What is B2B marketing? Do B2B companies have to market differently than other types of businesses? What does that look like? And most of all how could this help your business?
The key here is that businesses have very different decision factors when making a purchase, compared to normal consumers. For example, businesses have to think much more rationally about return on investment.
This also means that B2B customers need considerably more information before making a decision than the B2C counterparts.
Our guide to B2B marketing will help you understand why B2B works differently from general types of marketing AND how you can market to B2B companies.
Let’s start with the basics.
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What is B2B Marketing: Definition
B2B stands for “business to business”. This is a type of commercial transaction where one business sells products or services to another business.
This happens all the time! For example, many manufacturing companies sell their products to other manufacturers, who use those supplies to create the products they sell directly to consumers.
Many contractors offer their services to other contractors, and become subcontractors working on the same project…and so on.
In these situations, a representative or manager from one business is typically in charge of examining products and choosing which other business to buy from or create a contract with.
Of course, the final decision often goes through several stakeholders as well. This makes the B2B marketing process more complicated, as you have more decision makers to convince.
They must consider the financial and logistical needs of their company. They are also still human, which means they aren’t immune to making decisions based on their emotions and instincts.
A B2B marketing definition, then, includes an interesting combination of appealing to the professional side and the personal side of the buyer at the same time.
This type of marketing understands that it is trying to sell to a business entity with very specific needs, but also knows that core marketing concepts like trust, first impressions, and appearance still matter.
B2B Marketing Examples
In order to fully grasp the definition of B2B marketing, it’s always helpful to think about some examples of successful campaigns. Here are some incredible campaigns from major international B2B brands.
IBM’s Let’s Put Smart to Work Campaign
One of the most famous B2B sellers in the world, IBM excels at combining practical business marketing with humor, entertainment, and design. Their Let’s Put Smart to Work video campaign is a great example.
Their smart, brief videos both position IBM as a brand while explaining what their latest smart tech products are intended to accomplish in the world – something some buyers may find confusing.
Salesforce for Small Business
Take a look at their landing page, and you’ll see that they focus on proven increases in sales productivity, free trials to test their products, and a full breakdown of all their services so that people can find exactly what they are interested in.
No space is wasted on making you feel good, because they know you want to get down to business.
Inmarsat Aviation Augmented Reality
Trade shows remain a vital channel for B2B marketing, but it can be difficult to showcase how new products or services work in this limited environment.
Inmarsat, trying to sell in-flight Wi-Fi systems, took things to a new level with the Bring It On campaign. They created an augmented reality experience that guided visitors through a digital flight to Barcelona.
This allowed them to show buyers exactly how passengers would benefit from their technology.
B2C and B2B Marketing
B2C marketing stands for “business to consumer” marketing, and refers to all the marketing that happens when businesses try to sell directly to consumers, who in turn are buying products for personal reasons.
That’s the basic difference with B2C vs. B2B marketing.
At first glance, you may not think that this matters very much, but it’s actually a very important distinction, because when people buy things for personal reasons, they tend to make decisions very differently!
Glance at Instagram, or native advertising on a popular website, or the commercials you see on TV. These types of marketing are rife with energy, dazzling colors, and a whole lot of appeal to emotion.
You can see the same messages over and over again – buying this will make you popular!
Buying this will make you pretty! Buying this will make you feel powerful, or fix this problem in your life, or make you more like all these awesome people!
All that works, because consumers make their buying decisions for personal reasons just like these. But businesses tend to take a more practical approach.
key differences between B2B vs B2C marketing beyond just the longer sales cycles in B2B:
- B2B buyers are professional purchasers focused on organizational needs, ROI and achieving business objectives rather than personal consumption
- Larger buyer groups involved in decisions like procurement teams, executives, IT, finance etc rather than individual customers
- Much higher average deal sizes and longer-term contracts in B2B situations
- B2B messaging focused on product specs, data security, support, and reliability rather than lifestyle branding
- Thought leadership, expert perspectives and industry insights resonate strongly with B2B buyers looking to reduce risk
- Events, trade publications and consultative selling dominate B2B vs broader social and online channels in B2C
- Personalized advertising including account-based approaches and targeted paid social campaigns
What Are B2B Customers Worried About?
