B2B marketing isn’t an innovative marketing strategy, but the challenges marketers are experiencing can make it challenging to reach their desired audience and drive results. B2B (also known as business-to-business) marketing reaches individuals at a business that is making a logical process-driven purchasing decision. At the same time, B2C (also known as business-to-consumer) marketing reaches individuals with emotion-driven purchasing decisions.
But this isn’t black and white. These strategies are becoming more blurred.
Both purchasing decisions involve individuals with similar expectations. Whether it’s relationship building, branding, or digital advertising, marketers must take diverse approaches to maximize their marketing tactics, especially with B2B marketing.
The state of B2B marketing
Before understanding how marketers can make the most of their B2B marketing tactics, it’s essential to survey the entire industry.
Ninety percent of B2B data has been created in the last two years, according to Deloitte. Data has fundamentally changed the way we think, learn, collaborate, and buy, including in the B2B sector. However, many B2B marketers lack the data they need to be successful.
As buyers expect more of their B2B buying experiences, marketers are looking to maximize the customer journey. B2B marketers look for the same “single view of the customer” that B2C marketers create. Plus, they are equally overwhelmed by the number of channels and tactics to reach their customers. According to Pardot’s report on B2B Marketing Trends: Insights from the Frontlines of B2B Marketing, 35 percent of B2B marketers say that creating a cohesive customer journey across different channels and devices is a top marketing challenge.
Plus, the B2B buying experiences have changed, a new study from Gartner found that despite the proliferation of digital access, 77 percent of B2B buyers still feel that making a purchase is time-consuming—and even painful.
The lines between B2B and B2C continue to blur. More B2B buyers now expect brands to anticipate their needs and deliver personalized experiences similar to what they’ve experienced as consumers. According to Pardot’s report on B2B Marketing Trends: Insights from the Frontlines of B2B Marketing, only 46 percent of B2B marketers say they currently have a completely unified view of customer data sources.
What is B2B marketing?
B2B marketing speaks to the needs, interests, and challenges of individuals who are making purchases on behalf of their organization, which would make the organization the customer. B2B marketing involves building valuable relationships with individuals at companies to create long-term customers through the buying process. Here are a few examples of B2B companies:
- Government agencies, the single most significant target and consumer of B2B marketing
- An on-demand order fulfillment, warehousing, and screen printing service
- A marketing software company that sells software management tools, and lead generation software to businesses and organizations
- Companies that use their products
- Institutions like hospitals and schools
- Brokers and wholesalers
Similar to its counterpart B2C marketing, B2B marketing uses a variety of marketing tactics and strategies to reach their end customer. Their approach can include a mix of content marketing, email marketing, digital marketing, search engine optimization, events & promotions, and so much more. Regardless of what tactics or approaches, it is vital to create a marketing plan. Sixty-four percent of B2B marketers say they have a formal marketing plan, helping to shape and give direction to the marketing activities. However, this means that over a third (36 percent) still don’t have a formal plan, which can result in missing opportunities and marketing activities that aren’t integrated.
The B2B Customer Journey
As you’re creating your B2B marketing strategy, marketers should look across their whole customer journey and all the stakeholders that are involved in the buying process. B2B buyers need to get multiple stakeholders (the average B2B purchase decision now means 6.8 stakeholders) to agree with their buying decision.
B2B customer journeys can be increasingly lengthy and expand beyond the buyer’s frustrations and motivators. The B2B customer journey can change drastically based on:
- Company size
- Level of influence
- Buying process
According to McKinsey’s research, B2B buyers will frequently use six distinctive interaction channels throughout the customer journey, and nearly 65 percent of buyers will walk away from it being frustrated by inconsistent experiences before they reach out to a company for more details. To make the customer journey even more challenging, marketers have to adjust their B2B’s marketing strategy as research shows that 67 percent of the B2B buyer’s journey is now done digitally.
The B2B customer journey is not a linear experience that will result in a simple transaction. In general, the B2B customer journey is more intricate and involves three primary stages.
B2B digital advertising strategies
As advertising technology has evolved, so has B2B digital advertising strategies. Marketers are leveraging a variety of tactics to target potential customers and their stakeholders to reach decision-makers. Through increasing awareness, brand recall, traffic, leads, and purchases, marketers can drive positive outcomes for their business. Below are a few of the critical digital advertising strategies used for B2B marketing.
IP address targeting
All businesses are leveraging technology and the internet to conduct their day-to-day operations. With this type of marketing, marketers can reach specific companies based on their IP addresses. IP targeting works simply by identifying the IP addresses for a company or individual. It only requires the name and addresses of the target audience. These addresses are matched with the IP addresses with the help of an IP mapping system or marketing automation platform. Commonly used in B2B marketing campaigns, IP targeting enables marketers to find the user profiles of a given IP address and build a targetable audience that can be used in digital advertising campaigns.
By targeting locations using IP address targetings–such as industry conferences, an office location, or trade shows–B2B marketers can leverage data to reach potential customers.
CRM onboarding & targeting
Customer data is the single most valuable asset to a B2B marketer. The most actionable data that can be leveraged for digital advertising is the first-party data that has been collected. By activating this CRM data, marketers can target potential customers and their stakeholders and accounts to push them through the buying process. Better yet, CRM onboarding can be an effective way to cross-sell, upsell, retain, and reactivate customers.
Marketers can use an email list to create segments, then reach those segments with digital advertising ads. Whether it’s MailChimp, a CRM platform like Salesforce, or even storing customer purchase history in an excel spreadsheet, CRM onboarding & targeting enables the ability to update a list of emails and serve ads directly to those potential customers, and even current customers.
Marketers can increase their presence by expanding their first-party audiences with third-party data. Third-party data can be used to reach potential customers at target accounts in your CRM or to reach more decision-makers. There are several types of data available for B2B marketers, including:
- Professional audiences are anything relating to an employee’s job, such as title and seniority.
- Firmographic audiences are the characteristics of organizations. This data includes the number of employees, revenue, and industry.
- Technographic audiences groups companies by the hardware, software, and cloud services they use to run their business—everything from CRMs to printers.
- B2B intent audiences include employees and companies who are actively researching for specific products and services and can be based on online and offline signals.
- Third-party data connects individuals’ professional identities and actions to target them with precision. More than that, it also combines company attributes and activities to enable the targeting of high-value accounts and companies in digital advertising campaigns.
Third-party data targeting enables the ability to reach specific audiences. However, being too targeted can be detrimental to overall marketing efforts. If the segment is too small, the campaign goals become challenging to achieve. It’s essential to keep any target audience wide enough to be worth it based on the campaign goals. With third-party data, marketers can reach their highest priority audience more precisely and run more relevant account-based campaigns at scale.
Below are some of the premier B2B third-party data providers that can be used in digital advertising campaigns: