consumers have many different needs and preferences and this affects their behavior patterns.
Some will spend months reading content in the consideration phase. While others will move into the intent stage and spend a long time there, wanting individual interactions with the potential provider.
So where B2C consumers move down the marketing funnel, B2B consumers may jump back and forth through it.
Additionally, the B2B marketing funnel often has an additional post-purchase stage. This is because the sale is often an ongoing service as opposed to a product. This stage focuses on customer retention strategies and up-selling other services.
This is why many B2B companies research and develop their own buyer journey which is unique to their target audiences’ experience. Much of the buyer journey is independent.
Where a salesperson would have once been getting in touch with prospects while conducting outbound marketing, the emphasis is on inbound marketing for digital marketing.
B2B Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing refers to any marketing efforts that came before the dawn of the internet. Traditional marketing channels include:
- Direct mail
- Trade shows
- Print advertising
- Radio advertising
- TV advertising
- Word of mouth marketing (referrals)
As you can see, with the exclusion of word of mouth marketing, most traditional marketing channels are outbound marketing channels.
By this we mean, the business marketing is reaching out to their target audience in the hopes leads will follow.
Of course, some traditional marketing channels are more invasive than others. Cold-calling and direct mail advertising in particular have fallen out of fashion in recent years.
For B2B marketers, outbound marketing tactics were often problematic. This is because their target audience often isn’t available on that channel.
Outbound marketing is on the decline generally. While larger brands obviously still advertise on TV, this is mostly a brand awareness and authority exercise. They can afford the huge expense of the channel, most brands can’t.
The high cost of traditional marketing isn’t its only downfall either. 70% of consumers want to consume content about products, not be sold a product through traditional tactics.
This is where digital marketing comes in.
B2B Digital Marketing
B2B digital marketing channels have a better mix of inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
Inbound digital marketing refers to any marketing strategy where your target audience comes to you, instead of you chasing them. For digital target audiences, this is much easier to achieve.
Inbound marketing, and indeed digital marketing in general, is also more affordable than traditional marketing. Despite costs rising significantly over the last decade, it remains a much more economical option than traditional marketing.
Digital marketing also has the benefit of the return on investment being more measurable. This makes it more appealing to marketers and businesses as the costs can be compared against the profit using analytics. For traditional marketing, much of this was just guesswork.
The most popular B2B digital marketing channels include:
- Content Marketing
- Social media
We’ll look at them all more in-depth, as well as the best practices to follow for each.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is one of the most popular inbound digital marketing strategies.
SEO marketing is the process of improving or optimizing, your website for search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Google holds the market share by a long shot, so we’ll focus on them for the ease of this article.
The way search engines work is by crawling your site. Google sends a crawler bot to your site and this bot looks at many different aspects of your site and indexes this information.
Then the next time someone searches for a query, or keyword, on the search engine, Google uses an algorithm to go through all the sites within its index to find the best ones to return as a result for that specific search.
Different Types of SEO
SEO breaks down into 3 main types:
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
Technical SEO refers to the nuts and bolts of your website. It’s all the bits you can’t see happening like meta tags, site maps, HTTPS, and more. All these things signal to Google what the overall health of your website is.
On-page SEO, as the name suggests, refers to everything you can see on a page. This includes images, copy, header tags, and more. Google ‘reads’ all this to figure out what a page is about.
Off-page SEO is everything that happens away from your website that affects how Google views it. The biggest factor of off-page SEO is links. This refers to when other sites link to your own.
These links, when they come from authoritative sources, signal to Google that other sites think you’re trustworthy. A site with lots of quality links is more likely to be ranked higher than a site without.
B2B SEO Best Practices
As you can see from the different types of SEO above, there are a few different things to consider when it comes to B2B SEO best practices. Many of them are similar to B2C best practices.
Technical SEO Best Practice
For technical SEO, you should as a minimum:
- Use HTTPS
- Only allow Google to index one version of your site
- Find and fix crawl errors
- Improve your site speed
- Fix broken internal links
- Use permanent redirects
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
- Use an SEO friendly URL structure
- Add structured data
There are so many great tools to help with technical SEO. Google provides many of them completely free of charge. This includes Google Search Console and Google mobile-friendly test.
You can use Search Console to find and fix crawl errors on your site. This ensures Google can actually crawl and index the parts of your site you want it to, so it can later serve them up in the search engine results pages.
Google also took a mobile-first approach to indexing way back in 2018, so you should be doing the same. The mobile version of your site should get just as much attention as the desktop version. This includes ensuring a good user experience with load times, usability, and functionality.