“Whoa now,” a business says, “How long will this product last? How do the prices compare to your competitors, anyway? What sort of certifications do you have? What are other buyers saying about you? Can I count on you for years to come?”
Because businesses are interested in this information, they tend to dismiss marketing that’s too flashy or too based on emotion.
This has led to B2B marketing to become more focused on the data, on proving the value of creating a relationship with a partner or supplier.
While B2B companies can and do use many of the same channels as B2C businesses, their marketing is typically more subdued, more focused on facts, and more of an invitation to learn more.
However, it’s also important to notice that the two types of marketing B2B and B2C, do overlap, especially in recent years.
One big reason this has happened is that the internet has allowed consumers to do more research on their own, and as a whole consumers have realized that yes, they too want to know about peer reviews, and certification, and product testing, and so on.
Meanwhile, on the other side, personal decision making can often bleed into business purchases. We’re all human, after all. This means some appeals to emotion can be effective. For example, many people want to be more effective at work.
This fact is often leveraged in B2B marketing messages.
This is one reason B2B marketing has begun to embrace social media and other channels once considered to be strictly B2C.
What Are the Most Effective B2B Marketing Strategies?
What are effective B2B marketing strategies to reach their buyers? Here are several of the most effective techniques that B2B companies use to reach buyers today, as marketing tactics continue to evolve.
The proof is in the pudding, right? Offer free trials and product samples if you really want to convince a business that you are worth partnering with. Give them a chance to see how things work with no strings attached.
There are a couple of benefits to this which you might not immediately realise.
First, free trials reduce the barriers to eventually signing on the dotted line. That is, once a client is already using your services, there’s a much smaller mental leap to becoming a long term customer.
Second, free trials are an incredibly effective lead magnet, helping customers to enter your marketing funnel through email marketing signups.
Trade Show Demonstrations
Some things are just better in person. Trade shows remain an excellent way to make new contacts and find great leads. It’s also the perfect spot to give a hands-on demonstration of your product or service.
This is particularly useful for construction or manufacturing companies that want to show how durable and handy their offerings can be.
Of course, this limits you to when trade shows are actually taking place. When they’re not, try the following as an alternative.
Video Demos and Explanations
B2B companies are starting to embrace video marketing in a big way. Videos can reach a lot more people than the average trade show, and they can also show demonstrations of how products or services work.
Videos are also an excellent way to answer questions about a company, explore current projects, and generally get buyers acquainted with the “face” of a business.
They also have virtually no cost of reproduction. That is, every time you send a sales rep to a conference or trade show, you have to spend a lot of money on hotels, food, and promo materials.
Once you’ve invested in a high quality video demo, you can send it out as many times as you like, with no additional cost.
While influencer marketing remains very popular in B2C circles, it’s also quickly on the rise for B2Bs. B2B companies are partnering with bloggers and social media gurus, who develop content for their own audiences that mentions or recommends the B2B brand.
Pick the right influencer, establish a good relationship, and you can quickly gain new leads.
B2B companies should try to publish and share their own analysis of the industry, product trends, current pricing trends, and similar issues. LinkedIn is a great place to start. You can also use your blog or ebooks for longer form thought leadership.
These pieces help establish the company as an expert in their field, which is a big factor when leads are making their decisions.
Email Newsletters and Updates
Email remains perennially successful as a B2B marketing tactic. Clients read emails, especially well-designed messages.
Newsletters, product announcements, and important sales can reach a lot of people through email, but it’s important to have an entry web form where potential leads can input their email address and choose to sign up for these features.
Every day, more B2B companies are winning sales through the contacts they’ve made on social media.
