If you perform a Google search for B2B marketing strategies, it’s all too easy to land on articles that simply provide the generic list of marketing strategies we already know to be true: SEO, PPC, email, social media, referral marketing, loyalty programs, and more. And many of the themes layered on top of these strategies are repetitive: know your target audience, personalize, and use your data.
When a post tells you to know your audience. Personalize your content. Use video.
Now I’d be lying if I said I won’t cover any of the above in this post. In fact, I cover all of the above. But my aim here is to break down why these strategies are important for 2021 and to provide some more specific tactics on how to carry them out—backed by new data.
So here’s what I’m going to do:
As the workforce evolves, new trends emerge from the pandemic, and major platforms make (major) changes (see ya, cookies), the best ways to carry out the evergreen B2B marketing strategies are going to look slightly different each year. Here are some general approaches to take with respect to recent reports. You may also be interested in the 19 best marketing strategies that get results now.
By 2025, millennials will represent 75% of the global workforce. According to Merit’s B2B Millennials Report, 73% of millennials are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, and 30% of them are the sole decision-makers.
This means catering your B2B marketing strategies toward millennial preferences, like:
The lines are being blurred between B2B marketing and B2C. This is due to the increasingly competitive nature of the digital space as well as the growing percentage of millennials in the B2B buyer population. In fact, according to Foleon’s 2021 B2B Buyer Insights Report, 80% of B2B buyers now expect a B2C experience.
In order to stand out above the noise, and to millennials, B2C approaches are necessary, like:
It’s always been known that B2B marketing typically has a longer buying cycle than B2C. But according to a study conducted by McKinsey at the end of 2020, the buying cycle has gotten even longer for B2B businesses since the pandemic.
With budgets being tightened, B2B buyers are taking more care to research products and services, and to more thoroughly calculate ROI beforehand. This makes it important to:
With the iOS 14 privacy update and Google eventually moving away from cookies, achieving precise targeting will become more challenging. Since knowing your audience is the fundamental first step for all types of marketing (see, I told you I’d talk about these things), first-party-data-friendly marketing campaigns are essential. Ways to collect first-party data include:
You can even create custom questions in Facebook ads to collect first-party data.
Marketing automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are not one and the same. Marketing automation software is geared toward helping humans to carry out simple and repetitive tasks. This still requires configuring workflows around various scenarios and using the data to make manual optimizations. AI, however, uses data to mimic human intelligence and reasoning to make predictions, suggest optimizations, and dynamically apply them.
Combining automation and artificial intelligence gives you the best of both worlds: you get the efficiency and time-saving benefits of automation, along with the ability to recommend and make adjustments to the automation using data-driven insights.
Here are some examples of how AI can augment automation:
Now that we’ve gone over the overarching themes, let’s talk about ways to apply them in the most popular B2B marketing channels: SEO, PPC, social media, email.
SEO helps you to get found in searches the buyers within your target businesses are performing. Here are three strategies to employ for better B2B SEO:
Since B2B buyers are doing such heavy research these days, and are not yet ready to buy during this process, having organic content that ranks at every stage of their journey is huge. This way, you’re not only supporting their research, but you’re also staying top of mind, displaying your expertise, and building trust throughout their whole process.
Backlinko’s guide to B2B SEO provides excellent coverage for this strategy. The example they use is that of a logistics services company.
Here’s what we can gather from this visual:
There is so much more to keywords for B2B marketing (intent and location modifiers) but this is an oversimplified version to help you get the gist.
Even though you are a business selling to another business, the buyer is still an individual person with a specific role in their company. And solutions aren’t the only things they are searching for online. They’re also looking at ways to educate themselves, build their skill sets, and advance their career. Create career development content to establish your expertise while building connections with could-be customers and tapping into a whole new set of relevant keywords.
How do I know this works? I’ve done it.
Technical SEO is nothing new, but it has grown in importance with new algorithm updates in the past year. For example,
And what piece of content about SEO would be complete without the overarching reminder: to produce quality content regularly that conveys EAT.
PPC comes in many different forms: search ads, social media ads, display ads, app store ads, podcast ads, and more. All of these can be lucrative B2B marketing strategies. For this post, I’m going to highlight three specific strategies you can apply to improve your B2B PPC efforts.
I can’t tell you how many articles there are out there that say B2C marketing is focused on emotion and B2C is focused on logic. (We’ve even been guilty of it.)
I never thought I’d use that stale meme pic, but the cosmos aligned.
But science says that all decisions—even B2B buying decisions—have an emotional basis. Even though businesses spend more time carefully considering options and even have decision-making committees, these committees are still made up of individuals.
B2B businesses can (and absolutely should) inject emotion into their marketing campaigns. I promise I won’t talk about the Dove Beauty Sketches or the Subaru Emotional Outback campaign. From a B2B perspective you can be much more subtle, like in the example below:
This word choice triggers a bit of anger and indignance. (Image source)
For more help with incorporating emotion into your ad and copywriting, check out our 273 words for emotional marketing copy.
This isn’t exactly a new strategy, but it’s more important given the farewell we said to our friend modified broad earlier this year.
Without this keyword match type (and without the helpful information that used to be available to us in the search terms report), you can’t exactly be sure that you’re targeting the exact right search query in your PPC campaigns. But you can be sure that you’re targeting the right person.
