B2B marketing, or business-to-business marketing, is the act of marketing to business buyers. One business utilizes successful outbound and inbound strategies and marketing tactics to target and sell to another. Ultimately, the goal is to expand and strengthen business relationships, which are usually mutually beneficial in the long term.
Your B2B marketing strategies matter even more when your market is tight (e.g., when there are only, say, ~2000 known buyers within the U.S. for what your organization is selling to solve a particular business problem). Profitable growth during an economic downturn is always possible, but companies should pursue the help of qualified marketing agencies to avoid risking their company's integrity during trying times.
Let's take a look at proven B2B strategies that can reinvigorate a longer sales cycle in the buying process.
Who makes the purchasing decisions for the company you're eyeing? There's a solid chance an older Millennial will be on the other end, pulling the financial strings or impacting Gen X and Baby Boomer decision makers they report to (yes, you can still account for some Boomers in there too). According to Merit, Millennials are the ones to convince. Most of them are in their late 20s and 30s, working towards a thriving career. Millennials are even the sole decision maker for countless B2B companies. But in the end, this is unique for each company and something essential to evaluate up-front as a part of strategy development, to hone in on your buying tribe(s).
Establishing convenient and relevant communication methods and fast response times are crucial to connecting with potential buyers, regardless of their generation.
In a tight market, it's essential to reflect on whether your company should focus more on retention or acquisition marketing (like demand generation and lead generation). One works to engage and secure new customers, while the other focuses on cultivating existing clients and providing top-tier, responsive customer service.
Acquisition marketing: Drives new business by attracting prospective customers, grows customer base by adding new clients, increases sales, and increases brand awareness with higher marketing costs. (Those higher marketing costs can be offset through clever marketing automation).
Retention marketing: Focuses on lifetime value marketing, customer attentiveness, and lowering churn rate, which helps reduce marketing costs.
Now it's time to determine what your company needs. Customer retention only comes after firmly understanding the correct marketing approach. In many cases, acquisition marketing should be the primary focus initially (and ultimately, ongoing in most cases if growth is a top-line KPI).
B2B marketing relationships are usually long-term investments. Many people are involved in the purchasing decision, so the company you're hoping to do business with will want longevity and consistency. They don't want to reconsider a new avenue for their products and services when they regularly need something niche or challenging to find.
The buyer's journey starts with gaining brand (and solution) awareness and ends with a purchase. Since we're dealing with B2B marketing, the purchasing team should experience the same introductory path toward the product.
While B2C marketing targets the consumer's individual needs at that time, B2B marketing involves numerous stakeholders; interests and desires may conflict. The ultimate goal is to get everyone, from the executive buyer to the internal product user, to be on the same page and build a long-lasting relationship with the entire team.
There are three stages to a buyer's journey: awareness, consideration, and the ultimate decision. Another way to put it: We need to make sure your brand is as omnipresent as possible in the spaces they hang out in, especially in the digital realm, to gain top-of-mind awareness over your competition. The benefit of doing that is that we can take them from curious to interested to wanting much faster than just hoping they remember your brand.
During the awareness stage, the purchasing committee is experiencing a problem and needs a solution. The buyers are conducting educational research, primarily online, to understand a tool, piece of equipment, or anything else they need to maintain and enhance some aspect of operations. Your marketing team needs to ensure that your brand has a solid, clear, easy-to-use online presence (your primary lead magnet!) while companies delve deep into their problem and hone in on their options.
When the market is tight, it's essential to implement search engine optimization (SEO) and rank in Google searches during the awareness phase. Remember that depending on your competition's savviness in the digital realm, they may or may not already be ahead of you in this marketing long game. But there's no better time than now to start working on ranking for keyword phrases that your potential clients are searching for. Bearing that the committee is still learning their problems, even a glimpse of your brand during this search phase can establish awareness and trust.
Next comes consideration. Your marketing team should take this consideration stage and run with it, as it's arguably the most crucial step. The prospective buyer is now completely aware of their problem and is weighing all options. They are now looking at what organization and solution suit their needs best, which must be yours.
A thorough competitive analysis will help bolster your organization for the consideration phase. When the market is tight, you're all too aware of the threat of competitors. But knowing what they're doing from a tactical perspective is key to understanding how you can beat them to the punch.
Marketing teams should build content around highlighting the flaws in the competition without dragging their name in the mud. The goal is to put your brand on a pedestal, not tear the other down (stay positive!). Pointing clearly and concisely to how your brand addresses problems better than the alternatives, without naming them directly, is vital for consideration stage success.
Now the buying team is ready to make a decision. These decision-makers likely have a list of options available for everyone to consult at this stage. Your on-site content needs to be convincing and better than the competition to ensure their final purchasing decision bodes well for your company.
And speaking of content…
Some content is timeless ("evergreen" content), but most of the time, it needs a new set of eyes to assess it somewhat regularly.
