As I browse web design agency websites, it drives me crazy when I see the tab “Industries Served” and it lists Food & Beverage, Electronics, Retail, and B2B! I need to continuously remind people that B2B is not an industry—it comprises many different industries.
Industries like software, engineering, financial, automation, etc. can all be B2B. Many companies have B2C, B2B, and B2G marketing channels. No matter what the industry under the B2B umbrella, there are unique characteristics of the B2B marketing and sales process and this will be outlined below.
What Makes B2B Different
B2B marketing is unique because it typically involves multiple decision-makers, a longer sales cycle, and higher-priced products or services (compared to B2C). Typically, B2B marketing is not mass marketing but much more targeted. So targeted that a B2B company may only have 30 prospective clients in the entire world.
Because B2B is not targeting a market of billions of people (like Coke or Nike), mass marketing tactics like broadcast network TV advertising, radio spots, etc. do not make as much sense. Whether your company is a B2B accounting firm, SaaS company, industrial engineering firm, or contract manufacturing company, a more targeted approach is needed.
More Targeted Approach
Because B2B is a more targeted approach, a different strategy is needed. This is often a combination of inbound and outbound tactics, with inbound being much more effective early in the process. The top inbound strategy for B2B is search, focusing on organic search ranking and paid search advertising. Because business clients have specific needs, the keyword strategy should be on niche search queries that indicate buyer intent.
LinkedIn sponsored updates targeting buyers at specific companies and industries should be the 2nd tier priority in inbound—utilizing thought leadership content to build brand awareness, website visits, and conversions.
On the outbound front, there have been diminishing returns on most tactics over the past 20 years. With spam laws, outbound email prospecting can be tricky and most business decision makers’ inboxes are flooded with sales emails.
Cold calling is even tougher in light of remote working during COVID-19. In general, inbound works best for the initial lead generation. Inbound acts as the magnet to identify prospects at a buying stage. Outbound works best as the lead nurturing tool after a prospect identifies themselves.
Multiple Decision Makers
In each industry in B2B, there is typically a “sphere of influence” impacting the buying decision. Often, the ultimate decision-maker is working behind the scenes and is never at the forefront.
When developing content for sales and marketing, it is important to keep multiple decision-makers in mind. With your sales proposal itself, remember that this may be used by an internal champion to sell to the CEO, CFO, etc. without you ever being present to sell your firm directly. Make sure to develop content illustrating ROI, seamless onboarding, references from companies in a similar industry. This will appeal to all buyers, priorities, pain points, and objectives.
Longer Sales Cycle
With B2B companies, sales cycles can vary from months to many years. This is where outbound marketing is critical. After a prospect initially converts through an inbound channel, outbound takes over to nurture the lead from a general inquiry, to a qualified prospect, to a sales-ready lead to a committed client. This is typical for all B2B industries.
The outbound efforts should be a mixture of emails, calls, and direct mail. One consistency with the tactics is it’s all about thought leadership content. Remember every time you make contact with a prospect, they are inherently self-centered and are only interested in listening when it pertains to their priorities. Only contact them with case studies, references, guides, videos that speak to their industry and issues. Direct mail can help B2B companies stand out because people do not do it as much anymore. Professionally designed and printed guides and white papers delivered via mail will help your firm stand out among the noise on other channels like email.
No matter what your B2B industry is, thought leadership content is the most effective way to build a case of credibility to your prospect. Establishing credibility is important to ensure a prospect has the peace of mind and confidence to commit to your firm over the competition.
Content marketing helps with both inbound lead generation and outbound lead nurturing. Think of industry topics important to your prospects and create a content calendar for blogs, white papers, resources, etc. The continuous output of content will help your website rank organically for target keywords and also equip your sales team with content to provide to prospects to gain commitment.
Get The Sale
All B2B industries want to increase the quantity and quality of sales. This general strategy implemented in a consistent, disciplined fashion makes sure your firm stands out in the marketplace and generates more sales opportunities and commitments. I know because this works for Bop Design and our clients.