When some firms think of B2B marketing strategies, they think primarily of direct and outbound techniques—marketing messages that you might send straight to clients or prospective buyers. In this approach, the goal is to be compelling and persuasive enough that the audience responds to the offer and seriously considers your services.

Techniques like these certainly have a place in your marketing tool belt. But the world of B2B marketing strategies has expanded, and the behavior of professional services buyers has changed. Today’s buyers are nearly as likely to turn to search engines for answers to their work-related challenges as they are to ask a colleague or connection for a referral.

This evolving marketplace has broadened the range of B2B marketing strategies at your disposal. So staying competitive today means taking full advantage of a wide spectrum of strategies.

You may wonder, though, which ones actually work in today’s hyper-competitive environment? In this article, we will explore ten fundamental B2B marketing strategies that will not only help your firm keep up, but help you get ahead. First let’s define exactly what we mean by B2B marketing strategy, including examples of how one can be deployed at different stages of the marketing funnel.

What is B2B Marketing Strategy?

B2B marketing strategy is the carefully selected set of techniques a firm uses to reach, nurture and sell its products and services to businesses in its target audience. Buyers are often c-suite or director-level professionals at other companies. This makes B2B marketing different from other kinds of marketing.

One key difference is that when businesses buy from other businesses the sales cycle tends to be longer—often weeks or months, and sometimes years. Buyers are trying to solve complex business challenges, and the solutions can be expensive, often requiring a great deal of time and customization to complete. As a result, many companies approach the selection process with care and deliberation. So a B2B marketing strategy needs to address all stages of the buyer journey. Let’s explore how this looks practically with some examples.

B2B Marketing Examples

We simplify the concept of B2B marketing by thinking of it as a three-tiered funnel. In this section we’ll explain each tier and provide examples of how B2B marketing techniques fit into the mix.

At the top tier of the marketing funnel you have a potential universe of buyers who are generally unaware of your product and service offerings. B2B marketing activity at this top tier employs techniques that broaden the visibility of your brand and attract the right kind of leads to engage further with your brand. These leads could be potential buyers, referral sources, or other influencers who could amplify your visibility.

An example of B2B marketing at the top of the funnel might be having one or more experts from your firm attend, network at, and speak at a top industry conference where your firm’s potential buyers gather. Another example is submitting a series of articles to an online publication that’s widely read by your target audience. Remember, the goal of B2B marketing at the top of the funnel is not to start closing deals! The objective is to increase your visibility, expose new people to your expertise and provide a pathway for leads to take the next step of engagement.

Speaking of engaging your potential buyers, that’s what the middle tier of the B2B marketing funnel is all about! If there is one section of the funnel that is underutilized, it’s this one. Marketers can be tempted to rush potential buyers into a sales pitch. But not all buyers are ready to make a purchasing decision today—in fact, many will be months or years away. So the middle of the funnel is where B2B marketers focus on engaging and nurturing their audience over a long period of time.

A common middle-funnel B2B marketing approach is to supply interested parties with insightful and practical educational materials. Webinars are a great example of middle of the funnel B2B marketing. In a live webinar, a potential buyer can experience your firm’s leading experts in a no-pressure environment where they can learn and ask questions. If they are ready to take the next step, it’s easy to reach out and speak to someone on your team. Another common middle-funnel tactic is email marketing. To demonstrate your thought leadership and nurture your contacts over time, you can send them relevant educational material—topical e-newsletters, blog posts, white papers and guides. If you are able to segment your list by industry or area of interest, this technique becomes even more powerful. Most people are more receptive to receiving helpful information like this than a hard offer (though there is a time and place for those, as well).

Finally, a buyer reaches the bottom of the B2B marketing funnel when they are ready to buy—though not necessarily from you! More often than not, they are evaluating a variety of options. Often they raise their hand and indicate that they are ready to speak with a representative from your firm about one or more of your services. We consider this moment a true B2B marketing lead. At this stage of the funnel, B2B marketers are responsible for preparing those who close business deals in their organization with the materials they need to communicate clearly and persuasively to the buyer. Examples of these materials might include pitch decks, qualifications packages and case studies.

Now that we’ve defined what B2B marketing is and how a B2B marketer needs to consider all three tiers of the funnel, let’s explore the ten essential B2B marketing strategies you can implement to help your firm get ahead of the competition.

Top 10 B2B Marketing Strategies

1. Research

Research is the bedrock of any modern marketing program. From marketplace research to brand research, detailed scientifically conducted studies will help you make more informed decisions. They’ll give you an objective basis for your marketing and provide valuable baselines for measuring your results.

