Effective B2B marketing is essential to win customers, build long-term business relationships and increase sales. Especially as competition in the B2B sector is becoming increasingly intense.
In this article we describe the basics of B2B marketing, the special features, suitable instruments and current trends. We talk about target groups, channels and developments in the multi-layered world of B2B marketing.
With this comprehensive guide, you can create a well thought-out marketing strategy that positions your offer or brand optimally and achieves long-term success.
What is B2B Marketing?
In business-to-business marketing (B2B marketing), all sales and advertising activities of a company are aimed purely at winning business customers. The B2B marketing definition thus includes all measures of a company that have an impact on the relationship with business customers. In contrast, B2C marketing is aimed at end customers and private individuals.
Common to these areas, however, are the classic marketing instruments: product policy, pricing policy, communication policy and distribution policy. However, these pursue different goals and purposes. The combination of these instruments results in the B2B marketing mix, which depends on the respective company and its goals.
What are the special features of B2B marketing?
Here, there may not only be one customer, but possibly entire buyer committees that decide. In addition to a higher number of participants in the purchasing process, the purchasing decisions are also longer. The investments are much higher than in the B2C sector, which requires a longer information phase and more services. The products and services usually require more explanation. Due to the longer processes, purchases are less emotionally charged. However, emotions should not be excluded in this case either. After all, we are all human beings and our emotions influence us whether we like it or not.
In the B2B sector, there are often fewer market participants, which makes it easier to establish personal contacts. Close cooperation between marketing and sales is therefore essential so that leads that come in through B2B communication measures can also be converted into actual purchases. Existing customers then want to be nurtured and cared for so that they remain loyal and satisfied.
Why should you invest in B2B marketing?
B2B marketing is not just a tool, but a strategic investment that paves the way for long-term business success. It enables companies to position themselves as industry leaders, forge strategic partnerships and present innovative solutions in an ever-changing market environment.
Good (business) marketing work:
- wins new customers,
- offers important information,
- creates new contact points and
- nurtures old ones,
- procures leads for the sale,
- positions the company as Brand and
- ensures satisfactory post-sale behaviour.
In addition, new trends are evaluated and embedded in the marketing in line with the corporate strategy. In short, it presents what makes your company unique and why it offers the best solution for business customers. As markets become increasingly competitive, a clear and targeted B2B marketing strategy makes all the difference.
Difference between B2B and B2C marketing
For B2B marketing we also need explanations from B2C marketing. In principle, the same instruments are used, but there are differences in the application, as completely different target groups are addressed.
B2B (Business-to-Business) marketing refers to activities from company to company. B2C (Business to Customer) always runs from company to end consumer.
What makes B2B marketing special?
- Marketers in B2B can and must face a industry-relevant jargon serve. Customers are often also experts and don't want to be fobbed off with 0815 advertising texts. B2B marketers must therefore prove their expertise.
- In addition to expertise, B2B customers expect efficiency. Rational and logical arguments are weighty and are weighed in the purchasing decision. After all, they are not buying for themselves, but for an entire company.
- A stable foundation of trust must nevertheless exist in order to conclude purchases. Therefore, you should invest a lot in Relationship building and maintenance invest in your customers.
- Information-oriented content is important. B2B marketing must provide as detailed content as possible on products, services and also the selling company. The sales department also needs this information to be able to react competently to customer enquiries.
- Purchase processes take much longer and contracts usually run for several months or years. Long-term marketing therefore pays off. The purchases also bring in much more profit than would be the case with B2C.
- The Markets are often small or there are only a few providers.
Sometimes B2B marketers have a hard time with a Buying Centre - The decision-making process involves a whole group of people who are involved in the purchasing process. There are different decision-makers from various departments who do not always agree on their needs.
