How do you reach customers online and grow your business?
Growth doesn’t just happen accidentally. Most B2B businesses are never going to luck their way into going viral and bringing in thousands of new customers. And a marketing budget isn’t going to go very far if you spend it trying out a hundred different tactics that don’t work.
Growth happens from deliberately using digital marketing to:
- Reach more targeted prospects
- Drive targeted prospects to your website and into your sales funnel
- Convert prospects into customers using personalized customer journeys
- Retain customers to build an active and loyal customer base
But the ever-changing digital landscape can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you’re new to digital marketing. How do you know which strategies to focus on with so many options out there? Should you start with social media or paid ads? How much should you spend? Will digital marketing even work for your business?
We’ve put together this ultimate guide on B2B digital marketing to answer these questions and more. After reading this article, you’ll know how to create, optimize, and maintain an agile digital marketing strategy that will help grow your business.
Table of Contents
- What is B2B Digital Marketing?
- Why Digital Marketing is Important for B2B
- Why You Need to Grow Your Own Brand With B2B Digital Marketing
- How is B2B Digital Marketing Changing?
- Why Most B2B Companies Fail at Digital Marketing
- 6 Steps to Creating a Winning B2B Digital Marketing Strategy
- Top 10 Digital Marketing Strategies Critical for B2B
- How Much to Spend on B2B Digital Marketing?
- Final Thoughts
What is B2B Digital Marketing?
B2B digital marketing is the process of marketing products and services to other businesses through online channels. Effective B2B digital marketing strategies target specific audience personas along a customer’s buying journey.
B2B buyers are mainly concerned with improving their business and the return on investment a product or service provides. With that in mind, B2B marketing focuses on providing information instead of making emotional appeals. Campaigns are centered around how using the product or service benefits the potential customer’s business.
For example, Hubspot’s campaigns for their Sales Hub CRM highlight how the platform streamlines the sales pipeline, automates administrative tasks, and eliminates sales friction. Potential buyers know they can expect to save time, close more deals, and increase their revenue by using the platform.
B2B vs. B2C Digital Marketing
B2B and B2C digital marketing may seem similar, but they are very different. While both use digital channels to reach potential customers, they apply different strategies to communicate with their respective target audiences.
B2B businesses sell products and services directly to other companies. The people making purchase decisions are trying to solve a business problem, so B2B marketing strategies target the needs, interests, and challenges these decision-makers face.
Here are a few examples of B2B companies:
- A marketing software company selling social media management tools to organizations (like Hubspot)
- A company supplying packaging, printing, and labeling solutions for businesses (like Avery Dennison)
- An agency providing ecommerce and digital marketing services to companies (like Adaptyve Digital)
B2C businesses sell products and services directly to consumers. Their marketing strategies target the needs and interests of the individual customer.
Here are a few examples of B2C companies:
- A company selling clothing, electronics, and other products (like Amazon)
- An e-commerce store selling watches and other accessories (like MVMT)
- A platform selling streaming subscriptions (like Netflix)
While both B2B and B2C companies often use the same tools, channels, and best practices, their marketing strategies have several critical differences. These differences are driven by the needs and motivations of their target customers.
Keep in mind that some businesses can be both B2B and B2C. For example, BackBlaze markets different versions of its backup solutions to consumers and businesses. While their end goal is to entice consumers and businesses to sign up, their marketing focuses on the needs, problems, and solutions unique to each audience.
Despite all the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, clever B2B marketers monitor and learn from B2C marketing campaigns.
Now that we understand what B2B marketing is and how it’s different from B2C marketing, let’s explore how a typical B2B sales funnel works.
Understanding the B2B Sales Funnel
B2B companies should have a strong understanding of their sales funnels – a prospective customer’s path from discovering the brand to finally converting into a paying customer. While most B2B companies have conceptualized their sales funnels, few take the time to continually optimize them.
Your sales funnel is a core component of your sales and marketing processes and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. Sales funnels don’t spontaneously form over time. Instead, they are carefully structured by skilled marketers to meet your strategic business objectives and reduce friction along the customer’s journey.
The typical B2B sales funnel includes five stages:
Top of the Funnel: Brand Awareness & Generating Leads
The first step of any funnel is to generate brand awareness. It’s hard to sell a product or service if no one knows about it. There are several ways to spread brand awareness:
- Blog articles
- Social media
- PPC ads
- Traditional advertising
The lead generation process starts when a prospect engages with your brand in some way, like clicking on an ad, finding a blog article through search, or engaging with a social media post.
At this point, the prospect likely doesn’t know much about your brand, product, or service. In fact, they may not even fully understand the problem your company can help them solve. Your goal is to educate prospects while establishing trust, authority, and thought leadership.
This is where content marketing comes into play. Blog articles, videos, and other forms of content can help prospects understand the issue, highlight the pain points, and provide insights into potential solutions.
The top of the funnel contains the largest number of prospects. Your natural inclination will be to design a funnel that brings in as many prospects as possible. Resist this urge! Your goal is to structure your funnel to pull in the prospects who are most likely to convert to the next stage in your funnel.
Offering downloadable assets like eBooks, white papers, and case studies can help move prospects from the awareness stage to the nurturing phase. Gated content encourages them to exchange their contact information for helpful content. Your content must be fantastic and address their specific pain points. Otherwise, prospects will lose trust and unsubscribe quickly.
Their contact information should go into a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This allows the marketing and sales teams to track the relationship through the rest of the funnel.
Middle of the Funnel: Nurturing Leads
Now that prospects are in your CRM, you can begin nurturing the relationship. At this stage, you target them with content that directly addresses their unique pain points, needs, and desires. Lead nurturing builds trust and establishes your company as the authority in your industry.
For example, you may get prospects to sign up for your newsletter to send them blog articles about trends and current events in their industry. Another alternative is to send them case studies related to the problem you solve. You can also offer them a free seven-day course designed to help them address some low-hanging solutions to their problem.
At this stage, your messaging should remain informative and educational. Avoid going for the sale quickly, especially if you typically have a long sales cycle. Remember, B2B purchases, especially those with a high price point or long contract, often require approval from multiple decision-makers. Your prospects need time to research solutions, consult with their teams, and make their decision.
This lead nurturing stage of the funnel usually takes the longest to complete. Each prospects’ situation is different. Some may take weeks to convert, others may take months. It’s essential to monitor your analytics to understand and optimize the content you send out. Over time, you will understand the types of content different prospects need to accelerate the sales cycle.
Middle of the Funnel: Building Customer Relationships
Once a prospect reaches out to your sales team or requests more information about your product or service, they reach this point of the funnel. You already established your authority, educated them about the problem and solution, and attracted their interest. Now it’s time to show them exactly how you can help solve their problem.
Although sales demos, meetings, free trials, and other sales tactics come into play at this stage of the funnel, content still plays a critical role. For example, white papers, case studies, and video testimonials can all help your sales team illustrate the value you bring to the table and close the deal.
Remember, making a purchase is a big decision for the customer. All decision-makers must be convinced that purchasing from you is the right decision. You want to show them exactly how you will help them and provide data to back it up. Show customers what they can expect from working with you and give them a glimpse into how the business relationship may look long-term. Your goal is to make the decision as much of a no-brainer as possible.
For example, let’s say your company sells software to help businesses strategically price their products. The software costs $50,000 to purchase. Show prospects exactly how long it took your existing customers to recoup their initial investment and see significant returns. If you can show the customer will earn an additional $75K in profit in six months, spending $50K on your software becomes a much easier decision.