Off-Page SEO Best Practices
As we said above, a huge amount of off-page SEO revolves around links. But there’s good and bad link building. Google will penalize you for the latter.
Bad link building is part of what’s called black hat SEO. It refers to those who pay for links, which is against Google’s guidelines. Most often, those who pay for links will end up with low-quality, spammy links to their site.
By low quality, we mean from sites unrelated to your own product or service, as well as sites with a low domain authority.
To ensure you follow best practice link building, you should never pay for links. You can and should reach out to other authoritative, relevant sites with guest blogging opportunities and great content (more on this shortly) to build organic links.
Other off-page SEO ranking factors include social media marketing, brand mentions, influencer marketing, and reviews.
We’ll look at social media marketing soon, but you should be monitoring brand mentions. You can do this by using Google alerts and setting it up to alert you whenever your brand is mentioned. These represent great opportunities to build natural links if the brand mention is unlinked.
You should also have a review-building strategy in place. This means asking customers for reviews through email, social media, in-person, and on your site. Often companies incentivize customers to leave reviews with discounts on future purchases.
On-Page SEO Best Practices
As we mentioned above, Google serves up a page of your website within the search engine results page whenever it matches that page to a user’s search query.
These queries are what are known as keywords for marketers. They’re what rule on-page SEO.
You should optimize your on-page SEO for keywords potential customers will be searching for. You can conduct keyword research by using free tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner or paid-for tools such as Ahrefs or Moz SEO tools.
For best practice, each page should have a primary target keyword. This is often the most obvious phrase, like a product or service name such as “business broadband”.
To target keywords on-page and optimize for search engines, you’ll want to add your primary keyword to your metadata, header tags where appropriate, and throughout your copy.
A word to the wise though, this should read well for users, not just Google. Keyword-stuffing won’t help you rank higher. Google’s algorithm is smart enough to figure out when it’s being done and will rank sites lower for low-quality content, written for search engines instead of humans.
You’ll also want to use high-quality images that are as small as possible in file size for load speeds. Your file names and alt tags should also be optimized with your keyword and readability in mind.
A huge part of on-page SEO is intrinsically linked to content marketing. So we’ll move onto that next.
B2B Content Marketing
You might have heard the phrase, “content is king” thrown around by marketers before. It’s true. It’s an incredible inbound marketing tactic, that if you do it right will bring in leads passively for years to come with no extra effort on your part.
Content marketing links in with both on-page and off-page SEO. We’ll break down the two different types.
On-Page Content Marketing
As we said above, you’ll need to do keyword research as part of your on-page optimization. So what if you’ve found a great keyword that’s relevant to your company and service, but you don’t have a page for it?
You make a page for it, obviously.
But we don’t want to end up with hundreds of pages in our top navigation. So you build a blog to target these long-tail keywords that are relevant to your business.
Content marketing is vital for B2B marketing because of the interest and consideration stage. Both these stages are much longer in the B2B marketing funnel than in the B2C one.
Your company can use content marketing to establish itself as the authority on your service or product.
For example, let’s say a marketing manager has decided they want to improve their pages, based on data-driven decisions. They researched and realized they can conduct A/B testing in the awareness phase.
They go into the awareness phase and begin looking for A/B testing software providers, but there are hundreds of them to consider!
One of the providers appears for lots of different searches while the marketing manager is researching. They have lots of content answering all the different queries the marketing manager has about A/B testing. Another provider only appears a couple of times and the content isn’t that helpful.
Who do you think the marketing manager picks?
Chances are it’s the first provider. This is because content marketing establishes businesses as the authority on the subject, as well as increases their visibility within the search engines.
Off-Page Content Marketing
Another great thing about having loads of high-quality content is it increases your odds of other sites linking to you. So it helps with your off-page SEO too.
So you should be creating content that is keyword-focused and helps your potential customers. But you should also be creating great content that other websites want to link to.
This doesn’t have to be simple blogs or webpages, this could be:
- Case studies
- White papers
And so many more!
Creating great content is an excellent white hat SEO link-building strategy that all B2B businesses should be following.
B2B Email Marketing
Back when social media started picking up steam, many marketers incorrectly claimed email marketing was dead. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, B2B marketing remains one of the most popular channels.
Compared to B2C, B2B emails have a slightly lower open rate — with an average of 15.1% compared to 19.1% for B2C. But they enjoy a higher click-through rate at 3.2% compared to 2.1% for B2C, so they’re more effective at bringing in leads.
Emails offer great engagement and subscriptions for B2B marketers. This can make them a powerful tool in converting leads into customers.
