The best B2B marketing strategies for 2024

Published May 2 2024 Last updated May 22 2024 13 minute read
b2b strategy
Contributors
  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Whether you're a B2C marketer taking the plunge into the choppy waters of B2B marketing for the first time, or an established business owner looking to land more sales, you're in the right place. The B2B marketing landscape requires intricate knowledge of how companies buy and sell and the persuasion tactics that go alongside every step of the buying journey.

We're delving deep into the fundamentals of marketing for B2B businesses and offering tips for smashing your own marketing strategy. We've even thrown in some best-in-class examples to show just how successful different marketing options can be. 

It might not sound super riveting. After all, very few people talk about B2B strategy for fun. But just because it sounds boring, it doesn't have to be. (And as marketers, it's just another topic for you to spruce up and make exciting!)

What is B2B marketing?

B2B is short for business-to-business and is a business model in which one business sells products and services to other businesses.  

Examples of B2B businesses include: 

  • Shopify: A platform for hosting your e-commerce store

  • Staples: A stationery company keeping your business stocked up on office supplies.

  • Alibaba: A wholesale e-commerce platform for suppliers and businesses

B2B marketing promotes a business's products to key stakeholders or decision-makers. 

Business-to-business (B2B) vs. business-to-consumer (B2C)

While both B2B and B2C marketing aims to sell products or services, the buying processes for businesses and consumers are significantly different. 

Excluding major investments, such as a house or a car, individual consumers aren't evaluating the return on investment (ROI) for every purchase. They're driven by emotion, not bottom-line metrics. 

With 95% of decision-making occurring in our subconscious mind, B2B marketers still have the opportunity to tap into brand values and emotional connection like a B2C marketer does. However, B2B marketers need to consider the profit margins and business objectives of their target audience, via careful market research.

A major challenge for B2B marketers is the number of people involved in the buying process. Rather than converting one person, you're up against a jury of key stakeholders and decision-makers. 

Another challenge? This jury can deliberate for quite some time and elongate the sales cycle. With so many people involved in the final purchasing decision, marketers work harder for a single sale. A confirmed sale could take months, so marketing campaigns may feel ineffective in the short term. 

But keep going, the end of the marketing funnel is in sight.

B2B marketing: Getting started

B2B marketing strategies require a deep understanding of your brand, the competitor's brand, and the target audience. So, whether you're starting from scratch, or looking to refine your current strategy, the tips shared here serve as a strong foundation to help you navigate the B2B landscape.

1) Research your target audience

Throwing your product into the dark, and hoping the right brands find it won't work. First, you must establish your target audience. 

Look at the facts: What type of businesses currently use your product or service and why? Speak to account holders and previous clients about what pain points you solve, the value you bring, etc). 

Then look at your customers. Take a look at these data points: 

  • Company size (this could include revenue and how many employees)

  • Region/location 

  • Industry

Combine this information with demographic data about key stakeholders. This includes the buyer, the end-user, and the CFO (without the approval of the finance team, the buyers journey is dead in the water): 

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Education level

  • Job title

  • Beliefs

  • Previous buying habits

This will allow you to tailor your tone of voice and B2B marketing content to appeal to each stakeholder directly. 

2) Establish your go-to-market model

Deciding on a go-to-market model and a target audience is a bit like the whole chicken and the egg thing. Which comes first? 

There are three go-to-market models — sales-led, product-led and partner-led. To find the right one, it's helpful to know who you're marketing your product to, and how they like to do business. 

Do they prefer to sit down and read a sales dec? Are they more likely to be engaged by an on-site demo? 

If you're not sure what your business's current model looks like, or still need to choose one, we've broken it down below: 

Sales-led growth

Sales-led growth evolves around the sales team interacting with potential customers and nurturing leads. This often includes cold calling, email marketing, and networking at industry events. It's traditional marketing, and sometimes the classics are the best. 

B2B marketing for sales-led businesses focuses on the beginning of the buyer journey. Work on building brand awareness and providing proof of company success through whitepapers and presentations. These assets will bolster the sales team's pitches when reaching out to leads.

Product-led growth

Let the product do the talking. Product-led growth drives business by showcasing what the product can do. This drives user adoption and retention. The simplest example of this model would be free trial offers or freemium versions for SaaS brands. There's always the hope that users will like what they see and commit to a paid plan. If they don't, you can reach out to understand how to improve your product offering.

The best product on the market is useless if nobody knows about it. Product-led growth still requires marketing. You still need to make your product discoverable by other businesses.

