B2B marketers are always pulling double duty.
For one, we create the sorts of high-volume funnels that are popular in the world of B2C. But we also play matchmaker — creating special experiences for our most valuable target accounts, opening up one-to-one conversations with sales reps, and strengthening our bonds with our best customers.
All of that is to say that B2B marketing is a big job. But with the right strategies in hand, you can get through even the biggest jobs with ease.
In this ultimate guide to B2B marketing, we show you exactly how to craft a robust B2B marketing strategy that will win over small fish and big fish alike. Plus, we offer advice on the best marketing channels and trends to try.
Ready to dive in? Let’s go ⚡️
What Is B2B Marketing?
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is the practice of marketing to professional audiences, whether that’s corporate employees, C-suite executives, or small business owners.
In the B2B world, buying decisions are complex. Usually, there are multiple decision-makers to win over, tons of competitors to beat, and a variety of metrics to consider. And, as B2B buying becomes increasingly digitized, the number of buyer interactions grows — with the average now being 27 interactions.
All of this means that B2B marketers can’t just talk product features and benefits with their target audiences. Instead, they need to offer solutions to different problems and pain points by leveraging a variety of channels that will put them on their buyer’s radar again and again.
B2B vs. B2C Marketing
The difference between B2B marketing and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing comes down to the audience. While a B2B company typically targets a specific subset of employees, such as accountants or CFOs, a B2C company will target consumers based on demographic groups or interests. Think of categories like middle-aged women or amateur golfers.
B2B and B2C companies target the same people but for different aspects of their lives.
That distinction is key. With increasing support for a healthy work-life balance, people are growing to ignore ill-timed content. So, a great B2B marketing plan isn’t just about targeting your ideal audience — it’s also about reaching them when they’re in the right headspace.
Building a B2B Marketing Strategy (Step by Step)
Crafting the perfect B2B marketing plan is a daunting task. So, take things one at a time by following these seven steps.
1. Clarify Your Target Audience
The first step to nailing your B2B marketing strategy is to define your target audience. When you’re crystal clear on who your target audience is, your channels and content will fall into place more easily.
There are a few different ways that B2B companies can go about doing this. One of the most popular methods is known as the Jobs to Be Done framework (JTBD). This method is effective for B2B marketers because it puts the tasks that your audience needs to achieve front and center.
For example, if your company offers a travel management tool, your ideal audience might be office managers who need to book travel for their bosses and teammates. When you have the main task down, you can then list out all of the related functional tasks, emotional struggles, and any personal or social aspects to drive home the value of your solution.
JTBD is great for understanding the emotional and functional aspects of your buyers’ jobs. But for accurate targeting, you need to get even more specific.
Many companies craft an ideal customer profile (ICP) — which focuses not only on target roles and responsibilities — but also the ideal characteristics of your target company. When defining your ICP, you should be able to clarify your ideal industry, company size, company revenue, and geographic location.
After you’ve used these methods to narrow down your target audience, most importantly, make sure to touch base with your internal stakeholders to ensure you’re all on the same page.
2. Research Your Target Audience & Competitors
Before you start building your strategy, you need to make sure your marketing is aligned with what your target audience needs. And that means you’re going to have to do some research.
Make sure to add these items to your research list when looking into your target audience:
- Job-related problems: What does your target audience struggle with on a daily basis? What metrics and goals do they struggle to meet? Which responsibilities do they need help with?
- Industry trends: What trends and news items are making waves in your target audience’s world? What technological advancements and innovations do they feel the pressure to adopt?
- Favorite resources: Find out where your target audience turns to get their problems solved, including their favorite podcasts, YouTube channels, LinkedIn influencers, Twitter accounts, books, and courses.
- Competing products, services, and marketing: Research your direct competitors (companies that solve the same problem as you in a similar way). Find out how your products and services compare, both positively and negatively. Also check their content marketing, social media channels, and advertising to see how they market.
To collect all of this information, you can use a variety of methods like calling and surveying your customers, social listening, sitting in on sales calls, or purchasing and trying out competing products. All of this research will come into play when choosing which channels to use, which offers to create, and more.
The other half of this step is being an expert in everything your company has to offer. This means you also need to source information from your product, sales, customer success, and operations teams to get their take on what your target customers really care about. Each department will have its own understanding of your target customer and industries and, as a marketer, you should be able to synthesize all of that information into a few core messages.