Customer search in B2B marketing: from target groups and personas
The first steps are to establish a vision - the desired long-term effect of your efforts - and a B2B marketing strategy. Then you need to consider who exactly to address. There are two models to choose from for segmenting target groups:
- Classic B2B target groups
- Creation and use of buyer personas
At Target groups In order to find the right customers, internal sources (such as sales, customer service, marketing, etc.) or classic market research can be used. These sources are essential for customer segmentation in order to create groups that are as homogeneous as possible. The basis is socio-demographic, psychographic and behavioural characteristics. B2B customer segmentation also uses industry, location, size, operational or procurement characteristics. Especially when a buying centre is involved.
The formation of Buyer Personas in B2B marketing goes one step further and complements your target groups. Here, fictitious persons are created, each representing a customer group. This description is based on detailed data analyses of the target group.
Each persona is assigned a name, profession, social status, education, professional interests and challenges, information behaviour, and more. It is a hypothetical personality profile designed to reflect a part of your typical clientele.
The advantage of this approach is an improved customer approach. B2B personas focus on important details of your target group and thus make it easier to establish contact. In this way, more proximity to potential and existing business partners can be created. The various types of co-decision-makers can also be created as personas for buying centres.
Important instruments of B2B marketing
In the industrial sector, companies like to rely on classic measures such as print advertising and advertorials in suitable trade magazines, Whitepaper as well as recommendation marketing. Word-of-mouth for capital goods or complex services has a high value and cannot be replaced until today. Direct exchange for high-priced goods is important because people also work towards long-term relationships.
But digitalisation is reaching industrial companies more and more. Large players with their own marketing departments have been operating a balanced marketing mix of classic measures and digital instruments for a long time. Smaller companies now also want to switch more to digital channels and the value of their own website is being recognised. More and more companies are willing to invest in content marketing and performance campaigns to get leads in different ways.
Let's take a detailed look at popular B2B marketing communication tools below.
B2B Online Marketing: Channels and Measures
The advantage of digital B2B communication tools is that the customer journey can be backed up with data. Even if a company does not collect large mountains of data, there are enough clues about where customers come from and how they find their way to an offer.
Based on this data and with the help of the sales department, the B2B marketer outlines the customer journey and the funnel - i.e. the steps that a potential customer needs in order to enquire or even buy from you. In this way, you know exactly where to address potential customers with what content and at what stage of the purchase process.
The company website
One's own website is an asset - i.e. an asset - in which every company should invest:
- It is the digital business card,
- informs about your brand and offers,
- shows products and services,
- Offers service before and after the purchase
- shows the expertise of a company
- Attracts your customers according to all the rules of inbound marketing
At a glance, every visitor should see who your company is, what makes it unique and how it helps the user solve a problem. Offer content that adds value and not pure marketing gobbledygook. Branding: yes - self-congratulation: rather not!
Search engine optimisation for B2B content
Those who already make the effort to gear the content of their own websites to the users will also be successful with Search engine optimisation (SEO for short) do not have a hard time. SEO is often misunderstood as optimisation for Google. But that is no longer correct. Marketers should primarily optimise for users and create content with added value.
Nevertheless, there is no getting around keyword research, mapping and allocation in the content plan. After all, Google must also recognise what the topic of each individual web page is in order to display it to those searchers who are looking for a solution to a problem.
Landing page or micropage
As Landing pages Landing pages are target pages behind a link that users land on from Google searches, newsletters or social media campaigns. Such a landing page can be embedded in your own website or exist as a separate small website.
As an independent target page, it is particularly recommended in combination with performance marketing campaigns, such as advertising via Google, social media or web banners. Adapted from an advertisement, it briefly and concisely presents the value of your offer, the advantages and calls for action. This can be an entry in a newsletter, a download, a call or a sale.
If you want to advertise an offer that should appear independently of your website, it is advisable to use a Microsite. This slimmer version of a website with little depth is dedicated entirely to a specific topic. For example, a special product can have its own microsite and be marketed separately.
If you want to run B2B marketing campaigns that are linked to measurable success, performance marketing is the ideal tool for you. At the beginning, metrics - the key performance indicators (KPI) - are defined. These can be click-through rates, impressions or conversions, for example. This is how efficient campaigns succeed.