To maintain fresh content, you must factor in content inventory, waste, and performance.
When the market is tight, you don't want to waste valuable time on under-utilized content. But "content waste" is something where many B2B companies struggle. Around 60-70% of all B2B content never sees the light of day, and this is one of the worst things to happen in a tight market since wasted content is quite costly. It's not a quantity game; it's a quality game.
So you must ask: what content can you use again, and what is going to waste and costing you potential buyers?
It's certainly possible to get ahead of the content waste problem. Marketers can compile detailed spreadsheets -- what we call a "content inventory list" -- of all on-site content and each page's intended purpose.
Next, you can perform a content audit if the inventory needs a refresher, which will give a clear insight into what content converts and drives leads and eventually sales, and what doesn't.
Next, you improve upon the content inventory. Content inventory should include tedious but crucial information like release dates, metadata descriptions, the content's headline, OpenGraph tags, the target audience, the URLs for posted content, and the content creators' and authors' names to name a few often missed aspects of optimized content. After this assessment, all the digital content you currently have and their correlating assets should become apparent.
Now you'll be more in tune with how your content is performing and can understand gap analysis strategy.
You may notice you have much content geared towards the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer's journey, but not enough to move the needle towards helping solidify a purchasing decision. Or maybe you aren't ranking in Google, or you published the content too long ago. The old content may also not give the buyers all the details if there is new, meaningful information about your product. It might also not fit social media trends like the competitor's content.
There's nothing more frustrating to a potential buying team than a confusing, cluttered website that's difficult to navigate.
You only get one chance with a website visitor, and most spend only 50 milliseconds on your page before determining if they're staying or going. They're immediately looking for specific keywords and word clusters that give them a solution to their problem, so your marketing team must know what those words are.
Revenue Driving Tactics: Generate revenue faster by implementing strategies that give your website visitors quick answers. You can do this by ensuring someone is available to answer questions on social media platforms. You may also use a live chat that directs specific questions to a customer service representative. Testimonials and case studies can also help you sell your product since most purchasers take these opinions seriously, especially those of your clients.
Know Your Stuff: Make sure you have a call to action on different website sections and state whom your website intends to help. It's also wise to list the problems that your typical client base has. Illustrating these problems shows you've carefully thought about how your product solves issues and your target buyers' concerns. This helps potential customers see how you have used it to solve similar organizations' problems.
Interlinking: Inbound and outbound links enhance the potential buyer's website experience. Show that you've done your research by outsourcing relevant reference content. But don't also forget to link back to your own website's pages, creating a map of your website that the user can easily navigate.
Blogs: You also want to explore different avenues of securing a buyer without repeating the same information. This is where a blog, or thought leadership area, comes in handy to publish high-quality content (Tip: "blog" is just a term, but you don't need to label it a "blog." In fact, we'd prefer you didn't). It's an area of your website you can use to address different scenarios when someone would need your product. Your best bet for search engine optimization purposes? Ensure the blog titles are questions someone would type into Google during the buyer's journey.
Mobile Optimization: It's also bad for purchasing decision-makers if your website doesn't complement mobile browsing (Google is increasingly penalizing for this in organic content ranking). Your website might look fabulous on a desktop, but the second it's confined to a small screen, it could lose its appeal. And it's important to note that many people browse and start their buyer journey away from the main office while on the go. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to review and enhance overall mobile delivery.
There are many B2B marketing strategies and tactics to consider; the above only scratches the surface when building and executing a successful B2B marketing strategy. And it's one thing to understand the purpose of B2B marketing, but another thing to implement, execute, optimize, and manage overall progress.
So who can implement techniques for business owners and ensure they achieve the appropriate results?
That's where a Fractional CMO like Curt comes in.
A Fractional CMO can offer more insight and results than an overworked PR firm outside their focus or other half-hearted marketing efforts by a marketing agency more focused on clocking billable hours than impacting top-line KPIs for your organization.
After all, it's not just about putting an ad out into the world and hoping for the best (the "spray and pray" approach).
Enlisting someone with a keen, holistic understanding of digital marketing and advertising intricacies can help your organization remove inefficiencies at every level of marketing + advertising and help you gain significant forward momentum.
If they know the B2B space, that's great, but a Fractional CMO with experience in both B2B and B2C will provide the most well-rounded expertise out there, as, in many ways, B2C marketing is a much more challenging landscape.
This potent combo of knowledge and know-how provides the necessary, specialized view of how to tune your organization's marketing and paid media tactics like demand generation, website traffic and social media strategy into actual leads and clients (with nurturing).
A Fractional CMO can help your organization gain and retain customers when the market looks daunting, without the heavy overhead of a salaried Chief Marketing Officer and an entire marketing & technology department to back them.
To learn more about how Curt and his curated senior team can help you with the specific B2B strategies you need in a tight market, book a free consult with Curt today!