Remember, closing the sale is not the end of the funnel. There’s still one more stage that companies often overlook.
Bottom of the Funnel: Conversion
Once customers make a purchase, you need to deliver on your promises and ensure a successful experience. Every interaction with your company should reinforce the customer’s decision to work with you. After all, it’s easier and more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.
In addition to follow-up calls and providing outstanding support, content marketing still plays a critical role at this stage of the funnel. For example, you can use emails to let customers know about new features, provide advanced insights into industry trends, or announce upcoming products and services.
Referral marketing is another overlooked component at this stage of the funnel. As your relationship with the customer strengthens, the marketing team can encourage customers to refer you to other potential customers.
Why Digital Marketing is Important for B2B
B2B companies, in general, have been slower to adopt digital marketing compared to their B2C counterparts. Businesses that hesitated to embrace digital early now find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the COVID-19 era, and many are scrambling to catch up.
Companies can no longer afford to ignore digital as a core part of their business strategy. A clear digital marketing strategy can help you achieve several goals:
- Are you looking to better serve your existing customers?
- Are you looking to expand the products or services you already offer?
- Are you looking to acquire new business or enter new markets?
- All of the above?
Let’s look at why digital marketing is critical to the future success of B2B businesses.
Reach New and Existing Audiences
Acquiring new customers is a key goal for many B2B companies. Digital marketing allows you to reach targeted audiences locally, nationally, or globally. You can even define your ideal buyers by personal and professional factors like age, gender, job title, industry, interests, and behaviors.
These advanced targeting techniques allow you to create relevant content that generates brand awareness and attracts hyper-targeted prospects into your sales funnel. As you continue to optimize your digital strategy, you can potentially add significant amounts of incremental revenue and increase your customer lifetime value (LTV).
Personalize Your Customer Experience
Digital marketing enables you to create personalized content tailored to specific audiences better than traditional marketing. It’s the classic sniper vs. shotgun approach. Instead of marketing the same message to a large audience and hoping for people to respond (the shotgun approach), you send personalized marketing messages to targeted audiences (the sniper approach).
For example, let’s say you are an electronics distributor serving three distinct audiences: audio/video installers, security companies, and new home builders. Each audience has its own needs and goals. You won’t see great results by sending new home builders the same marketing content as security companies. In fact, you will probably drive them away because they’ll feel you don’t understand their business.
This also applies on an individual level. As we discussed earlier, B2B purchases usually require approval from multiple decision-makers across the organization, each with their own goals and concerns. By sending personalized content tailored to each person’s specific problems, you increase their chances of moving to the next step in the sales funnel. Well-optimized, personalized content also has a higher chance of being shared on social media, further increasing your reach.
Build Relationships with Your Customers
Building relationships and brand loyalty is another crucial goal for B2B companies. Email and content marketing are highly effective in keeping your brand at the top of customers’ minds. For example, you can tailor emails to specific segments of your customer base, providing relevant news, offers, or solutions. Ecommerce businesses can alert users who abandon their shopping carts, secure repeat orders and provide timely reminders for customers to stock up on certain products.
Blog articles, social media, website comments, and product reviews are great digital marketing strategies that allow you to communicate directly with your customers. By interacting with customers and responding to their comments, you show customers you care about their opinion and want to support them in their success.
In turn, customers feel respected, supported, and connected with the community you are building. This also has the benefit of providing you valuable insight into their reactions and buying preferences. You can also establish yourself as an authority in your industry by commenting on issues and news. Readers will trust you, come back for more information, and eventually make a purchase.
Ultimately, focusing on building relationships and providing additional value to customers helps you create an additional competitive advantage that makes customers less likely to switch to a competitor.
Affordable and Cost-Effective
With digital marketing, it costs much less to reach the same audience numbers compared to traditional strategies. Printing a newspaper ad can cost anywhere between $500 and $160,000, depending on the type of ad and the newspaper’s circulation size. A 30-second TV commercial can cost anywhere from $1,500 to over $115,000, not including production costs. While both provide circulation numbers, you can never be sure how many people saw your ad and whether they match your ideal buyer persona.
Compare that with something like Google or Facebook ads. You can narrow the audience you want to target based on demographic or behavioral data and choose how long your ad should run. With as little as $100 you can reach a large number of hyper-targeted customers. We looked at Facebook ad spending for our clients and, on average, $100 resulted in 4,942 impressions to targeted users. Talk about affordable!
Easily Track and Measure Results
Not only is digital marketing affordable, but you also have access to valuable data about your campaigns. You can see how many people viewed your ads, how many clicks it received, and how many purchases, downloads, or signups this resulted in. Many platforms also provide demographic data about users who engaged with your ad. This insight allows you to quickly adjust your campaigns to maximize their effectiveness. You can even shut down poorly performing campaigns to avoid wasting money.
For example, let’s say you’re looking to increase sales of your company’s new product. You create two different ads:
- An ad with a product image and brief product description
- An ad with a short video highlighting how your product is better than competing products
After letting both ads run for a week, the data shows the video ad generates 3x more sales. You quickly realize the video ad performed better because it showcases how your product is easier to use and more effective than competing products. Armed with this knowledge, you immediately shut down the first ad and increase spending on the video ad. You also start creating similar video ads for other products.
Digital marketing provides a clear understanding of how much your marketing campaigns cost, who they reach, and how effectively they drive revenue, signups, or downloads.
Why You Need to Grow Your Own Brand With B2B Digital Marketing
There’s a pervasive belief among B2B companies that digital marketing can only be effective for B2C businesses. When most people hear “digital marketing,” they usually picture ads on search engines and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Because these platforms are viewed as social tools for consumers to share their lives, B2B companies mistakenly think these channels can’t help them. After all, B2B companies sell to other businesses, not directly to consumers. This false belief prevents many B2B companies from effectively using digital channels to grow their brand.
Even though B2B companies sell directly to other businesses, there is enormous value in reaching end consumers through digital marketing. Let’s explore this using General Electric (GE) as an example.
You are Responsible for Your Brand Marketing
GE does not sell its products directly to consumers. Instead, it sells to retailers where consumers can purchase GE’s products, like Home Depot and Lowe’s. When consumers visit these retailers, they are presented with many options from GE and its competitors. Home Depot and Lowe’s don’t care which brand a consumer chooses because they make money from any purchase. They have little incentive to promote the GE brand over its competitors.
GE realizes it can’t rely on retailers to promote its brand and products. Instead, GE invests its own resources into traditional and digital marketing efforts. They have over 3 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and consistently promote their brand and engage with consumers. GE has positioned itself at the front of these consumers’ minds. They will remember the GE brand next time they are in the market for a new appliance.
Build Brand Loyalty
Customers are increasingly turning to digital channels for customer support, and B2B companies need to monitor and reply to these requests. If you don’t, not only are you missing a golden opportunity to build brand loyalty, but you’re seriously damaging your brand in the eyes of customers. You’ll quickly be seen as an unresponsive brand disconnected from its customer base, and it’s difficult to overcome that label.
GE understands customers are now jumping to Twitter and other social media platforms to complain about issues. They are quick to provide solutions for whatever issues consumers are dealing with. They also offer scheduled customer support for individual product lines on their Facebook page.
Your Customers Benefit Too
I want to make one final point to illustrate why it’s vital for you to build your own brand. One of our B2B clients sells products to other resellers and launched their own branded line of speakers. The speakers are excellent and have won several industry awards. Unfortunately, consumers have never heard of the brand.