By targeting broad match keywords with audience targeting you can capture a broad audience of the right people. And since B2B marketing largely targets the decision-makers in the company, this is especially helpful.
Back in 2018 when Microsoft bought LinkedIn, they rolled out the ability to use LinkedIn profile targeting for Microsoft Ads. But one tool that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention is the LinkedIn Website Demographics tool. With this feature, you can look at traffic coming to your site based on company, company size, job function, job characteristics, industry, geography, and more. Use this data to:
Insights from Linkedin Website Demographics can help you in your other B2B marketing efforts since you can have a better idea of who’s doing the research and who’s making the decisions within your target businesses.
With PPC and SEO driving traffic to your website, it’s important to make sure your website provides the right experience for your buyers that aligns with expectations of 2021.
How strong is your website and online presence? Find out in 90 seconds with the free LOCALiQ Grader!
According to Demand Base’s latest B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, 70% of buyers ranked relevant content that speaks directly to their company as “very important.”
Now you can’t exactly cater your website to specific companies, but you can use dynamic content on your site to provide a more personalized experience.
For example, you can create different live chat options on certain pages based on which channel they came to your website from—like an email or an ad—or you can use Drift’s integration with Clearbit to get even more personal:
You can create pop-ups for guides of varying topics based on the category of the blog post they’re reading. Or even adjust the headline for your homepage based on company size.
Another option would be to create a popup that asks for information that will help you to guide the B2B buyer on a path tailored to their needs.
Other criteria for dynamic content includes:
McKinsey recently released a report on how COVID has changed B2B sales forever. One of the key insights is that B2B buyers have become more in favor of being able to evaluate and purchase products by themselves, which means two things:
Remote human interaction and digital self-service.
According to McKinsey, only 20% of B2B buyers want to return to in-person sales experiences.
The former isn’t limited to having video conference meetings during the sales and fulfillment stages, and the latter isn’t limited to buy online. Buy online can also mean free version, free trial, and DIY demos. And remote human interaction can (and should) be provided at every stage of the customer’s lifecycle through live chat.
With live chat, you can cater campaigns based on the page your visitor is viewing, which typically indicates their stage in their journey. For example:
For any of these campaigns, you can start off with a bot that collects information and then routes the chat to a live agent who can provide the human interaction.
Personalization, self-service, and support. Now THAT’S a 2021 B2B marketing strategy done right. (Image source)
Is Facebook a lucrative B2B marketing platform? The answer is 74. 74% of people say they use Facebook for professional purposes, and business decision-makers spend 74% more time on Facebook as compared to other people. Plus, there’s this:
Here are some tips on using Facebook for your B2B marketing strategy:
From the Content Marketing Institute’s latest B2B Content Marketing Report.
Using LinkedIn as a social channel for B2B marketing is obvious, but let’s go over a few tactics:
Surprisingly enough, Twitter and Facebook are tied as the second-most popular social media platform used by B2B content marketers. It’s a good place to have conversational interactions with prospects and customers, take note of trending topics in your clients’ industries, and interact with influencers.
Here are some B2B Twitter marketing tips:
Email is the preferred form of communication for 73% of millennials. It’s also a top free organic distribution channel for 87% of B2B marketers. Needless to say, it’s a must-have B2B marketing strategy. Here are my three tips for B2B email marketing:
Drip and nurture campaigns get used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Drip campaigns are a predetermined set of time-based emails you send out to a segment of your list, usually designed to drive a conversion. Nurture campaigns are behavior-based, meaning they go out to recipients according to how they’ve interacted with your site and previous emails. Nurture email campaigns are best for B2B marketing since they focus on educating the prospect as they interact with your brand and provide more personalized content to help build the relationship.
Here’s a great example of a nurture email I got from Moz after creating an account to use their Chrome extension.
The next email I get from Moz will depend on whether I click on this guide.
For more help with your emails, check out these 34 free email examples and templates I created to make your life easier.
We all know that video marketing has been the rookie of the year for like, five years now. And email marketing has been the MVP for forever. So why not combine them? In fact, this winning combo can increase click-through rates by up to 300%.
You can use video as a teaser for the content you want readers to click on, for product or feature releases, to reveal your company culture, or as a part of a tutorial series for nurturing leads. Here’s an example by Wistia:
Even when sending HTML emails, you should always have a plain text version. Not only does this help your emails get through spam, security, and privacy filters, but also, plain text emails are more compatible with smart watches and voice-assisted devices. This Litmus guide walks you through creating an optimized plain text email.
Believe it or not, some readers actually prefer plain text emails. (Image source)
As millennials come to dominate the B2B buyer space and businesses are pushing for a more personal approach to marketing, B2C and B2B marketing strategies are becoming less and less distinct. Traditional B2B marketing methods remain evergreen for the most part, but there is a greater emphasis on buyer enablement, education, and empowerment. And with the pandemic, the push for social change, and the major platform changes we’ve seen over the past year, we’re reminded of the importance of staying on top of trends and changing best practices.
There are plenty more B2B marketing strategies that I didn’t cover in this guide—referral programs, interactive content, increasing your overall online presence, influencer collaborations, and account-based marketing to name a few. But hopefully I’ve given you enough material to either try something new or brush up on one of your traditional strategies.
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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