B2B marketing is a lot like traveling. When you start on any journey, seldom would you just head out the doors, aimlessly walking and traveling where your fate leads you. Well, you can choose to do that, but needless to say, it’s the perfect recipe for an unfulfilling experience full of hardships and disorientation.
Instead, a better way would be to create a clear roadmap from your starting point to the destination, compare between modes of transport, and choose the most effective, comfortable, and less time-consuming route. At the same time, you’d also want to ensure you have all essentials in your backpack – water, food, fresh clothes, money, electronic gadgets, and more.
Similarly, to succeed in B2B Marketing, you need to have a clear roadmap that leads you to your target audience and then leads them back to you for a purchase. Not sure how to do that?
Well, this guide will walk you through the 8 steps to an effective B2B marketing strategy.
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1. Start with Defining Your Business Goals and Objectives
Don’t quite think of your campaign and messaging yet, neither who the target audience will be. The very first thing to do is to understand your own business and its objectives and goals. Ensure your objectives are SMART or –
Increased sales as a business goal are pretty vague. Instead, a 25% increase in sales by the end of the second quarter looks like a more specific and clear goal. Not just that, be specific about the areas you want to see assured improvement. This could include finance (reduced costs), product or service (better innovation), customer support (user-friendly website experience), personnel (hiring new specialists), or operations (upgrading premises of existing technology).
You can create a separate table for each of the above-mentioned categories and note down the goals you expect to achieve under each.
Once you’ve set ‘specific’ goals, it’s easy to measure your business’ performance. For instance – taking from the example above, not meeting the target of a 25% increase in sales by the end of the second quarter will let you know that you haven’t achieved the desired goal. Accordingly, you can conduct an analysis to see where the major loopholes were – marketing, customer service, or any other department.
Do you want to spend precious time and resources towards achieving a goal only to later find out, much to your disappointment, that you bit off more than you could chew? The third step is to check whether the goals you’ve set are attainable or achievable.
Here’s an example of a goal that aims for the skies but still keeps one foot firmly on the ground of reality – Participating in monthly business networking events and making at least three profitable connections in each event.
Now that you know that setting attainable goals means breaking down your big picture into its puzzle pieces, goal relevance is the next thing to ensure. Often, a smaller goal, though attainable, may be irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Always check whether a smaller goal ladder up to your end goal. Here’s an example – If your end goal is to sell your client list to a larger player for more profits, the relevant yearly goal could be a 10% increase in profits. Similarly, the current month’s goal could be billing in an additional 200 hours. The weekly goal could be remarketing to five dormant clients. The daily goal could be engaging with one existing client and making two LinkedIn comments.
Finally, put a date on your goal achievement and try to stick to the deadline. Not only do deadlines increase your sense of urgency, but they keep you from falling behind. Just think, what if you end up achieving a goal but fall behind by two months simply because you did not set a deadline? This is not a cause for celebration since, in the meantime, you’d have lost time, money, credibility, and competitive edge.
2. Then Comes Identifying Your TAM
The market is vast, customers are many, actively seeking customers are few, and those who take a genuine interest in your business could be even fewer. Now, if you were to shoot your marketing campaigns in all directions, your only hope is luck. But as we know, even luck favors those B2B Marketers who know their audience to the last detail.
No, this is not just about campaign personalization but hyper-personalization, only possible via understanding your audience’s purchase intent. So, how do you go about this? Definitely start with your unique needs – do you have specific demographics or geography in mind, maybe certain job titles or companies you wish to target?
Then, follow the BANT framework closely, which stands for –
- Budget – Does your target audience have the budget to invest in your products and services?
- Authority – Have you been successful in identifying key decision-makers and those with purchasing power?
- Need – Are the leads you’ve chosen to target in need of your products and services?
- Timeline – Are you marketing to them at the right time, or have they already availed of similar services from competitor firms?
The leads that pass the above tests may be genuinely interested in hearing from you. Moreover, you must also keep a close eye to see which leads are actively searching for similar products and services online, especially on competitor websites, which leads are spending the most time on your website, etc.
Then create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) based on your best customers. Unless you know your audience well, you can’t cater to their needs and pain points. To get a holistic view of your customers, you must maintain a high-performing CRM of premium SQLs that facilitates multi-channel communication.
3. Now, Start Mapping the Customer Journey
Regardless of the industry, most B2B customers go through multiple touch-points before deciding to purchase. For some industries such as healthcare and technology, the sales cycle can be pretty long – 10 to 12 months. However, if you map your customers’ journey and give them what they need right where they’re positioned in the sales funnel, you stand a better chance of shortening the sales cycle significantly.
To do that, start by –
- Knowing precisely what your customers are searching for online, what their pain-points are, and how your offerings can address them.
- Then, try to understand the search intent of your audience. Meaning, which stage of the sales funnel they’re in. For instance – are they merely looking for different solutions to their problems, or have they started comparing between companies that can solve their problems?
- Now, see if any of the search queries match with the search intent.
Make a note of the answers to these questions, as they will later help you decide your marketing mediums and develop hyper-personalized marketing messages.