Google offers one way of doing performance advertising with its Search Engine Advertising (SEA for short). Here, there is the possibility to advertise in the search and/or display network, with a wide variety of campaign formats. A big advantage here is the flexible optimisation option offered by Google Ads.
Performance Ads via Social Media Marketing are also popular. You can target your own community or specifically defined interest groups with your campaign: for example on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
Further instruments for B2B performance marketing are offered by special emails (for example, offer emails or an automated funnel) as well as affiliate marketing, where the predefined goals are to be fulfilled.
Newsletter and B2B mailings
In digital marketing, setting up a newsletter channel is an enormous opportunity to get closer to your customers. The objectives of a B2B newsletter can be:
- the development of a sales funnel,
- Maintaining relationships with potential leads,
- the information and support of existing as well as the
- Reactivation of inactive customers
In contrast to B2C, the distribution lists for B2B mailings are smaller and the content is aimed at business customers or partners. This makes it all the more important to provide these valuable contacts with useful information that also delivers added value to the recipients. Impulse buys are looked for in vain here. The target group wants factual content that is relevant to them, and response times are sometimes longer. In addition, the timing of the mailing must be right.
Therefore, define long-term goals for your B2B newsletter campaign and ideally combine them with other marketing measures that work towards this goal.
B2B Social Media Marketing
Many - especially smaller - industrial companies have no interest in social media or simply lack the resources to use these channels. Often there is only a half-hearted LinkedIn profile on which product news is presented. Yet the social media platforms for B2B are perfectly suited to boosting inbound marketing, generating attention and building and retaining brand fans.
For a successful Support of the B2B social media channels it needs a consistent strategy and someone who can publish content at regular intervals. This can be achieved by increasing internal resources or by outsourcing to external service providers, such as a Advertising agency.
You should first clarify whether and on which platforms your target groups can be found. In the field of industrial goods, LinkedIn and Xing are primarily popular, as many business contacts can be found here. Depending on your strategy and goals, different networks come into question.
For lead generation, a social selling strategy should also be considered, in which a person acts as a brand ambassador. This person acts as an expert, opinion leader and mouthpiece for your offer or brand.
Apps for B2B companies
At what point does an app pay off in the B2B marketing mix? It makes sense when it shows clear advantages over other options, such as the company website. Apps developed in-house can do it:
- to bind customers,
- optimise communication or
- Drive deals.
Decide in advance whether you want a App which is intended to promote internal communication and employee loyalty (business-to-employee app). Or whether you want to provide special services for your customers, partners or members.
The advantage of an app is that it is also available in offline mode - something a website cannot offer. Moreover, additional value-adding functions can be offered. For example, the app could support the fleet management of customers or the administration of spare parts. These could then also be ordered directly via the app. This pushes your sales and makes business life easier for your customers.
Video Marketing, Podcasts & Audio
A video says more than a thousand words, also in B2B marketing. Especially complex and individual products or services can be explained clearly and practically with a video. Decide here whether you prefer to present it in the form of an explanation, a presentation or an image video. Onlookers are activated, understand more quickly what it's all about and give you the benefit of the doubt.
The Video production offers the right format for every strategy. The The finished video can then be distributed on a wide variety of channels. become:
- On your own website
- On YouTube
- In newsletters
- On social media
- In apps
- By means of online advertising ...
B2B audio marketing gives you the opportunity to pamper the ears of your prospects and potential customers. Discuss current topics, give interviews with experts or present your company and your offer.
Personal contact is the be-all and end-all in B2B marketing. But not everything has to be handled as a live event. The Corona pandemic in particular has forced companies to rely more on virtual events. After a peak, the use of this marketing tool is now levelling off. Virtual events are here to stay, but they rarely replace the large trade fairs and congresses of the B2B world.
Popular digital event formats are the Webinar and seminars or events on special topics. A wide range of speakers can be easily connected, live calls are possible and participants can exchange ideas directly in virtual rooms.
