B2B Marketing: Definition + Tips for Business Customer Acquisition

If you work for business customers, you have to do your marketing a little differently than towards end users. Find out which special features have to be considered in B2B marketing and get to know suitable methods. You can also get inspiration for developing your own B2B strategy.

Definition: differences between B2C and B2B marketing

B2B is the abbreviation for Business to Business and includes all business relationships between companies. The marketing mix in this case differs in details from that in the B2C area, i.e. towards consumers. This applies to product policy, sales, communication and pricing (4 Ps: Product, Place, Promotion, Price).

In contrast to consumers, business customers make their purchase decisions less spontaneously, but rather on the basis of rational facts, which they find out about in advance. It is often about complex products and high investment sums. In this context, many business customers value reliable and long-term relationships with their suppliers or service providers. B2B marketing should be designed accordingly.

Success in B2B marketing: that’s what counts

The purchasing and decision-making processes are different for business customers than for end consumers. Therefore, business-to-business marketing must be based on these characteristics :

  • Longer buying processes: Support through inbound marketing
  • Characterize buying centers
  • Special features of the pricing policy
  • Increased importance of services
  • More individuality

In the following, you will learn how you can use these special conditions for successful B2B communication.

Longer buying processes: Support through inbound marketing

B2B customers may need to be able to rationally justify their purchase decision to superiors, shareholders or other stakeholders. It is also often about high-quality goods, large quantities or long-term contracts, which is why thorough research is required before each purchase and the entire process takes longer.

Successful B2B marketing builds on this by providing exactly the information that potential customers need and thus drawing attention to your own offers. This is the core of inbound marketing, which plays a particularly important role in the B2B area and will be presented in more detail later. In B2B marketing, it is much more important than in the B2C area to accompany the entire long purchase decision process in every phase. It starts with general information about the basic problem that the customer would like to solve. But it also includes specific answers to individual questions, as well as service offers for the time after the deal is concluded.

Characterize buying centers

B2B customers plan many acquisitions and investments as a team. The decision-makers include different people, from representatives of the specialist and finance departments to management and external consultants. These form the buying center.

For business-to-business marketing, it is important to identify these different buyer personas and to align marketing to their expectations. For example, representatives of the specialist departments are more interested in the technical details of the products or services, while the management’s focus is on economic benefits.

Special features of the pricing policy

For B2B customers, the payment terms are often decisive in addition to the price. Because whether a sufficiently long payment term is granted or installment payments are possible, can influence their liquidity.

In contrast to B2C marketing, special promotions, e.g. time-limited discounts, are not so important. This has to do with the fact that B2B purchases are not made spontaneously and emotionally, but rather rationally and carefully.

Increased importance of services

The B2B area is often about very specific and individualized products. As a result, many customers also expect suitable services in retrospect.

Whether employee training, hotline or repair service, analyze exactly what is required in connection with your products and offer this service. In B2B marketing you communicate the additional services. You may be able to differentiate yourself from your competition in this way.

More individuality

The target groups are smaller in B2B, which is why individual approaches and direct contacts are more important than in B2C marketing. Both the advertising or acquisition as well as the support of interested parties and customers must therefore be more targeted and be oriented towards specific problems. Mass advertising is less common.

Business customers expect solution-oriented, intensive support and are often interested in long-term business relationships. This requires a particularly good coordination of B2B communication, sales and customer service.

The types of B2B marketing: inbound, outbound & account-based

There are different approaches for business-to-business marketing, each of which follows different principles. One differentiates:

In the following you will learn what distinguishes the individual concepts and to what extent they are suitable for B2B marketing.

Inbound marketing

The idea behind inbound marketing is that potential customers find the company’s offers themselves in their search for problem solutions. In this context, one speaks of a pull effect, as interested parties are attracted.

The best-known form is content marketing, whereby the company publishes content on the Internet that is tailored to potential customers, which is usually ad-free and offers real added value. Inbound methods are particularly promising for B2B marketing, as this area often involves products or services that require explanation.

Outbound marketing

Outbound marketing encompasses the classic advertising and acquisition measures that people are confronted with in everyday life. These rely on the push effect, because they urge the addressees to deal with the advertising message or the offer.