For physical products, an excellent example of product-led growth is Apple. This tech mega giant hosts their Worldwide Developer's Conference for major updates or product launches. Since COVID, this conference is hosted online with developers, or anyone interested in Apple products, able to stream parts of the week-long event. 

These events are announced well in advance so that top publications can post articles about it, publish theories, and build a buzz around what could be included in the update. 

For smaller businesses, B2B marketing tactics for product-led growth include imagery with the product center stage, free samples, or visiting other workplaces to host demonstrations.

Partner-led growth

In partner-led growth, your custom will primarily come from others doing the hard work for you. Partners will promote your products to their own clients so that you can reap the benefits. Partners are often people using your product or service already. However providing resources, training, and guides they can pass on is helpful. 

You'll need a marketing plan focusing on research and recruitment for partner-led growth. Who are the best people to partner with in your industry? What key selling points do you need your partners to drive home? Instead of marketing to businesses, you'll be marketing to partners with incentives. Incentives can include commissions, premium services, or personalized experiences. 

You can see that finding effective marketing strategies for your brand depends on the go-to-market model you're using. But regardless of model, creating clear messaging for your product or service means sales teams can talk the talk, products and walk the walk, or partners can do the same. 

Finding the right target audience: Image shows individual being circled out of a group.

Image source

Related reading: The essential go-to-market strategy guide for marketers

3) Scope out the competition

Competitive analysis is a crucial part of strategy creation. There are already people within your niche marketing a similar product to your potential customers. It makes sense to scope out how they're doing it. 

When analyzing the competition's marketing efforts, consider the following: 

  • Does their product offering match up with or differ from yours?
  • How much of the market share do they hold? 
  • Which social media channels are they using and how frequently?

  • Which go-to-market are they using? 

Use your findings to perform a SWOT analysis for each competitor. Or, go one step further and use the data to set yourself SMART goals.

Here's an example: 

Goal: Increase market share for our business 

  • Specific: Increase market share to 10% by generating sales from competitor clients 
  • Measurable: We will measure progress across 12 months using sales data and market research tools. 
  • Achievable: We already have a great product and can handle an increased customer demand. All that's missing is a killer marketing strategy to reach new clients. 
  • Relevant: We want to grow the business to become a go-to choice within our niche. Increasing market share is the first step. 
  • Time-bound: We will reach 10% market share within 12 months. An effective marketing strategy will be in place within the next two months and tweaked as and when needed to reach the goal.

4) Understand your brand perception

Brand perception refers to what customers think about a brand based on their experiences with it. For B2B, different departments and individuals will build their opinions, considering everything from the product range and customer service to online reviews, social presence, and recommendations from other businesses. 

Handing out a brand perception survey to existing clients, staff and stakeholders will give you a greater understanding of how your brand is currently perceived. 

Another traditional way of understanding brand perception is to use forums or focus groups. Opening the floor to those with strong opinions means you can hear positives and negatives about your brand from the people interacting with it. 

Directly asking clients and users about their thoughts on your brand may provide a rose-tinted view. With online forums, you can go incognito and gain genuine insight into how your brand is perceived. Buyers (or employees) are less likely to sugarcoat things in an online forum or review site, giving you a genuine understanding of how your brand is perceived. 

Changing brand perception

If the research into your brand's perception doesn't end too positively, you need to find a way to leave a new, lasting impression. It takes more than switching up your messaging or pledging to plant a tree for every order: 

  • Product: Is your product the best it can be? What do reviews suggest are its weaknesses? Are these easy to fix? If they are, get it done. Then scream from the rooftops about it. 

  • Reviews: You can't change previous reviews, but you can request new ones. You can also respond to reviews on some platforms. A great response can do wonders. 

  • Customer service: Refresher courses for customer service, simplifying account set-up processes and ordering/return systems.

Once you've made some changes, don't forget to tell your potential clients through one of the marketing methods we recommend below. 

7 tried-and-true B2B marketing options

You've found your target audience, researched brand perception, and scoped out the competition. It's time to create your marketing strategy. A good strategy will combine different marketing activities across multiple channels to reach the audience at multiple stages within the buying journey. 

1) Field marketing

A classic in the realm of business-to-business marketing is field marketing. Field marketing is all about getting out there to showcase your business. An easy way to do this is to attend industry events and trade shows. Or host your own.

Attending industry events

Whether you hold a stall, become a guest speaker, or network during the breaks, marketing your business at events is a handy add-on to your B2B marketing strategy. Events are perfect for getting business cards into people's pockets and showing off your expertise. By making it known you're the expert in your field, you'll likely become the first choice for referrals. 