3. Assemble Your Team & Review Your Capacity
At this point, you’ve researched your target audience and your competitive landscape. You’ve probably got a head full of ideas.
But before you start putting those ideas into practice, you’re going to need to have the right team on board.
Not to mention you need to make sure you have enough people to execute your marketing plan. Because when it comes to common B2B marketing challenges, one of the biggest is a lack of talent bandwidth: 60% of marketing leaders list it as a top struggle.
Based on your budget, there are several different ways that you can organize your B2B marketing team. You could do everything entirely in-house (whether that involves one person or whole teams of people), lean on freelancers and external agenices, or do a mix of both.
However you choose to structure your team, the point is to not bite off more than you can chew. Without the right talent, you won’t be able to execute your marketing plan. So, double-check your budget and team capacity before moving on to step four.
4. Choose Your Top Marketing Channels
Now it’s time to choose which marketing channels you’ll use to reach your target audience. The best channels for B2B marketing include email marketing, social media marketing (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter), organic search, and Conversational Marketing. (We’ll go into more detail about each of these channels later on.)
Start by listing out the channels that you know your team has enough capacity to tackle. Then, narrow down the channels you’d actually like to take on based on their performance during testing.
Make sure your initial list includes both inbound and outbound channels as both of these strategies will come into play. For instance, you might attract leads with content and social media and then approach those same leads with paid advertising and account-based marketing (ABM).
5. Brainstorm Campaigns and Content Offers
Once you’ve decided on your core marketing channels, it’s time to come up with your first campaign.
Here at Drift, we’re big believers in integrated campaigns. An integrated campaign focuses on spreading a core message or theme across different content offers and channels. This core message unites all your marketing teams in delivering a cohesive buying experience.
In order to engage as much of your target audience as possible, make sure you have offers for each step in the buyer’s journey. This way, you can attract and serve as much of your target audience as possible.
6. Set Your Marketing Goals
No marketing plan would be complete without some way to measure your success. That’s why the next step is to set your marketing goals. By setting and tracking goals, everyone will be on the same page and will work cohesively towards shared initiatives.
Here, the rule of thumb is to set goals that are realistic but still ambitious. Talk with executive leaders and stakeholders to come up with and prioritize your goals for each quarter — for example, you might have a set number of sales-qualified leads (SQLs) you want to drive.
From there, you can work backwards to figure out the micro-metrics you will need to hit to attain that big picture goal. You can use industry average metrics or internal data to home in on those target numbers. So, for example, if you need to drive 300 SQLs in a quarter and you assume a 10% conversion rate from an ebook download to an SQL, then you’ll know you need to drive 3,000 downloads for your ebook.
7. Manage & Measure Your Channels
Now that all the pieces are in place, it’s time to launch your multi-channel marketing strategy — and then, all that’s left is to measure your results.
How often you measure your performance will depend on the channel that you are using. Some channels will be managed infrequently — for instance, you might only have one big event per year — while others, such as your social media, will require constant management.
Each channel will also have its own metrics. Here’s an example of a funnel for a paid advertising campaign.
No matter what campaigns you run, it’s important that you look at the entire funnel and measure against your big picture goals, so you can make the right improvements. Because ultimately, if you’re only generating a lot of interest without actually converting them into new opportunities, your campaigns will not have accomplished what you intended them to do.
To track results across your entire funnel, you’ll need to partner up with sales. Sharing metrics will help you get to the bottom of any issues so that you can further iterate on your campaigns and strategies.
The Best B2B Marketing Strategies & Channels to Consider
With all the paths you can take in B2B marketing, it can be hard to know what strategies and channels are best for your company.
That’s why we’ve picked out the most popular, tried-and-true B2B marketing strategies for you to consider. So long as your target audience and offers align, you really can’t go wrong with these channels.
Email marketing is the bread and butter of many B2B companies, and it can act as a conduit for your entire brand experience.
You can use email throughout your entire customer experience — whether that’s to deliver downloadable content, communicate with people who have registered for your events, nurture leads after they interact with your ads, or notify target accounts of relevant content based on their behavior on your website.
To get the most out of your email marketing, make sure to leverage email marketing automation and integrations with your customer relationship management software (CRMs). Tools like Drift Email can also help automatically enrich your contact information and drive more conversations with qualified leads. This way, you will have a unified view of every lead and customer in your database so you can easily deliver a seamless, high-quality experience.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is truly one of the best B2B marketing strategies because it turns traditional marketing — which was designed for B2C — on its head.