These instruments are also relevant in the B2B area, but take a back seat in favor of inbound marketing or supplement it. For example, looking after prospects (leads) attracted by inbound marketing through individualized newsletters is one of the outbound methods that are often used in B2B marketing.

Account-based marketing

Account-based marketing means that marketing campaigns are aimed at a small group of very similar business customers or, in extreme cases, only at a single company. In order for the effort to be worthwhile, there must be a chance of very lucrative business relationships.

The addressees of the marketing measures are the decision-makers of the respective companies. Both inbound and outbound instruments are used, which complement each other in their effect.

The most popular measures in B2B marketing

Marketing campaigns always consist of several measures that build on one another. First of all, it is important to get attention. After that, the interest must be maintained and developed further until, ideally, the deal follows.

It is more important than in the B2C area that marketing, sales and service harmonize perfectly and that existing customer relationships are maintained. A tool for customer relationship management ( CRM ) can help.

5 measures in inbound marketing

Business customers do their research very carefully before purchasing and investing. This is where inbound marketing comes in. The aim of the measures is to enable potential customers to discover the offers themselves when they are looking for solutions to problems.

Content marketing

In B2B marketing, the regular publication of suitable content is a very good opportunity to draw attention to your own company and to build interest in your own offers among potential customers. Among other things, the following are suitable for this:

  • Blog article
  • Videos
  • Whitepaper
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • E-books

Offer topics for each phase of the customer journey so that initial, general research on the addressee leads to your results, as does the search for specific details. Also think of the members of the buying center and their different prior knowledge and expectations.

In B2B marketing, the first goal is to generate leads. This means that interested parties leave their contact details because they are interested in further information. Further measures then build on this.

Search engine marketing

In most cases, B2B customers start their research using search engines. With SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you can ensure that your content created in the context of content marketing and your website are also found with suitable search queries.

In addition, SEA (Search Engine Advertising), i.e. paid advertising on search results pages, can increase your visibility in the short term. In this context, it becomes clear that inbound and outbound marketing cannot always be clearly distinguished from one another.

Make sure that your website is user-friendly and up-to-date. Visitors should not only find the information they are looking for in high quality, they should also immediately recognize where they can obtain further information or make contact.

Social media marketing

Many companies are active in social networks and use them for their own marketing, but also for exchange and research. As far as B2B communication is concerned, XING and LinkedIn in particular offer good opportunities.

In the context of inbound marketing, it is common to share your own content and to attract attention through posts and comments. The activities can be supplemented by paid advertisements on social media, which in turn are counted as outbound marketing.

B2B portals

Research for suitable offers and business partners is often carried out in the B2B area via specialized portals. B2B marketing can also start there. Examples of such platforms are:

  • Industry portals
  • Supplier directories
  • Project exchanges
  • Affiliate networks
  • Auction platforms

It is advisable to be present on different portals. Think where representatives of your target audience would look to find your offers.

Influencer Marketing

Cooperation with influencers such as experts, journalists or bloggers is also worthwhile in B2B marketing. 

In addition to an appropriate reach in the respective target group, expertise and credibility are particularly important. This not only promotes your awareness with important B2B decision-makers, but also has a particularly convincing effect on them due to the recommendation character.

4 measures in outbound marketing

Outbound marketing combines many classic marketing instruments. It is also used in B2B marketing, even if the focus is on inbound methods due to the possibilities of the Internet.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is only an issue when the addressee has given their email address and has thus become a lead. With the support of a marketing automation tool, you can personalize the emails and adapt them to the level of information and the interests of the recipients.

This outbound method also complements inbound marketing as part of lead nurturing. This means that the interest that has built up is maintained and developed further.

advertising

In B2B marketing, advertising does not address the general public, but only a limited target group. However, similar advertising media are used:

  • Advertisements on websites, on social networks and on search engines
  • Print advertisements, e.g. in specialist magazines
  • Commercials
  • printed advertising material ( flyers , brochures, leaflets)
  • Outdoor advertising

One problem with advertising is that many addressees are now advertising-blind and hardly notice the messages. Well designed and used in the right context, advertising can also achieve the desired effect in B2B marketing and support other measures.

