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B2B marketing strategies require thought, testing and resources.
To find an effective B2B marketing strategy for your business, you will need to experiment a lot–because what works for one business might not work for another.
I was fortunate enough to work in both hyper-growth, Series C-funded start-ups as well as B2B companies which gave me great insights into the working of B2C & B2B audiences.
In this post, I will tell you B2B marketing strategies that I have actually seen working in 2020 and will probably work in the future too.
If you are looking for theory on b2b marketing strategies, you will not find them in this post.
I am more of a practical guy and I value knowledge I have gained from execution more than what I learn in theory.
What I am trying to give is only practical b2b marketing strategies that you can easily execute, and get results.
Let’s get straight to the list of b2b marketing strategies:
Account Based Marketing
I think the most effective b2b marketing strategy that will work for you will be account based marketing.
The concept of account based marketing is very simple.
I will give you a real life example of account based marketing for your better understanding.
I was working in a coworking company and for a particular business center, we identified that there is a client in the vicinity (location is very important in real estate) who is using one of our competitors’ space.
The first thing after we identified this account, I asked my team to find out who are the key people in the company.
Once we identified key people in the company whom we know are decision makers, we created a deep profile of these individuals, who they are, what is their background, their experiences, their interests on social media etc.
This is all information available to the public so nothing illegal–dont worry!
Once we had this information, we proceeded to deeply understand their business.
In this process, we understood their business challenges and how these challenges could be fulfilled by our solution.
We also used a real-estate report (from a third party) to understand when their lease period will be over and when is the right time to make a pitch.
Armed with this knowledge, we started approaching this account in a passive manner of getting our brand introduced to them.
Few channels we used were email, video, case-study of similar companies in the niche and got initiated in a warm and friendly conversation with one of the senior-level executives who would introduce us to someone in the higher management.
When you understand your customer better than your competitors, you have already won half the battle.
Needless to say, after initial few meetings done by our kick-ass sales team, the account was converted.
This was a lead that was worth over a crore in committed revenue and well worth the effort.
You should also know that account based marketing is a lot of hard work.
You cannot tell your team to start Account based marketing from tomorrow and expect miracles.
Account based marketing should supplement your other b2b marketing strategies and be a part of your overall marketing approach.
Few rules I have learnt by planning and executing a successful b2b account based marketing strategy is:
- You should only go after select accounts which are worth your time.
- Account based marketing needs lot of research & patience
- You need dedicated people to work on account based marketing
- Patience is not just a virtue, it is an absolute must.
- If at first you do not succeed, keep trying till you get a positive response
- Back off when there is resistance from your potential customer and plan for your next approach
- Data is your best friend & timing your best ally.
- If your account based marketing is successful, study it. If it is a failure, study more.
The next most successful b2b marketing strategy I have used is referral marketing.
Referral marketing is asking your existing customers to refer more customers for your business by offering either rewards or some other form of value.
Successful referral marketing is dependent on your organization’s Net Promoter Score ( how likely your customers are to recommend your business to another customer).
I have tried incentivizing and value-based referral marketing in the past and have so far gotten mixed responses.
Several of our b2b clients have referred other businesses to consider us in exchange for money and several businesses have done it based on good working relationships.
To use referral marketing as a successful b2b marketing strategy, you need to consider the following.
- How well you know your customer (data)
- Your NPS Score
- How engaged you are with your customer
- The right set of tools and processes to execute your referral marketing campaign.
Once I worked in a b2b company that had surprisingly very little data about their customers.
Needless to say, it was very hard planning or executing referral campaigns because we didn’t know our customers well in the first place.
A b2b marketing lesson learnt in that company, I always set up processes and campaigns directed at understanding customers better through feedback surveys, forms and event feedback.
This data can be invaluable in planning a successful b2b referral marketing campaign as you can target right messaging that will trigger your customers to refer more people.
The most expensive and quickest result-oriented b2b marketing strategy is performance marketing.
As you would expect when you run performance marketing for a b2b audience, your cost will be higher than other forms of b2b marketing discussed here.
Also, when you are using performance marketing as a b2b marketing strategy, you should be ready to burn some money in trying different channels and understanding where you can get maximum ROI from.
For instance, let us take the example of coworking space.
If you are looking for generating leads from Google Search and your target audience is B2B businesses, you will have to target keywords specific to “coworking” and most likely use ad copy to reflect your messaging of B2B audience such as “built for enterprises”, “premium spaces for B2B business” etc.
What this will do is prevent people looking for a normal coworking space from clicking your ad (there will be few clicks, you cannot do anything about it) but primarily you will get B2B leads.
Naturally, because your funnel is narrower, you will get fewer clicks and your cost will be high.