Even if you don't get any sales on the day, you might find someone keeps you in mind to refer to someone else down the line.

Hosting your own event

Nothing quite shows you as an expert in your field like hosting an industry event. In-person events can be time-consuming and require a big budget, so digital events are growing in popularity. Webinars and online workshops allow business buyers to connect with businesses from the comfort of their desk chairs. 

Events are an opportunity to provide valuable information to potential leads. You can host an event to display your products, or to educate attendees on the wider industry. 

If you have the budget, hybrid events offer an excellent opportunity to accommodate everyone who wants to attend. Some people will want the in-person experience to ask questions and network. Others want to tune in from afar. Give them both options.

Best in class: Canva

The average person uses Canva to make habit trackers, websites, or a simple party invite. But the tool is widely used by businesses too. One way Canva engages with B2B users is by hosting Canva Events. These online workshops teach users how to get the most out of the app, the foundations of graphic design, or how to create a brand image. The digital events allow Canva to provide resources and showcase its tools.

2) Content marketing

Content marketing is an umbrella term for any content that positions your brand in front of potential leads. It includes everything from blogs and e-books to videos and podcasts. 

The primary purpose of content marketing is to provide value to your potential buyer. B2B customers weigh up numerous options before making a final decision. So, a company blog or YouTube channel is ideal for capturing their attention and showing why you're the best.

In the B2B buyer's journey, marketing content sits in the 'awareness' phase. Founder of Ironpaper, Jonathan Franchell, says "A frequent mistake B2B organizations make is educating the buyer on their own company, product, or service. The buyer isn't ready for that; they are just beginning to understand their problem."

No good content marketing strategy is complete without a variety of marketing channels. Your marketing team should look at previous B2B marketing campaigns to find what worked, and what didn't. You can also use campaign data to find the best times to post to increase engagement and reach business leaders. 

Use tools like Google Analytics to understand more about your buyer's habits. What mobile devices do they use? When do they check their emails? When are they most active on socials? Use this data to tailor your marketing to make your brand unmissable. 

Best in class: Startup.com

An incredible example of B2B content marketing is Startups.com's Startup Therapy Podcast. Hosted by two serial entrepreneurs, they provide advice on common pain points for startups.  The hosts have become a trusted authority other businesses want to hear from. The podcast is available in all the usual places, so they can draw in new listeners to convert into customers.

3) Social media marketing

Social media marketing includes both organic and paid content. Social media may feel more geared toward B2C, but it still offers a great way to connect for B2B companies. For example, 96% of B2B content marketers use LinkedIn, and say it's a top-performing platform for organic traffic. 

Social networks are ideal for establishing your brand identity and connecting with business customers. With the help of marketing automation, it shouldn't be difficult to schedule posts and manage your online presence. 

Your digital marketing plan and social media channels should prove to customers you're an expert within your field. Generic content no longer works. Your communication on these platforms should be regular, authentic, and consistent. Where appropriate, showing behind-the-scenes or employee experiences will help to boost brand loyalty.

For B2B, a social media platform comes into play at the beginning of a buyer's journey. It offers buyers a starting point to learn more about your brand.

4) Search engine marketing (SEM)

There are two parts to search engine marketing: Advertising on the search engine itself and implementing SEO on your site. 

Advertising on search engines lets you reach potential buyers while they're still weighing up their options. Google Ads and other PPC (pay-per-click) options mean you're the first thing people see at the top of the search results. 

The downside? Paid search can be expensive. And, it tends to be less effective for B2B marketing. Of course, it's possible that for your niche, SEM works perfectly for increasing website traffic. At which point your website content will come into play.

This leads us to the second element of SEM; search engine optimization. With SEO you can reach relevant audiences without having to pay for the privilege of appearing at the top of search results. Using popular search terms throughout your website content, you can organically reach higher search rankings, making you more likely to gain that all-important click. 

In 2022, Hinge Marketing published the seventh edition of its High Growth Study. The study looks at how the fastest-growing businesses achieved their success. Hinge found businesses with high SEO maturity were gaining more digital leads. As digital leads cost less to acquire, these businesses can enjoy increased profitability, too.

Off-page SEO also plays a role. Off-site SEO involves gaining links from other websites to your site. This could be through guest posting on industry-specific publications or gaining referrals. This technique — backlinking — increases your domain authority which helps search engines see your site as more credible, ultimately boosting your site up the search results.  