When you searched their name on Google, you’d find pages of results where consumers asked if anyone had ever heard of or purchased the brand. Resellers had trouble convincing consumers to buy these speakers instead of well-known brands like Bose and Sony, even though the speakers were slightly cheaper and of similar quality. Resellers were incentivized to promote the brand because they made significantly more profit, but the added trouble of marketing the product wiped out the higher profit margin.
Even though our client wasn’t selling these speakers directly to consumers, their lack of marketing significantly hurt sales and customer relationships. To fix this, we helped them set up a website, promoted their products on social media, and implemented other digital marketing strategies to promote the brand. Resellers finally had the resources to showcase the brand’s recognition, and sales increased significantly. Soon enough, resellers didn’t have to sell the brand to consumers because consumers asked them about it themselves!
How is B2B Digital Marketing Changing?
The COVID pandemic created significant shifts to the B2B digital marketing environment. Businesses turned to digital out of necessity to help them reach customers, and it looks like these pandemic-induced shifts are here to stay. eMarketer predicts B2B marketing spend in the US will pass $30B in 2023, and close to half of that spend will be digital.
Let’s dive into the recent changes in the B2B digital marketing landscape and explore the top trends you need to incorporate into your digital strategy.
B2B Marketing Plans are Adjusting to the Mobile-First Reality
B2B consumer buying behavior has evolved during the past two years of the work-from-home reality. Instead of making purchase decisions on the road at conferences or in-person meetings, B2B buyers seek to make buying decisions on digital channels. Businesses recognize this and are adjusting their marketing plans to align with this new reality.
As work-from-home and distributed workforces become increasingly common, the traditional mindset of reaching B2B buyers through laptops, desktops, and desk phones is no longer relevant. Smart B2B companies are now focusing their marketing plans around digital, mobile-first, hyper-targeted search and content. For the first time ever, more than 50% of B2B marketing spend will go to mobile devices, and B2B mobile spending is set to double to close to $7.5B by 2023.
While search is still a critical component of any marketing plan, it is evolving into more than just text-based SEO. Consumers increasingly use voice, visual, and video search options to find information. B2B companies are responding by investing more into creating text, audio, and video content experiences designed to engage consumers throughout the buying process.
Lead Generation Moving from Events to Social Media
For a long time, B2B companies used in-person and online events to generate leads. However, both have undergone massive shifts in recent years. As the pandemic eliminated most in-person events, an increasing number of people turned to online meetings to connect with others. But Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and the last thing consumers want to do is make purchase decisions during an online meeting.
Digital events are still a core part of B2B marketing plans, but the strategy behind them is changing. Instead of using online events to generate leads, B2B companies increasingly view them as a way to build brand awareness through sharing valuable information and content.
Social media is emerging as an effective lead generation channel to replace in-person and digital events. In addition to running hyper-targeted ad campaigns on social media, B2B companies are investing more time connecting and engaging with customers through social media channels. Rather than spamming a crowded social media environment with more noise, effective B2B marketers are reaching new audiences by creating relevant, targeted content that resonates with specific segments of the customer base. These audiences then receive a consistent brand experience across multiple channels, platforms, and devices as they move along the sales funnel.
B2B Marketing Budgets, and Expectations, are Increasing
B2B brands have traditionally underspent on digital marketing, but the pandemic forced companies to adjust their marketing budgets. Many companies invested heavily into digital capabilities by implementing the required tech and hiring digital marketing personnel. With 68% of B2B marketers expecting an increase in their digital budget, that trend will continue.
But as executives continue to increase digital marketing budgets, they will also expect more results. Successful B2B marketing leaders should produce an integrated marketing plan showing how marketing technology and personnel impact core business objectives. They also need to map these investments to specific strategies and results. For example, showing how increased investment in social media advertising translates into better customer engagement, higher conversion rates, and increased revenue.
Content Marketing Focused on Video
Social media platforms have cemented video as the most popular form of content, and it’s estimated that 82% of all internet traffic will be video content. It comes as no surprise then that buyers love video – 59% said they’re more likely to choose video if given a choice between consuming text or video content.
B2B marketers have adopted educational videos, live streams, and webinars to build brand awareness, develop authority, target new audiences, and generate leads. They’re seeing results, too – 91% of marketers are happy with the ROI of video content, and 93% have acquired new customers thanks to video content posted on social media.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Will be a Game Changer
It’s no secret that customers expect personalized experiences. Over the past few years, many B2B companies focused on personalizing their marketing efforts. As a result, they’ve seen higher engagement, shortened sales cycles, and increased revenue. But there’s a new game changer in personalization, and it’s account-based marketing (ABM).
Account-based marketing is a B2B marketing strategy where collaboration between sales and marketing teams is critical. They work together to create personalized buying experiences for a set of best-fit, high-value accounts. ABM helps teams avoid wasting time marketing to unqualified leads and gets them straight into the engagement phase. ABM campaigns drive engagement and conversion using targeted content and experiences based on the specific needs of each account.
Last year, 70% of marketers said they were using ABM, and 87% said their ABM activities outperformed other marketing strategies. Make no mistake, ABM is here to stay. B2B companies looking to acquire new business need to adopt ABM into their marketing plans to deliver consistent customer experiences and streamline the sales cycle.
Marketing Automation and Chatbots
Marketing automation tools have long been used by B2C marketers to help automate tedious and repetitive tasks. As B2B companies invest in these tools, their marketing teams will be free to focus on creating effective strategies that generate revenue.
Chatbots are at the top of the list. While many B2B marketers successfully use chatbots to generate and nurture leads, others are still experimenting with how best to incorporate them into the customer journey. Many B2B companies think their customers would never use chatbots, but consumers have already shown they like them. In fact, 40% of buyers don’t care if they are served by a bot or a human, and 69% prefer chatbots because they deliver quick answers to simple questions.
Here are a few ways B2B companies are using chatbots across all stages of the sales funnel:
- Awareness Stage: Conversational landing pages, click-to-chat social media ads, and smart contact forms
- Consideration Stage: Score and qualify leads, segment leads into personalized email lists, and offer personalized content
- Purchase Stage: Transfer prospects to live agents, book meetings, and manage transactions
- Loyalty & Post-Sale Stage: Provide product or service support, answer FAQs, or screen support issues to route them to the correct department
Why Most B2B Companies Fail at Digital Marketing
So far, we’ve discussed all the benefits of incorporating digital marketing into your marketing strategy. But if digital marketing is so great, why aren’t more B2B companies on board? Because it’s also associated with a high rate of failure, leading many businesses to question whether it’s worth the investment. Let’s explore the top reasons why B2B companies fail at digital marketing, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Not Having a Clear Strategy
When starting with digital marketing, many companies place too much focus on individual tactics, and in the process, ignore the big picture strategy. Pumping out content, running ads, and posting on social media won’t do any good if the messaging is unclear, inconsistent, and seemingly random. In the end, you will spend a lot of money without much to show for it.
B2B companies that effectively use digital marketing have a clear strategy defining their goals and objectives. To completely reap the rewards of digital marketing, it’s essential to understand and document what specifically your business aims to achieve with your strategy.
Defining these goals will help you formulate a clear plan of action, measure your progress, and adjust your strategy when needed. Your strategy should also include a thorough analysis of your target audience – the prospects you are looking to reach and the customers you currently have. This helps you understand your audience’s problems and enables you to develop audience-focused campaigns that lead to higher engagement and results.
Finally, your digital marketing strategy isn’t something you look at and adjust once a year. It’s a living, breathing document you need to review, discuss, and adjust regularly. Not every campaign is going to be effective – some will inevitably fail. But it’s essential to take the lessons from those failures and incorporate them into future campaigns.
