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B2B Marketing Plans to Grow Business and Convert Leads



Most companies in the US operate without a formal B2B marketing plan. While that may be alarming to hear, it also presents an opportunity for your business. Creating and executing a high-quality B2B marketing strategy will take a lot of effort, but the results are well worth it. 

 

Image source: Sekkei Studio


B2B marketing is not the same as it used to be. Recent years have seen a radical shift in the way people think, learn, act, and shop. Most of it can be attributed to smartphones and social media proliferation. Businesses that have embraced this shift and have adopted strategies to go along with it are thriving. But some B2B companies are dead-set on building marketing plans for a bygone era. 


In this post, we’re going to discuss how B2B marketing transformed over the years, and what it takes to succeed or fail at it. 

The Need for a B2B Marketing Plan

According to Statista, only 39% of B2B companies have a formal marketing plan. So let’s answer a not-so-obvious question first - why do businesses need a formal B2B marketing plan? Is it worth the effort?


A proper marketing plan gives the business’ team a strategic direction that promotes alignment, support and trust. It also makes onboarding new members of marketing teams much simpler. 


A B2B marketing plan makes sure that everyone across the company is on the same page regarding its marketing goals. A B2B marketing plan creates synergy across the marketing team and other teams whose efforts support the marketing team (for example, sales and data teams). 

The Modern B2B Buyer

A B2B marketing plan should start with a thorough understanding of the buyer. Because that’s what a B2B marketing campaign is all about - attracting buyers. The marketing plan should include information on buyer personas:

  1. Demographics: age, location, industry

  2. Pain points: their problems and challenges

  3. Frustrations: why have they failed with other solutions?

  4. Work: their position with the company, how long they worked there, what are their responsibilities?

  5. Information: where do they go to get informed? How do they research potential solutions?

  6. Brands: what brands do they already use? Why are they loyal to them? Why are they frustrated with them?


The modern B2B buyer isn’t the same as a buyer from even as little as five years ago. Most marketers are still stuck in the ‘old ways’, and refer to B2B buyer personas from a time when people weren’t so reliant on digital media. 



According to the 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report, an eye-opening statistic in this regard is that 45% of B2B buyers are now spending more time researching purchases compared to last year. 

Influence of Online Search 

Fifty percent of modern B2B buyers are millennials, and millennials hate cold calling. Instead, they prefer to use their smartphones for initiating research. About 50% of B2B search queries today are made on a smartphone. And these searches usually start with generic terms such as ‘best email automation software’. 


What’s more, the average B2B buyer will make an average of 12 online searches before they even register a potential vendor’s website. This means the average B2B buyer is more knowledgeable than buyers in the past. They’ll likely call a vendor’s sales office after they’ve made some buying decisions on their part. 

Traditional Marketing Funnel Doesn’t Work Anymore

The old marketing funnel consisted of entirely predictable phases: awareness, interest, desire, and action. It was designed to attract buyers who were in a position to make purchase decisions on their own. That, however, is not true anymore. These days, more people are involved in B2B purchase decisions. 


The vast majority of modern B2B buyers say that there between one and six people involved in the purchase process. It is essential for businesses that a B2B purchase is met with enthusiastic adoption not just by the C-level, but regular employees as well. So, while old marketing material was designed for C-level executives, modern B2B marketing focuses on non-C-level personnel just as much. 

An Overview of a Sales-Driven B2B Marketing Plan

Modern B2B marketing plans should be focused on creating a customer experience that helps the customer solve tasks and gain awareness about the business. Most B2B customers go through the following stages during a B2B purchase:


  • Problem identification

  • Research

  • Solution requirements

  • Vendor selection

  • Validation


Your marketing plan must include these components to successfully guide prospects to your products and services:

Demand Generation

Image source: Smart Insights



Demand generation consists of ‘top of the funnel’ marketing strategies, such as content marketing, that aim to create awareness about your product or service. These marketing strategies should address the B2B buyer’s first three stages: 


  1. Problem identification

  2. Research

  3. Solution requirements 

Lead Generation

Image source: HubSpot


Lead generation is one of the key components of a successful B2B marketing campaign. These ‘middle and bottom of the funnel’ marketing strategies are designed to convert interest that you build through demand generation into action. Thus enabling the buyer to select a vendor confidently - hopefully you. 

