June 16, 2024

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Business is my step

The 8 Most Effective B2B Marketing Strategies for 2021

11 min read

B2B marketing can be complex.

For one thing, it’s packed with jargon. You’re already starting from behind when you put the acronym “B2B” in front of the word “marketing”. Things don’t get better from there. Welcome to the world of ABM, SEO, CRO, PPC, CPA, CPC, etc. – if you don’t speak the language, your head will be spinning quickly.

For another thing, it’s constantly evolving. Six years ago, account-based marketing was barely a known concept. Now, it’s the number one strategy on this list.

Google Trends data for “ABM” over time.

It’s hard to keep up. But hey – somebody’s got to. Because if you’re building a B2B firm, you need marketing to grow.

That’s why we’re putting together this list of the most effective B2B marketing strategies. They are:

  1. ABM
  2. Pay-per-click marketing
  3. SEO
  4. Social media marketing
  5. CRO (conversion optimization)
  6. Email marketing
  7. Sales support
  8. Customer marketing

I’ve arranged these strategies to roughly align with a basic marketing funnel. ABM, pay-per-click marketing, SEO, and social media marketing are all (to an extent, at least) demand generation techniques.

CRO, email marketing, and sales support help to convert and nurture contacts.

And customer marketing helps to retain and delight current customers.

I’ll take a straightforward approach to unpacking each item. We’ll cover what each strategy is, where it fits into a B2B marketing funnel, and how to employ it effectively.

One last note before we dig in: I’ve titled this post “the best B2B marketing strategies”, but the reality is that some of the approaches listed here are probably better described as tools than as full-on strategies. Bear with me – these things are critical components in most effective B2B marketing campaigns, and I think it’ll be more helpful to get into a bit of the nuts and bolts of tactics than it would be to hover at the highest levels of thinking.

Okay – with that said, let’s dive in.

1. ABM

ABM stands for account-based marketing, and, as I noted earlier, it’s really only been a buzzword for the past five or six years.

What is ABM?

Here’s how we’ve described it before: Rather than crafting a message and applying that message to a market in order to get a few clients or accounts to raise their hand in interest, in account-based marketing, we rearrange the process. We treat each account like its own market and craft specific messages for each.

WordStream puts it this way: “Account-based marketing is a strategic marketing strategy where key business accounts are marketed to directly, as units of one (compared to the typical one-to-many approach).”

Where does ABM fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

I classified ABM as a demand generation strategy a few paragraphs above – and ABM is that, but it’s more than that, too.

An ABM approach covers the entire marketing funnel. In fact, it flips the funnel on its head. You identify specific clients your business wants to work with first, and then work on targeting them to build awareness, start conversations, and drive sales.

How to employ ABM effectively:

ABM is most effective if you’re serving a small or niche audience at a high purchase point. For example, if you’re providing IoT software for auto manufacturing facilities, the market is probably small enough that you know exactly who you want to sell to – and getting a few accounts will yield a big increase in revenue. ABM is ideal here.

2. Pay-per-click marketing

Pay-per-click (or PPC) marketing is still one of the best demand generation tactics in the B2B marketing toolbox. Even HubSpot – long a proponent of inbound marketing and a skeptic toward paid outreach – has come around over the last several years.

What is PPC marketing?

Pay-per-click marketing is what its name suggests: Marketing where you pay per click on your ad. This form of marketing can be run on nearly any digital platform – Google search, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on – where user activity can be tracked.

PPC Hero puts it this way: “PPC (pay-per-click) marketing is a form of online advertising in which advertisers accrue costs when users click their ads. Advertisers bid on the perceived value of a click in relation to the keywords, platforms, and audience type in which it originates.”

A note here: While PPC means ads that are charged on a per-click basis, colloquially, it may also refer to ads that charge per impression – where you’ll pay for each time a user views your ad. For instance, on many social platforms, you can pay per impression or per click.

Where does PPC marketing fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

PPC marketing is best used in demand generation. It’s an effective way to reach an existing market. For example, if you’re selling a CRM for small businesses, you could tap into the 2,400 monthly Google searches for “CRM for small business” by running Google search ads on that query.