Instead of trying to attract a wide variety of people and pull them deeper down your funnel, ABM is about identifying specific companies that you’d love to convert into customers. Then, you create a buying experience that is designed for those target accounts.
ABM doesn’t mean you should throw out your marketing funnel, though — instead, you’ll want to combine ABM with other, more traditional marketing strategies.
That’s because, as a B2B company, you probably have a variety of services that are geared to different companies. And while ABM is great for winning over big enterprise accounts, more traditional strategies like content marketing are better for winning over small and medium-sized businesses.
Want to know what it takes to create an ABM strategy that drives strong relationships and revenue? Grab our step-by-step guide to building ABM campaigns.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing allows you unfettered access to millions of your target customers.
But with all that potential comes a lot of competition. The best creators and brands in the world produce content for social media, so you’ll need to step up your game if you want to have a chance of beating the algorithm and reaching your audience.
If you want to do B2B social media marketing right, check out project management platform ClickUp’s recent tweets. They use their Twitter account to share product marketing updates as well as provide humorous anecdotes about work life.
Even as a B2B company, you can invest in platforms designed for B2C audiences, such as Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. But only do so after you’ve gotten some traction with proven B2B platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube — that is, unless you’re serving an audience of small business owners who will be easier to reach on B2C platforms.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is just like it sounds. You pay for every click on your ads — whether that’s on a social media platform like LinkedIn or a search engine like Google.
Because you don’t pay until you get a click, it’s easier to measure and ensure a return on investment (ROI) compared to old-school forms of advertising like billboards and TV spots. If a campaign isn’t performing well, you can simply turn it off before it costs you too much money.
LinkedIn is one of the most popular PPC advertising platforms for B2B companies because you can tap into a professional audience. In this BigCommerce ad, you can see a cool feature of LinkedIn advertising: showing all of your connections that follow the company, which provides social proof.
For complex products with long buying cycles, try running ads to your content offers rather than your product pages so you can educate and nurture your buyers. If your solution is less pricey or has a simpler buying process though, it doesn’t hurt to run ads straight to the landing pages for purchases.
53% of B2B marketing leaders say that content marketing will be crucial to their team’s success over the next few years.
And that’s hardly surprising. Content marketing has become wildly popular over the last couple of decades because it yields more leads at a lower cost. Plus, through helpful and educational content, you can build a brand that your audience trusts, returns to, and shares with others.
Take Semrush’s Resources navigation as an example. You’ll see that the company creates content in a variety of formats for their target audience of SEO professionals — blog posts, research studies, webinars, and courses, as well as examples of best optimized websites.
In B2B, your customers’ success is your success. The better the results they get, the less likely they are to churn. So make sure you’re creating content that not only attracts new leads but also educates existing customers.
In-Person & Virtual Events
Naturally, with B2B marketing, your addressable market is smaller than in B2C. After all, you’re marketing to a subset of professionals not an entire demographic.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to get as much of your audience in the same room as possible — whether that room is real…or virtual.
Here at Drift, we host in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. Some of these are available only for contacts at our top accounts as part of our ABM strategy, and others are designed for our entire audience of current customers, potential customers, and brand advocates.
For example, our virtual event, GTM Lab, is all about educating and inspiring revenue teams with a deep dive into go-to-market strategies and best practices. Check it out for yourself here!
B2B Marketing Trends to Try for Yourself
Though you might be the type of person whose wary of jumping on trends, these B2B marketing trends are definitely worth your consideration. So, give them a read and see if any will fit into your existing strategy. (You won’t regret it.)
ICP-Focused Employee Advocacy
Company social media accounts tend to be a little bland — but your company is made up of real people. By getting your employees to advocate for your brand, you can reach more of your target audience on social media than if you were to only post on your company account.
But remember: Employee advocacy comes in different flavors — and each drives different results.
Let’s say you’re trying to get new customers for a DevOps solution. If your employees are only posting about their sales or marketing initiatives, they might connect with employees from other companies, but they won’t necessarily attract customers.
In this example from Jeff McNey, we see a sales professional creating content for his ICP — not other sellers. This type of post is better equipped to drive pipeline.