Retention and Recovery

This component is aimed at converting customers into repeat customers through marketing strategies that build trust and loyalty. Retention and recovery marketing strategies should also aim to reduce churn, and reach out to customers who’ve discontinued using your products and services.



B2B Marketing Strategies

To enable the components of a B2B marketing plan mentioned above, you can make use of the following time-tested B2B marketing strategies:


  • Email marketing

  • Website optimization

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Content marketing

  • Social media marketing

  • Growth hacking 

  • Affiliate marketing


These marketing strategies will work for more than one stage in the buyer’s cycle. For example, email marketing can work for lead generation and retention and recovery. Let’s discuss these in more detail and the value they offer. 

But, before that, it is worth mentioning an honorable marketing strategy - attending some of the best B2B marketing conferences that your competitors and target audiences are attending. These conferences offer invaluable contacts that you can nurture and turn into highly-qualified leads that can turn into amazing clients for your business. Even though online marketing is a hot topic, we should not shun away from getting out into the 3D world and meeting our leads face to face.

Build a Great B2B Website

You might think that spending thousands of dollars on Facebook ads will solve your marketing woes, and to some extent, that might be correct. But to get any value from your advertising spend - or any other facet of your B2B marketing strategy - you need to have a stellar B2B website. 


While nobody has a link to your Facebook ad, potential customers will go to your business website most of the time if they need any more info. And if they’re unpleasantly surprised by how difficult it is to navigate your website, you can bet they won’t convert to actual customers. 

Your website is going to be your most valuable B2B marketing asset, and as such, skimping out on professional website design is short-sighted. 


Fifty-percent of B2B buyers these days expect a B2B business’s website to be a helpful channel, and more than a third expect the site to be the most effective channel. 


And guess what? This number is going to increase each year as more and more millennials fill the workplace. Baby boomers might have been content with bad websites, as long as they saw a low price. However, millennials, used to excellent user experience on their smartphone apps, certainly won’t be so forgiving. 


Still not convinced you need a great website? Nearly half of B2B buyers will leave a website if it’s not immediately clear what the company does. Almost a third will go because of poor navigation or design. 


What’s more, good website design isn’t exactly rocket science. You can have a great website by following these general design rules:


  1. Fast - Your website shouldn’t be a chore to load. Forty percent of users will leave a webpage if it does not load within 3 seconds. You’ll need an experienced web developer to figure this out. 

  2. Secure - Users feel more comfortable browsing a website they feel is safe. In fact, 85% of consumers won’t browse an unsecure site. Browsers like Chrome notably display a big NOT SECURE badge on websites that lack HTTPS. What’s more, SSL certificates aren’t that expensive, and the investment is well worth the peace of mind it gives to your customers. 

  3. Mobile optimized - Over 60% of online traffic comes from mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones. Around 80% of B2B buyers use a mobile device at work, and 90% of buyers are more likely to buy again from a business whose website had a superior mobile experience. Mobile optimization can not be ignored anymore, especially considering that Google penalizes sites that have a poor mobile experience. If your website is stuck in the past and is not mobile optimized, you’re automatically losing on nearly half of potential buyers. 

  4. Actionable - Not only should your website be fast, secure, and mobile-optimized, but it should also drive actions on the part of its visitors. That means having a clear call to action and visible contact information. Focus on creating engaging, visual forms that make it easy for potential customers to get in touch with you. 

  5. Design - A B2B website should be aesthetically pleasing to look at and easy to use. This includes seamless navigation and website elements that actually work as they’re expected to. 