In the meantime, it is also possible, entire conferences, trade fairs and congresses virtually to hold. There are very good Event softwarethat guarantee a first-class experience. This is especially beneficial when participants are geographically far apart or it is difficult to carve out time for a face-to-face visit.
Gladly Virtual event measures used to support live events. These hybrid B2B events are particularly versatile and use state-of-the-art possibilities to take meeting and networking to a new level. For example, some of the presentations could be streamed for those who could not attend directly. Or guests are connected via video conference to take part in a discussion round.
Classic B2B marketing
With all the online instruments, classic B2B marketing - i.e. offline - is indispensable.
Networking and exchange at Trade fairs, congresses or conferences are still important. While digital events boomed during the Corona pandemic, now most companies are returning to Live events or at least hybrid forms of events. In industrial goods marketing, nothing can replace the personal experience of new products.
Before getting serious about a purchase or to maintain existing customer relationships, you can rely on Customer workshops be resorted to. For goods where this makes sense, a demonstration leads to more certainty and thus more likely to purchase. Open questions can be answered quickly. In addition, you remain in direct contact with your customers without major hurdles.
Print, Print, Print
B2B marketers still rely on print marketing. Advertising, PR and advertorials are placed profitably in suitable trade journals because they are close to the target groups. The Industrial magazine of WEKA Industrie Medien reaches the highest management levels of production companies. And they usually take the time to leaf through your trade magazine and look for industry news. Both editorial and advertising contributions benefit from this, such as a Study by the dfv Media Group shows. According to this study, trade media are used at the beginning of the customer journey, but also in later phases. The study looked at both print and digital formats.
In addition to paid media, B2B companies prefer to use Owned Media - in-house media. The possibilities, which are described under the term Corporate Publishing are manifold here. Customer and employee magazines, anniversary editions, event newspapers or business reports are only a small excerpt. Some even publish their own books, which can also be purchased from bookshops. Corporate publications are characterised by high-quality journalistic content and a refined look. This makes these media even more trustworthy for the recipients.
For a well-selected group of recipients, we also offer the Direct Mailings was resorted to. A high-quality invitation to a congress makes much more of an impression than an email that is too easily lost in the inbox. Product catalogues can be sent for reference, just like personal offers.
A term that comes up less frequently in relation to B2B marketing is Out-of-home advertising (OOH) like classic advertising posters or print banners. Here it depends on the business field and where the target group is to be found. In industrial areas, for example, a poster can generate attention. But outdoor advertising also takes place in other people's buildings. Placement in company lifts or on vending machines in companies could make sense - wherever your target group passes by. And don't forget effective OOH advertising at industry events.
Referral marketing in the B2B sector
How do you quickly build trust with potential customers? Through referral marketing! Personal recommendations are the best advertising you can get. But how can you manage this in B2B marketing?
Someone who had made use of your offer and was satisfied must have gone to your Brand ambassador become. It has the credibility you need and is authentic. But referral marketing is more than just word of mouth (here only opinions are passed on directly). It is the presentation of the added value that a product or service has.
For successful recommendation management, you need convinced employees who represent your company well to the outside world. This is especially true for sales and all contact points that potential customers may have. Existing customers are another factor. Besides personal recommendations, reviews and the willingness to serve as a reference or for a case study count. Last but not least is the cultivation of relationships in social networks, where connections to potential customers are cultivated.
B2B Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing mostly focuses on the B2C sector. Here meet
- a company with its offer,
- a website that receives commissions for sales and
- a network for the technical infrastructure together.
This gives the company another sales channel and the website as an intermediary earns from the sales that take place through it.
This concept could also be an interesting option for B2B sales. Here, however, the complexity and upper price range of the offers makes the way via affiliate sales more difficult. More advice and explanation is necessary. Often personal contact is needed - difficult if this is done via third parties. But even in B2B there are products that require less advice and where this type of distribution pays off in the marketing mix. The less complex and individual, the more likely it is.