If you are looking for B2B lead generation, performance marketing can probably increase your top of the funnel, but it should not be your only source of lead generation.
Performance marketing is like a drug, once you start using it, you cannot do without.
After spending almost a million dollars in performance marketing, I can safely say that if you cannot figure out other modes of quality B2B lead generation, your marketing expenses will keep going up and a day will come when you will no longer want to invest in it and then it impacts your RoAS (Return on Ad Spend).
This is a catch 22 situation which I would prevent if I were running your business.
Content marketing is one of the best b2b marketing strategies for b2b business in any niche.
It’s long term, will give you results and the quality of leads generated this way will be far better than any other b2b marketing strategy you will use.
It takes time, effort and patience to pull it off.
If your business is on a short runway, content marketing might not be the best b2b marketing strategy for your business.
Even if you decide to do content marketing and have some people working on it, you will need expert guidance.
I have written a very detailed post on what is content marketing, benefits of content marketing and how to plan and execute your content marketing campaigns. If you are interested, you can read it by clicking the button below.
This guidance is in terms of understanding your audience, broadening your keyword universe, understanding your competitors, how soon you can start driving organic traffic, the tone/voice of your content that can resonate with your audience and so on.
Unfortunately, content marketing as a b2b marketing strategy will fail if all you think about is creating content, pushing it on your blog and waiting for customers.
There is a lot more to it.
I can safely say that content marketing is a great b2b marketing strategy because I have used it personally.
If you look for coworking spaces in Bangalore, Chennai, Dubai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, you will find my content ranking and getting me consistent leads.
If you need help starting your content marketing efforts, ping me using the form below.
I have worked in large companies with hundreds of offices around the world and I have started a media company with two people.
In both instances, what I have noticed is that, companies start, grow and thrive based on the caliber of people who run them.
Any successful B2B company will have some people on board who are thought leaders and as a marketer, you should identify these people and use thier knowledge, skills and years of experience to market your product/service or company better.
In my last full time assignment, the founder was the son of one of the most successful Real Estate conglomorates in Asia and this person knows almost everything about real estate industry in Asia and even around the world.
Operating some of the biggest Information Technology parks, it is natural that he had an inclination for real estate, interior design and architecture.
We used his persona, knowledge and experience to create markeing communication collateral that established thought leadership and showcased the company as an extension of his personality.
Needless to say, our thought-leadership material was consumed by specific B2B audience for whom we created it and it drove significant brand recall and even sales.
When you are creating thought-leadership content, you should ensure that the content is not like an advertisement but promote thought leadership in a subtle way.
Next on the list of B2B marketing strategies is Email Marketing. When it comes to email marketing for B2B businesses, as a marketer you need to be smart.
If you think its just about procuring databases and firing emails thinking that companies will respond, you are mistaken.
But there are companies that do this too but I do not recommend it.
When I was working for an e-learning company, they used to send out 1.5 million emails in a day.
They used to send so many emails that the United States government penalized them for violating user privacy and they had to stop.
The company had set up smaller companies only to do email marketing and when one company got caught, they would shut it down and then create another one.
As a smart digital marketer, you do not have to do this.
The type of email marketing that I propose is more scientific, data-driven and result oriented.
The core of any good email marketing campaign is the data base.
When you need to do email marketing for B2B business, you will have to build your own database or buy a database from any third party source.
The next step is cleaning this database and ensuring your list is good and there will be minimum hard bounces.
When I do email marketing, I ask my team to know more about each of these leads and then create segments of users within the database.
We create different versions of emails, creating emails that appeal to these segements to evoke a response.
Our email copy would never be about directly trying to sell a product or a service, but rather to get attention or understand the pain point of the lead.
Once a lead responds, we respond immediately or move it to a drip email marketing flow that keeps the lead engaged.
Drip email marketing is a series of automated emails that your prospects receive based on their actions, the lead keeps moving deeper into the funnel.
I will explain drip email marketing with an example of “coworking” which is a pure B2B business.
We have a cold lead that enquired about a coworking space
In our drip email marketing flow, this lead would recieve an email about the benefits of coworking
In the next email, the content of the email would be about hard tangible benefits the business gets out of using a coworking space–cost savings, lower CapEx, premium location etc.
The next email would be about soft benefits like improved retention, finding right talent etc.
The next email would be about some of businesses operating within the space
The next email could be about cost savings for each employee using a coworking space as opposed to a traditional office
The next email would be beautiful pictures of the space to entice the lead to make a visit.
Basically, each email is designed to make the lead more interested in visiting the center which is a significant stage in the funnel.
Your business might require a different flow and scoring mechanism, so you will need to think and come up with your own drip flow and fine tune based on performance.