B2B Marketing Template - Demand Generation

If you offer a compelling service that solves a real business problem, then there are potentially hundreds of companies who need your service. The only thing is, they don’t know about your business and what it has to offer. They might not even know they have the problem your products/services aim to solve. 


Making businesses realize they might have problems they’re unaware of and your solution to them is the domain of demand generation. 


B2B marketing strategies that work well for demand generation are:


  • Cold outbound email

  • Content marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Email marketing

  • Video marketing

  • Social media marketing (SMM)

  • Traditional display advertising

  • Digital display ads (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)


B2B Marketing Plan 101 - Cold Email 

Image source: lifewire


Many businesses are hesitant when it comes to cold email outreach, intimidated by the overwhelming amount of bad examples everywhere on the Internet. However, when done right, cold email outreach can be one of the pillars of a fantastic B2B marketing plan. 


Cold email outreach is an excellent way of expanding your pool of leads and engaging in sales conversations with ideal prospects you have crafted. Therefore, the first thing to do right is to create a profile of that ideal customer and generate a list of potential leads based on the parameters you set.


Another crucial ingredient of a successful campaign is personalization. Find your contact’s name and address them in the email. But don’t stop there. Business development reps should spend some time crafting an email that will suit the needs and address the pain points of the recipient. Sending an irrelevant message is a recipe for a spam complaint and a frustrated lead that will never convert.


The table below explores the possible emails in a well-structured outreach campaign:


 

Welcome

More Info

Special offer

Should I stay or should I go?

The Breakup

Content

Conversation starter

Provide more info on the product

Offer a free trial or a small discount

Check if they want to keep communicating

Give up if unresponsive and move on to more qualified leads

Why send it?

Provide a point of contact to book a sales meeting

Educate the lead, say why your product is the best

Offer an incentive to buy or schedule a meeting

Check if they are too busy to reply or don’t want to hear from you anymore

Save time and focus on leads that will convert


Email Marketing for Demand Generation

Email marketing is a time-tested strategy for demand generation, but it’s easy to misuse it and turn off potential buyers. A/B testing is essential and you have to exercise restraint - people don’t like to have their inbox bombarded with emails. Stick to emailing quality, valuable content as it works much better than just spamming in vain attempts of getting ‘visibility’. 


Everything about your email campaigns should be A/B tested so that you know you’re providing the maximum value to your recipients. Choose an ESP (email service provider) that allows you to A/B test everything from different headlines, subject line copy, linking strategy, CTA placement, and so on. The data gathered through these tests will ensure you know what works best, and you won’t have to rely on hunches. 


When it comes to email marketing for demand generation, only give away your best stuff. Sending low-value emails will lead to unsubscribes. Instead, provide subscribers with the very best offers, resources, and tools in your emails. This will drive engagement and your subscribers will actually look forward to your emails. 

Demand Generation Through Content Marketing

Content marketing is used by nearly every business for a variety of purposes, one of the major ones being demand generation. Social media posts, blog articles, LinkedIn videos, press releases, ebooks, infographics, white papers, and case studies are just some examples of content marketing. 


And you need to use content marketing precisely because it is widespread. Competitive businesses will update their company blog with new pieces regularly. 


Digital B2B buyers rely on digital content to get most of their information. More than half of all B2B buyers view at least eight pieces of content during their purchase process, with more than 80 percent viewing at least five. 


Content has a significant impact on a buyer’s final decision. If your company has trust-building, accurate material on its blog, the buyer will be more likely to purchase from your company.


One thing B2B companies need to be aware of is that they should avoid making ‘salesy’ content that’s all about their products or services. The focus should be on the buyer, meaning the content should talk about the potential problems the buyer might be facing. It might not include direct product information, but the buyer will know what your business is all about. The better the quality of the content, the more likely it’s going to build trust with the reader/buyer. 


Here are a few tips for scoping out helpful, valuable content for potential buyers:

  1. Think of your buyer and your products/services. What problems do your services solve? Create content that revolves around those problems and their solutions.

  2. Think of what the buyer is searching for, and the different questions they might have, depending on the current phase of the purchase journey

  3. Distribute content through channels that are widely used by your buyers

Types of Content Marketing for Demand Generation

These facets of content marketing work best for demand generation or the ‘top of the funnel’:

Blogs

Businesses with active blogs generate 80% more leads. For demand generation, your blog content should focus on making buyers aware of what your product/service has to offer and how it’s going to help them. Write about the different problems that your services aim to fix.

For example, an SEO agency might want to write about “how to get more traffic”. 


The central theme to follow here is not to promote your own products or services, but to create content that creates awareness and addresses customer pain points. Of course, it isn’t enough to write a blog post and publish it - you need a helping hand of SEO to make sure it gets found on Google. We’ll talk about SEO in the next section. 

Infographics

Infographics can deliver exactly what a lengthy blog post does but in a much more relaxed manner. Visuals are more comfortable for users to consume and can often drive a point better than written content. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Demand and Lead Generation

Search engine optimization is a set of tools and techniques used for optimizing your website and its content so that it appears at, or near the top of the Google search results. At its core, SEO is all about optimizing your website for specific ‘keywords’ affiliated with your business that potential customers are actively searching for every day.


So how important is SEO? Well if you depend on your online business model for success, SEO is absolutely and vitally important. Around 71% of B2B buyers begin their research with generic ‘top of the funnel’ Google searches, and they make an average of 12 searches before engaging with a vendor’s site. 


Businesses often make the mistake of leaving out SEO professionals from the demand generation conversation, misled by the belief that SEO is primarily about keyword performance. Quite to the contrary, SEO can be used for demand and lead generation. 


Optimizing for "benefits of email automation software" will likely draw the attention of someone in the early stages of the purchase. On the other hand, optimizing for "best email marketing software" will attract someone who is ready to make a purchase. The terms buyers search for are called ‘search intent.’ Quality SEO depends on identifying buyer intent keywords at different stages of the buying process and optimizing your website for them.


B2B Marketing Strategy for Lead Generation


 

SEM

Email Marketing

Content Marketing

SEO

Pros

  • Highly effective

  • Generate a lot of traffic

  • Personalized

  • Direct

  • Affordable

  • Effective

  • Builds trust

  • Versatile 

  • Effective

  • Can transform content

  • Generates traffic

Cons

  • Expensive 

  • Highly competitive keywords don’t yield desired results

  • Aggressive email filters can automatically mark as spam

  • Takes time to build

  • Needs to rank well on Google to be effective

  • Hard to identify the issues

  • SEO expert needed



Once potential buyers are aware of your products and services, it’s time to make them ‘do something’. This is the call to action phase of a B2B marketing plan, and the following B2B marketing strategies work well here:


  1. Search engine marketing (Google Ads, Bing Ads, etc.)

  2. Email marketing

  3. Content marketing

  4. SEO


Search Engine Advertising

Search engine ads will show your chosen web pages on the top of search results for specific keywords.


The great thing about these ads is that they’re pretty good at generating leads. On average, 41 percent of clicks go to the top three paid ads on the search results page. Not bad at all! 


The only downside to search engine advertising is that it can be prohibitively expensive for small businesses and startups. Costs for Google Ads have been increasing steadily over the past few years, clearly driven by the fact that both the people and Google know that these ads work. 


Just like anything, there are certain ‘hacks’ to lower the price you pay for pay per click (PPC) search advertising, but this requires a lot of experience. The key is to identify the low-competition and high-conversion keywords. If you or a team member have this talent - PPC campaigns will work beautifully! 

