Standing out

in B2B Marketing

Standing out in B2B marketing

Standing out in B2B advertising is a multifaceted endeavor. Unlike B2C marketing, where a catchy jingle might do the trick, B2B purchases involve lengthy research, multiple stakeholders, and significant investments. This intricate buying journey requires a multifaceted marketing approach to capture attention, nurture leads, and convert interest into sales. In this blog post, we’ll explore the essential strategies for navigating the complexities of B2B marketing and driving long-term success.

By: Emil Nirland on April 29, 2024 | Reading time: 12 minutes

Beyond product knowledge

While a thorough understanding of the product or service is essential in any marketing campaign, it becomes even more crucial in the realm of B2B marketing. Unlike B2C products that may cater to a broad audience with more straightforward needs, B2B offerings often involve complex solutions addressing specific industry challenges. Additionally, B2B target audiences can be diverse, with multiple stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. 

This complexity makes targeted B2B advertising a strategic challenge. Here’s where a deep understanding of your business transcends mere product knowledge:

Speaking the language of expertise: B2B buyers are industry professionals. They expect marketing material to demonstrate a grasp of their specific challenges, technical considerations, and market dynamics. Deep business knowledge allows you to create content that resonates with them on a deeper level. Imagine using relevant industry jargon and addressing their pain points with a level of expertise that builds trust and positions your brand as a true industry insider. 

Identifying untapped needs: A nuanced understanding of your target market and the competitive landscape empowers you to identify unmet customer needs. This translates into more targeted marketing messages highlighting how your product/service offering uniquely addresses these challenges. This knowledge becomes invaluable as you tailor your B2B marketing strategy to resonate with the specific needs of your audience.

By prioritizing business knowledge within your marketing team, you unlock the potential to create targeted campaigns that resonate with B2B decision-makers. This understanding separates campaigns that generate clicks from those that cultivate meaningful connections, build relations, and drive sales conversions.

The 95-5 rule – paradigm shift in B2B marketing

Professor John Dawes’ study introduces the concept of the ‘95-5 rule’, which compels a re-evaluation of traditional B2B marketing strategies. The 95-5 rule concept posits that within a target audience, only a limited segment (often estimated at around 5% but varies per industry) actively seeks a purchase at any given time. The remaining 95% are not currently in the market for the product or service, potentially delaying their buying journey for years.

This insight exposes a potential shortcoming in conventional B2B marketing approaches. Historically, many marketing resources have been directed toward reaching a limited pool of immediate buyers. This concentration creates an intensely competitive landscape, often resulting in inflated advertising costs as numerous brands vie for the same audience segment. 

The 95-5 rule proposes a more strategic approach. By proactively engaging the target audience earlier in the buying journey, B2B marketers can establish brand awareness and product/service familiarity well before a purchase need arises. This proactive engagement can be achieved through two primary methods: 

Demand generation (Demand Gen): This tactic educates the target audience about relevant industry challenges and how your product category can provide solutions. By establishing yourself as a thought leader and a valuable resource, you increase the likelihood of being top-of-mind when a buying need eventually emerges. 

 Brand generation (Brand Gen): This strategy emphasizes building brand awareness and positioning your company as the preferred choice within the market. Highlighting your unique value proposition and strengths cultivates a positive brand perception that can significantly influence future purchase decisions. 

 By embracing the 95-5 rule as a guiding principle, B2B marketers can shift their focus from the fierce competition for immediate sales to cultivating a sustainable pipeline of qualified leads for long-term success.

A multifaceted journey

While industry conferences, trade shows, and publications play a role, search engines are often the starting point for B2B research. Like individual consumers, B2B prospects leverage search engines to find information that informs their buying decisions. However, the B2B research journey differs significantly in its complexity. 

Here’s what sets B2B research apart:

Multiple stakeholders: B2B purchases typically involve a team of decision-makers, each with their own research preferences and information needs. Marketers must cater to this diverse audience by providing a range of content formats (e.g., white papers, blog posts, case studies) addressing various technical and business concerns. 

Multi-stage process: B2B research isn’t a one-time event. It unfolds in phases. Initially, prospects focus on defining the problem and identifying potential solutions. Later stages involve in-depth vendor comparisons, feature evaluation, and cost assessments. This multi-stage journey necessitates a well-rounded marketing strategy that engages prospects at every touchpoint. 

Extended purchase timelines: Unlike many B2C purchases, B2B buying decisions can take months or even years. This extended timeline requires marketers to nurture leads and provide ongoing value throughout the entire research process.

Understanding these unique B2C research characteristics empowers marketers to craft a comprehensive B2B marketing strategy that captures attention at the right moments and delivers the information stakeholders need to make informed decisions.

Targeting users at every stage

Like B2C marketing, the B2B purchase journey can be segmented into distinct stages, often referred to as a funnel. This framework helps marketers understand what content to activate, when to activate it, where to activate it, and how to reach the right users at the right time. 

Here’s a breakdown of critical touchpoints for each funnel stage: 

Top of funnel (TOFU): 

Goal: Increase brand awareness and educate a broad target audience.
Activation channels: Display & video advertising, social media, native advertising, trade fairs, and webinars.
Content mix: Blend Demand Gen content (highlighting pain points and solutions) with Brand Gen content (establishing your brand as a leader).