The role of content in B2B marketing
Content marketing means not addressing its target groups with advertising, but convincing them with high-quality content. This content should exactly fit the needs of the target group and uses a broad spectrum of media and platforms. The keyword here is "user-centredness"..
In B2B marketing, the aim is to encourage prospective customers to approach your company on their own initiative. Your content helps in an unobtrusive way:
- He solves problems,
- gives information or
- provides assistance.
Content marketing thus perfectly implements your inbound marketing. In addition to lead generation, the focus can also be on brand building, awareness and stronger customer loyalty. But also Employer Branding uses content marketing and thus relies on high-quality content.
On the one hand, it is challenging to find the right media, formats and topics. On the other hand, there is often a lack of time and personnel resources for implementation. This is where the agency you trust can help you.
The following methods are popular with B2IMPACT clients:
- the creation of blog posts and
- lead generation by means of white papers.
- We work with case studies, advertorials and journalistic articles,
- E-books and
- a variety of corporate media.
Especially in B2B marketing, the Instrument Corporate Publishing The content marketing approach is of great importance because it also makes use of the mechanisms of content marketing.
The ideal B2B marketing mix
In the previous chapters we have dealt with the most diverse instruments of marketing communication. For B2B marketers, the question now arises as to which of these they should choose in order to achieve their strategy and goals in the best possible and most efficient way.
For an ideal mix in B2B marketing, an Optimal mix of offline and online activities promising success. Before things can get started, however, a concrete marketing strategy and concept must be in place. This defines which target groups are to be reached with which measures and on which channels and in what way. The goals of the efforts must be defined SMART - Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Timed. And only in this way can you carry out targeted marketing in which the successes can be well measured and evaluated at the end. So much for the basics.
As B2B marketing experts, we find the selection from The following activities are useful to achieve your goals:
- Ensure by means of Content marketing ensure that meaningful and useful information is offered at every level of the customer journey. Not promotional, but based on the needs of your customers. Personas or target groups.
- With Corporate Publishing use a high-quality, effective and sustainable tool for your corporate communication. Create own media and bind target groups with high content and visual quality.
- Keep your Website Up-to-date. Show who you are, what you offer and how you can help potential clients solve problems. Why should people choose your company?
- Use the The power of search engine optimisationso that your potential customers also find their way to you. SEO is a way of thinking that is rewarded with the best possible organic traffic.
- For quick success in the search engine use Search engine marketing - Paid ads that quickly bring leads to you.
- Social media in B2B marketing increases your reach, brings new leads, informs partners and strengthens customer loyalty. Choose suitable platforms and target content to the preferences and needs of the target groups.
- Create personalised marketing campaigns for selected target companies. With this Account-based Marketing (ABM) select which companies you want as customers and process them individually to optimise your customer acquisition.
- Maintain your customer relationships, ideally with a suitable CRM tool. Maintain and manage customer data to make sales and marketing more effective. Based on the data, tailor-made campaigns can be planned.
B2B marketing after the sale
Good marketing does not end with the purchase. It is especially important in B2B marketing, strive for long-term and stable customer relationships. Because it is cheaper to keep existing customers than to win new ones.
Customer satisfaction is ensured by a Optimal customer service and support. Your company should always be available for questions, complaints, adjustments and repairs. A responsive after-sales service will delight your customers and facilitate further sales.
Here you should keep to the book by Count Zedtwitz-Arnim: "Do good and talk about it". Communicate all post-purchase opportunities to your buyers. Let them know when there are product updates, training or events. Show that you are always available for questions and that personal support can be requested at any time. Stay in the conversation. In addition to customer loyalty, you also gain potential for cross-selling and upselling.
In B2B marketing, it is best to turn satisfied customers into advocates for your offer. Show referencesto inspire new customers. At the same time, strengthen your credibility in the market.
