Never Mind B2C: How to Start Using Digital Marketing for B2B (With Examples & Tips)

Digital marketing isn’t just for individual customer acquisition and retention anymore — it’s also now a valuable tool for B2B companies. If you run a service, accountancy firm or another enterprise whose customers are primarily other corporations, you may not have paid much attention to digital marketing before now.

However, recent trends indicate that digital marketing in the B2B sphere is primed to become one of the most vital avenues for company growth in 2017 and beyond.

To make sure your boat is in the water when this tide rises, you’ll want to be familiar with some recent examples of B2B businesses that successfully embraced digital marketing.

You’ll also want to have some digital marketing strategies up your sleeve that you can use to remain competitive before digital marketing in the B2B sphere becomes old news or your competitors gain the advantage. With the right knowledge, time investment and a bit of luck, you should be able to boost your brand awareness, develop greater customer trust, and generate an increased number of leads and sales.

Successful Digital Marketing in the B2B World

First things first: digital marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. Many old-school marketers mistakenly assume that going digital will mean taking a coding course or doing something that sounds equally labour-intensive, but the best way to get started with anything is by covering the basics.

One of those basics is using social media, which is estimated to remain one of the five best digital marketing strategies in 2017.

Danish shipping company Maersk was an early B2B adopter, embracing the use of social media in 2013. Maersk took photos of the incredibly icy conditions its ships overcame to complete each shipping run on time, then posted the photos on its Facebook and Instagram accounts.

It also shared a link to a downloadable brochure that went into more detail about its B2B anti-freeze services. The impressive photos inspired followers to download the brochure, but each time they clicked on the link it sent a notification to Maersk’s sales team, which promptly followed up. In this way, Maersk generated 150 distinct leads during the campaign, which represented major growth for a company of its size.

Social media is just the tip of the iceberg though (excuse the pun). A variety of other digital marketing tools exist, and many can be used to great effect — especially by larger companies with additional resources.

One example of this is Schneider Electric, a French company that realised how much untapped potential lay in the use of video for B2B purposes. Video has long been known as a useful tool for B2Cs (think Old Spice or any number of other brands with viral commercials) but, when it comes to their effectiveness for B2Bs, you should check out Schneider Electric’s video below.

Smaller B2B Businesses

Maybe you are a smaller company that can’t afford commercials with high production values, and whose work doesn’t photograph as well as Maersk’s icy ships. That’s okay — remember that the aforementioned tactics are already very popular in the B2C spectrum and that selling to other businesses allows you to do a few things differently.

For instance, you may find that while flashy videos are out of your reach, good content and word-of-mouth are both easier and more efficient. This might be why Influencer Marketing is gaining such popularity in the B2B community. It is estimated that 49% of influencer marketing campaigns among B2B businesses are brand new (or in the “experimental” phase), compared to only 31% of those among B2Cs.

Let’s look at a relatively small company to see how this works. The most exciting thing about modest web-based marketing consulting company Video Fruit was probably its name — at least until company founder, Bryan Harris, wrote a successful guest post for Okdork in 2014. Because of that post, Video Fruit saw 215 new subscribers come his way in only two days, representing a conversion rate of nearly 12%.

By 2017, an estimated 88% of B2B businesses were using content marketing (including influencer campaigns).

Top Tips to Get Started

Here are 11 digital marketing strategies that your B2B business can start using right now to stay competitive. However, you will need to allocate some time to make it work and you should treat digital marketing as another commercial task that needs attention daily:

  1. Social Media: Where are your customers online? Identify one or two channels starting off, decide which suits your business audience best — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and post, post, post!

If you find it hard to create content of your own, share interesting industry reports or statistics from other news sources or blogs to help with content sharing. Don’t buy fake followers — such vanity exercises are no use to you, as these are false accounts and your account could be banned.

Save Time — Automate: Consider using social media automation software for posting to social media platforms. This will save time for a flat monthly subscription fee. My favourite is Buffer — easy to use and very powerful. Another popular service is Hootsuite — they both have free trials so give them a try.

