The Guide to B2B Marketing in 2021 and Beyond

More than half of business-to-business companies say they allocate 5% or less of their total budget to marketing, and another 21% only give 10%. While that’s still a good amount of money for businesses with large budgets, there’s no room for waste regarding B2B marketing spend. And in today’s competitive, lean markets and economies, doing more with less in every part of a business is vital.

A robust B2B marketing strategy can help ensure you’re getting good ROI from every marketing dollar you spend. Pair that strategy with Sugar Market, which automates marketing processes to help you get the job done better, faster, and at reduced cost over manual methods, and you’ve got a winning approach to engaging with and converting business clients.

Major Differences between B2B and B2C Marketing Strategies

a hand is flipping wooden cube blocks to change wording of B2B to B2C

Before you build your B2B marketing strategy, it’s important to understand how marketing to other businesses is different from marketing to consumers.

  • Consumers and businesses both want value, but consumers are more likely to be driven by emotion too. While consumers like a good deal and may be price-conscious, business buyers may be working within budget frameworks that spell out maximum pricing they can approve.
  • Consumers may focus on value related to entertainment, lifestyle, and perceptions. Businesses are more likely to focus on value related to cost-savings, efficiencies, and how your goods or services support quality for their customers.
  • Business customers are more likely to be looking for and require education to make a purchase decision—making educational content a critical part of B2B digital marketing.
  • Purchasing processes for B2B sales can be multilayered, requiring levels of approval, contracts, and other gates that B2C sales don’t need. Building a professional relationship and a layer of trust so you can shepherd potential clients through that process is essential.

Determining the Goals for Your B2B Marketing Efforts

a work team gathers around a desk

All marketing should have goals, and those goals must be business-centric. It’s easy for businesses to get confused between the end goals of their marketing and the KPIs (key performance indicators).

Examples of common KPIs in B2B marketing include:

  • How much traffic you get on your website
  • How much engagement you get on social media posts
  • The number of people clicking through on certain ads or links

But none of those is a marketing goal. KPIs help you understand how various parts of your marketing efforts are performing, but they don’t, on their own, move the needle for sales or revenue.

Your marketing goals should be:

  • Business-centric. They should align with and support the overall goals you have for your business.
  • Specific. Apply numbers and ensure you can measure them to know when you’re successful.
  • Time-sensitive. Set deadlines or time periods for your marketing efforts.
  • Realistic. Be logical and reasonable while challenging your internal and external marketing teams to rise to the occasion and help your business grow.

For example, if your business goal is to increase sales or revenue by 10% year-over-year, your marketing goal might be to drive an increase in conversions each quarter. You might state it as: “Drive a 5% increase in conversions quarter-over-quarter for the year.”

Once you have that goal, you can start making decisions about your marketing strategy to support it.

Marketing Segments, Client Profiles, and Unique Value Propositions

a large group of people seen from above gathered together in the shape of a pie chart

One of those decisions is which segments of your target audience you should address with various types of marketing. Your target market can be broken down into sectors—sort of like slicing a whole pie into multiple servings. Each segment should have commonalities that make them more likely to respond to specific marketing messages or need certain types of products than others.

For example, consider the example of a company that makes elementary educational supplies for the school and wholesale markets. Possible market segments might include:

  • Public schools
  • Private schools
  • Homeschool co-ops or umbrella schools
  • Teachers
  • Libraries
  • Retailers that carry educational supplies

Those segments all need educational supplies, but why and how they buy them is different. Public schools may need to follow strict rules when making official purchases, while individual teachers buying on their own might have more leeway. Homeschool co-ops may be interested in how the learning materials support learning via popular methodologies or go above-and-beyond public school curriculum. Retailers want a good deal and a product that’s likely to interest their consumers. As you can see, the marketing message most likely to engage one segment may be different from the message most likely to persuade another.

Create Client Profiles (aka Marketing Personas)

Once you segment your market, take some time to create a detailed client profile for each. This is a fictional profile of someone who encapsulates the “ideal” client for that part of the market.

For example, if you provide tax services for businesses, you might divide your market into: solopreneurs, small businesses, small-to-midsize LLCs, corporations, and nonprofits.

The person making a purchase decision for a solopreneur or small business is likely the owner. For larger organizations, the decision-maker might be a finance or an accounting executive. Create marketing personas for these people, detailing:

  • What their needs, concerns, and challenges might be. For example, small businesses might be most concerned with access to accounting knowledge and remaining compliant. But a large corporation with in-house accounting experts might be more concerned with driving efficiencies or scaling processes.
  • Barriers to making a purchase. Solopreneurs might have limited budgets or be paying out of their own pockets, for example, while nonprofits may have to work through compliance and documentation processes before making a purchase.
  • Job titles/roles. Where does your point of content fall in the organizational structure, and will they require approval from others?