Email Marketing for Lead Generation

Email marketing for lead generation is one of the most cost-effective ways of getting your potential customer’s attention. Email marketing is cheaper than a search advertisement. However, just because it is cheaper, doesn’t mean that it’s useless - on the contrary, it is one of the best B2B marketing methods.


The first thing to remember is that no one will bother opening an email that provides the information they can find somewhere else. Capturing your audience’s attention requires that you provide something special - an exclusive offer, a limited-time discount or an early bird price. Make your emails short, sweet, and straight to the point. Include relevant content and leave contact information in case the reader wants to know more. 


Have your CTA (call to action) lead to a landing page and not a blog post. Blog posts are great for demand generation, but that’s not what we’re looking for here. Landing pages do not have any distractions, and potential customers can focus on what matters - your products and services. To streamline this even further, make your checkout process simple and optimized for mobile devices.

Content Marketing

Approaching content marketing for lead generation is entirely different than how you’d do it for demand generation. In the lead generation phase, you have to nudge prospective buyers towards your products and services by creating relevant material. Content pieces that can generate actual leads for you include:


  • Case studies

  • Customer testimonials, interviews and reviews

  • Press release

  • Announcements regarding awards and partnerships

  • Content about your company’s core values


Focusing on content centered around past customers and how your products helped them will go a long way in building trust in potential buyers. 

Search Engine Optimization 

SEO can be used for generating high-quality leads, provided you’re optimizing for the right keywords.


  • Try including pricing terms such as ‘fees’, ‘plan’, ‘cost’

  • Branded and competitor terms

  • Local keyword modifiers to include city, state or zip code

  • Purchase related keywords such as ‘buy’, ‘quote’


The above tips can be used in any business, as long as you are optimizing for the right core keywords. If you’re a digital marketing agency, optimizing for ‘digital marketing agency reviews’, ‘digital marketing agency [CITY]’ will yield great results. 

B2B Marketing Strategy - Retention


 

Content Marketing

Email Marketing

Pros

  • Maintains awareness with customers

  • Offers useful content

  • Builds trust
  • Easy to set up

  • Keeps communication with a customer open

  • Possibility to upsell and cross-sell

Cons

  • Takes time

  • Requires content creators

  • No cons


If you’ve successfully executed the first two phases of the B2B marketing plan, i.e., demand and lead generation, you’ll undoubtedly be on the road to converting. But don’t celebrate just yet, as the customer’s purchase journey isn’t complete just yet.


Consider this: it’s more than 350% more profitable to sell to an existing customer than a new one. Why? Because existing customers are already primed for selling. They already have a fair idea about your products and services. You just need to keep them invested in your brand. 


Here are a few strategies to help you not only retain existing customers but to get back the ones who’ve left your brand.

Content Marketing for Retention

Dispensing high-quality content regularly via the right channels ensures that your existing customers are always aware of your brand. People tend to buy from brands they trust and have already purchased from. 


Build a company blog that contains useful information about issues surrounding your buyers’ business, what the latest trends in their industry are (viewed through marketing) and so on.

Email Marketing for Retention

Email marketing is a great way to keep your customers ‘in the loop’ and update them on exciting new services or products. Some ideas for email marketing:


  • Notifications about new services or products

  • Newsletter

  • Blog newsletter

  • Culture building emails

Final Thoughts on B2B Marketing Planning

B2B marketing has always been somewhat tricky, and that’s still the case. Even though there are numerous digital marketing tools and resources available to make it much more manageable, what matters more is the overall B2B marketing strategy. A B2B marketing strategy involves understanding your specific B2B buyer’s journey and then devising marketing elements that lead them to become customers. 


However, crafting a solid B2B marketing plan to reflect that journey and automating the process and streamlining it to a coherent path makes all the marketing efforts much more manageable, and goals easily achievable.

 

Author

Mathieu Picard

CEO, Anyleads, San Francisco

We are the leading marketing automation platform serving more than 100,000 businesses daily. We operate in 3 countries, based in San Francisco, New York, Paris & London.

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