The benefits of digital marketing are obvious for B2C companies — with the right influencer wearing your T-shirts, they’re going to fly off the shelves.
But what about B2B companies?
Is online marketing even effective if you’re selling pallets full of cleaning products to a property management company?
Yes, it’s very effective.
In fact, it’s more effective than traditional marketing in most cases, which we’ll get into later.
In 2020, 14% of all business-to-business sales occurred online, and that number is estimated to grow to 17% by 2023.
And 90% of B2B customers start their buying journey with a search engine.
Digital marketing is a way to reach those customers — and even some of the ones who’ll end up finalizing their purchase offline — while they’re in the research process. Using various marketing channels, you can capture their attention and show them why your product is the one they want.
So, although Instagram influencers probably aren’t going to help you sell accounting software to tax prep agencies, other forms of online marketing will.
Below, we’ll talk about what those channels are.
But first, let’s talk more broadly about B2B online marketing:
B2B Marketing vs. B2C Marketing
B2B digital marketing is very different from B2C digital marketing, not just in who you’re marketing to, but how you’re marketing to them.
Here’s how they differ:
If you’re selling a pair of sneakers or a set of headphones, you probably only have to convince one person that your product is worth their money. Even large purchases, like a house or a car, only have one or two decision-makers in most cases.
When you’re selling to a business, there might be a half-dozen people involved in the purchase decision, especially if it’s an expensive product. In order to sign a deal, you have to get buy-in from four or five VPs from different departments.
What this means for marketing
This might sound like a challenge, as it means that you’ll eventually have to convince four or five people that your product is worth the investment. But from a marketing perspective, it’s a great thing because you have five opportunities to get your product in front of the people at your target companies.
Your online marketing strategy could incorporate B2B content that speaks to the individual needs of each of those roles, opening up more entry points into the sales funnel.
Longer Decision-Making Process
Even if there’s only one decision-maker, the B2B buyer’s journey is usually a longer process. If someone is making an investment on behalf of their company, there’s more on the line than if they were buying for themselves, so they’re going to do more research and give it more thought.
B2B sales have higher values attached to them, too. For instance, while the average personal debit card transaction is $44, the average B2B ACH transaction is $31,118.
This added risk tends to draw out the length of the decision-making process for obvious reasons.
What this means for marketing
Your potential customers have more time to forget about your product, which means you need to keep your company in their minds (without being annoying or invasive).
The internet is a great tool for staying in touch with prospective clients in a way that doesn’t feel too salesy. For example, email drip campaigns allow you to share specific information with different clients based on their spot in the customer journey.
Blogging is good for this, too, because if you have good rankings, your site will continue to show up in searches as they conduct research (which will show them that you know what you’re talking about).
Requires Building Relationships, Not Just Branding
It’s not just the price tag on the product that costs money — the time and effort involved in research is a big investment, too. Businesses are looking to form long-term partnerships with their vendors because they don’t want to undergo that R&D process every six months.
So, before a business will sign a contract with you, they want to know that you’re going to be a reliable partner. Branding usually isn’t enough to get customers to sign on the dotted line; you’re going to need to build a relationship that instills confidence in clients.
What this means for marketing
Your marketing materials have to demonstrate that you’re both an expert in your industry and that you’re as invested in their success as they are.
Online content is the perfect medium for this. Long-form blogs are a great way to share knowledge and address common questions, while case studies, white papers, and testimonials let you show off the work you’ve done for past clients.
The main reason to publish content on your website is to attract leads through search engines, but it’s also very useful for creating a beneficial customer experience. The folks who subscribe to your marketing emails can read them at their own leisurely pace, and if you’re the right partner for them, it’ll become apparent through your content.
Why Is Online Marketing Better for B2B Businesses Than Traditional Marketing?
There are a bunch of reasons why digital marketing tends to be a better investment than newspaper ads, TV commercials, and other types of traditional marketing.
Here are a few of them:
Online marketing makes it possible for anyone who searches a certain keyword or stumbles across your social media page to learn about your company. How great for brand awareness!
The same can’t be said about traditional marketing, which relies mainly on physical proximity. For instance, if you take on ad space at a bus stop, you’re only going to spread your message to the people who happen to use or pass by that bus stop.
Digital marketing allows you to customize your ads and messaging for different audiences.
For example, with an automated email marketing campaign, you can send out personalized emails to subscribers based on their interests and position in your sales funnel. New subscribers will receive a welcome email containing content, while those who’ve viewed particular service pages or added products to a shopping cart will receive “reminder” emails.
Traditional advertising isn’t always good for marketing to hyper-specific groups. Yes, you can place ads in a magazine that your target audience might read, but it’s really a guessing game at that point. Most magazine readers just subscribe to the digital version these days, anyway.