Define a Unique Value Proposition

After you create ideal client profiles for each of your marketing segments, develop a unique value proposition for each. The unique value prop is what your product or service does to specifically answer the needs or problems of that ideal client — and how it does it better, faster, or cheaper than the competition.

The unique value prop is what sets you apart from others. It’s also the “heart” of your marketing message. While you never want to beat people over the head with one thing, you do want all efforts to support the concept of your value prop. This helps align all of your messages and keeps things consistent.

You can use all this information, along with big data and marketing automation solutions, to address segments of your audience and then personalize marketing messages to individuals for the highest chance of response.

Determine Your Marketing Budget

a person types on a calculator

Whether it’s 5% of your total budget or any other number, you must know how much you have to spend on marketing. That way, you can set up a budget, including details such as how much you have for each marketing channel.

It’s easy to get caught up in marketing and continue to throw money at things, so make sure you stick to your budget. It’s also a good idea to use automation tools to manage channels such as paid advertising to keep your budgets in check without a constant need to tweak advertising campaigns manually.

Common B2B Digital Marketing Channels

a hand holds a smartphone with social media notifications popping out

Multichannel marketing strategies are important. They let you reach out to potential clients in various ways, ensuring you connect with more people in your target audience. They also help you reach multiple touchpoints with each potential client, which can be required to close a deal. Here’s a look at five channels most B2B marketers should consider investing in.

1. Website Marketing

Website marketing refers to the efforts you make on your website to attract traffic and convert visitors into leads or clients. Some parts of successful website marketing include:

  • Strong home and about us pages so visitors can quickly see what your brand is about.
  • High-quality landing pages for your products and services. You can link to these pages from emails, social media posts, and ads to drive interested parties to additional sales information.
  • Informative blog posts, which provide that important educational content many business customers want. Blog posts also help you support strong SEO for your website, enhancing your chances of showing up in the search engine results pages (and getting more traffic).

When planning content for your website, do keyword research to determine what people are looking for and the intent behind those searches. Searcher intent helps you understand what type of content you can write that will be most wanted and helpful to your audience. Meeting those needs is a first step in creating a trust relationship that can lead to a purchase.

2. Email Marketing

Email marketing is important because it lets you reach out to people in your target audience directly. These are people who have confirmed interest in your products by signing up for a newsletter or indicating they’re willing to receive future marketing emails, and that makes them valuable leads.

Another reason email marketing is essential is that you own your list. Your list is everyone who has agreed to receive emails from you. You can bring that list with you to another email marketing service provider at any time. What you don’t own or control to this degree are your social media profiles and advertising. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, and other online giants can choose at any time to pull your profiles or access to tools, and outages that bring down those sites leave you disconnected when they occur. Having a robust email list lets you carry on digital marketing in the meantime.

3. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing lets you connect with your target audience wherever they’re most likely to be online. LinkedIn is one of the best places for many B2B companies because other businesses are already on the platform. Creating a network and publishing helpful, expert-level content on the business social media site is a good way to get noticed by potential clients and begin to open lines of communication that can lead to a sale.

Depending on the type of business you run and your B2B target audience, you might also want to put marketing effort into Facebook or Instagram.

4. Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is different from search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is concerned with showing up organically in the search engine results pages (SERPs) via keyword placement, writing high-quality, relevant content, and attending to factors such as backlinks and domain authority.

SEM refers to paying to show up in the SERPs in a sponsored link or ad. You do this through options such as Google search ads, whereby you set up campaigns that target users who meet specific requirements (such as geolocation) and are searching for keywords relevant to your campaign.

5. Digital Advertising

Ads aren’t limited to search engines. You can also pay to show up in ads on social media and websites with advertising set up. One of the most popular options for digital advertising is called pay per click or PPC. With this structure, you only pay for ads when someone clicks on them, which means you’re only paying for leads that self-select as interested in what your ad seemed to promise.

How Sugar Market Can Help

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B2B marketing can be a big job, even for smaller companies. Marketing can be a serene and organized driving force for your company. But it can also spiral into a realm of chaos and last-minute changes if you don’t have a strong strategy and the tools in place to help automate and organize your efforts.

Sugar Market can help by supporting marketing automation, predictive decision-making, and multichannel marketing. Contact us to get a demo to find out more.

About the Contributor
Paul Scondac
Paul Scondac Paul is an experienced Senior Content Marketing Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology industry. His skillset includes content and email marketing, team management, CRM and Marketing Automation, and more. While not working, Paul enjoys playing videogames, walking his dogs, attempting to cook, and the occasional trip to Starbucks.