Unlike in B2C, where emails will mostly be to up-sell and entertain, B2B emails should be focused on informing and educating. They’re a great tool for the post-purchase stage to keep customers engaged and increase customer loyalty.
To do this, you need to resonate with your audience. Your content marketing should work hand-in-hand with your email marketing. You should be providing information your users want and need, not just up-selling products.
B2B Email Marketing Best Practices
For best practice, you shouldn’t be spamming your subscribers. A good general rule of thumb is to send no more than five emails a month and no less than one.
You should use enticing subject lines to increase your open rate. Netflix is a great example of this with their two-line synopsis on every film. They entice you into wanting to watch the movie or, in this case, open the email.
Your emails shouldn’t be long or cluttered with different content either. Stick to one topic and one call-to-action per email. This will increase your click-through rate.
You should also segment your email subscriber list. Not every email will be helpful for every customer. Segmenting your list allows you to target your emails at the subscribers who will find that content the most helpful.
This will help your open and click-through rates. But it will also help decrease your unsubscribe rate.
You should also be following the relevant privacy laws for your country. For example, even though GDPR isn’t American legislation, American businesses whose subscribers may be affected by GDPR should be trying to follow these guidelines.
B2B Social Media Marketing
Social media might seem like a channel that is more suited to B2C businesses, but it’s not the case. In fact, 75% of B2B buyers say that social media affects their purchasing decisions.
Despite this statistic, many B2B marketers ignore the importance of social media. This is because it can deliver lackluster results compared to other channels.
The issue here is the expectation. For B2C businesses, social media marketing can deliver great quality leads and conversions.
However, for B2B businesses social media marketing is more focused on brand awarenessand authority. Much like content marketing, it’s there to show potential customers that you’re a good choice.
As well as this, it can give B2B businesses more personality in an otherwise serious or somber industry. It can make you human. For potential customers, this can be a big influence on whether they choose your product or service.
B2B Social Media Marketing Best Practices
Like email marketing, your social media marketing should go hand-in-hand with your content marketing. You should be providing helpful information to your target audience, not just selling.
You should also be using the right social media platforms. There are a whole host of different social media platforms available. The most popular include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Out of that list, which do you think your customers will be on?
Lots of this comes down to the demographics of users on different platforms. For example, TikTok users are most often aged between 16 to 24. So it’s unlikely you’ll find your target audience on that platform and you shouldn’t waste your resources and time on it.
For most B2B businesses, LinkedIn is the most valuable social media platform. So you should focus your efforts on the channels that will bring in the best results for your business.
If you feel like you’re just shouting into the void when conducting B2B social media marketing, and indeed SEO marketing, don’t worry. That’s where PPC marketing comes in.
B2B PPC Marketing
Last, but by no means least, is PPC marketing. PPC stands for pay-per-click. As such, it’s a paid form of digital marketing. There are many different PPC marketing platforms with the most popular for B2B being:
- Search ads
- Display ads
- Social ads
We’ll cover them all briefly.
Search ads are the ads you see appear within the search engine results pages. Most often they appear as text at the top of the page. There’s a small amount of copy and if you click through you’ll be directed to the advertizer’s site.
For B2B marketers, search ads offer a great opportunity for visibility within the search engine results pages. For newer companies who haven’t yet been established long enough for their SEO strategy to have helped, PPC is a great option for getting eyes on your service or product.
Search ads are keyword-focused. You’ll pick a selection of keywords that, when searched by a user, will trigger your ad to appear.
The most popular search ad provider is Google Ads, but there are many options to consider depending on which search engine your target audience uses.
Display ads are a type of graphic paid advertising. They’re the image-led ads you see appear all over the internet on other websites.
Most often, display ads are used as a form of remarketing. This is when a user has already visited your website and you want your brand to stay in their mind. You can use display ads to “follow” around users who have previously been to your site.
Display ads are a great tool for building brand awareness. They’re completely free to use unless someone clicks on them. So they’re a cost-effective solution to achieve this.
You can also target display ads based on the demographics and interests of your target audience. As well as basing it on other sites your target audience has visited, such as competitor sites.
As above, the most popular display ad provider is Google Ads. They display ads across a network of 2 million websites.
Social ads are adverts that appear on social media channels. Most often this is within users’ natural news feeds.
There are different types of ads available for each different platform. For example, on Facebook, you can place ads during videos while Twitter doesn’t have this functionality. The most common type of ad is a sponsored post.
This is where you take one of your posts and pay for it to appear in front of your target audience. Your target audiences can be based on location, interests, demographics, and behavior. For LinkedIn, you can also target based on companies and contacts.
Social media ads on the right platform are a great tool for getting your content in front of your target audience