Middle of funnel (MOFU): 

Goal: Capture users actively researching solutions and nurture leads.
Activation channels: Targeted search engine ads (including video platforms), continued push on brand-oriented content through social media and other push channels.
Content focus: Provide valuable content that addresses specific research needs and showcases your expertise (e.g., white papers, case studies, product demos). 

Bottom of funnel (BOFU): 

Goal: Convert high-intent prospects into qualified leads.
Activation channels: Retargeting campaigns across display, video, and social media platforms, combined with high-intent search targeting.
Content: Leverage targeted content like product demos, free trials, and customer testimonials to address specific purchase considerations and drive conversions. 

By strategically activating content across these funnel stages, you can ensure your B2B marketing efforts reach the right users at the right time with the most relevant information, ultimately guiding them toward a purchase decision.

Owned, earned & amplified

In the intricate world of B2B marketing, a successful strategy requires a multifaceted approach. This goes beyond relying solely on a single tactic, which historically often focused on the lower end of the funnel, where capturing the last click was the primary goal. Today’s B2B marketing demands a more comprehensive approach. By leveraging a combination of owned, earned, and amplified media channels, you can capture attention, nurture leads, and ultimately drive sales. 

Owned media (Owned content): 

Develop valuable content like white papers, blog posts, and video tutorials that educate your target audience and establish your brand as a thought leader. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Optimize your website and content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords, attracting organic traffic. 

Earned media (Public relations & reviews): 

Secure placements in relevant trade publications or industry blogs to gain credibility and build brand awareness. 

Encourage positive customer reviews and testimonials to showcase your expertise and trustworthiness. 

Amplified media (Strategic promotion): 

Organic social media promotion: Utilize social media platforms to share your owned content and engage with your target audience. 

Influencer marketing: Collaborate with industry influencers to promote your brand and reach a wider audience. 

Content syndication: Partner with relevant websites or publications to distribute your content and expand your reach. 

Paid advertising: Utilize paid advertising channels like search engine marketing (SEM), display advertising, or social media advertising to target high-intent users actively searching for solutions like yours or those who fit your ideal customer profile. 

The Synergy Effect: 

By seamlessly integrating these owned, earned, and amplified elements, you create a cohesive marketing strategy. This approach captures prospects at various touchpoints throughout their buying journey, fostering brand awareness, nurturing leads with valuable content, and ultimately influencing purchase decisions.

The attribution enigma

While crafting a compelling B2B marketing strategy is essential, measuring its effectiveness presents a unique challenge. Unlike B2C purchases with a more apparent cause-and-effect relationship, B2B buying decisions often unfold over months or years, involving multiple touchpoints and stakeholders. This complexity creates the “attribution enigma”: attributing conversions to the specific marketing activities that influenced them. 

Here’s why tracking B2B marketing results can be challenging: 

Multi-touch attribution: B2B buyers don’t make decisions in a vacuum. They encounter your brand through diverse channels (e.g., social media, search engines, webinars) before reaching a purchase decision. Isolating the impact of a single channel becomes difficult.

Long buying cycles: The extended B2B purchase journey makes it hard to pinpoint which marketing touchpoint triggered the conversion. 

Here are some strategies B2B marketers can employ to navigate the attribution challenge:

Multi-touch marketing model adoption: Embrace multi-touch attribution models that consider the various touchpoints a prospect interacts with throughout their journey. This provides a more holistic view of how each marketing activity contributes to the conversion. 

Leveraging marketing automation tools: Utilize marketing automation platforms that track user behavior across channels and devices. These tools offer valuable insights into how prospects interact with your content, allowing you to identify patterns and attribute conversions more effectively. 

UTM parameter implementation: Utilize UTM parameters when creating links for your marketing campaigns. These parameters provide detailed data on traffic sources, mediums, and campaign names, aiding in attribution analysis.

Focus on assisted conversions: Don’t solely focus on last-click conversions (the final touchpoint before a purchase). Track also assisted conversions, recognizing the role of various marketing activities that nurtured leads earlier in the buying journey. 

By acknowledging the attribution challenge and implementing these strategies, B2B marketers can better understand how their marketing efforts contribute to the sales funnel. This data-driven approach allows continuous optimization and fosters a more effective B2B marketing strategy.

Terminology 

  • Demand gen (Demand generation): Creates interest in products/services that solve specific problems.
  • Brand gen (Brand generation): Builds awareness for a specific brand as the best solution. 
  • Lead gen (Lead generation): Converts interested people into potential customers. 
  • Lead: A potential customer. 
  • MQL (Marketing qualified lead): A promising lead identified by marketing. 
  • SQL (Sales-qualified lead): A lead qualified by sales for further outreach. 
  • Sales funnel: The journey a potential customer takes from initial awareness to becoming a paying customer. 
  • Buyer persona: A detailed profile of your ideal customer, including their demographics, challenges, and buying behavior.
  • ARR (Annual recurring revenue): The total predictable revenue a company expects to generate from subscriptions within a year. 
  • Churn: Cancellation of service or a customer no longer using a product.

About the author

Emil Nirland is a Paid Search Specialist with 11 years of experience crafting successful paid advertising campaigns across many verticals for a variety of B2B and B2C clients.

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