Failing to Set Clear Goals & Objectives
Launching campaigns without setting clear targets is one of the main reasons B2B companies fail at digital marketing. It’s easy to burn through your marketing budget, waste resources, and see little results for your efforts when you don’t have a plan.
Spend time identifying what you want to achieve. Are you trying to generate new leads, enhance brand awareness in the marketplace, or increase the average spend from existing customers? Once you understand your objectives, you will have an easier time mapping out your marketing campaigns and setting key performance indicators to measure results. As you progress, you’ll clearly understand whether your efforts generate the ROI you want and can adjust your strategy.
Before you create a campaign, identify the results you want to achieve. For example, how many sales do you want the campaign to generate? From there, you can work backward to understand how many prospects you need to drive into your sales funnel to achieve this goal.
Lack of Digital Marketing Skills and Experience
A big mistake many companies make is not putting together a team with the right skillsets to create and implement their digital marketing strategy. Usually, these companies task their traditional marketing team with putting together a plan, or worse, they assign the project to the web development or IT team.
Digital marketing has many different disciplines, each requiring a unique set of skills. Critical skills for every B2B marketing team include content creation, content strategy, SEO, data analytics, and marketing operations. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does give you a good starting point when considering what types of skills your team should have.
At the same time, don’t go out and hire an entire team of digital marketers without understanding your strategy and the skills it requires. Ideally, your first hire should be a senior digital marketing employee who can help craft the correct strategy and identify the roles you need to fill. There are also plenty of digital marketing agencies out there who can assist you with this, including Adaptyve Digital. Usually, outsourcing to an agency is more affordable when compared to the compensation packages required to hire full-time employees.
Failing to Understand Their Audience & Buyer Personas
Marketing is all about solving your target audience’s fundamental needs and pain points. Without a thorough and accurate understanding of your target audience, your marketing campaigns will fail to connect, and the results will be underwhelming. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to learn more about your audience. For example, you can follow and engage with customers on social media, research their pain points online, or even set up focus groups with your existing customers.
You should use your knowledge about your audience to create different buyer personas. This helps you better understand who you are designing a product or service for, map out their customer journey, and craft messaging that resonates with them. Remember, the B2B buying process involves multiple people, so you need customer journeys and messaging for each persona. This focus will help drive your calls to action, messaging, and conversions.
Underwhelming & Underperforming Content
Many companies get the false sense that digital marketing is about creating random content and blasting it everywhere. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This will annoy your readers and leave you scratching your head, wondering why digital marketing isn’t working for your business.
Content marketing campaigns are effective, but the foundation of campaign success is creating excellent, meaningful, relevant content that your customers and prospects will engage with. To design this type of content, you need to thoroughly understand your audience, personalize the messaging, and deliver it in an engaging way.
The list of content marketing mistakes we’ve seen is enormous, and we’ve made some of these mistakes ourselves!. Here are a few common missteps to avoid with your content marketing:
- Content that isn’t relevant to the target audience. Content that’s only written in the context of what you know or what’s important to you will never perform well. Instead, produce content centered around your target audience’s key priorities.
- Content that is promotional instead of educational. B2B buyers don’t want to be sold or marketed to until they are ready. Ease off the promotional content and showcase your expertise by sharing educational content addressing your audience’s problems.
- Content that only exists on your website. If your content only lives on your website, you’re missing out on one of the biggest benefits of a content marketing strategy – reaching more prospective customers. At a minimum, you should promote your content on social media channels where your audience is actively networking.
- Content that customers can’t easily find. It doesn’t matter how unique your content is if your audience can’t find it. Use keyword research to identify which keywords your content can rank for to appear higher in searches. Better yet, use keyword research to figure out what content you should create!
- Content that is random or inconsistent. Content helps showcase your expertise in the problem areas where prospects search for solutions. Keep your content strategically focused on the intersection of what your audience cares about and your company’s growth priorities. Also, create a content calendar to help keep your content creation efforts focused and on a consistent schedule.
- Content that isn’t being measured. How do you know if your content marketing is working if you’re not measuring its effectiveness? Continually test your content, measure how it’s performing, learn from what works, and then use those lessons when creating the next batch of content.
Failing to Use a Unique & Personalized Approach
We’ve already established customers expect a personalized approach. Yet, many B2B companies still create salesy ads without providing any value or information. Bombarding customers with generic ads accomplishes only one thing: showing them you don’t know what they need. Or worse, that you don’t care. You are training them to tune out your marketing efforts.
Instead, spend time creating unique and personalized ad campaigns using the information you have about your existing customers and prospects. In turn, your customers will feel like you’re a mind reader who knows exactly what they want. This ability to anticipate your customers’ needs leads to higher engagement with your campaigns and increased sales and customer loyalty.
Here’s a real-world example. One of our clients sells equipment and accessories to A/V installers and security companies. Each week, they send a general email to all their customers highlighting upcoming promotions and new products. Instead of driving customers to their site to purchase products, they end up pushing a significant portion to opt out of receiving their emails. Why? Because the email is irrelevant to half of the recipients!
Instead of sending a general email to their entire customer list, we suggested sending two emails. One to their A/V installers showcasing relevant products and another to security companies highlighting the sales they care about. Over the next month, they saw a 47% increase in open rates and a 31% increase in sales from these emails.
Ignoring Analytics & Metrics
Metrics and analytics are at the core of every marketing campaign. But many B2B companies often ignore or overlook analytics. This mental barrier is one of the hardest to overcome. One of our clients spent hours each week creating and posting images to social media highlighting the benefits of their product. The analytics showed their audience wasn’t engaging with those posts. We suggested creating a short video showing the benefits in action, which generated massive traffic and sales.
Reviewing the analytics during and after campaigns provides valuable insight into how your audience responds to your message and content. You’ll see what resonates with your audience, allowing you to consistently create content that engages customers. Analytics also helps foster a data-driven approach to marketing within the company. You can use the data to show decision-makers the effectiveness of various campaigns and secure the budget for future campaigns.
Identify the key metrics your company wants to track with individual campaigns and overall business goals. For example, suppose your goal is to acquire new business using digital channels. In that case, your business-level metrics may include the number of leads, number of customers acquired, and cost-per-customer. On a campaign level, you may want to track the number of views, the channels resulting in the most traffic, and how many people clicked through the offer. If this sounds overwhelming, realize that most marketing software will provide a lot of this information to you in real-time.
Not Having a Digital Marketing Budget
Failing to set a digital marketing budget is another primary reason why many B2B marketing campaigns fail. To be clear, we’re not talking about budgeting for software or hiring personnel with the appropriate skills; we’re talking specifically about budgeting for creating and promoting campaigns.
Many B2B companies new to digital marketing mistakenly believe their message will spread organically. While organic growth is possible, it takes time to achieve and relies on having a well-established digital following. B2B companies successful with digital marketing understand they need to establish a budget for paid promotion on all their content. This helps them widen their reach to people outside their existing audience.
In reality, companies that rely entirely on organic marketing are also spending money on promotion; they just aren’t aware of it. For example, let’s say your social media manager spends 20 hours a week promoting your content on social media and makes $40/hr. You’re spending $800 a week promoting your content. You can take that same $800 and invest in paid promotion, which both frees up your social media manager to focus on other tasks and also widens your reach.
We’re going to cover how to determine your digital marketing budget later in this guide, but feel free to jump ahead!