To make the most of employee advocacy, try these ideas:
- Offer to train your employees in social media best practices and how to feel confident when sharing their expert takes.
- Create content that your employees can easily share.
- Encourage your employees to not only share their opinions and behind-the-scenes insights, but to also create content designed specifically for your ideal customers.
Personal Branding for Founders and Executives
Building a strong personal brand is a surefire way to drive long-term relationships with your ideal audience and cut through the noise of boring and stale B2B content. It’s especially effective for company founders and executives who will be staying at your company for a long time and can easily display your brand values.
Yoav Vilner is the CEO of Walnut, a platform for interactive B2B product demos. His LinkedIn content racks up hundreds of engagements, which means he’s likely getting tens of thousands of views on every post.
His movement, #WeAreProspects, is all about reminding sellers that we’re all prospects and that we can all take part in improving the state of B2B sales. The viral hashtag was even featured in Mashable.
As this shows, simply put, personal branding yields compound returns. The views and visibility translate into media coverage, more good news to share online, and interest your business can easily capitalize on.
Start Conversations from Content with Conversational Marketing
Your sales team is constantly using content to close deals. But you can take this top-converting content one step further with a Conversational Marketing platform.
Conversational Marketing empowers you to share relevant content with website visitors in a conversational way, while also providing an opportunity to further engage and nurture them.
For example, Proofpoint uses Drift Conversational Marketing to engage all their website visitors that aren’t quite ready to get in touch with sales yet. When you land on their site, you’re given a few options — and if you click to learn more about email security, the chatbot will share a report that provides in-depth information into the email threat landscape and solutions to combat it.
Not only does Proofpoint’s experience educate potential buyers on an issue that their solution helps solve, but it also gives them insight into their site visitors’ interests. They can then use this information to provide follow-up recommendations in chat or surface relevant marketing and sales resources to re-engage them at a later date.
Remember how we said that the average B2B buying process now requires 27 interactions?
Well, retargeting offers a strategic way to continue the conversation with potential customers. Retargeting allows you to drive traffic back to your website (and your sales team), whether that’s from LinkedIn posts or Google display ads. The opportunities are endless.
To ensure that your traffic drives more conversations, supercharge your retargeting strategies with Conversational Marketing. This will allow you to craft a chatbot playbook that is relevant to the ad that your visitor clicked.
Plus, you can set up real-time notifications so that your sales reps can jump into live chat and engage with their target accounts directly. This way, reps can immediately start diving into the visitor’s interests and goals, which will take the conversation deeper.
Improving Sales & Marketing Alignment
It takes two to drive revenue from B2B brands. But often, sales and marketing teams have a hard time seeing eye to eye.
One of the simplest ways to streamline communication between your sales and marketing teams is to speed up the handover of leads, like giving qualified leads the power to book a meeting on your sales team’s calendar from a chat conversation.
While streamlining the qualification process is sure to improve your buying experience, it’s not the be-all and end-all of marketing and sales alignment. Remember that building up marketing and sales alignment is a process — so the best way to foster consistent collaboration is to bring your teams together as frequently as possible.
For even more ways to encourage collaboration between marketing and sales teams to serve customers better, check out our ebook on marketing and sales alignment.
Repurposing Content Like a Boss
Amongst marketing gurus, repurposing content has almost become a game. How far can you take your repurposing efforts? How far and wide can you reach?
But fortunately, this isn’t a race to the bottom — it’s a race to the top. Because repurposing your content allows you to create cohesive campaign messaging and save time on creating assets.
So, try repurposing your content. You can do anything from leveraging another channel or format (for example, turning an event panel into an ebook), optimizing content for search engines, or bundling up your content. Doing this will ensure you get in front of your target audience more consistently while making the most of the messaging and resources you already have.
Take Your B2B Marketing to the Next Level with Drift
B2B marketing isn’t just about site traffic, funnels, and conversions. It’s also about relationships.
Successful B2B companies focus on maximizing relationships with key accounts through personal branding, ABM, and content marketing — all while driving brand awareness through more scalable offers.
But, whether you’re building rapport with interested buyers or further connecting with customers, B2B marketing is driven by conversations.
With Drift Conversational Marketing, you won’t ever have to worry about missing out on a valuable conversation. Through chatbots and live chat, you can engage buyers instantly, provide fresh and relevant content, and drive people to sales faster. See what you can do with Drift today by taking a test drive or scheduling a demo.