Trade fairs and events

Trade fairs and events are very important in business-to-business marketing. Since the visitors actively decide to participate, it is basically a hybrid of inbound and outbound marketing.

Trade fairs offer the best opportunities to present your own company and to make contacts with interested parties. The event and experience character is becoming more and more important. Keep this in mind if you want to stand out from your competition.

Cold calling on the phone

Calling potential business customers without prior notice to present their own products or services is still common in B2B marketing. Good preparation is particularly important here .

Although the success rate is relatively low, telephone acquisition can also be worthwhile. This is the case when very lucrative business deals arise in this way.

5 measures in account-based marketing

Account-based marketing is not fundamentally different from inbound or outbound marketing, but rather combines elements from both approaches. The highly individualized focus on individual or a few business customers is typical. Thorough research is therefore the most important preparation for all marketing measures. This makes it clear where targeted B2B marketing can effectively start.

Content marketing

Research which topics your target accounts are currently interested in or whether certain problems are pending. If, for example, a company is expanding its product range and might need exactly your solutions, publish the appropriate content.

In this context, also note the stages of the customer journey and the different information needs of the buyer personas. Choose suitable forms of content such as white papers, advice articles or webinars.

Email Marketing

Emails can be customized using marketing automation tools. In account-based marketing, this is done very carefully and is tailored precisely to the addressee (s).

This concerns the content, the timing and the coordination with other marketing measures. The prerequisite is that the addressee has already become aware of your company and that they have given their consent to receive the e-mail .

Individualized advertisements

You can also target advertisements on the web to specific B2B customers. Paid advertising in social networks or on websites is suitable for this, which requires correspondingly precise tracking. For example, within the framework of remarketing, special customers who have already visited your website are addressed via advertising banners.

This type of advertising can complement other account-based marketing measures. If, for example, interesting content has already attracted the attention of the company being advertised, a suitable advertisement will remind you of your problem solutions.

Telephone acquisition

Ideally, personal calls are only made when the addressee has already expressed interest, i.e. has become a lead. Otherwise the chances of success are not particularly high.

Basically, phone calls are very important in B2B marketing. In this way, questions and details of the often complex products or services can be clarified directly. In any case, good preparation is very important.

Outdoor advertising

Outdoor advertising through posters or similar advertising elements is a classic form of outbound marketing. This can also be used for account-based B2B marketing.

For example, if an advertising poster is placed directly in front of a courted company, one hopes that the decision-makers responsible will perceive it. This measure is particularly effective when the advertising message conveys solutions to the company’s current problems.

Develop a strategy for B2B marketing step by step

In B2B marketing too, the chances of success depend on the right strategy. It is important to select the appropriate methods for your target group and to coordinate them with one another.

Develop your strategy step by step:

  1. Goal setting: Determine which overarching goals you want to achieve with your marketing strategy. Is it primarily about acquiring new customers or increasing brand awareness?
  2. Market and competitor analysis: Analyze your direct competitors as well as developments in markets that are important for your company. This can give you clues for your B2B marketing.
  3. Characterization of the buyer personas: Analyze how the typical buying centers are composed in your target group companies. Then identify the characteristics and requirements of the individual buyer personas so that you can address them individually with your B2B marketing.
  4. Selection of measures: Determine the individual measures for your strategy. A mix of inbound and outbound marketing has proven itself.
  5. Definition of goals for individual measures: Determine which sub-goals you want to achieve with the aid of the individual measures, e.g. the generation of leads through content marketing or sales through telephone acquisition.
  6. Detailed planning: Determine how you carry out which measures and when. Also plan the budgets.
  7. Success measurement: Measure success with key figures that are based on your initial goals such as new customers, sales or market share. In this way you can identify successful and less successful measures in B2B marketing.

Check your strategy regularly and look for potential for optimization. But also keep in mind that success is not necessarily immediate.

Conclusion: Pay attention to the subtleties of B2B marketing

B2B marketing is not fundamentally different from that in the B2C area. Because in the end, it is always about convincing people of your offer .

However, there are some subtle differences that ultimately also affect the selection of methods and the design of the strategy. Content marketing has proven to be particularly effective because it meets the needs of many business customers for thorough information.

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