- Short Summary
- Detailed Summary
- How to Develop a Suitable B2B Marketing Strategy
- B2B Marketing and Social Media Content
B2B Marketing: Short Summary
B2B marketing stands for business-to-business marketing and describes all marketing measures that are aimed at companies as customers. This is distinctly different to B2C marketing (business-to-consumer marketing) which instead is aimed at end-users. The same tools are used in both these marketing areas, though in principle B2B marketing pursues a much more focused approach.
There is a marketing distinction between the B2B and B2C areas, since advertising efforts directed at companies are quite different from marketing to end-users. For example, because the number of customers is generally more limited, B2B marketing does not have the same broad reach. B2B requires a close coordination with the sales division, or more specifically the sales marketing department, as the measures adopted in B2B marketing should not occur in isolation. In an ideal situation, the sales effort starts immediately after marketing, so that as many leads (customer inquiries) as possible can be delivered to the sales funnel. However, not every lead results in an order, so enough leads must be generated to ensure the sales funnel remains well topped-up.
Another important difference between B2B and B2C marketing is the much more personal approach adopted in the business-to-business area. Advertising must be aimed at the people who decide or influence the commissioning process. Among others, these include:
- Heads of department
- Managing directors or other members of the company management team
- Executives, senior staff and management advisors
- Finance department employees
Large-scale advertising campaigns are therefore less of an issue in the B2B area – instead, the target group can be made aware of the company’s business expertise via smaller, more-direct measures. In order to raise brand awareness, for example, specialist articles can be created covering topics and areas in which the company is active. Internet portals such as LinkedIn can also be very helpful in B2B marketing, because they do more than simply list job offers. In contrast to social media sites such as Facebook, however, there should be a clear focus on content to ensure that, if a company highlights new developments, trends or products on its profile page, these are more likely to reach the right target group.
An online presence is absolutely essential to B2B marketing because hardly any decision-makers will be prepared to commission an order on the basis of advertising alone. Self-initiated research on topics and suppliers is all part of the process – and more than two-thirds of the decision-makers carry out this research online. With the help of appropriate SEA and SEO measures, a company can gain a favorable position in such search rankings and thus increase the probability of receiving an inquiry.
The third important growth area in B2B Marketing is tradeshows and events. This is where you and your sales team can contact potential business partners. However, because most industries have lots of tradeshows, it’s generally not possible to attend all of these events. Thus the “less is more” motto applies – instead of contacting as many potential customers as possible at a tradeshow, deal completion is often better served by focusing on just some of them. This is where the personal orientation comes into play again: business customers want to deal with reliable partners who know them and where communication thus functions more smoothly. A ‘production line’ approach, which can work well in the B2C sector, rarely leads to success in B2B.
How to Develop a Suitable B2B Marketing Strategy
In order to be able to employ business-to-business marketing, the first step is to accurately define the target group. The following questions will be helpful:
- Are you dealing with large or small enterprises?
- Which industry are these companies active in?
- Is there any sector of that industry which is particularly important?
It is then necessary to clarify how best to approach your target group. Are these clients active on the Internet, and could they perhaps be contacted via Facebook or through other social media content? Could a professional network such as LinkedIn be used? Do these clients regularly visit specific tradeshows or events?
In addition, the objectives of the proposed measures should also be defined – because it makes a big difference whether the aim is to generate leads or simply to raise awareness of a company or brand.
If these questions can be clarified, concrete steps can then follow. The internet plays a key role here, because, despite the importance of tradeshows and events, online measures are becoming increasingly important in B2B marketing. Generally speaking, it is advisable to use a combination of measures because they often complement each other and thus create a certain synergy effect.
The company’s own internet presence should be the first priority, because no matter how good its advertising is, a company will be hard to find without an effective online presence. A well thought-out on-page optimization is therefore an absolute essential. The site pages must be clearly structured and easy to read, and it should be easy to make contact. Most of those in positions of responsibility get information about potential business partners via the Internet, so for that reason it makes sense to establish a presence on one or more B2B portals in addition to the company’s own website. These portals serve many decision-makers as the first point of contact when they are sourcing business partners. With the benefit of a suitably appealing format, these portals can generate a good volume of leads.
SEA campaigns have proven their worth where raising brand awareness is the priority. Of course, they may generate leads as well, because the ads will be displayed regardless of whether the search relates to a business partner or just information on the relevant topic, however their major purpose is to develop brand awareness.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is more likely to provide value to customers through its content and thus strengthen the expertise of the company which makes it available. This point is particularly relevant for B2B, because the question of an order will not even arise unless a potential partner is considered competent. Though content marketing can be operated mainly through a company’s own website, B2B portals and job networks such as LinkedIn are also suitable for this purpose.
B2B Marketing and Social Media Content
Social media in general is less suitable for B2B because it lacks the ability to offer targeted communication. Though this remains true overall, not only companies but also company employees often have their own profiles on Facebook and Co. This means that social media content can certainly attract business customers – though it is important that it should be deployed correctly. Possible aims could be:
- Attract Attention
- Authenticate the Company’s Expertise
- Establish Sales Contacts
- Ask for Advice
If there are enough representatives of a target group on a social media channel, brand awareness can be increased through regular contributions supported by Facebook ads. Where such advertising can be targeted at those people with relevant interests, this should ensure that posts are read more frequently – provided they offer engaging content or some other added value.
A second strategy – which may not be possible for all companies – is to participate in the discussions about various topics which occur on social media channels. By means of well-founded contributions and comments in these arenas, a company can prove its expertise and thus develop a stronger reputation. This is the gold standard in B2B, because companies with a good reputation are considered credible and therefore gain greater trust and approval from their customers.
Social media can also promote the sales process. If, for example, a decision maker is discreetly signposted to an article which might be of interest, this connection may then lead to a sale. In addition, that makes any subsequent contact with that decision maker less unexpected and thus he is usually more receptive to such an approach.
One last way to use social media for B2B marketing is to ask business partners for a recommendation. Of course, this is only worthwhile where the customer is fully satisfied with the company’s performance, and works particularly well when a reciprocal recommendation can be offered in return. The other alternatives are to ask for likes and the sharing of content – only a few companies have a problem with this, or with the process itself. When social media approval occurs, the company benefits from a raising of brand awareness and an improved company image, and its own advertising statements become more credible if they are underpinned by external recommendations.
B2B marketing differs significantly from its B2C variant. The main focus here is on identifying the target group and directly addressing it with smaller and more targeted measures. Personal contact and a flawless reputation are also extremely important. In addition, any advertising should not be too pushy, especially if you hope to win new customers. If a company’s name and services are known, this is often enough, since customers can then find any information they require via B2B portals and the company’s own corporate website. Social media can help generate leads, but will mostly play second fiddle to content and SEO marketing efforts.
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