If you need some help setting up your drip email campaigns, do let me know.
I stumbled on to the concept of “Brand evangelism” when I realized that I was a brand evangelist for years without knowing.
Brand Evangelism is a concept in which a consumer has dedication and enthusiasm towards a brand, and promotes the brand without any form of reward. This is usually driven by an emotional connection.
I’ll give you an example to make it little bit more clear.
When I was in school, pen drives were somewhat expensive. They were not cheap like how they are now and I saved up lot of money to buy a SanDisk pendrive.
Within couple of months, the pen drive stopped working and I contacted the SanDisk customer care in India and I was in touch with thier local office.
Thier local office didn’t seem to care about me, so I wrote a detailed email to thier Mumbai office regarding my non-functioning pen drive.
In India, very few businesses actually cares about the customer and because global offices are also manned by local people, they show the same attitude and the Mumbai office also stopped responding to me.
The customer service representative even went to the trouble of blocking my number so that they do not get my calls.
Anyways, as I was just a kid, out of frustration I wrote a very detailed email to SanDisk office in Texas (USA) and they responded saying that they understood my situatation and that they are sending me a replacement from Texas.
After couple of weeks, I remember recieving a big carboard box containing a tiny Pendrive shipped all the way from Texas and inside was a hand-written note that said, “If this stops working, do let us know we will ship you another one.”
After few months, this pen drive too stopped working and when I emailed the same person, shockingly, he sent me another one from Texas.
I know for a fact that shipping a pendrive to India will cost more than the actual cost of the pendrive but thier dedication to have a satisfied customer blew my mind.
For years, I told this story to all my friends and family and they all buy only SanDisk pendrive to this day.
This is Brand Evangelism at its best.
By shipping me two pen drives which would have a negligible amount for the business, SanDisk got at least 20 sales and I have been promoting them everywhere, including this website.
In terms of B2B Marketing, I have always strived to create brand evangelists by identifying customers who are most happy with the product/service and then take their loyalty to a new level by delighting them.
Brand evangilism makes your customers your most important salesman and they work for free.
Also, brand evangelism takes time and its not an overnight process you can set up and forget.
You need to have the team, the process and the right marketing channels to enable brand evangelists and the rest they will do to spread the word about your product or service.
One of the most effective B2B marketing strategies you can use is employee marketing.
In my last full time assignement, I was heading marketing for a 300-employee company.
Our digital marketing team was roughly around 20 people, but we would always be thinking of ways to make all of our employees our marketers.
The concept is very similar to brand evangelists, only difference is that you constantly have access to these employees and you already know a lot about your employees.
If you do not know much about your employees, then you need to.
We developed a comprehensive strategy that empowered our employees to make referrals, get rewarded and spread the word about our business and even help thier second and third tier connections refer more customers and get rewarded.
I have personally seen that many B2B companies are hestitant to reward employees because the management thinks that they would game the system.
But, if employees are empowered to market your products & services and get righly rewarded, I think it can be a phenomenal source of customers and revenue.
Lost Leads Marketing
I worked in an elearning company that used to spam the hell out of lost leads.
Thier concept was if we keep sending them emails, at some point when they need our product, they will buy.
I was not handling email marketing for them, but my common sense told me this was wrong.
There is a reason why a comapany usually marks a lead as “lost”. They have lost the business or account due to some reason and this reason is where your start your next association with the customer.
When I was working in my last full time assignment, we pulled out the complete database of lost leads and then segmented them.
After we had segmented this list, we initiated the process of contacting these leads again on the likelyhood of how much they would be interested in our services.
I put my Account development team to work on this and nuture lost leads back into the funnel.
For the leads that were not reachable via phone, we put them on a drip email marketing flow which again gently nurtured them to visit our premises to see for themselves what they had missed by going with a competitor.
It was an interesting experience and we managed to convert significant number of lost leads to “visits” and then subsequent conversions.
This approach could work for any B2B business, you just need to understand your “lost leads” and then have a plan for each segment.
As a digital marketer, many B2B businesses have asked me do chat bots work? From my experience, yes they do but there is a catch.
Many chatbot companies create complicated and complex products and pitch businesses with the idea that this chatbot will double thier revenue within few months.
In my experience, chatbots are only a means to initiate a conversation and nothing more.
Chatbots can initiate conversation with a visitor on your B2B website and probably guide the visitor towards benefits of your product/service but it is rare that a B2B customer will buy something as a result of a bot.
When I was working in B2B companies, I have used many chatbots but I used them majorly to collect leads and then move this lead to a more conventional drip email marketing.
If you are not using a chat-based marketing tool for your B2B business, I strongly urge you do try few chatbots but try to use something that is simple to integrate, does not cost much and can give you basic functionalities. This will be more than enough.