6 Steps to Creating a Winning B2B Digital Marketing Strategy
We’ve explored why B2B companies should implement a digital marketing strategy and the most common reasons why many fail to do so successfully. Now, let’s cover how to create a winning B2B digital marketing strategy. By following these six steps, you will establish a solid digital marketing foundation for your company.
Set Your Digital Marketing Strategy & Goals
We mentioned before that failing to set clear objectives is one of the main reasons B2B companies fail at digital marketing. The competition in digital marketing is fierce, and jumping in without setting intentions and creating strategy is just going to lead you to waste time, money, and resources.
Your overall digital marketing goals should closely align with your business objectives. For example, suppose your business goal is to grow revenue by 20% this year. In that case, your digital marketing goals may be to acquire X new customers and increase the average spend of existing customers by X percent. Both of these goals will help pull you towards your overall business objective. Digital marketing is a great way to support company-wide initiatives, whether product launches, PR, or anything else. It’s critical to communicate with folks outside of marketing, provide context around your campaigns, and share findings and results regularly.
It’s equally important to set goals for each channel and marketing campaign. Before you launch a campaign, identify what you’re looking to accomplish. Are you launching a social media campaign to increase brand awareness and gain new customers? Are you trying to increase sales of a specific product or service? Or are you simply doing it “just because”?
Once you start, pay close attention to your reporting and analytics. Which networks and campaigns are most effective for you? Is your marketing leading to actual traffic or sales? Is it time to start running ads? Analytics can answer all these questions and help you keep an eye on your ROI to optimize performance.
Define Your Target Audience
Every strong B2B digital marketing strategy begins with clearly defining your target audience and buyer personas. Targeting demographics with great precision is one of the biggest benefits of digital marketing and it’s one you need to take advantage of to create effective campaigns. Without a precise picture of who your target audience and customers are, you’re setting yourself up to waste time and money.
Your target audience includes your existing customers and the different types of prospects you want to target. This information will drive almost every marketing decision you make. It’s critical you spend as much time as you need to create an accurate picture of your audience. With a clearly defined target audience, you will have a much easier time ensuring your content and digital materials are seen by the right people on the right channels.
Your target audience can and should be refined over time. As you launch marketing campaigns, review analytics, and determine what is and isn’t working, you’ll gain a better understanding of your target audience and buyer personas.
Here are a few questions to consider when creating your buyer personas:
- What are their demographics (age, occupation, spending budget, etc.)?
- What factors matter most to them when looking for a new vendor or solution?
- What are their goals and objectives?
- What are their price range and buying habits?
- What needs and pain points can you address with them, and how?
- What specific brands, services, or solutions are they currently using?
- What communication method do they prefer (email, social media, phone, etc.)?
- Where do they spend their time online?
Remember, it’s alright to have multiple target audiences. The key here is to create content and marketing campaigns that specifically address each audience’s needs and pain points. If you have several target audiences, I suggest focusing on the core one or two audiences to start out with to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Optimize Your Website
Digital marketing can’t be effective without an informative and engaging website, and there are multiple reasons why. First, studies show that 75% of consumers judge a company’s credibility based on its website, and visitors take only 50 milliseconds to form their opinion and decide whether to stay or leave. Make sure your website is visually appealing, loads quickly, and is optimized for mobile. While you’re at it, optimize your site for SEO to make it more discoverable in search.
Second, your website is an owned channel, meaning you own it and have complete control over it. Social media, search platforms, and other channels are all tremendously helpful, but you are at the mercy of the platform. All it takes is one algorithm change and the channel may not perform as effectively as it used to for you. Plus, all your social media and digital marketing campaigns should be designed to drive traffic back to your website and into your sales funnel. This leads us to the third point.
Make sure your website visitors can easily identify the action you expect them to take. Your site needs to have a clear call-to-action letting users know what to do. For example, let’s assume your goal is to drive prospects into your funnel. Your call-to-action should entice them to enter their email in exchange for a valuable piece of content. Take a look at our homepage, it’s pretty clear what we want you to do!
Remember the target audiences and buying personas you identified earlier? You’ll want to create landing pages tailored specifically to each buyer persona. These targeted landing pages should address the unique needs and pain points of each persona and include a clear call to action.
An easy way to make sure your website follows all of this advice is to use the upside-down homepage design philosophy. This may not work for all businesses, but check it out and see if it can work for you. The upside-down homepage also makes a great template for your audience-specific landing pages.
Optimize Your Digital Presence
Along with your website, make sure to optimize the rest of your digital presence. This includes social media channels, Google Business listings, and Yelp Business listings. No matter how customers hear about you, they will most certainly look you up on social media. Make sure your profiles provide a consistent brand experience. This helps customers quickly identify your profile and provides them with a consistent experience along the customer journey.
It’s important not to spread yourself too thin. Rather than trying to be on every social media platform under the sun, identify the 2 or 3 channels your target audience uses most and start there. Once you’ve successfully started utilizing those channels, you can branch out to additional platforms.
Here are the most B2B-friendly social media platforms, according to the Content Marketing Institute:
- LinkedIn – the ultimate B2B network known for thought-leadership content, employee engagement, and a robust ad platform
- Twitter – a prime place to interact with customers and influencers
- Facebook – an excellent hub for employee-centric, non-promotional content
- YouTube – great for how-to videos, interviews, and presentations
- Instagram – great for infographics and culture-centric content
Adopt a Customer-Centric Culture
I know, every company says they put the customer first. But how many actually do? Look around, and you’ll see tons of companies putting out messaging that does nothing but promote themselves. Adopting a customer-centric culture is more than just saying you care about your customers. It’s all about putting your customers front and center throughout your campaigns.
No matter how technical or niche your industry might be, customer engagement is critical. It immediately makes your brand feel more human and personable. For example, Twitter has become a staple of customer service – customers can ask brands questions, provide feedback, and raise issues. Brands that provide positive, proactive customer service on Twitter transparently show customers and prospects how much they care.
Beyond customer service, you need to integrate customer stories into your content marketing strategy. Promoting testimonials, sharing positive reviews, and highlighting customer success stories allows you to promote yourself without being overtly salesy about it. Plus, your target audience identifies with your existing customers. Seeing the positive impact your business has on existing customers will motivate prospects to do business with you.
The key takeaway here is that customers should be the focus of your strategy, both in terms of providing excellent service and also producing content. Pay close attention to all @mentions and branded keywords so you never miss an opportunity to engage with customers.
Create a Memorable Brand Voice
Let’s face it, many companies on social media are boring. No matter how technical your industry may be, consumers are tired of seeing robotic messaging from companies. A “professional” brand voice doesn’t have to be rigid or uptight. Instead, be conversational and highlight the humans behind your social media accounts. A fun and engaging personality will make your brand more approachable to prospects.
Most social media users have short attention spans, so you must figure out how to make your posts stand out and encourage engagement. Pay close attention to your post captions and formatting, adapting your personality and content to each platform. Rather than share link after link, be sure to add your own commentary or thoughts to each post.
Here are some ways you can add some flavor and entertainment to your posts:
- Convert your blog posts or lists into short infographics
- Instead of sharing a full video or podcast episode, share short snippets and link to the whole episode
- Use Twitter threads or long-form text posts as alternatives to linking to blog posts
- Use GIFs and emojis to interact and engage
Top 10 Digital Marketing Strategies Critical for B2B
There’s no shortage of digital marketing strategies out there. With so many options, how do you know which strategies you should implement? We’ve got you covered. Here are the top ten digital marketing strategies every B2B business needs to implement.