By conducting research, you’ll know your clients better—which positions you to serve them better. Market research also gives you insight into how your processes are performing. You’ll discover which aspects of your firm are performing most successfully and develop a better understanding of which services you should offer.

The impact of research is clear. Our own studies on the impact of research have shown that firms that conduct systematic research on their prospects and clients grow three to ten times faster and are up to two times more profitable than peers that don’t pursue research.

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2. Niche-driven Strategy

One of the most powerful marketing strategies is specialization and niche targeting. Our research has repeatedly shown that the fastest-growing firms tend to be specialists in a carefully targeted niche. Target an area of the industry that you understand thoroughly, a space in which you can become an indisputable expert and leader.

Specialization makes all of your marketing efforts easier, because it helps you define exactly what you do and tangibly distinguishes you from the competition. A specialization is a differentiator that proves itself.

3. A High Performance Website

In today’s professional services marketplace, your firm’s website is one of your most crucial assets. It is much more than a digital billboard or brochure, as some firms believed in the past. Instead, a successful modern website is the hub of a firm’s online presence and a place where visitors can sample a firm’s expertise before even talking with anyone.

Your website is a critical tool for building visibility. Buyers today go online to find service providers. To have a chance at winning their business, you must have a website that can be found in search. At the same time, your website must demonstrate your firm’s expertise and have clear, differentiated messaging that convinces visitors that your firm is credible, impressive and a good fit.

Our research paints a clear picture of the importance of a professional services firm’s website. In fact, 80% of people look at website when checking out service providers—the most commonly used information source by far.

And as new visitors reach your site, robust educational content and carefully targeted offers can drive leads closer and closer to a buying event, eventually bringing qualified leads straight to you. The process of nurturing leads through content is illustrated in the funnel graphic we discussed earlier in this article.

A second component of your website you need to consider is design. The look and feel of your site can influence your audience’s perceptions, aid recall, and differentiate your firm from competitors.

The power of design to engage audiences is often under appreciated — which means it offers a tremendous opportunity to set firms apart and convey the credibility firms needs to thrive.

Finally, another increasingly essential consideration for your website is its usability across a wide range of devices, including mobile. Responsive design, which allows your website to adapt to suit a user’s device, has become a key feature as more people use mobile devices to do business.

4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As we alluded to in #3 above, your target audience has to be able to find your website for it to be effective. That’s where search engine optimization plays an important role.

In our studies of the best performing organizations, most high-growth firms rate SEO as a critical digital marketing technique. And in a recent High Growth Study, we saw that higher levels of SEO maturity was correlated with a greater proportion of digital leads. This same study showed a similar connection between higher SEO maturity and increased profitability, most likely because digital leads usually cost less to produce.

Digital Leads and SEO

Though SEO is a complex and evolving discipline, it ultimately consists of two primary components.

On-site SEO incorporates targeted keyword phrases into your content to communicate concepts that you want prospects to associate with your firm—and use to find you in online search. These keyword phrases typically focus on ideas related to your services and expertise.

The purpose of on-site SEO is to communicate to search engines what your website is about. This allows search engines to produce more relevant results to searchers. And when audiences search for some area of your expertise, they’ll be more likely to find you.

Off-site SEO takes the form of links to your website, either through outside engagement or guest articles in other publications, for example. Think of these links as votes of confidence in your site (though some votes—from highly reputable sources, for instance, count more than others). These links work to increase your site’s authority as a widely recognized leader on your topic.

As more high-authority and relevant websites link to your website, search engines will begin to see your site as more credible—resulting in higher rankings.

5. Social Media

If you need any more proof that social media is here to stay in the professional services industry, we’ve got you covered. Our research has found that over 60% of buyers check out new service providers on social media, making it a more commonly used source of information than formal referrals and recommendations.

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Even the nature of referrals has changed in the wake of social media. A recent study on referral marketing has found that 17% of expertise-based referrals are made on the basis of interactions on social media. In short, social media can accelerate the reach of your reputation, expertise, and content. It also allows you to network and connect with valuable contacts and influencers, as well as monitor your brand’s reputation through social listening.

6. Advertising

There are a number of platforms on which your firm can advertise effectively:

  • Industry publications and websites
  • Social media (especially LinkedIn)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Google Ads, as well as Bing and Yahoo
  • Retargeting – A cookie-based technology that uses a simple JavaScript code to anonymously “follow” your audience across the Web and serve relevant ads

Advertising doesn’t just promote your services—it can also play an important role in driving content downloads, increasing both your expertise and visibility.