SEM vs AI

AI chatbots are a potential threat to businesses relying on search engine marketing. These tools provide answers and recommendations without the user visiting multiple sites. While search advertising is still one of the most-invested digital ad formats, AI has a significant opportunity to change this. You can learn more in our in-depth look at AI chatbots and search advertising here.

AI is constantly evolving. If you want to overcome the challenges it presents for SEM, you should find a way to drive brand loyalty. That way, decision-makers will come directly to you, rather than heading to the search engines. 

Thankfully, the B2B marketing strategies on this list will help.

5) Account-based marketing 

Following the old-as-time adage, "You should never sell to everyone," account-based marketing (ABM) has gained momentum over the past few years.

ABM is when your B2B marketing targets specific high-value accounts. You'll research customers and learn everything there is to know about their business. If there were a pop quiz topic about them, you'd score 10/10. 

With this knowledge, you'll know exactly how to get them to convert and create a customer experience designed specifically for them. When Founders, an independent creative agency in New York, decided they wanted to work with Heineken, Forbes, and Diesel, they went bold with ABM.

 The agency bought billboards in Times Square to address the CMOs — by first name. It certainly hits harder than another email in your inbox...

This type of marketing can be done with a much lower level of intensity. You might send a cold email starting with "I see we both follow... on LinkedIn", showing you've at least viewed their profile. Or, you can send a firm a complete audit of their business to show how keen you are to work with them. 

Best in class: Matriarch Digital

This e-commerce digital marketing agency knows exactly what their buyer persona looks like. The agency works exclusively with Gen Z or millennial women-owned businesses. This allows them to tailor their messaging to a specific audience. However, Matriarch takes it a step further and provides prospective clients with a competitor analysis, industry trends reports, and an audit of their website. That's quite the introduction. 

6) Email marketing and marketing automation

Email marketing is one of the oldest tricks in the book. And, it's particularly good for B2B marketing. Ever heard the phrase, "Strangers are just friends we haven't met yet?" Well, subscribers are just customers who haven't converted yet. 

So how can you make email marketing work for you? For B2C customers, newsletters typically include content to entertain and tap into their emotions. For B2B marketing, you need content that brings value to their working day. Your email needs to be worth their time and provide resources that are useful to them. 

Of course, your content inside the email could be everything they need. But you'll need a killer subject line first to get them to open the email. 

Best in class: CB Insights

CB Insights combines silliness with the best insights into new business, venture capital, and technology. For example, the subject line "so sad: tough to have a VC dad" shows educational content doesn't have to be formal. The newsletter uses memes, gifs, and silly references to break up their insights. This down-to-earth approach makes the heavy topic understandable to a wider range of people. 

The magic of automation

Looking to prioritize email marketing in your 2024 B2B marketing strategies? Don't forget to leverage marketing automation tools. These tools can automate your welcome series, schedule newsletters, or segment subscribers. B2B marketing teams can return to doing what they do best, rather than the arduous manual jobs. 

7) Strategic partnerships

Strategic partnerships give you access to engaged audiences who may never have known your business existed. By partnering with non-competitive, or complimenting brands, you can use each other's strengths to secure leads for both parties. 

You could partner up for co-branded content on socials, product bundles, or advertising campaigns.  

Another option for partnership is offering an affiliate or referral scheme. Web design agencies get rewarded when they use or recommend certain platforms (Shopify, WordPress, etc) for their clients' sites. Businesses can recommend your brand in return for a small commission. 

Are there businesses or services that complement your product offering? 

The importance of marketing analysis

Monitoring and measuring the impact of your efforts is an important part of creating effective B2B marketing strategies. 

After all, a marketing campaign is only as good as its effectiveness. 

You might make the best-designed email in the history of emails. But if open rates are low, or your CTA doesn't call anyone to action, there may be better opportunities for connecting with your audience. Measuring your marketing as you go will highlight which channels are working and what content is resonating.

As a business, you should utilize digital tools to assess your impact across all your marketing channels. Knowing what works and what doesn't means you can streamline your B2B marketing efforts into an effective strategy for the future.  

Analyzing your marketing is about more than just numbers. Static data doesn't always answer questions like "Why did this content perform so well while this other content didn't?" The more scrutiny you do, the stronger your next marketing campaign will be. 

Measuring ROI can be tricky for the long sales cycle of B2B, but other KPIs are easy to track. To get started, check out these 6 tips for analyzing marketing data.

Wrapping up

This roadmap of marketing strategies gives you everything you need to navigate your B2B niche. With a mix of traditional and modern marketing tactics, you can drive meaningful connections with potential buyers and meet them at every stage of the buyer's journey.

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