The reality is that B2B and B2C marketing have more in common than they do points of difference. The same marketing rules apply. The same digital channels and activities will typically be part of the plan. In both cases, you’re building a campaign to attract and persuade people to take a certain action. And you’ll still largely be focussed on generating awareness, leads or sales.
Why then do we hear so much about B2B versus B2C marketing?
It’s because while the ingredients are the same, the recipe most certainly is not. Sometimes the differences are in the marketing activities themselves and sometimes they are in the different environments B2B and B2C marketers find themselves working.
At Rocket, a B2B campaign often looks something like this:
It is these traits that make B2B marketing campaigns unique and challenging.
For many B2B marketers, there are few, if any, quick wins. Marketing is not a tap that can be turned on or off in a way that might work for an online retailer or simpler offering. A big-budget brand awareness campaign is unlikely to move the needle like it might for a consumer brand. And a bottom-of-funnel paid search campaign is often going to underwhelm in terms of the volume of leads generated.
Am I speaking your language? Does this ring true of your marketing challenge? If so, read on.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through nine things I see the best B2B marketers doing. Most importantly, I’ll outline why each area is important and what you can do to deliver in a very practical way.
Some of these nine points may not apply to you, and that’s OK.
But before you dismiss any one area as being irrelevant for your marketing campaigns, stop and consider whether focusing on this area will deliver your next big marketing breakthrough.
Don’t let the things you don’t do define the outcome of your next campaign.
I’m a Co-Founder of Rocket. We’re an independent digital marketing agency based in Sydney, Australia. Our team of fifty talented marketers work with well-established businesses and successful brands to optimise their PPC, SEO, display, and social media advertising.
More than half of our client campaigns have a B2B focus. With more than a decade of experience working side-by-side with hundreds of talented in-house marketing teams, we understand the challenges and rewards of B2B marketing, both from an agency and a client-side perspective.
If there is anything my team can do to help you with your B2B marketing challenges, don’t hesitate to be in touch. You’ll find us at rocketagency.com.au and 1300 059 620.
All the best,
This is often highlighted as the biggest difference between B2B and B2C marketing and for good reason. Unless you are targeting micro-businesses, then the decision-making process for your prospects is going to be complex and will involve more than one person.
The decision-making process for your prospects is going to be complex and will involve more than one person.
For each persona, you need to understand and document their unique problem and opportunity. You need to be clear on how they receive value from your product or service. You need to tailor your marketing in ways that motivate them to choose you and think carefully about what you can do to allay potential concerns.
You then need to understand the role each persona will play at all stages of the buyer journey. One-size-fits-all marketing and content won’t maximise the effectiveness of your campaigns. And ignoring important personas will leave money on the table in terms of the outcome.
Carefully consider how each persona is likely to find you and what they will be looking to make the engagement a valuable one for them.
All marketers should have a formal document which describes their key personas. If you haven’t done this, we have an excellent process and customer persona template to get you up to speed.
Many B2B marketers are under pressure to deliver leads or sales in the short-term even if their sales cycle is long and there is only a tiny percentage of their market ready to buy at any point in time. B2B marketers who put all their money into chasing the quick sales are destined to struggle.
B2B marketers who put all their money into chasing the quick sales are destined to struggle.
On the other hand, brand building is a long-term investment. For many it will be hard, if not impossible, to clearly attribute sales revenue to it now or in the future. Let’s face it, this makes it a hard-sell for decision makers.
Despite similar challenges, B2C marketers have always invested heavily in brand building. Even though traditional media is poor at targeting a specific audience and measuring engagement, brand building has always been considered worthwhile. Often this is because the audiences are large and broad. As a B2C marketer you can afford to go big knowing that your audience is so large that your investment will be worthwhile.
Prior to digital, it was different for B2B marketers. Traditional brand building activities like TV, radio and print were poor at targeting and involved so much wastage it didn’t seem financially worthwhile given the often niche audiences needed for success.
Here’s the reality though, it is easy to argue that brand and therefore brand building is more important in a B2B environment than it is in a B2C one. This is because of the reputational, and potentially career, impact of making a bad purchasing decision. Your prospects care a lot about the perception of the brands they are considering doing business with. They will be reluctant to engage with a company they have never heard of if there are others in the market they are more familiar with.