I know what you’re thinking, a website isn’t a groundbreaking digital marketing strategy. Every business has one, right? But you’d be surprised how little attention companies give to their own websites. In fact, when was the last time your company updated its website?
A business website is a fluid, evolving entity that requires constant monitoring and nurturing to be successful. When customers visit your site, it should be an informative, frictionless, and engaging experience providing useful solutions that drive leads. It’s trickier than it sounds. Look at your website and ask yourself:
- Is our site relevant to our target audience?
- Do we have unique landing pages addressing the pain points for each target audience?
- Is our site responsive on mobile devices?
- Is there a clear call-to-action directing people to act (i.e., downloading a whitepaper, scheduling a demo, etc.)?
- Are we displaying updated testimonials from existing customers and partners?
- Does our site feature engaging content and blog posts?
- Are there links to all of our social media pages?
When customers visit your website, how much time does it take them to figure out what you do? If it takes more than a few seconds, your website is overwhelming them with information and likely costing you leads.
Keep the homepage simple, and leave the technical explanations for later when customers browse through your site or download resources. A great way to do this is to use the upside-down homepage concept. While this may not be the right solution for every website, it is a great starting point to ensure your website is straightforward and effectively captures leads.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Without SEO, it’s difficult to bring new visitors to your site. And without visitors, you’ll have a hard time growing your business. But what exactly is SEO, and how does it work?
SEO helps visitors find your website through search engines like Google. The better your SEO, the higher your website appears in search results for relevant queries and keywords. Your goal should be to rank on the first page of search results for as many relevant keywords as possible. Generally, 30% of search traffic goes to the #1 ranked result, 15% to the #2 ranked result, 10% to the #3 ranked result.
Many people new to SEO mistakenly pay too much attention to their traffic numbers. While it’s fun to see your traffic numbers grow over time, the real goal is to drive targeted traffic that has a high chance of converting into customers. The way to do this is through keyword research – putting yourself into your target audience’s shoes and determining what they are searching for that is relevant to your business or industry.
Several keyword research tools are available, like Ubersuggest, AnswerThePublic, Google Keyword Planner, and Ahrefs. Select one and start entering different queries you think your targeted audience would be searching for. Find keywords with high search volume and low competition and start creating high-quality content relevant to those keywords and queries. While this is an oversimplified explanation of keyword research, it should give you a good idea of what it involves.
You can’t trick your way to the top of search rankings anymore by stuffing your content full of keywords. Google’s algorithm has evolved, and it’s pretty smart at figuring out what people are looking for when searching a specific query. Above all else, your content has to match the searcher’s intent – what the searcher is looking for when entering the query.
Once you create high-quality content, the next step is to promote your content. Google sees how many domains link to your website and factors that in when ranking you in search results. If you have thousands of websites linking to a blog article you wrote, Google will recognize that and rank you higher in the search rankings. There are many ways to generate backlinks to your content, but the main focus should always be to create high-quality content because it promotes itself. High-quality content drives more social shares and other sites are more willing to link to content if they find it useful themselves.
Over time, as you put out high-quality content that matches searcher intent and has a lot of backlinks, Google will start ranking you higher in search results. The higher you rank in search results, the more new visitors you’ll bring to your site through search. From there, your website content and calls-to-action take over and drive these visitors into your sales funnel.
As you can see, SEO is an incredible way to bring in new customers. But it can be pretty complex. It is definitely worth hiring an SEO expert or agency, like Adaptyve Digital (named one of the top Houston SEO Companies), to help you rank higher in search.
With 81% of B2B marketers saying email newsletters are their most used method for content marketing, it’s no surprise email marketing is a core part of successful digital marketing strategies. Email is a powerful channel for sharing your brand’s content, highlighting your expertise, and engaging with your audience to nurture leads into customers. Besides nurturing leads, email marketing also provides opportunities to secure repeat orders and to capture lost revenue through abandoned cart recovery emails.
Earlier, we discussed enticing prospects to exchange their contact information for a meaty piece of helpful content and adding their information into a CRM. An organized, active CRM gives you a robust bank of leads to nurture and convert. Once your leads and customers are in your CRM, you should keep their contact information updated and monitor how they engage with your email marketing.
Remember, B2B customers are very different from B2C customers. While B2C customers respond best to emotions and entertainment, B2B customers focus on logic, expertise, and positive ROI. Their only concern is figuring out how your business can help their business. Your email marketing must consistently resonate with your prospects and focus on what matters to them – like time, money, and resources. Otherwise, they’ll quickly unsubscribe and move on.
Look, the reality is while email marketing is an effective channel, all of our inboxes are flooded with hundreds, if not thousands, of emails every single day. Here are a few best practice tips to help you create effective marketing emails that customers will open and engage with:
- Write enticing subject lines that pique the recipient’s interest. After all, no one knows what’s inside your email unless they open it, right?
- Stick to one call-to-action per email. Your recipients should know the exact action you want them to take within a few seconds of opening the email.
- Make sure your email designs are responsive. 85% of email users access their email on a smartphone, and 70% delete poorly formatted messages in under three seconds.
- Segment your email campaigns to reach the most relevant audience. Sending too many irrelevant emails will have your audience questioning whether you understand their needs, and many will eventually unsubscribe.
This may be highly controversial, but we suggest cleaning your email list periodically, either every quarter or every six months. It doesn’t matter if you have a million emails if most of them haven’t opened one of your emails in the last six months. This doesn’t mean you have to remove them from your CRM. Instead, you need to figure out why they stopped engaging and launch campaigns to try and re-engage them.
Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy where companies share their expertise by publishing free, valuable, educational content. This content is used to attract new leads, nurture existing leads, and build brand awareness through thought leadership. We’ve discussed how B2B buyers are focused on expertise, efficiency, and ROI when making purchase decisions, making content marketing an ideal strategy to connect with B2B buyers.
Content marketing not only serves as a way to build brand awareness and thought leadership, but it’s also a great way to optimize your website for search. You build SEO value by creating content your audience is searching for and housing it on your website. Then, when potential customers search on Google for common questions related to your industry, they will discover your website and content.
If you don’t already have one, create a business blog. Your blog will serve as the home for all your content and will be the place you drive prospects to with your content marketing efforts. From there, your lead magnets drive prospects into your funnel, where you can continue nurturing them with more content marketing.
You may have picked up on an important idea here: content marketing is most effective when your content aligns with the different stages of your buyer’s journey. Let’s see how this works by revisiting the sales funnel from earlier:
- Awareness: Prospects are unaware of your company or solution. At this stage, content focuses on educating your audience. In some cases, content may educate buyers about pain points they didn’t know existed.
- Interest: Prospects have expressed an interest in your company or solution. Here, you want to create content that digs deeper into their pain points and potential solutions.
- Consideration: Prospects realize they need a solution or service similar to the one you offer. Your goal here is to create content that builds trust. Case studies, white papers, and webinars are examples of content that can help buyers evaluate whether to work with you.
- Purchase: Prospects want to feel confident in any purchase they make. At this stage, your content should give prospects clear reasons why buying your product or service is the wise decision to make. Offer side-by-side comparisons to similar products, highlight the benefits you provide and show how your offering is the superior choice.
- Loyalty: Your job isn’t done once a prospect converts into a customer. You need to make sure your customers are happy to retain them. At this stage, your content goals are to build relationships, keep customers engaged, and keep them satisfied. Share early previews of new products or features, encourage customers to share feedback (and address it!), and give them reasons to refer their colleagues. Even in an industry where customers don’t repeatedly purchase, they still influence their network.
