For those who are new to B2B marketing, it can seem a little overwhelming. Industry gurus throw around strange terminology like “channel partners,” “retargeting,” and “lead scoring,” not to mention acronyms like CRM, CMS, MQL, and ABM. We talk about using white-hat SEO to improve your SERP rankings and tracking sales-qualified leads through the buyer’s journey.
If if all seems like too much to handle, relax. It’s true that B2B marketing involves more steps and more variables than its B2C counterpart, but it’s really not that complicated.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a simple, user-friendly, jargon-free “cheat sheet” that maps out the essential elements of the B2B marketing journey, from putting the first building blocks in place to wielding sophisticated tools like marketing automation. Ready to get started?
Build Your Buyer Personas
Many B2B marketers march headlong into publishing websites and crafting sophisticated campaigns without having the slightest idea of whom they’re talking to. But knowing your audience — really knowing them — is a vitally important first step in the B2B journey.
It’s important to paint a clear picture of the individuals your marketing should speak to, the people whose eyes and ears you want taking in your messaging. The best way to do that is by creating buyer personas, fictional representations of the people in your target audience.
As you build your buyer personas, remember to define your target audience on two levels:
- Organizational Level: industry, size, structure, geographic location, etc.
- Individual Level: job title, seniority, key responsibilities, major pain points, values and priorities, etc.
Action Item: Pull together all the information you have about current customers and new markets you want to reach, and create a buyer persona representing each group.
Build Your Brand
Once you’ve determined the people you want to reach, the next step is determining what kind of impression you want to make on them, and that means building a strong brand.
Your brand is simply the way your company is perceived by customers, partners, prospects, employees, and the other players in your environment. When we talk about brand marketing, we’re talking about taking control over all the factors that influence your image and steering them in the direction of how you want to be seen. Those factors include your logo, your tagline, the tone of your content, the images you use, and several other considerations.
By building a strong brand and incorporating it in everything you do, you create a consistent presence that helps prospects get to know you and that makes you memorable.
Action Item: Bring together representatives from sales, marketing, and customer service and talk about how your brand is perceived in the marketplace. Then determine how you want to be seen and start putting your brand marketing pieces in place.
Choose Your Marketing Channels
So far we’ve determined the people you want to engage and the impression you want to leave them with, also known as your brand. Now let’s get into the practical decision of where you’re going to engage your target audience with your irresistible brand — also known as your marketing channels.
Today’s always-on, always-connected environment offers a nearly endless array of marketing channels to choose from. We have websites, social media, video, email, SMS, webinars, conferences and expos, and good old print, just to name a few — and we have numerous options within each category. For example, you may determine that social media is a valid channel for reaching your target audience, but then you’ll need to address the question of which network(s) will deliver the best results.
Action Item: Go back to your buyer personas and determine the best marketing channels for reaching each of them. If you’re not sure, ask your sales and customer service reps for their insights. If you’re still not sure, consider conducting a survey among your current customers or creating some focus groups.
Build Your Lead Generation System
Once you have the basics of your marketing plan in place — your buyer personas, your brand, and your marketing channel strategy — it’s time to get down to the basic mission of B2B marketing: delivering leads that your sales team can convert into customers.
While much of what you’ll do in marketing is designed to build brand awareness, without a plan to spin that awareness into a steady stream of leads, the job is only half done. Fortunately, you have an assortment of lead generation tools and tactics at your disposal, including:
- Intent Signal Marketing: Intent monitoring platforms scan activity across the web and identify business users whose “digital footprints” indicate that they could be prospective customers.
- Inbound Marketing: Publish lead-generating content such as white papers and e-books and collect the contact information of users who download them.
- Conferences and Industry Events: Conferences, expos, meetups, and other industry events offer an ideal opportunity to meet prospective customers face-to-face and determine which ones are a good fit for your solutions.
Action Item: Work with your sales team to learn what they look for in a lead, then enlist their help in designing a lead generation system that delivers what they need.
Publish Engaging, Relevant Content
Just a few years ago, few B2B marketing pros had even heard of content marketing. Today, it’s must-have component of any B2B brand’s strategy.
Because B2B products and services tend to be complex offerings, education is an important part of the marketing and sales process. Content marketing allows you to answer your targets’ questions before they ask, so that you can become the guide they need to help solve their problems. And as they approach the decision phase of the process, you can offer your product or service as a solution and begin engaging your sales team.
As you design your content marketing strategy, keep these best practices in mind:
- Remember, the goal of content marketing is not to sell your product or service. Focus on educating and informing your audience, and save the sales pitch for further down the funnel.
- Be consistent in your topic choices, your formatting, and your tone of voice to build trust among the people in your audience.
- Track your analytics to see which approaches resonate with your audience, and incorporate those practices into your strategy.
Action Item: Create a content marketing strategy for publishing blog posts, social media posts, email content, and other assets that will keep your brand in front of your targets and present you as a helpful expert.
Leverage Marketing Automation Strategically
As your B2B marketing machine gets rolling, it becomes impractical to do everything manually, which is where marketing automation comes in. Most email marketing and social media management platforms offer tools and features that allow you to automate certain communications. You can, for example:
- Create an automated email “drip” campaign that triggers when a lead downloads an e-book or white paper.
- Schedule social media posts to publish automatically at designated times.
- Automate emails to customers who have recently purchased to ask for testimonials or referrals.
A word of caution: Automation is great, but be careful not to over-automate. Remember, you’re looking to build relationships with prospective customers, and if they don’t sense a personal connection, you run the risk of losing them.
Action Item: Look for opportunities to leverage marketing automation while still maintaining a personal connection to your audience.
Measure, Adjust, Repeat
One of the biggest mistakes B2B brands make is taking a “set it and forget it” approach to their marketing plans. No matter how effective your strategy is, the marketing world is constantly changing, so it’s important to keep an eye on your analytics and be ready to adapt.
If you use an all-in-one online marketing system like HubSpot, you can probably access a single report encompassing results from your website, blog, email, and social media efforts. If you use separate platforms, gathering that information may take a bit more work, but it’s worth the effort to pull it all together. Google Analytics is available for any website (plus, it’s free), and many email marketing and social media management platforms offer reporting capabilities.
What’s more important than the technology you use is the fact that you look at your analytics on a regular basis and that you have a process in place for adjusting your approach as changes in your environment demand. By keeping your marketing program agile, you can make small changes as they arise rather than having to make a major overhaul one or two years down the road.
Action Item: Build a process for analyzing your analytics at least once a month and for adjusting your strategy as needed.
As you begin your journey as a B2B marketer, keep in mind that, while B2B marketing isn’t rocket science, it does require a solid understanding of best practices … and, of course, there is always more to learn. The advice we shared in this “cheat sheet” will give you a solid foundation to build on. As you progress, remember that every market is different, every brand is different, and every audience is different. If you can you can start every day knowing exactly who it is you’re trying to help, what they need from you, and how you can deliver it, you’ll be in the perfect position to propel your organization in the direction of your goals — and beyond.