Even if your product is some super-niche software that will only be useful to 500 companies worldwide, you can reach them online. By analyzing search data and building a content strategy around the keywords your ideal buyer is likely to type into Google, you’ll be able to start generating leads.
When you launch a traditional ad campaign, you kind of just have to hope that people are seeing it and will rush to your store or website to start doing business.
On the other hand, online marketing allows you to track engagement in real-time from the moment your content goes live.
Whether your digital content takes the form of blogs, emails, PPC ads, or anything in between, you’ll have access to tons of information about your campaign’s performance:
- Impressions: number of people seeing your content
- Clickthrough and bounce rates: number of people clicking CTAs or leaving your site
- Audience demographics: who is seeing your content, where they’re from, etc.
In traditional marketing, you may have to wait months to get that type of insight. But, Google Analytics and other tools provide near-immediate performance metrics for all of your marketing channels.
You’ll know right away if your marketing efforts are paying off or if you need to change your strategy.
There’s hardly anything more annoying than an ad that forces itself in front of you. That’s why 73 million internet users have a pop-up blocker installed in their web browser — people don’t always like ads.
Online marketing is a way to serve your audience advertisements in a non-invasive way.
Your “5 Best CRM Software Programs” blog won’t magically appear on someone’s screen if they’re not looking for it. But, if they’re looking for new customer management software and they type “best crms” into the Google search bar, they’ll come upon your content (assuming that it’s ranking, of course).
B2B Online Marketing Tactics
Online marketing is a big umbrella with a bunch of different tactics that fall under it. Depending on your needs and budget, one might work better for you than the others.
Here are some of the most popular types of B2B digital marketing strategies:
Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing digital content. There are a million different types of content, from blog articles and infographics to webinars and podcasts.
Whatever form your content takes, the goals are the same:
- Let people know about your brand.
- Build a reputation for providing valuable information about your industry.
- Generate leads and drive sales.
How does content marketing contribute to lead generation and sales?
By attracting people to your website.
Why Do We Recommend Blog Content First?
We provide a full breakdown in our “Purpose of Blogging” article, but here’s a quick summary:
Valuable blog content (and other SEO efforts) will bring people to your site. Some of those people will share it with friends and link to it on their own websites. The traffic they generate will give your other unoptimized forms of content, like case studies, time to shine.
Over time, you’ll start to establish yourself as an expert, both in the eyes of your peers and in the eyes of Google’s algorithm, which likes to see sites that get a lot of shares and backlinks.
All of those links and website hits will show Google that you’re a trusted authority in your industry, so they’ll start ranking your pages higher in searches related to your products or services.
Just as it sounds, email marketing is the practice of using email to advertise your business.
It works like this:
- You get website visitors to sign up for your mailing list, usually through a form on your website.
- You send them emails containing something valuable, such as discount promo codes for your e-commerce store or links to helpful blogs on your website.
- Some recipients eventually convert to customers (either for the first time or as a repeat customer).
Email can be a very effective B2B marketing strategy, as it allows you to communicate more directly with your leads and clients. Using marketing automation software, you can send out customized messages to groups of customers based on buyer persona segmentation and the pages they visited on your website.
Email marketing is particularly effective when paired with a strong content marketing strategy — you use content to get people to your website and email to stay in touch with them.
Pay-per-click advertising is a type of digital marketing plan where you advertise in an online space — either on a search engine or someone’s website — and you pay a fee every time someone clicks the link.
The most popular version of this is Google Ads, which are those links you see at the top of the search page with the word “Ad” next to them.
In some circumstances, PPC ads can be a good marketing tool. They can also be very expensive, depending on which sites you advertise on and which searches you want your site to appear in.
We find them most effective if you’re trying to drive a lot of traffic to a brand new site. If Google doesn’t yet recognize the value of your site and you’re not ranking organically for your target keywords, PPC ads will bring people to your site so you can start getting eyeballs on your content.
You obviously know about social media. You might even have a social media tab open in the background while you’re reading this.
That’s the strength of social media marketing — you get to market your content where people are already browsing.
But, there’s a glaring question:
Do people use social media to research B2B products? Is that where customers go to research business-related products?
Apparently, yes. In a recent survey, B2B brands said that they will put 14.7% of their marketing budget toward social media.
LinkedIn is especially useful (which makes sense, considering it’s the most work-centric social media platform). In a recent LinkedIn survey, 89% of B2B marketers said they use the platform for lead generation.
As with email and PPC, we find it very effective in combination with a content strategy.
Whether it’s on your personal LinkedIn page or your company’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pages, promoting new website content on your social media channels is great for inbound marketing (driving traffic to your site/store).
So what can you take away from this article?
- Online marketing is useful for all kinds of businesses, including B2Bs.
- The best digital marketing strategy is a comprehensive one that’s built around website content but incorporates email, social media, and other tactics when necessary.
Want help getting started? We’re a content marketing agency, and we’d love to talk.
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