4. Never Skip Spying on Your Competitors
Or, to speak in a more business-friendly way, never neglect undertaking competitor intelligence. When you do this, you get to know –
- What your competitors are doing right (their strengths)
- And what they’re doing wrong (their weaknesses)
Both of which will give you vital clues for business planning. For instance, here are some of the outcomes you can hope to achieve by conducting competitor analysis –
- Which channels they are using to target their audience
- Which channel(s) show the highest level of engagement
- What online reviews on their website, Facebook, etc. say
- How they’re replying to queries and negative comments on their Twitter and Instagram handles
- How often do they publish content to stay on top of their customers’ minds
- How much traffic they are drawing to their site and which pages on their website are ranking the highest
You can even get an idea of the content that is the least engaging or ranks low. This way, you can implement similar or better strategies to attract customers quickly while avoiding costly mistakes your competitors have already made.
Note that it all starts by listing down as many direct and indirect competitors as possible to have a clear idea of who you’re up against (so first do that!).
5. Bring All that You’ve Learned to a Single Place
Up until this point was the analysis and research stage. From this point onwards, you need to put your theory into practice or, in other words, start creating a blueprint for the different marketing channels and content to be used.
First, identify whether your aim is lead generation or demand generation. In the latter case, the most critical marketing channels would be social media handles, mainly LinkedIn. In the case of the former, pay close attention to email marketing, Google PPC ads, search engine marketing, event marketing, but also social media ads.
However, one type of marketing that can determine the success of each of the other channels is content marketing. So, be it lead or demand-gen, map your content to the sales funnel, and the position of each leads in it. Here are the different stages and the content relevant for each stage –
Awareness stage (Top of the funnel)
In this stage, your audience is simply looking for answers to their pain-points. So, the best content for this stage would be informative blog posts, social posts on relevant topics with links to detailed industry reports and case studies, or informative yet short-form content such as infographics.
Evaluation stage (Middle of the sales funnel)
Here, most leads are conducting heavy research to decide whether your product can address their unique pain-points. So, some of the best content at this stage would be whitepapers, email invites to interactive events, more case studies, thought leadership blog posts, or a product comparison guide.
Decision-making stage (bottom of the funnel)
This stage is equally crucial as the purchase decision will be made here. You don’t want to come this far and lose out on a lead. So, use the following types of content to encourage your leads to take that final step – free product trial, attractive discounts or coupons, and share more customer testimonials or success stories.
6. Launch Lead-Gen Campaigns Closely Followed by Lead Nurturing Strategies (Pilot Programs)
If, until this point, you’ve used an accurate leads database that offers a holistic view of your customers, done your due diligence, and developed marketing strategies based on each lead’s position in the sales funnel, this step should go pretty smoothly.
Here, you need to run pilot programs to get a realistic idea of your campaigns’ performance. The pilot campaign could be a mix of different channels, further chosen based on the sales funnel stage. For instance – for the awareness stage, you can focus heavily on search engine and social media marketing, whereas for the consideration stage, you may bring email and event marketing into the mix.
Do remember to give your pilot program the time it needs to reveal accurate and realistic results. Depending upon your industry, this could vary from 8 to 12 weeks. During the time of running the program, do not change your previously-defined goals, chosen marketing channels, content types, basically anything. The changes can be made once the results are out.
7. Track Performance, Rectify Errors, Run More Tests
Now, your A/B tests will only be useful if you know how to measure campaign performance. This means choosing relevant Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. But remember – don’t just choose KPIs that measure overall campaign performance.
As important as they are, you must have a clear idea of how each channel is performing. So, choose channel-specific KPIs (and only the relevant ones) to understand whether the campaign’s look, the content, etc., is performing optimally.
For instance –
- Some of the key management or general KPIs would be Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), Customer satisfaction rate, etc.
- Some important email marketing KPIs to track would be bounce rate, Click to Open Rate (CTOR), Click-Through Rate (CTR), Spam rates, etc.
- Important LinkedIn marketing KPIs would include engagement rates, ad click-through rates, impressions, audience growth rate, etc.
And so on. Make sure you track campaign performance across channels and discover the loopholes wherever needed. For instance – If you find that your email deliverability and the open rate is high, but CTOR is low, it’s a clear indication that you have the accurate contact details of the relevant audience, but there’s still some work to be done in understanding their key pain-points to make the content more relevant to their needs. Once the errors have been rectified, run a few more tests and repeat this process.
8. Finally, Never Stop Learning
Once you feel that you’re achieving the desired results with your pilot programs, you can be sure that you’re not just aware of your most valuable customers but also intimately aware of their needs, likes and dislikes, and more.
However, no effective B2B marketing strategy stops here. These steps do not form a linear path. Instead, they create a cycle that must be repeated to avoid stagnancy. Meaning, always stay curious and learn more about your industry, current trends, key decision-makers, customers’ changing needs, and how each marketing channel can be leveraged more effectively.
Now that you’ve been given a step-by-step walk-through for creating an effective B2B marketing strategy, what’s holding you back? Better not be complacency! Get the ball rolling today and grow your business like you’ve always dreamed of.