The world of B2B marketing can be intimidating. B2B marketing guides are littered with acronyms like ABM, SEM, PLG. It can be difficult to understand how technologies like marketing automation platforms, customer data platforms, and content management systems all inter-relate. It’s true that B2B marketing is complex, but it’s not rocket science.
Fundamentally, the way businesses buy goods and services is not all that different from the way consumers make purchases. Buyers discover products on search engines, backcheck supplier claims on social media, and compare prices to find the best deal.
However, in B2B there are a lot more buyers involved, a lot more steps in the process, and a lot more dollars at stake than a typical B2C transaction. You might say that B2B purchases are more like buying a house or a new car than a pair of jeans or a bottle of wine.
In this guide, we will provide an introduction to B2B marketing with an emphasis on technology purchases – SaaS and cloud products. We will cover the basics of building a brand through strategies such as public and analyst relations, tradeshows,. We’ll also take a deep dive into demand generation exploring strategies such as search engine optimization, digital advertising, and account-based marketing. In each section we will do our best to use plain English and real-world examples to help better understand the concepts.
#1) Build an Amazing Brand
Strong brands result in more leads, more wins, and higher valuation
B2B technology purchases range from a few thousand dollars per year to tens of millions of dollars per year. Most buyers prefer to do business with tech vendors that have established good reputations and that they can trust to deliver a solution that works. For many of the startups on the market, the #1 challenge is convincing buyers to go with them rather than making a “safer choice” like Microsoft, Oracle, SAP or IBM. Having a strong brand can be the difference between winning and losing a big deal. Strong brands can also lead to higher market valuations when companies raise venture capital or go public.
There are dozens of other ways to build a brand.
B2B Marketers can build a brand in a number of different ways, bust some of the most common strategies are:
- Analyst Relations – Ranking prominently in vendor evaluations such as Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, Forrester’s Wave, or IDC’s Marketscape will put you on the radar scope of most CIOs who subscribe to the research.
- Public Relations – Getting the CEO quoted and positioned as a thought leader in widely read publications like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, Inc, Fast Company, or Wired helps build credibility.
- Tradeshows – Having executive speak at the big industry conferences that buyers attend like SXSW, Money 20/20 (Financial Services), HIMSS (Healthcare) and the NRF (National Retail Foundation) creates awareness with the attendees.
#2) Stuff the Pipeline with Leads
Generating more leads is the key to growth – not hiring more sales people
One of marketing’s core functions is to find leads for the sales organization to meet their new business targets. In some cases, marketing may have responsibility for filling 100% of the sales pipeline. In other cases, responsibility may be split 50/50 between sales and marketing. Leads are what fuels a tech company’s growth. It is easy to hire more salespeople. However, the new reps won’t make quota without enough leads. The ability to get more leads is often the difference between being first in market share or a distant second.
B2B Marketers can generate leads in a number of different ways, but some of the most popular are:
- Digital Advertising – Running digital ads that appear in search engine results sites like Google. Another popular strategy is to run display ads on online technology review sites like G2 or social media platforms like Facebook.
- Content Marketing – Offering free access to educational materials like buyer’s guides, white papers, webinars, research studies, infographics, and videos that help customers understand technology and its benefits.
- Prospecting – Using business development representatives to reach out to potential customers with techniques such as cold calls, emails, direct mail, or LinkedIn InMail to schedule discussions.
There are dozens of other ways to generate demand.
#3) Tell a Great Story
Product marketing owns the messaging and positioning that tells the story of why you should buy from a company
Critical to the success of both building a brand and filling the sales pipeline is the ability to tell a compelling story. Marketers often refer to these functions as “messaging and positioning.” The product marketing team is typically responsible for developing the messaging specific to each individual offering. At a product-level this includes the features and the benefits, which might include cost savings, revenue growth, or regulatory compliance. At a company-level, marketers must position themselves and differentiate from the competition. They must answer the question – Why should you buy from us instead of the other guys? The answers might range from having a better customer experience and unique product capabilities to having greater market share and stronger financial backing.
B2B Marketers can tell the story in a number of different ways, but some of the more popular approaches include:
- Marketing Collateral – Presentation materials and product brochures that outline features, benefits, and differentiation. The best marketers create versions targeted towards specific vertical industries, use cases, or buyer personas.
- Sales Tools – Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) models to help prove the business case. Another must-have tool are competitive battlecards that provide side-by-side comparisons of product features.
- Case Studies – Testimonials from real world customers explaining how they used the product and the business results they achieved. These case studies can be in document format, videos, or shared on webinars.
In addition to messaging and positioning, Product Marketing teams also do dozens of other things related to launching new offerings and enabling the sales team.