More and more buyers are turning to social media sites to vet potential partners, check out reviews, and connect with other people in their industry. This provides an excellent opportunity to expand contact pools and pick up new leads for today’s companies.
key B2B marketing channels:
Paid Search Marketing
- Precise keyword targeting allows B2B brands to reach commercial buyers actively searching to solve business problems
- Campaigns optimized around buyer funnel stages from early research to final vendor comparisons
- Landing pagesfocused on specific use cases, buyer personasto deliver relevantcontent
Targeted Social Media
- Platforms like LinkedIn provide access to professional buyer demographics through accurate role and company targeting
- Sponsored content in feeds drives awareness while customized InMail builds relationships
- Useful for brands communicating expertise via thought leadership articles and building awareness through display ads
- Can utilize site visitor targeting to reach leadership of key industry companies
- Optimize for professionals focused on staying on pulse of industry challenges
How to Utilise B2B Marketing as a New Business
Are you just starting in the B2B world, and wondering what marketing tactics will serve you best? Check out our tips for new B2B companies that are working on how to market to other businesses.
Focus on Lead Generation
As a growing B2B, you should focus on lead generation as your highest priority. Build client lists, create new accounts, and gain a target audience that you can use for future marketing analysis.
Work on content and calls to action that focus on getting these leads. Today’s marketing automation tools are excellent for low-cost management of numerous leads, so take advantage of them!
One of the hardest challenges for a brand new marketing team is a lack in particular skills that take time and education to build – like photography, SEO management, whitepaper writing, and so on.
It’s very useful to assign someone to these specific roles, preferably someone who already has a little experience or passion for that skill.
That way, they can immediately start to grow and learn in that role. Have multiple specialists on the team who can take care of various types of content, and worry about cross-training later.
Latest statistics I would recommend including around B2B digital ad spending and social media channel preferences:
B2B Digital Ad Spending Growth:
- US B2B paid search spend topped $11 billion in 2022, growing over 15% year-over-year (Source)
- B2B social media advertising grew 6x faster than B2C social spending in 2021 (Source)
- Overall US B2B digital ad spend to reach over $15 billion in 2023, doubling since 2017 (Source)
B2B Social Media Channel Preferences:
- 98% of B2B marketers focus social media efforts on LinkedIn specifically (Source)
- But multi-channel still preferred with 77% also leveraging Twitter, 73% Facebook (Source)
- Lead generation and networking are primary objectives for social media usage (Source)
The rapid growth in B2B digital advertising spend signals how pivotal addressing commercial buyer journeys across online touchpoints has become. While LinkedIn dominates social, diversified approaches still yield best results.
Start Taking Part in Conversations
LinkedIn conversations, industry forum discussions, and comment sections on important articles are all powerful B2B marketing opportunities. Give your brand a voice and weigh in on these important industry discussions as soon as you can.
Not only will you learn a lot and improve your brand recognition, but you can also make organic contacts that can lead to future sales – plus, it’s great practice for closing the deal.
If you need help with your B2B marketing strategy, contact ProfileTree today.
Q: What are the most important metrics for B2B marketing?
A: Pipeline growth, sales-accepted lead conversion rates, and cost per lead/customer acquisition cost based on marketing spend.
Q: How long do B2B sales cycles typically last?
A: Complex enterprise sales often last 6-12 months from prospecting to close. But simpler B2B product sales may only take weeks to months.
Q: Should B2B marketing focus on branding or direct response?
A: Best practice is to utilize a healthy mix – with brand marketing driving awareness and interest, while direct response handles further down-funnel conversion.
Q: What social platforms should B2B brands prioritize?
A: LinkedIn and Twitter lead for B2B relevance, but a tailored presence on Facebook, Instagram etc. can also reach decision-makers.
While business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers may operate broader initiatives across more publicly accessible channels, B2B marketing requires even greater precision. Tailoring messages, offers, and nurture to specific buyer committee concerns underscores success.
With a deep empathy for organizational decision-making processes and challenges in any vertical, B2B brands can create content that cuts through noise. They can leverage channels from search to social to trigger engagement precisely when target accounts signal intent.
The brands that flourish today do not generically market products – they market personalized solutions to the pragmatic concerns of commercial enterprises. This shift from selling to problem-solving is the future of all B2B growth.