There are so many initialisms flying around the digital marketing space it can be hard to keep up. What with PPC, CPC, ROI and of course SEO, you might think you know what something means but are you sure?
One of the most confusing sets of initials tends to be B2B as it’s not written about nearly as much.
Luckily, we’ve put together a short guide explaining everything you need to know about B2B and how to market it to clear things up.
Take a look…
What does B2B stand for and what does it mean?
B2B stands for business-to-business. It’s a model of selling products and/or services from one business to another.
Often appearing in supply chains, B2B companies create products and services that are geared towards helping other businesses succeed, operate and grow. This could be anything from selling software to help with payroll to providing the raw parts needed for manufacturing, like Samsung supplying parts to Apple for the iPhone.
Examples of B2B companies:
A social media platform might not be your first thought when it comes to B2B but Linkedin isn’t your average platform. The website meets the need for a professional social networking site; offering insights into the business world and allowing professionals to connect. It also provides business education opportunities through its Linkedin Learning portal, offering courses to help users and businesses progress.
WeWork is a commercial real estate company that provides flexible shared workspaces and builds communities. It caters to freelancers, small businesses and start-ups looking for office space, recognizing that not everyone needs a whole floor to themselves. It’s successful because it keeps on top of current trends, offering stylish, affordable office spaces in cities around the world and caters to the ‘fun office space’ design that has become popular with start-ups.
Website builders like Squarespace and Wix
Not every business can afford to employ a website designer to build their site so website builders like Squarespace and Wix (among 100s of others!) stepped up and made it easy for anyone to create one themselves. It meets the needs of businesses with small budgets and a lack of design experience and allows anyone with a little bit of time the opportunity to have a fully functional aesthetic website for relatively little cost.
Social Media Scheduling Tools
Companies like Buffer, Hootsuite and Planoly created platforms that make it easy for a business to stay on top of their social media. A single dashboard for multiple accounts, scheduling options and planning capabilities provide time-saving, cost-friendly solutions to creating a comprehensive social media presence. While a business can operate without this software, it’s adding efficiency and value to any that do use it. In other words, it’s meeting the criteria for a successful B2B (we’ll touch more on this later).
SH1FT (okay all digital marketing agencies…)
Digital marketing agencies are B2B companies too. We provide a variety of services including web design, paid ads, SEO and email marketing. As specialists in this field, we bring expert knowledge to help businesses improve brand visibility, increase sales and grow.
What does it take to be successful?
Successful B2B companies offer something of value to another business. The product or service it offers addresses a pain point within the industry it operates in and provides a solution. Let’s take Slack as an example here.
Slack addresses the issue around communication within businesses, particularly those with multiple locations, teams or remote workers. By creating a professional communication platform with organizational features that let you divide up conversations into teams, projects and topics make it easy to stay on top of what is happening. It is more collaborative than email and enables multiple people to provide input on a task, and works around the world.
In other words it’s doing three key things every B2B company should do:
- add value
- increase efficiency
- provide quality
To be successful you have to be open to change. Technology is constantly evolving and the world moves with it. If your company isn’t able to adapt to change then it’s likely you won’t be able to keep up with the requirements of your customers.
If you’re thinking of starting a business-to-business company, ask yourself how can you help others succeed?
How do I market my B2B company?
Unlike B2C (business-to-consumer) models, it’s not just one individual you have to convince to buy your product, but a whole business. Strong customer service and a knowledgeable sales team (even if it’s just you) are key.
One of the distinct advantages B2B has over other selling models is that if your product/service is valuable to a business they’re going to buy it. While a consumer might not need another striped jumper from a clothing brand, a small business definitely needs accounting software! Unless they want a strongly worded letter from the tax office that is…
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to B2B marketing. Depending on the business you’re targeting and its size, the decision-makers or ‘buying centre’ will vary. One of the best things you can do is create a clear, precise and engaging marketing plan – having structure is key when you’re dealing with multiple people.
