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10 Business-to-Business Marketing Strategies
We were curious about what business professionals thought about marketing. We took a look at recent survey results and reports that compiled data on the topic, and created a list of 10 B2B marketing strategies commonly recognized as successful regardless of industry. Here’s what we found, in no particular order:
A marketing phenomenon popularized by startups with tight marketing budgets, growth hacking combines creativity, analytical thinking and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure. Growth hackers leverage social media, viral marketing and other low-cost alternatives to traditional media for one absolute focus: growth. Sean Ellis, who coined the term “growth hacker,” explained that growth hacking does not replace marketing, but it’s different in that every tactic employed in growth hacking is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.
Growth hacking is effective because:
- Every decision is informed by growth
- Products and services are redefined as tools for growth instead of something to sell
- It’s fluidity keeps it adaptable and low-cost
Fast Fact: Growth hacking is credited with generating 10% more leads than traditional marketing techniques
A referral program is an umbrella term used to describe a systematic approach companies take to incentivize people to tell others about their products or services. Implementing specific affiliate programs, customer referral programs and partner programs are meant to offer the instant credibility of existing customers to grow a customer base. “Referral programs” is often used synonymously with “referral marketing.”
Referral programs are effective because they:
- Leverage the recommendations of happy customers
- Authentically recognize customers’ brand loyalty and reinforce it
- Are perennially popular with customers
Fast Fact: Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate, and a 16%-25% higher lifetime value
Earned Media and PR
Earned media (or “free media”) is publicity that’s created through efforts other than paid advertising. It can take a variety of forms – a social media testimonial, word of mouth, a television or radio mention, a newspaper article or editorial – but one thing is constant: earned media is unsolicited and can only be gained organically. It cannot be bought or owned like traditional advertising.
Earned media and PR are effective because they:
- Are generally “free” advertising channels
- Are unsolicited and, therefore, have instant perceived credibility
- Increase awareness of valuable, educational and trustworthy content
Fast Fact: 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media (word of mouth or friend/family recommendation) above all other forms of advertising
Tradeshows remain a top B2B networking tool, as they gather companies within a specific industry into one location for demonstrating their latest products and services. Rarely open to the public, trade shows give companies the chance to establish or strengthen relationships with key industry partners, customers and prospects; identify market trends and opportunities; and, gain an understanding of what their competition is offering in the market.
Networking events are effective because they:
- Encourage face-to-face interactions and relationship building
- Are typically well-attended, creating a target-rich environment for lead generation
- Allow businesses of every size access to the same audience and information
Fast Fact: 67% of all tradeshow attendees represent a new prospect and potential customer for exhibiting companies
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a tool that companies use to grow their website traffic through paid online advertising. One of the most popular SEM methods is pay-per-click (PPC) links. Essentially, a company buys or “sponsors” a link that appears as an ad in search engine results when keywords related to their product or service are searched. Every time the ad is clicked, the company pays the search engine (or other third party host site) a small fee for the visitor – a literal “pay per click.”
Search Engine Marketing is effective because:
- Of its breadth in online tools and reach
- It’s a cost-effective way to generate high visibility
- It’s easily adaptable to multiple markets and audiences
Fast Fact: Informational/educational content is distributed via SEM 96% of the time
Most websites visitors do not convert on their first contact with your site. Retargeting uses browser cookie-based technology to identify users who visited your site but left (or “bounced”) before completing a transaction. The cookie allows for targeted advertisements to appear in those users’ subsequent web searches and interactions, even if they’re not related to your site specifically. Retargeting is an effective conversion tool because it repeatedly gets your brand in front of audiences that are already interested in your product or service.
Retargeting is effective because it:
- Recaptures the attention and purchase power of “window shoppers”
- Generates high click-through rates
- Lends itself to visitor segmentation and tailored messaging
Fast Fact: Retargeted ads led to a 1,046% increase in branded searches and a 726% lift in site visits after four weeks of retargeted ad exposure
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing focuses on providing users with content they find valuable and want to share across their social networks, resulting in increased visibility and traffic. Social media shares of content, videos and images also influence SEO efforts in that they often increase relevancy in search results within social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram and search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Social Media Marketing is effective because it:
- Reduces marketing spends while increasing lead generation
- Provides metrics that give companies additional marketplace insight
- “Humanizes” brands and encourages conversions
Fast Fact: 85% of B2B buyers believe companies should present information via social networks
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of increasing awareness about – and traffic to – a particular website by making sure it appears among the top unpaid (or “natural”) search results on search engines like Google, Bing! and Yahoo.
While social media, email, banner ads and other marketing tools generate website visits, SEO visibility is particularly important because search engines are the primary way users navigate the Internet. It automatically increases your audience in a relevant, targeted way – they self-identify as someone who wants, or at least is interested in, your product or service.
Search Engine Optimization is effective because it:
- Continues to evolve to keep pace with mobile and local search engine optimization
- Simplifies searches for customers interested in your product or service
- Is a cost-effective way to keep your brand competitive with similarly situated companies
Fast Fact: 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results
Content marketing emphasizes education over selling to influence buying behavior. This strategic marketing approach focuses on creating and distributing information relevant to prospects’ needs in order to attract those best aligned with – and most likely to purchase – your product or service. Since communication is ongoing, content can be tailored to reflect what you learn about leads over time, and may include varied formats like infographics, webpages, podcasts, videos, blogs, white papers, webinars and eBooks. It’s important to note that content marketing is not synonymous with inbound marketing (see below). Content marketing is an important component to an overall inbound strategy, but it does not integrate other marketing methodologies to maximize content value.