I’ve used performance marketing for many B2B and B2C companies and there is one thing I have noticed.
Performance marketing at scale, targeted at a specific geography tends to cap out in some time.
This is when I turn to other forms of marketing and when I was working in Robert Bosch, we used Influencer marketing to great effect.
When I was working in Bosch, we were working on planning and executing Influencer campaigns for Skil Tools which is a power tool subsidary for Robert Bosch.
Our target market was most of Europe, specifically, non-English speaking countries where we wanted to sell Skil power tools.
The challenge was that because these countries were small and they had very limited English speaking people, typical digital marketing channels such as Google & Facebook were not delivering the results we were looking for.
Therefore, we turned to Influencers. DIY is very big in such countries and these users were a close knit community often following small & micro influencers for product reviews and recommendations.
Our Influencer campaign aimed at on-boarding these influencers and having them review and recommend Skil Tools to their community.
Some Influencers wanted money, some wanted tools and other did the review for free.
The campaign was a resounding success and we were able to sell more Skil Tools that any other performance campaign executed in the past and we were able to track sales using coupon codes.
This kind of Influencer marketing can be used for any B2B business.
Pro Tip: Large influencers with very large following tend to ask lot of money for promoting products, we had our best results from growing or small/micro influencers who promoted products either for free or for a very small fee.
Next on the list of effective B2B marketing strategies is niche marketing. Niche marketing can be best described as marketing efforts targeted at a very niche audience that the company can fulfil better than other competitors.
For example, lets take a look at coworking niche.
When I joined a premium coworking space as Head of Digital Marketing, the company was focusing on acquiring leads and customers who were small businesses, entrepreneurs and small startups.
As we moved along, we figured out that a specific audience was more profitable for us.
This was a niche audience who already had established businesses, had teams of 40+ employees and had already raised series B in funding.
This niche was profitable for us because this group of audience had good cashflow and they did not mind paying a little bit more for a premium space.
Also, these customers churned slower and was always on time when it comes to payment which reduced lot of our finance team’s bandwidth.
The point here is that within an audience of startups, we were able to identify a niche and we targeted all of our marketing efforts with offers, features and specific add-ons to acquire these customers.
In B2B businesses, events work. Its as simple as that.
In many of the B2B companies that I had worked for, events were the single most revenue generating source of leads.
When it comes to event marketing, there is more to an event than just sending out a bunch of invitations and then expecting people to show up.
The event has to be well-planned, you need to understand the needs/wants of your attendees, the value that attendees will get out of attending your event, a system to collect data, how to use this data for the future & building relationships before the event ends.
As a digital marketer, I ensure that events hosted by companies I work for are promoted heavily across all digital media and we even set up drip email marketing to build the excitement and remind people to attend the event.
Leveraging Marketing Automation
Maketing automation is a buzzword that has been overused in digital marketing for quite some time now.
When executed correctly, marketing automation can significantly boost leads and revenue for any B2B business.
Marketing automation can be used for Lead Generation, Lead Engagement, Drip Email Marketing, Performance Marketing, Referral Marketing & so on.
There are marketing automation platforms and tools for each aspect of digital marketing I mentioned above and you can choose one based on your business requirements.
I’ll give few examples of marketing automation tools I have used to make it easier.
Lead Generation: LeadFinder Pro
Lead Engagement: HubSpot
Drip Email Marketing: Drip
Performance Marketing: Marketo
Referral Marketing: SalesManago
Last on the list of effective B2B marketing strategies is good old fashion growth hacking.
These day’s I see lot of people claiming to be growth hackers just because the name sounds cool.
In my book, a growth hacker is someone who can figure out faster growth at minimal costs and without requiring a huge team.
Genuine growth hackers are hard to find and they are people who will try to solve digital marketing challenges in a creative way.
Recently, I was interviewing a candiate from an e-learning company and he told me something interesting.
This company was into teaching kids (Grades 3-8) and they implemented a free certficate program for kids.
They would approach large schools and have kids take a voluntary exam for a chance to be featured in an Olympiad.
All particiants were given a very nicely printed certificate of participation with grades displayed prominently.
To get this certficiate, students had to give thier parents name, email address and phone number–lead generation.
Once the kids or parents got the certificate, they would share it with thier family and friends and even on social media–free promotion.
The company used a B2B business (school), generated leads and made revenue just by offering the promise of a certificate. While the business can be called a B2C business, I just mentioned this example to help you understand.
I think this is a good example of a growth hack.
These were some effective B2B marketing strategies that will work in 2020.
If you need some help with B2B marketing, do fill the form below and I’ll see how I can help you.
Talk to you soon,