Here’s the reality though, it is easy to argue that brand and therefore brand building is more important in a B2B environment than it is in a B2C one.
B2B’s reluctance to invest in brand building despite the obvious benefits in doing so creates a huge opportunity for the smart B2B marketer.
Digital has opened up powerful targeting options and in recent years we’ve noticed a big change in the attitude of many marketers to investing in brand building. The best B2B marketers work hard to secure budget for awareness campaigns and think carefully about what they can do to create an awareness and positive perception of their brand amongst their perfect personas long before they become a potential customer.
Your brand-building campaigns are not trying to make a sale today or even tomorrow. They are tasked with the important job of ensuring that when your perfect customer is ready to explore their options, you are not only part of the discussion, but that you represent a brand they already trust.
Just because you’re in B2B does not automatically mean you have a complex buyer journey. Your prospects might go from awareness to decision in a day. Alternatively, your offering might require dozens or hundreds of steps over many months or years for a team of people to go from awareness to decision. The reality is it’s probably somewhere in between.
Understanding your buyer journey is critical to success. It’s also a powerful tool in expectation setting within your organisation. You need to understand, and then document this journey, and make sure that everyone in your organisation who has a say on marketing or an opinion on its results is clear about it.
Understanding your buyer journey means you can start to know:
The most successful marketing strategies are rarely perfect the first time they are taken to market. They start with a solid idea that delivers some degree of success. Marketers then iterate their approach over many cycles to continue improving it.
The reality is that a lot of money is spent on digital marketing within your industry locally, and in many cases nationally and even internationally. Out of all this activity, you need to ask which of your competitors are running successful campaigns and which are wasting their money running campaigns that don’t deliver. If you can answer these two questions, you have a powerful advantage before you even consider how to approach your own campaigns.
This is true for both B2B and B2C campaigns. But in many ways, it’s more important for B2B campaigns because starting off with the wrong strategy might not be discovered for months or years if your buyer journey is long and complex.
One of our most valuable digital strategy tips is to not limit yourself to the market you're in. Look both locally and globally for companies doing similar things in other markets. It is highly unlikely your direct competitors are running the best campaigns, globally speaking. If you expand your search, you can find inspiration in geographically remote and noncompetitive markets. This can then help you stand out from your direct competition.
You’ve figured out your personas and their buyer journey. You’ve got your campaigns ready to go. For most B2B marketers the next step is critical - how can you make sure that the audience you’re speaking to contains a high enough percentage of your perfect prospects to make the effort and spend worthwhile?
Go too broad and you’ll not only be experiencing a lot of waste, but in many platforms the poor engagement levels caused by failed targeting will see your campaigns suffer even further. Go too narrow and your engagement levels will be fantastic, but you’ll be reaching only a small percentage of your total audience.
If you’ve done your buyer personas and buyer journey correctly, you’ll know who you’re looking for and even where they spend their time. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn all have powerful targeting abilities, and the key is understanding how to use their various options to zero in on exactly who you want to reach.
If you’ve done your buyer personas and buyer journey correctly, you’ll know who you’re looking for and even where they spend their time.
Don’t forget to also create your own powerful targeting options by driving people to your website for future remarketing or by giving them something of value in exchange for their email address.
The key to targeting is to understand your prospects at a deep level and then review constantly the tools you have inside and outside of your organisation to get in front of them with the right message at the right time.
If you are in the business of selling a simple product with a simple buyer journey and all your transaction are online, then without too much effort you should be able get close to understanding the direct impact each of your marketing efforts have on revenue.
For most B2B marketers this is just not possible. In our experience many marketers put the struggle for accurate attribution down to some failing in their tools or their skills. This is simply not the case. They struggle because the real-world is simply too complex, and for most businesses the number of datapoints are too small. Add another layer of serious complexity if revenue for your offering is generated offline as it so often is.
Many marketers put the struggle for accurate attribution down to some failing in their tools or their skills.
When decision-makers struggle to accept this, bad things happen:
This is not a call to ditch data and the valuable insights it can deliver. It’s a call to understand the limitations in your data and to use your experience as a marketer and your understanding of your prospects and how they behave in the real-world to fill in the blanks when making decisions about what to do next.