It’s important, however, to use forms of advertising well-suited to professional services. LinkedIn, retargeting, and other industry-focused advertising tend to work best because they allow you to most directly target appropriate industry audiences, which leads to more conversions, higher click-through rates, and lower cost per download.

Search engine marketing can be an effective way to speak to hard-to-reach audiences. For instance, if you can’t compete for an important keyword, Google ads provide a convenient way to access people who search for it. Just keep in mind that getting good results usually requires testing different headlines, copy and offers.

It’s important to remember there are many variations of each of these advertising types. Professional services firms might find them more or less successful depending on budget, ad purpose, targeting, and industry niche.

7. Referral Marketing

Earlier we explained that the nature of professional services referrals has changed—and this has major implications for your B2B marketing strategy. Our studies of referral marketing strategies in professional services have revealed an important new facet of the practice: over 81.5% of providers have received a referral from someone who wasn’t a client.

Where do these referrals come from? The vast majority are based on a firm’s reputation for specific expertise.

By using content marketing in conjunction with the rest of the tactics in this list, you can build a brand with a widespread reputation for specialty in your area—and an understanding of your expertise even among audiences that haven’t worked with you directly. This brand recognition can lead to referrals and new business.

8. Marketing Automation, CRM, and Lead Nurturing

Marketing Automation: Marketing automation replaces high-touch, repetitive manual processes with automated ones enabled by technology solutions. It brings much or all of your online marketing together in one centralized system for creating, managing, and measuring programs and campaigns.

As with any technological tool, selecting the right marketing automation software for your firm is critical. Make sure the tool’s size, complexity, and scalability is a good match for your needs.

CRM: Another essential software is a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM). Many firms use a CRM platform to track and organize opportunities and client information. It will help you stay organized and connected, no matter how sophisticated your operations grow.

Your CRM serves as the database for all the information you collect about opportunities and clients, including specific interactions with them. The information can be entered, stored, and accessed by employees across a firm’s departments, providing a centralized repository for all leads, business development activities and historical data.

Lead Nurturing: But CRM isn’t the end of the story. Remember the lead-nurturing middle of the content funnel? Your website is one critical piece of that puzzle, and email marketing is another. Targeted, analytics-driven email marketing campaigns allow you to deliver relevant content, as well as soft and hard offers for specific buyer roles, tailored to a buyer’s particular place in the buying process.

Similarly, drip email campaigns provide a hands-off way to send targeted offers to segments of your audience over a set period of time. This produces better educated prospects and builds deeper engagement by delivering a carefully curated selection of relevant content and offers.

9. Testing and Optimization

We started with research, but that’s only the beginning of the science in modern marketing strategy. Testing and optimization allow you to monitor and refine your marketing efforts—so you can make in-flight decisions based on hard data rather than intuition.

Just as research is the bedrock of your marketing, testing and optimization is your steady guide. You should never stop testing your marketing campaigns and adjusting them accordingly. This includes:

A/B testing of emails, landing pages—Using A/B testing tools (like Optimizely or Unbounce), learn which of two emails or landing page variations produces more conversions. You can test variables like language, design, imagery and color.

Email and landing page rendering—Using tools such as Email on Acid, you can test how emails will render on different devices and platforms, ensuring that they look and function as you intended.

10. Analytics and Reporting

To improve your marketing program over time, you need to monitor the right metrics, analyze what you find and make sure the right people see these insights. You will need the right suite of tools in place to collect accurate data on all your marketing and business development activities, from your website to social media to SEO.

Google Analytics is an essential tool for measuring and analyzing your site traffic. Many third-party tools are available, such as Moz and Semrush, can help you study and improve your SEO results, while platforms like Hootsuite and Zoho Social provide detailed social media analytics.

Analytics and testing help you truly understand what is working and what is not. Embrace them, use them. They will help you turn your marketing efforts from an art form into a science.

The online marketing world is evolving at a faster and faster rate, but today, the firms that diligently data on their performance—across a wide range of marketing efforts—then act on this information are situated to win.

A Final Thought

No two B2B marketing strategies are the same, nor should they be. That’s because as every firm strives to say something different to their clients, they need to develop a unique suite of messages, tools and techniques to reach and persuade their audience. As you use the ideas in this post to shape your own business’ marketing strategy, you may discover that some resonate with your audience better than others. Or you may uncover new ones that you want to test out along the way.

B2B marketing is evolving. Organizations that equip themselves to understand how the marketplace is changing and how their audience buys their services and products are positioned to thrive in any economic environment.

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Additional Resources

  • Find out how to turn your firm into a high-visibility, high-growth business. Download our free executive guide, The Visible Firm®, in which we lay out a detailed roadmap of this research-based program.
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