Remember, it’s rare for a prospect to convert into a customer on the first contact. That’s why content marketing is so critical. It helps you build an authoritative presence online, making your brand easy to find and remember when a lead searches for information. If your competitors are creating content and you aren’t, your prospects are likely getting their educational content from your competitors. When it’s time to make a purchase, which brand do you think prospects will remember?
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing isn’t just for brands targeting individual consumers – it’s a tremendous opportunity for B2B brands to grow their business. Many B2B brands struggle with social media marketing, mainly because they try to replicate the results of B2C brands. It’s common for B2C brands to see quick sales conversions on social media, but for B2B brands, the goals are different.
Social media will not be the channel where you convert the greatest number of prospects into customers. But it is a critical channel to build brand awareness, give your company an online personality, and humanize your business. These are all compelling factors in marketing and connecting with potential customers. Remember, just because social media followers may not immediately convert into customers, it doesn’t mean they never will.
Whenever you create content, promote it on your social media accounts. This not only helps you build your authority as an expert in your industry, but it also helps drive potential customers to your blog or website. At the same time, your social profiles shouldn’t be full of content promotion or sales pitches. It’s important to vary the types of posts you share and to engage with your customers. A simple weekly content schedule could look something like this:
- Ask a thought-provoking question
- Share educational content (like one of your blog posts!)
- Post an entertaining meme
- Provide commentary on industry news
- Host a small giveaway
- Share interesting user-generated content or glowing testimonials
- Announce upcoming releases, plans, or features
When starting out, it’s important not to spread yourself too thin by trying to be on every platform at once. Instead, focus on the top 2 or 3 channels where your target audience is most active. To help you out, here’s an infographic showing the top social media platforms for B2B brands.
Finally, remember the word social in social media. On top of posting content to your profiles, you should also engage with customers and prospects. Monitor and respond to comments and mentions. The ultimate goal of your social media marketing is engagement, so engage with your followers to build connections, brand awareness, and brand loyalty.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaigns
As the name implies, PPC campaigns are ads placed on various platforms where you only pay if an action has been taken. This can be someone clicking on your ad or otherwise engaging with it in some way. PPC campaigns are an excellent tool to reach new audiences, raise brand awareness, and drive leads.
Several platforms offer advertising options, including search engines like Google and Bing, and social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. These platforms provide the ability to target businesses and users on a micro-level. This means you can get your content and message in front of relevant users who may not have otherwise come across your brand, product, or services. Every platform allows you to target your campaigns to reach users matching specific criteria.
Ads can be set up to achieve different goals too. You may want to create ads that direct users to your website, or you can pay for other actions like impressions, video views, and engagements on the platform.
One of the biggest problems I see with PPC ads is that many companies only set up campaigns centered around each product or service they offer. While this is an excellent strategy to get started, they leave a lot of money on the table by not creatively thinking about how their target audience searches for the solutions they provide.
Remember the target audiences and buyer personas we talked about? You can use that data to carefully plan campaigns and group ads into different segments. These segments can be based on main features, benefits, subcategories, target industry, geographic location, or anything relevant to your solution or target audience.
We’ll use our own campaigns as an example. Adaptyve Digital helps ecommerce business grow their sales using digital channels. Here are some of the ways we group our campaigns:
- Categories: Retail, B2C, B2B, etc.
- Platforms: Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, etc.
- Industries: Apparel, Personal Care, Electronics, etc.
- Services: New Customer Acquisition, Conversion Rate Optimization, Referral Marketing, etc.
Once you have your targeted groups, you can set up ad campaigns targeting the specific pain points of each group. Don’t forget to set up landing pages for each ad or campaign. By setting up campaigns this way, you can better focus your efforts and generate higher quality, targeted leads.
The topic of retargeting customers with digital ads can get pretty detailed. So in this article, we’re only going to focus on the broad category of retargeting and what it can do for your business as part of your digital marketing strategy.
We’ve already discussed at length how targeting and analytics are essential elements that make digital marketing so effective. You have the ability to precisely target audiences using specific attributes and view reports showing who clicked on what ad and how they behaved afterward. It’s great when a user clicks on your ad and follows through with your call-to-action. But what happens when they click on the ad and take no more action?
That’s where retargeting comes into play. With display ads on retargeting platforms, users are tagged within the program whenever they visit your site, search your selected keywords, or interact with your ad. When that user visits another site with AdSense (or another ad serving platform running on it), your ad is again served to that visitor. Essentially, your ads will follow them around as they navigate the internet.
I’m sure you’ve noticed this happen to you before. You’re browsing around the internet, looking for a product, and come across a site you haven’t visited before. You look around, click on a few products, but decide not to make a purchase. Then, next thing you know, their ads are following you everywhere! You see them on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and other websites.
That’s retargeting in action. Retargeting creates additional touchpoints for your marketing and increases your brand awareness with the prospect. Overall, retargeting creates more opportunities for customers to be directed back to your site and content.
Did you know that 84% of B2B decision-makers start the buying process with a referral? If keeping your existing customers happy wasn’t incentive enough, think about the potential customers they may refer to you based on their experience with your company.
Many companies leave this up to chance and hope their customers refer leads to them. But there is a better way to generate more referrals from your existing customer base. If you don’t already have a referral program in place, I highly recommend implementing one.
With a referral program, you offer existing customers referral perks, discounts, and partnership levels to encourage them to share your business with their network. For example, you could offer a $10 discount on their next purchase if they refer a customer who makes a purchase from you. Better yet, offer the $10 discount to both the customer making the referral, as well as the customer they referred. Referral programs not only earn you better leads but also help you deepen relationships with current customers by solidifying their trust, partnership, and connection with your business.
While most referrals come from existing customers recommending you to individuals they know personally, there is a growing trend to pay attention to. People are willing to refer a business based on their online content and reputation alone, even if they aren’t themselves an existing customer!
Content marketing is a tremendous opportunity for you to set yourself apart as a reputable leader in your industry and a company that cares about its customers. People will notice as you share educational content, engage with customers, and provide exceptional service online. Your brand will stick in people’s brains, and they’ll want to share it with others, leading to client referrals and new business for you.
Social proof will always be a big part of referral marketing. You should already be collecting customer feedback to help you improve as a company, but don’t neglect to ask customers for reviews and testimonials. Prominently display these reviews on your website and share them through your content marketing strategy.
Videos & Webinars
Videos, both live and pre-recorded, are some of the most engaging forms of digital content. They help customers get the information they are looking for, learn more about a brand, and network with their peers. In fact, more than 85% of U.S. adults use YouTube to learn new things, and over 50% of adults say it’s a vital resource when making purchase decisions.
For businesses, video marketing serves many purposes. It helps you connect with customers in a more engaging way compared to long-form text content and provides an opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality. Video marketing is a great way to drive traffic to your ecommerce store, showcase your industry expertise, and highlight the features and benefits of your business and products.
So how do you get started with video marketing? There are three main types of video marketing:
- Pre-recorded video: Creating videos on various topics and sharing them on a platform like YouTube
- Live video and webinars: Broadcasting live video through social media or a live event webinar
- Video ads: Creating product and business advertisements to run on a platform like YouTube
While each type can benefit your business, it’s best to start small and think about how video can supplement your existing marketing efforts. For example, if you’re already writing educational blog posts, it makes sense to repurpose your blog post into video format. If you’re hosting in-person training events for your customers, recording the event or switching to an online webinar is simple.