2. Video/Visuals: High-quality visual content attracts customers in B2B too, and video content production prices have fallen. There are plenty of freelancers or small agencies out there that can help. Also, there are numerous powerful video editing tools available — you don’t need qualifications in digital marketing or related disciplines to be able to find your own effective ways of making an impact (trial and error, etc!). Always use images with your posts; capture moments on the fly and start sharing them. People relate with, and love to see, People photos.

If you don’t have images of your own, there are several free websites that allow you to use their images royalty free; my favourites include Pixabay.com, unsplash.com and deathtothestockphoto.com (Be sure to check their T&Cs of use).

3. Influencer Campaigns: Guest blog for an established industry expert or reach out to bloggers within your niche. They need content too and are open to new perspectives.

4. Other Content Marketing: Blog about your products/services or the latest trends within your industry. A blog that adds value and advice is most useful to current and potential customers. One idea is to note down the most FAQs asked by clients and use one or two per week as your blog with advice. Case studies or project overviews are also valuable — describe how you solved a customer’s problem within the case study.

5. Email marketing: Make sure your sales team is reaching out to leads. Build an email list and invite people to subscribe to your blog or monthly newsletter. Also, ask people at trade shows or networking events if they would like to sign up. You could also have a subscribe button at the end of your email signature too.

Keep building your email list; my advice is to be very careful about purchasing an email list as when you go to use it; you could be flagged as a spammer which could damage your reputation and get you blacklisted.

6. Paid search and online advertising: An easy way to attract website traffic and sales leads, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising using Google Adwords or other platforms works very well.

Start with a small budget and see how it works and what results you get. Also, don’t forget about Bing and Yahoo, as sometimes the competition is less and cost of advertising is cheaper on these networks, although traffic volumes may also be less.

It’s always about quality versus quantity. I’d always prefer to receive a small amount of quality leads than lots of click-throughs with a low volume of enquiries generated. There are also plenty of online videos to help you get started with Adwords, if you want to test it yourself. Otherwise, find a specialist PPC agency that can help for a monthly fee.

7. Optimising your website or landing page: Make sure your page is attractive, informative, up-to-date, easy-to-use and mobile-friendly.

8. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): Keywords, location-based content, site speed and metadata will boost those Google rankings. When writing content, make sure that the keywords that relate to your service offering are included within the text. However, write for the customer first and search engines secondly.

9. Google and Social Media Analytics: The fantastic thing about digital is that you can measure everything. Make sure you measure the amount of traffic incoming to your website and where it is coming from. You can then make refinements to content and see what works and what doesn’t. There are plenty of ‘How To’ videos on YouTube for free advice on how best to use Google Analytics.

All this data available is key to helping you measure and refine your content. Each social media platform also provides you with insightful analytics. Be sure to monitor the data and use for future content posts.

10. Webinars and virtual events: For a more advanced strategy, use webinars or podcasts, attract authorities from elsewhere in your industry and create buzz. Host informative webinars without the hard sell, give answers and advice and always be adding value for the customer watching. There are many webinar software platforms that you can subscribe to and use. Providers like GoToWebinar, ClickWebinar or even using Google Hangouts will let you connect for a group discussion. You can also record your webinars and re-use for client training or gated content on your website.

11. Traditional marketing: Digital and traditional marketing need to work together to gain maximum exposure — include your digital assets like website address and Twitter/Facebook handles on advertisements, brochures, vehicle branding and email signatures and any other marketing activities and materials. Create a hashtag for your company that you can include on all materials.

We’ve noticed many companies who have made particularly good use of one of these strategies, but the reality is that most successful B2B companies employ many of these tactics in their digital marketing mix.

The digital marketing sphere and strategies are vast, but if you get the basics right, you have a great start to increase your brand profile and awareness, which leads to increased traffic and inbound sales enquiries.

Be sure to try a few options, and always be testing to see what works best for you.

Let me know if you come across any other insights that might indicate successful trends for future years or what has worked well for you.