What should you say to your audience to get them to take action now? How can you shift their perception of the value you can offer them? How can you describe the ways you solve their important problems, so you stand alone from the competition? And what are you offering them in exchange for their attention, time or money?
We’re not talking about creating beautiful or creative prose. We’re not talking about using shocking or provocative messaging just for its own sake. What we’re talking about is using words to craft an offer having the most deliberate impact on the people you most want to influence.
Words, and the message they convey, are typically the most important part of any campaign and should be tackled at the start. It’s the promise in the words that matter to readers. It’s about how the words speak to them.
B2B marketing can forget this sometimes. It can be easy to focus on features, jargon and technical details when you’re marketing something used by other businesses. However, the reality is that you’re still in the business of influencing people and a technical approach will typically only get you so far.
The value of what you are offering is not the sum of its features. It’s in how it can change the experience or professional life of the prospect. What are the true benefits it has to offer? Features can be technical and can be an important part of your message, but benefits are human and should be understood by all.
The value of what you are offering is not the sum of its features. It’s in how it can change the experience or professional life of the prospect.
If, as a B2B marketer, you have a long and complicated buyers’ journey, it’s almost guaranteed there will be significant research and discussion done by your prospects before they ever consider speaking to you.
If you’re focussed entirely on search and social ads and posts you’re missing a huge opportunity to influence and be part of these early (and even late) conversations.
This is where content comes in.
Once you understand your personas and buyers journey, you can create the perfect content pieces for distinct stages of the journey. First though, there are some things you need to accept about content marketing:
Finally, here’s a tip about creating great content. You want to be more like Hollywood than a news network.
News networks are in the business of creating topical content every single day. It’s exhausting and takes a lot of resources. It also tends to create a lot of content which gets tired fast and needs to be replaced. Most businesses do not have the resources to do this successfully.
Hollywood however is in the business of storytelling. They’ve understood for a long time that all movies follow one of a small number of stories. Even more, they understand that evergreen content generates the best return on investment. Sure, sometimes it’s good to create something new, but it’s hard and inherently risky. Browse the highest grossing movies of the past few years and you’ll notice a pattern. The list is dominated by remakes and sequels. Hollywood will keep pumping out the same content, with only small variations until no-one is interested. This is how you should approach your content.
Think evergreen (Hollywood) rather than everyday (News).
It makes no sense. This is especially true in complex B2B environments.
According to the Harvard Business Review “when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower”.
Keep them apart and you’ll not only lose the above, but you’ll also give people in both teams the ability to blame the other for poor performance. You’ll find it hard to ever know where the real problem exists.
Ever heard a salesperson use the quality of leads as their excuse for missing their sales targets? Ever heard a marketer tell you that revenue is down because the sales team aren’t making their calls or doing their job properly?
By keeping these teams separate you are encouraging an ‘us and them’ culture. There is not a single reason this is a good idea.
Here’s some tips to get your teams working together more effectively:
If you’ve gone to the effort of reading to the end of this guide, then you’re on the right track. You’re either already a very good B2B marketer or you’re on the road to becoming one.
Which of the nine things great B2B marketers do resonated with you as an area for improvement for you or your organisation? Write it down as a goal for this quarter and get to work!
I’d also very much like to hear from you if you think I’ve missed anything important that describes your life as a B2B marketer.
If there is anything the team at Rocket can do to help, or any question we can answer to help give you clarity, don’t hesitate to be in touch at rocketagency.com.au or 1300 059 620.
Good luck in the continual journey of being a great B2B marketer.
All the best,
James is co-founder of multi-award-winning Australian digital marketing agency Rocket, keynote speaker, host of Apple’s #1 Marketing Podcast, Smarter Marketer, and co-author of the 2019 Amazon Australia’s #1 best-selling marketing book of the same name. He was also a finalist in 2019 and 2020 B&T Marketer of the Year.
James’ 15-year marketing career working with more than 500 in-house marketing teams inspired the 2019 release of Smarter Marketer. It has been endorsed by marketers at some of Australia’s leading brands, including Hubspot and KPMG.
In 2022, James launched the Smarter Marketer podcast, the definitive podcast for Australian marketers. Released fortnightly, James sits down with local experts and global authorities to discuss how Australian marketers can become more successful in their careers.