Additionally, PPC marketing may also be used to nurture contacts through your funnel via remarketing. Let’s say you have an email list of 10,000 contacts. You could create Facebook ads and show them to this list to encourage another action.

How to employ PPC effectively:

Pay-per-click marketing is most effective in creating demand by targeting an existing audience. If you know that there is market demand for your product or service, PPC makes sense.

3. SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a longer-term tactic than PPC. You won’t get quick wins, but it has the potential be more cost-efficient over time, as you won’t have to pay for every click.

What is SEO?

SEO has an air of complexity to it, but its core is simple: the practice involves getting your content to appear in search engine results for valuable keywords. It’s a tactic to help your B2B firm get found online.

Moz (an old-school SEO stalwart) puts it this way: “SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.”

This is SEO

Showing up here is the answer to the question.

Where does SEO fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

B2B SEO falls squarely in the realm of awareness building. It’s a tool to increase the size of your audience. Let’s say you’re selling custom ERP development. If you rank for that search term, users will hit your site, learn about your firm, and potentially buy. SEO is a way to fill the top of the funnel.

How to employ SEO effectively:

Like PPC, SEO is an ideal tactic for hitting an established market. If there are a lot of searches for your services – or for closely related terms – SEO is worth the investment.

Tactically, there are two main thrusts to any SEO strategy: On-site SEO and off-site SEO. On-site SEO involves content creation and site edits to improve ranking factors. Off-site SEO involves building backlinks (yes, this still matters) to boost the domain authority of your site. Note that good SEO takes time, especially if your B2B firm is relatively new.

4. Social media marketing

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, at least in some form. While it’s probably not worth it for your B2B business to be on every platform, there are ways that B2B social media marketing can be incredibly effective.

What is social media marketing?

Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to build an audience, communicate stories, and drive actions for a brand. It’s often used simply to demonstrate proof of pulse – in other words, as a means of proving that your company is legitimate. Marketing on social platforms can be paid or organic.

Here’s how Buffer puts it: “Social media marketing is the use of social media platforms to connect with your audience to build your brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic. This involves publishing great content on your social media profiles, listening to and engaging your followers, analyzing your results, and running social media advertisements.”

Where does social media marketing fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

Ask different marketers this question and you’ll get different answers. Here’s my take: Social media is best used for awareness building and proof of pulse. Yes, it can be used to drive purchases, but, for most B2B companies, you’ll see better bang for your buck in other channels (like email).

Focus on the top of the funnel. Done well, social media marketing can be a highly impactful tool in building your audience.

How to employ social media marketing effectively:

This is a tough one, because it varies widely depending on your business and on what industry you’re in. Generally, the approach you should take is this: Identify the social channels where potential customers spend time. Optimize those channels for your business, then post to them regularly.

You might want to consider paid ads to increase your reach. And you should probably ignore the channels your users don’t frequent.

5. CRO (conversion optimization)

All right – we’ve worked our way through awareness building and demand generation B2B marketing strategies. With CRO, we’re moving lower in the funnel. You’ll need this strategy to build a contact list.

What is CRO?

CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is the process of optimizing a website page so that users are more likely to take a desired action. Content edits, call-to-action tweaks, button design, color changes, A/B testing – that’s the stuff CRO is made of. The whole point is to ensure that a higher percentage of your users convert.

Here’s how Directive puts it: “Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of optimizing your site or landing page experience to help improve desired actions (conversions). Think about it this way: if traffic is the water, and your website is the leaky bucket, then CRO acts as the sealant that fixes that bucket so fewer leads are lost.”

Where does CRO fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

CRO is a mid-funnel tactic. It’s not concerned with driving more users to your site or building awareness in the market; it’s about doing more with the traffic that you have.

If you’re investing in any of the tactics above, you should almost definitely be investing in CRO, too.

How to employ CRO effectively:

To do CRO, you’ll need to clearly define what constitutes a conversion on a page, so that you can optimize for that action. In other words – each page should have a goal.

Additionally, CRO is most efficient when you have data. Without data, any changes you make to optimize conversion rate will be based on opinion. To get data, you need to have traffic. So, build out the top of your funnel first.