For your communication, this means analysing your customers after the purchase and also asking for feedback. Send regular newsletters with the latest information, implement customer loyalty programmes and offer customer support at appropriate points. Service Content to communicate all the possibilities to your clients. Use different channels to answer open questions and stay in touch.
Trends in B2B marketing
Marketing in the B2B sector is slowly changing. Especially in industrial companies, a lot of emphasis is placed on classic measures such as recommendation marketing, advertising in trade magazines or live events. But the trends are not bypassing the manufacturing industry either.
Digitalisation in particular is advancing. The large companies usually have a marketing department that does a good mix of digital and classic B2B marketing. Smaller companies are following suit. The value of their own website is becoming clearer and they want to expand inbound marketing.
But which B2B marketing tools and which topics are currently in vogue?
- Marketing becomes more targeted and the content is better oriented towards the needs of the customers. Instead of top-down descriptions of what great services are available, the Bottom-Up the different customer needs are uncovered. Communication and the offer are increasingly geared to the needs on the market.
- For customer contacts and the optimisation of customer care, B2B marketers are increasingly using Big Data. This enables improved personalisation and facilitates the provision of customised content and offers.
- Via B2B CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is used to manage relationships with existing and potential customers. The system helps to automate segmentation, strategies and processes. Every touchpoint is noted and every interaction analysed. This makes it easier for marketing and sales to track leads and move them to the next buying phase. Is the CRM nor AI-supported, relevant information can be pulled on demand, e.g. particularly promising leads are suggested based on their willingness to buy.
- The Marketing Automation in B2B is also becoming increasingly relevant in German-speaking countries. In conjunction with CRM systems, automated mailings can be sent out that lead potential customers through a sales funnel. With the help of web analytics, follow-up actions and retargeting can be installed after defined events in order to process users.
- It may not sound like a trend, but this is what we experience again and again: The Value of own website is finally recognised as an asset and one is prepared to invest accordingly. Now the focus is not only on products or services. Brand communication, service content and direct contact options are also being pushed. In times of a shortage of skilled workers, B2B companies also use the website for recruiting purposes to make a name for themselves as employers.
B2B marketing from the agency
Marketing needs to be well thought out, but it is time-consuming. Many companies outsource all or part of their marketing activities to a competent B2B marketing agency support. With this you get Expertise and experience from the industry and strategies and measures at hand. Your agency knows the market, the target groups and current trends. This saves you a lot of time for research and structuring.
Through an agency, B2B marketing is implemented effectively and efficiently because the necessary resources and skills are available and come from a single source. Furthermore, an agency already uses tools and systems that your company would otherwise have to purchase additionally. You thus save time and costs.
A B2B advertising agency can Take over your marketing activities, monitor and optimise them. At the end, you receive a report on the successes. This way, your internal marketing resources are not burdened and you can concentrate on your core tasks. You also get a valuable objective view from the outside, which is lost the longer you work in a company. New perspectives bring new ideas and lead to profitable solutions.
When choosing your B2B marketing agency, pay attention not only to the industry experience and expertise, but also to the costs that a cooperation can cause. Mostly a non-binding initial consultation The project offers a "feel for each other" session, in which needs are made more concrete.
By means of a cost estimate, you can weigh up the cost-benefit ratio before you decide on the assignment. Good agencies communicate with you reliably and transparently after confirming the order. Updates are made to give you control over the process and to check results. Regular communication ensures that your order is executed optimally.
Conclusion: B2B marketing as the key to success
What is B2B marketing? Successful B2B marketing is no coincidence. It is the sum of many decisions. Just like in an orchestra, each instrument must play the appropriate role to ultimately present a harmonious piece that delights your target groups and underpins your company's presence and values. With good marketing, you don't just communicate your message. You win new customers, maintain existing business relationships and increase your turnover.
Reach your target groups at the right place, at the right time and with the right message. And don't be afraid to try out trends and implement them in your activities. Invest actively, creatively and in the long term in your marketing strategy and secure an enormous competitive advantage in the market and in your industry!