Content Marketing is effective because it:
- Draws prospects through the sales funnel
- Grows brand visibility, credibility and desirability
- Engages your target market with relevant information
Fast Fact: In 2015, content marketing generated 3X as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but cost 62% less
Inbound is far and away the most effective B2B marketing strategy because it leverages the strengths of the majority of the other nine strategies to attract, convert, close and delight customers. Unlike traditional marketing methods – or even those of the other strategies listed here – inbound earns the attention of customers and pulls them to company website by producing meaningful content. Because messaging is relevant and appears in the right place at the right time, inbound invites visitors in rather than annoying them with interruptive traditional advertising.
Inbound Marketing is effective because it:
- Works for businesses of any size or type
- Creates more knowledgeable prospects
- Can be easily integrated and managed using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, like HubSpot CRM
Fast Fact: Companies are 3X as likely to see higher ROI on inbound marketing campaigns than on outbound.
Taken individually, the majority of the strategies we listed provide limited marketing clout. However, inbound marketing aligns the heavy-hitters – SEO, SEM, content marketing, social media and earned media – to deliver a well-rounded, cost-effective marketing approach that generates qualified leads, strengthens customer relationships and successfully builds brands.
10 Business-to-Consumer Marketing Strategies
We were curious about what business professionals thought about marketing. We took a look at recent survey results and reports that compiled data on the topic, and created a list of 10 B2C marketing strategies commonly recognized as successful regardless of industry. Here’s what we found, in no particular order:
Cause marketing is a cooperative effort between a for-profit business and a non-profit organization to mutually promote and benefit from social and other charitable causes. Cause marketing is not to be confused with corporate giving, which is tied to specific tax-deductible donations made by an organization. Cause marketing relationships are “feel goods,” and assure your customers you share their desire to make the world a better place.
Fast Fact: 64% of consumers want corporations to integrate social impact directly into their business models.
Direct selling accomplishes exactly what the name suggests – marketing and selling products directly to consumers. In this model, sales agents build face-to-face relationships with individuals by demonstrating and selling products away from retail settings, usually in an individual’s home. The top three direct sellers in 2015 are Amway, Avon and Herbalife.
Fast Fact: The top 3 direct-sell companies averaged $9 billion in sales in 2015.
Cobranding and Affinity Marketing
Co-branding is a marketing methodology in which at least two brands join together to promote and sell a single product or service. The brands lend their collective credibility to increase the perception of the product or service’s value, so consumers are willing to pay more at retail. Secondarily, co-branding may dissuade private label manufacturers from copying the product or service.
Fast Fact: In 2014, 6% of all product launches relied on co-branding.
Earned media (or “free media”) is publicity that is created through efforts other than paid advertising. It can take a variety of forms – a social media testimonial, word of mouth, a television or radio mention, a newspaper article or editorial – but one thing is constant: earned media is unsolicited and can only be gained organically. It cannot be bought or owned like traditional advertising.
Fast Fact: Nearly 75% of consumers identify earned media as a key influencer in purchase decisions.
Point-of-Purchase Marketing (POP)
Point-of-Purchase marketing (or, POP marketing) sells to a captive audience – those shoppers already in-store and ready to purchase. Product displays, on-package coupons, shelf talkers that tout product benefits and other attention-getting “sizzle” often sways buying decisions at the shelf by making an offer simply too good – and too visible – to pass up.
Fast Fact: 64% of consumers making unplanned purchases switch brands when a deal is offered in-store.
Internet marketing, or online marketing, combines web and email to advertise and drive e-commerce sales. Social media platforms may also be included to leverage brand presence and promote products and services. In total, these efforts are typically used in conjunction with traditional advertising formats like radio, television and print.
Fast Fact: 97% of consumers search for businesses online.
Paid Media Advertising
Paid media is a tool that companies use to grow their website traffic through paid advertising. One of the most popular methods is pay-per-click (PPC) links. Essentially, a company buys or “sponsors” a link that appears as an ad in search engine results when keywords related to their product or service are searched (this process is commonly known as search engine marketing, or SEM). Every time the ad is clicked, the company pays the search engine (or other third party host site) a small fee for the visitor – a literal “pay per click.”
Fast Fact: 76% of businesses use promoted posts and search engine marketing.
Word of Mouth Advertising
Word of mouth advertising is unpaid, organic and oh-so-powerful because those having nice things to say about your product or service generally have nothing to gain from it other than sharing good news. A recommendation from a friend, colleague or family member has built-in credibility, and can spur dozens of leads who anticipate positive experiences with your brand. It’s important to note that word of mouth isn’t strictly verbal. Leveraging online reviews and opinions are equally effective at spreading the word.
Fast Fact: Word of mouth referrals drive $6 trillion in annual consumer spending.
Social Networks and Viral Marketing
Social media marketing focuses on providing users with content they find valuable and want to share across their social networks, resulting in increased visibility and traffic. Social media shares of content, videos and images also influence Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts in that they often increase relevancy in search results within social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram and search engines like Google and Yahoo.
Fast Fact: 54% of B2C companies report revenue generated from social media leads.
Brand storytelling uses a familiar communication format to engage consumers at an emotional level. Rather than just spew facts and figures, storytelling allows you to weave a memorable tale of who your company is, what you do, how you solve problems, want you value and how you engage and contribute to your community and the public in general.
Fast Fact: Brands that inspire a higher emotional intensity influence consumer purchase intent 3 times more often than less emotionally connected brands.
Every Strategy Requires an Effective Marketing Plan
Regardless of the strategy you choose, marketing effectiveness is most dependent on how you execute. Check out our complete guide to building an annual marketing plan—for businesses of any size—to get started.
As a senior consultant with significant client-side experience and an excellent grasp of "the big picture," Tami translates clients' needs into executional plans, and she's responsible for ensuring that we deliver the greatest value to clients. Her marketing expertise includes work for financial services, food manufacturing, and supply chain companies.