Tips for creating a marketing strategy:
Concentrate on your core audience
As with every marketing strategy, it’s important to identify your target audience. Ideally, this is based on past customer data, but for new businesses without any data to go off, focus on your ‘perfect customer’ – what are their needs?
Have a good understanding of who your product/service helps and how exactly it will benefit their business. These are your selling points so they need to be clear in your mind before you can create anything else.
Create meaningful content
As direct marketing is harder with B2B models, having a strong brand presence is essential. Creating that presence means creating content and getting it out to the right places.
If your target market isn’t aware of or doesn’t have top-of-mind awareness of your product/service and the benefits it would offer them, create it!
To demonstrate that your business understands the needs of its customers, create content that educates your target audience, helping them to work smarter. By understanding the typical purchasing path your customer takes you can provide relevant content at every stage to meet those specific needs. Focussing on motivations and pain points businesses may be experiencing is always useful here, as is showing how your product/service solves them.
Content ideas to create/collect:
- Educational content (blog posts, articles, infographics) based on keyword phrases and search terms will increase visibility during the enquiry stage. For example, lots of SH1FT’s blog content is designed to educate and inform people looking for digital marketing help.
- Featured articles on relevant third-party sites not only help to improve your site’s credibility but they widen your reach too. This can help to increase sales by making more people aware of your business so look into what blogs/websites you can contribute to.
- Testimonials on your website and reviews on sites like Facebook, Google, Yelp help to demonstrate the value in your product and add credibility.
- Your story, how it started and why can be particularly effective in some industries, making the transaction more personal. Consider adding this information to your about page if it’s not there already.
When creating any marketing content make it clear how your product/service is different, what benefits it offers and why a business needs it. You need to create desire in the consumer. Emphasize how much value it will add, the time/money it will save, how your product can change a business for the better.
Keeping track of and analyzing the engagement your content is getting is helpful to learn what your customers respond to. You can then use this information to inform what content you should focus on going forward. For example, if you’re creating demonstration videos that no one is watching then there’s little value to be generated from making more if infographics are getting more engagement. The data is there for a reason, use it to inform your content strategy to optimize both your time and the success of your marketing campaigns.
Optimise your website
We’re pretty big fans of SEO here at SH1FT, it’s part of what we do after all. But for eCommerce websites especially, regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C, SEO is essential.
Optimizing your website is going to help with SEO (as will all that educational content you just created!). 52.2% of online traffic comes from mobile phones so it’s crucial that your website is optimized for devices.
The purchasing decision is much bigger when your customers are businesses as opposed to individuals. As we mentioned before, it’s likely the decision will be made by multiple people and as such, the likelihood that they will have questions about the product goes up.
To prevent losing potential sales, make contact buttons, lead forms and FAQs easy to find and access. In fact, your whole website should be easy to access, with clear navigation, engaging call-to-actions and full of relevant content.
Although it is harder for B2B companies to run ads because you’re not targeting an individual, any external links to your website should go to the right place. Ensure landing pages are relevant to the reason a person visited; it’s no good having a link promising a free website design consultation that links to a page with case studies, they want a sign-up form!
Social Media and B2B
There’s a misconception that a strong social media presence isn’t applicable for the B2B model. In reality, 57% of inbound marketers’ leads come from Linkedin, 52% from Facebook and 44% from Twitter.
Things to consider when setting up a social media strategy:
- who is your target audience?
- what is your brand’s personality and how will you set yourself apart?
- which platforms are relevant to your business? (*hint* they won’t all be)
- what type of content will you create?
- what are your goals for social media and what metric will you use to measure them?
- how do your competitors use social media and what can you do to be better?
B2B isn’t as complicated as it appears after all. Marketing can be a little harder though, which is where a fellow B2B company like SH1FT comes in. Get in touch today to discuss your marketing needs and learn how SH1FT can help grow your business.