Here are a few more ideas for video marketing to help get the juices flowing:
- Repurpose your top blog content into videos
- Create educational videos answering common questions from customers and prospects
- Record how-to videos walking customers step-by-step through solving a business problem
- Demo your products or services and showcase them in action
- Create a video testimonial highlighting a customer success story where customers give their own perspectives on their experience with your product or service
- Interview one of your executives and highlight their expertise on topics your audience cares about
- Give customers a glimpse into your company by showing what a typical day looks like for employees, documenting a company event, or showcasing your workplace culture
Integrate Your Online & Offline Marketing
Many B2B businesses think they have to keep their online and offline marketing activities separate. But integrating your online and offline marketing together is essential in optimizing your marketing efforts.
If you already have a strong offline customer base, take advantage of your offline marketing success to jumpstart your digital marketing efforts. You can direct your offline customers to your online channels using creative campaigns. This not only expands your network online but also allows you to engage with the customer online through a personalized marketing experience, potentially earning more business from them.
Offline marketing is also somewhat tricky to track, but this is one of the areas where online marketing excels. By creating QR codes, custom URLs, and unique promo codes, you can easily track the effectiveness of your offline marketing campaigns.
This is all well and good in theory, but how do you put this into practice? Here’s a short list of ideas to help you brainstorm:
- Send offline customers and activity online using a QR code or landing page
- Gather email addresses at offline events, like conferences or networking events
- Direct customers to your social media channels using a free giveaway, loyalty program, or fun competition
- Use unique coupon codes in offline marketing activities that can only be redeemed online
- Use custom URLs for each offline marketing campaign to track activity and results
- Create a “to be continued” campaign where you start the story offline and direct users online to view the rest
You’re only limited by your imagination here, so feel free to get creative with your ideas! By combining your online and offline marketing activities, you’ll boost your overall marketing effectiveness and maybe capture a sale you wouldn’t have made otherwise.
How Much to Spend on B2B Digital Marketing?
One of the questions I am asked all the time is: “How much money should our company be spending on digital marketing?” It’s a fair question because businesses don’t want to underspend compared to their competitors and lose business to the competition. They also want to make sure they see appropriate returns for their investment.
Every marketing department’s budget depends on several factors, like industry, company revenue performance, and the company’s goals. With that said, let’s look at some data to help you estimate how much your company should be investing in digital marketing.
We’ll look at how much companies budget for digital marketing as a percentage of their total budget, as a percentage of total revenue, and by industry. If you’re looking for a more precise answer, I’ll also walk you through how to calculate digital marketing spend for your business.
Before we dive in, it’s important to note one thing. While this will help you determine how much to invest in digital marketing, the specific strategies and channels you choose to invest in depend entirely on your goals. For example, if you’re looking to boost your social media performance, you may choose to spend more on social media than on website optimization.
B2B Digital Marketing Spending Trends
B2B digital marketing spending has grown rapidly for the past five years. According to eMarketer, by 2023, nearly half of the $30.6 billion spent on B2B marketing will be digital. On top of that, for the first time ever, more than half of B2B marketers’ digital spending will be focused on mobile devices versus non-mobile devices. Total spend on display advertising is also expected to surpass search advertising.
B2B Marketing Spend as a Percentage of Overall Company Budget
According to Deloitte’s CMO Survey, marketing budgets account for 11.7% of total company budgets. Gartner’s CMO survey also confirms most marketing budgets are around 11% of the total company budget. B2B companies that are more service-focused have higher marketing spend than product-focused companies.
Marketing budgets for service-focused B2B companies, like SaaS providers or consulting firms, account for about 12.6% of their total company budgets. For more product-focused B2B companies, marketing represents 10.4% of their total company budget.
B2B Marketing Spend as a Percentage of Total Revenue
Another benchmark is the percentage of total revenue allocated to B2B marketing spend. The amount of revenue businesses allocate to marketing has increased steadily over the past decade, going from just 8% back in 2011 up to 13% in 2021.
B2B service companies allocate a higher percentage of their revenue to marketing spend than B2B product companies. Service-focused companies allocate 15% of their total revenue to marketing spend. In comparison, product-focused companies allocate 10% of their total revenue to marketing spend.
B2B Marketing Spend by Industry
Marketing spend also varies based on industry. Even within industries, it’s not uncommon to see companies set their marketing budgets based on unique factors that may vary significantly from one business to the next.
Companies in the education sector have the highest marketing spend, with 19.4% of their total budget allocated to marketing expenses. By contrast, the energy sector has the lowest marketing spend at only 4% of total company budget.
Other interesting industries to take note of include:
- Consulting service companies allocate 13% of total budget to marketing
- Tech and software providers allocate 12% of total budget to marketing
- Companies in the healthcare space allocate 7% of total budget to marketing
Determining Your B2B Digital Marketing Budget
The above information should provide some good benchmarks for your marketing budget. Now, let’s take it a step further and determine how much of your marketing budget should be invested into digital marketing. To do that, we’ll use the following formula:
B2B Digital Marketing Spend = Annual Revenue x % of Revenue Invested into Marketing x % of Budget Focused on Digital
Annual revenue should be self-explanatory; it’s the total amount your company brings in from sales for the year. The percentage of revenue invested into marketing is how much of your revenue you want to set aside for your marketing spend. Finally, the percentage of budget focused on digital is the percentage of your marketing spend you want to use towards digital marketing.
To come up with that, determine what role digital should play in your marketing mix. While you can certainly choose to focus more on digital vs. traditional marketing, a reasonable starting point is to invest 35-50% of your total marketing spend on digital. Over time, you can adjust your digital vs. traditional mix based on your results and goals.
Here’s an example to illustrate how to use this formula. Let’s say you are a B2B company selling products both online and at brick-and-mortar stores. Your store sales are great, but you want to increase your online sales, so you decide to implement some digital marketing strategies. For the sake of easy math, let’s assume:
- You bring in $30M in annual revenue
- You want to invest 13% of revenue into marketing (from the data above)
- You decide to focus 35-50% of your marketing budget on digital
Now, let’s plug these numbers into our formula:
$30M x .13 x (.35 to .50) = $1.365M to $1.95M annual digital marketing spend.
Budgeting for Tools, Personnel, & Other Expenses
Based on our experience, a common mistake B2B companies make is forgetting to account for marketing tools, personnel, and other resources in their budgets. This prevents them from maximizing the results from their digital marketing spend. For example:
- Do you have the right personnel to implement your desired digital marketing strategies?
- Does your team have the tools they need to get the job done?
- Do you have marketing assets available, or do you need to create them (i.e., graphics, videos, etc.)?
- What else do you need to bridge the gap and meet your digital marketing goals?
You’ll also want to look at the increased operating costs to support the additional revenue digital marketing brings in. For example, if you are a SaaS provider, are there any incremental costs to providing services to more customers? If you sell products, will you need to stock more inventory or hire additional staff to help fulfill orders? These are all crucial factors to consider when determining the ROI for your overall business plan.
Digital marketing can be overwhelming, but it’s also a powerful and proven way to engage audiences and increase sales. With the right strategy, you can grow your business and avoid the mistakes many B2B companies make with digital marketing.
Are you ready to see the difference digital marketing can make? Our team of digital marketing experts would love to help you create an agile and effective digital marketing strategy that achieves your business goals. Contact us today for a digital marketing consultation to get started!
Mo Sheikh is an entrepreneur, developer, and marketer. As the Founder of Adaptyve Digital, he helps teach ecommerce business owners ways to manage, grow, and scale their business.