As a small business looking for B2B sales, your go-to-market strategy has to identify audience targets, their pain points, their preferred communication channels, and tactics for ongoing business development.
With so many tools, tactics, channels, and approaches now available for B2B marketing, it’s difficult to know which strategies work for your industry and solution.
And, adopting the same marketing strategies used by companies that target consumers won’t work.
Our guide defines why B2B marketing strategies have to be different than B2C marketing strategies, what to consider before developing your B2B marketing strategy, and the best strategies to use for your small business.
The best B2B marketing strategies your small business should try
- In-depth market research
- Niche-focused perspectives
- Dynamic website
- On-site and off-site Search Engine Optimization
- Social media for lead generation and engagement
- Online and social media advertising
- Referral marketing
- Customer Relationship Management
- Marketing automation
- B2B marketing analytics
What are B2B marketing strategies?
B2B marketing is a segment of marketing 101, and is the process of marketing your products and services to a business or business owner rather than to a consumer audience. The products and services offer solutions for problems faced by a company.
These solutions could address the sourcing of materials, logistics, equipment needs, quality issues, sales and marketing to their customers, or operational inefficiencies, just to name a few.
B2B marketing tends to involve multiple purchases over time, so the need to segment, deepen, and personalize relationships is even more important.
For example, supplies and service contracts may span months or even years, generating ongoing revenue. As a result, the expectations about what a company can do for that business or business owner are much different than for a company that makes a one-off sale to a consumer.
Although B2B marketing has been changing and moving more toward digital marketing strategies, traditional marketing and personal selling techniques are also commonly used.
In moving to the digital environment, more companies are discovering new ways to target prospects — from LinkedIn ads to search marketing, YouTube channels, and Facebook pages to mobile marketing, remarketing, and analytics.
What to consider before choosing a B2B marketing strategy
These strategies may be a lot to take in for a small business owner like you who may have hesitated to dive into digital marketing. There are a lot of options and tools to use, so it can be a challenge to pick the best ones.
So before you jump in and start implementing a handful of B2B marketing tactics or fill your marketing toolbox with every conceivable platform and app, consider these factors related to your specific business.
Type of offering: Product, service, or both?
Before you delve into a B2B marketing strategy, it’s important to define what you are offering because it will shape your tactics, messaging, and channel outreach.
Specify whether you are offering a product, service, or a combination of both.
Type of value: Fundamental or total?
Determine what type of value your target audience wants. A B2B customer seeking fundamental value is solely focused on the value the product or service delivers, while a total value prospect wants that and more — like an exceptional experience.
This information can then inform how you position your B2B product or service in the market as well as directing your marketing messages.
Pain points: How to help
Before formulating your B2B marketing strategy, research your target audience and get to know their pain points from the inside out. You need to know what they need and if you can help them.
You’ll also need to identify what makes you different from your competition. Having this intelligence prior to creating your B2B marketing strategy can guide the kind of messaging, channels, and engagement tactics you select.
The best B2B marketing strategies your small business can try
Now that you are more clear on exactly what you offer, the next step is to learn more about the types of strategies you can leverage in your small business.
As you go through this list, some digital marketing tips and strategies may be more applicable to your business than others, depending on whether you offer a product or service.
1. In-depth market research
We previously recommended doing some upfront research prior to developing your B2B marketing strategies, but you also want to continue this tactic throughout your B2B marketing program.
Research helps you understand your clients, their needs, the environment that impacts those needs, and how any competition might pose a challenge to your efforts.
How you can be successful with in-depth market research
- Scour multiple research sources: Use online and offline research materials to cover all aspects of research, including studies from research firms, academic research, industry and government findings, interviews, social media content, and more. Create reports that use tools like a SWOT analysis, PESTLE, and other visual tools that explain your findings.
- Create an information/research repository: Keep your research organized and accessible with a cloud-storage library so the whole team can access everything from statistics to industry reports.
2. Niche-focused perspectives
Your target audience is more likely to spend their money with companies that make them feel unique and give them personalized attention. And you want to differentiate yourself from the competition.
That makes niche targeting and specialization a critical component of a successful B2B marketing strategy. Find an area where you can provide a specialized solution and experience for your prospects.
How you can be successful with a niche-focused perspective
- Define what makes you different: Identify how you can separate your solution and brand from the rest of the market and create a unique experience that your prospects will continue to invest in.
- Focus on thought leadership development: Use content channels like your blog, industry blogs, speaking events, webinars, podcasts, and article syndication to develop yourself as a thought leader in your niche. Share this content across channels to maximize awareness and coverage.
3. Dynamic website
If a prospect visits your website and sees that nothing has changed in the last few weeks or months, they won't feel confident that you are an active, vibrant business.
With no new content, there won’t appear to be any value in returning to the website in the near future. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen, so you need to transform that static website into a dynamic website that customers and prospects want to visit often.
How you can be successful with a dynamic website
- Add landing pages: These special pages can be directed at specific audience segments. They can also provide a way to showcase something new that you offer, share a special report or ebook, or offer a promotion.
- Regularly add new content: From embedded videos to new blog posts, you need to create a content calendar for your website that outlines regular content publication. Make sure everything you add is optimized for mobile devices.
4. On-site and off-site Search Engine Optimization
You want to be discovered quickly by prospects as they search the Internet for someone to help them alleviate their pain points. Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy needs to consider on-site tactics that leverage specific keywords within your website.