Once you have a goal and you have traffic hitting your page, start testing what works to increase conversions. Make intelligent, data-informed changes, and, over time, you should see your conversion rate increase.

6. Email marketing

Email marketers are fond of saying that email has the best ROI of any marketing channel. That’s a pretty cool thing. Yes, this channel is old, but it’s clearly still worthwhile.

What is email marketing?

Come on. You’ve known the answer to this since at least 2002. But hey, here it is anyway: Email marketing is the use of email to build brand awareness and drive valuable actions.

Or, as OptinMonster (somewhat boastingly) puts it: “Email marketing is the highly effective digital marketing strategy of sending emails to prospects and customers. Effective marketing emails convert prospects into customers, and turn one-time buyers into loyal, raving fans.”

Where does email marketing fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

Email marketing can be effective up and down the B2B marketing funnel. For example, you can (and should) employ email marketing to reach existing clients or customers.

However, the tactic’s most common usage is in nurturing contacts to become clients.

How to employ email marketing effectively:

For email marketing to even be possible, you need emails to market to. You can do this by growing your traffic via the strategies outlined above, and then converting visitors into contacts. Or you can buy a list, although on most email marketing platforms – like HubSpot’s, for example – you aren’t allowed to email people unless they ‘ve opted in. There are times for both – but a collection of emails is a requirement, obviously.

Given that, there are two main modes of email marketing. The first is to send one-off emails, usually to a large portion of a list. The second is to send automated campaigns (or drips) that build conversations with the recipients. For instance: You might get emails by offering a download of a tech spec sheet on your site. When users download the sheet, they get entered into a drip of five emails explaining various benefits of your product.

Pro tip: Segmentation makes emails far more effective.

7. Sales support

Too often, marketing and sales are on different pages. Sales support is a nice way to get things aligned.

What is sales support?

The name kind of gives it away: Sales support is marketing that helps salespeople to do their jobs more effectively.

Here’s how TenFold describes it: “Sales support refers to a variety of functions that help your sales representatives focus on actually selling and closing deals.”

It’s worth noting that we’re this isn’t strictly confined to marketing; there are other forms of sales support (bringing technical experts onto sales calls, for example). Here, though, we’re talking marketing materials.

Where does sales support fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

Sales support strengthens the bottom of the funnel. Done well, it can help salespeople to turn a greater number of contacts into clients and customers.

How to employ sales support campaigns effectively:

This may go without saying, but if sales aren’t a heavy focus, you don’t need sales support. Some SaaS companies operating at lower price points might not need sales support (although most still will). If you have salespeople, though, sales support is probably worth it.

Practically, this can take a variety of forms. A few ways we’ve helped support sales for our clients recently include creating tradeshow collateral, crafting email follow-up automations, and setting up LinkedIn message chains. The bottom line in all of these efforts is that salespeople’s jobs are made easier.

8. Customer marketing

We’ve reached the last B2B marketing strategy on our list: customer marketing. Yes, you should keep marketing to people after they buy from you. Here’s what that means.

What is customer marketing?

This is another simple one: Customer marketing is marketing that’s targeted to people who have already purchased from you.

Here’s how Influitive puts it: “Customer marketing is built around activities designed to drive retention, loyalty, advocacy, growth and community participation for current customers. The strategy, which is different from marketing with the goal of acquiring new customers, relies heavily on maximizing strong customer relationships.”

How does customer marketing fit into the B2B marketing funnel?

This is at the very bottom of the funnel – after conversion to client. In some depictions, you’ll see this laid out as the foundation to the funnel.

How to employ customer marketing effectively:

Admittedly, customer marketing is a broad term – basically any form of communication with existing customers could fall under this umbrella. But there are a few general tips that nearly always apply.

First, you should be doing customer marketing. Existing customers tend to be easier to convert for repeat purchases or upsells.

Second, you should always communicate new offerings. If you’re rolling out a new product line, for example, your existing customers will be a great audience to start with.

Third, segmentation is crucial here. If you offer a variety of services, your messaging should change based on which customers you’re speaking to.

Looking for more help with your B2B marketing strategy?

Hopefully, the methods discussed above are helpful as you move forward with your B2B marketing. If you’re looking for additional insight or help implementing effective marketing, get in touch with us.

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