Additionally, consider using off-site strategies through links in outside articles or social media posts that point back to your website.
How you can be successful with on-site and off-site SEO
- Use website SEO plug-ins: Plug-in tools like Yoast on WordPress provide an exceptional way to learn how to optimize all content that appears on your website, including pages, blog posts, and visuals.
- Leverage other SEO tools: Take advantage of other tools and platforms that help keep you updated on SEO best practices, including SEMRush that allows you to also see how your competition uses keywords.
5. Social media for lead generation and engagement
Social media is not just a place for consumers. More businesses are using social media to connect with colleagues, consultants, and vendors. You need to be on these social media sites, joining in discussions, following your target audience, and sharing your solutions.
From review sites to professional social networking sites like LinkedIn to previously consumer-focused channels like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, you’ll find more prospects here than in many other online environments.
How you can be successful with social media
- Regularly publish valuable content: Social media channels offer a way to educate, inform, survey, and interact with your audience. Besides publishing written content, you should also take the opportunity to share presentations, use live video, upload visuals and infographics, and create video stories that help your audience address their pain points and critical issues.
- Continually review and respond: If people post comments, feedback, and questions — or even negative or positive reviews, you need to address these as quickly as possible. Reputation management tools help alert you to these posts so you can be actively involved in social conversations about your brand, product or service, and/or niche area.
6. Online and social advertising
You may be concerned that advertising is too costly of a strategy, considering your lean startup or small business budget. However, there are ways to get a significant return for your investment since online and social advertising focuses on highly targeted campaigns.
While Search Engine Marketing (SEM) like Google AdWords and Facebook ads tend to be the most expensive, you can also consider other social media sites like LinkedIn and industry websites that offer package deals.
How you can be successful with online and social advertising
- Study the ad formats and channels: Educate yourself on all the available options and compare costs, channels, and features before spending any money. It doesn’t hurt to ask other small business owners about their experience with online and social advertising to see what worked for them.
- Experiment with short campaigns: Select one or two ad formats and run a short campaign within your allotted budget to assess results and return. Use your research to improve the chances of success and then compare which formats achieved your goals.
7. Referral marketing
Look to your professional network to see where you can get a boost from those who trust what you do and can share your solution with those in their network and beyond.
These referrals can deliver a significant increase in credibility and reach.
How you can be successful with referral marketing
- Incentive referrals: Develop a manageable and financially prudent referral program that incentivizes others to recommend your product or service to others. Share this referral program on your website and social media.
- Expand your network: Get involved in professional and industry organizations to increase your network so that you can further your referral efforts.
8. Customer Relationship Management
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a system that combines database management capabilities with data insights about your customers and prospects. Some of our favorites include Insightly, Agile CRM, and Pipedrive.
This in turn can inform both your marketing and sales efforts. You can more effectively track what your customers are doing and when they buy, what drives purchases, what makes them unique, and when to follow-up, so you can personalize and target more effectively.
How you can be successful with CRM
- Try different CRM platforms: Familiarize yourself with the wide array of CRM systems to see which ones best fit your business and budget. There are many more CRM solutions now available to small businesses that will aid your marketing efforts and help you be a good salesman at the same time.
- Use it synchronize work across your company: Don’t put the CRM system in a silo as if it is only a tool for marketing or for sales. See it as a cross-functional solution that can be leveraged by anyone in the company who interacts with prospects and customers. It could contribute information that benefits the entire marketing, sales, product development, and service experience.
9. Marketing automation
As a small business owner with limited resources, these marketing strategies may all sound promising, but they are also are time-intensive.
That’s where technology can step up and take over some marketing tasks through automation.
Not only can you gain time and money through a solution that reduces or eliminates repetitive manual processes, but you can also add further efficiency through a centralized system that can oversee all these marketing strategies.
How you can be successful with marketing automation
- Compare and shop around: Since there are so many ways to automate your marketing processes, take the time to research, compare, and try before you buy. It’s important to ensure these investments align with your marketing needs, current and future company size, and budget.
- Identify where you need to save time: You most likely will only be able to automate one or two processes at a time so prioritize where you need to save the most time. Is it social media, where you could benefit from an automated social media post scheduler? Do you need a chatbot to cover your online conversations and customer experience interactions? Or, should you invest in an automated email marketing service?
10. B2B marketing analytics
From social media and your website to email and online ad campaigns, you need to measure the results from each B2B marketing investment you make. Take advantage of free or low-cost analytics tools that are part of what you may already be using.
If you have a Google account, you can tap into Google Analytics. Or, you can use the analytics tools that come with your Google AdWords, LinkedIn ad, or Facebook ad investment.
How you can be successful with B2B marketing analytics
- Establish metrics to analyze: Have a specific set of metrics you want to measure to test for a return on investment. It might be the number of clicks, click-throughs, shares, views, or website visits. Determine that before making any investments in analytics tools.
- Make changes related to those insights: Analytics tools are only as good as the response you have to the insights they uncover. Understand what the tools are telling you to change or improve in your marketing efforts, so you can implement those changes and re-measure until you maximize your results.
Implementing your B2B marketing strategy
Your B2B marketing strategy will evolve over time as the needs of your audience change and as you become more effective at putting these strategies into action.
Constant improvement is the hallmark of any successful B2B marketing strategy. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, if you make it a regular practice to assess and revise, you will be able to keep on track.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. John Rampton has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Facebook, HubSpot, and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.