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B2B Marketing Strategies: A 5-Step Process For B2B Brands (With Examples & Best Practices)

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Generally speaking, the primary goal of any business is to make money.

Whether you’re the size of Apple and Patagonia, or you’re still in the early days trying to win your first 100 customers—that primary goal is still the same.

And in order to win those customers and become profitable (or stay that way), your company is going to need a marketing strategy.

But where do you even begin?

You’ve come to the right place. In this post we’re going to share a 5-step process you can follow to create the roots of your B2B marketing strategy, and walk through a handful of examples and specific tactics you can include.

Limber up, my friend—it’s strategy time.

In a rush? We’ll send you a PDF version of this post.

B2B Marketing Strategies PDF

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B2B Marketing Strategy Process:

  1. Start with customer research
  2. Conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis
  3. Establish key objectives and metrics
  4. Develop your B2B customer journey map
  5. Identify executional marketing tactics

B2B Brand Strategies:

  1. Transparency
  2. Cause & Purpose Association
  3. Being The Underdog
  4. Employee Empowerment
  5. Launch Free Tools
  6. Own Your Position Of Strength
  7. Being Customer-Focused

B2B Lead Generation Tactics:

  1. Downloadable Assets
  2. Host Webinars
  3. B2B Review Sites
  4. Paid Search Advertising
  5. Paid Social Advertising

Why you need a B2B marketing strategy

The first question you’re probably asking is this:

Why is a documented and well-researched marketing strategy so important?

Is it really worth taking resources away from executing on marketing tactics to put together this plan—especially when your marketing team is small (or non-existent)?

The answer is:

Absolutely.

And in this post, we’re going to talk about why exactly that is, how you can navigate the process, and share some real-world examples from brands you know (and maybe love).

First, let’s use a simple example to compare B2B to B2C from a marketing standpoint:

For B2B companies, the potential buyer pool is typically smaller and less urgently looking to buy. Everyone needs toilet paper and (almost) everyone wants new shoes, but far fewer people will rush out to buy surface drills, ultrasound machines or a brand new customer support software on a whim.

In other words, if your approach to marketing is “sit back and hope our customers break down the door to throw money at us” — you’re probably going to be waiting for a while.

There’s still power in word of mouth, but many organizations aren’t in a position to let customers find them organically—and typically very slowly.

inbound marketing model

A B2B marketing strategy dictates how an organization will be proactive in attracting customers, closing sales and remaining on the road to continued financial success.

Having a marketing strategy also allows organizations to iterate on their marketing efforts over time. Experimenting to learn what works and what doesn’t for your customer segment can be valuable, but only if you’re able to capture data you can learn from in the future.

Very few companies have gone completely under from a single bad marketing decision. It’s happened, but it typically happens after the cumulation of several bad decisions, and you want to give yourself every advantage to avoid those pitfalls.

So if you’re sold the why of a B2B marketing strategy, keep reading—it’s time for the how.

How to create a B2B marketing strategy:

Alright, so now that we’ve touched on the *why* behind a documented & research-backed strategy—it’s time to talk about *how* you can do it.

(Hint: It starts with a good amount of research)

1. Start with customer research

There’s something that many marketers agree is incredibly important, and yet many companies don’t do it anywhere near as much as they should:

Customer research.

If you don’t know what your customers’ pain points *actually* are beyond just a wild guess, your marketing decisions aren’t going to be based on research and your chances of flopping are much higher.

Don’t be fooled, either—customer research goes beyond anecdotal evidence that your audience is on a specific channel or is purchasing a certain way.

The best marketers don’t just know more about the latest channel, tool or tactic. They know more about… people. You can find plenty of crafty ways to get your message in front of prospects, but if you want those people to actually pay attention—rather than just ignoring you—you better do your research. — Katelyn Bourgoin, Growth Strategist & Trainer

We have a full post that tells you everything you need to know about how to find your target audience. It touches on identifying what your core offering to your customers is & building customer personas.

Here’s the high level view of the 4-step persona process, but the full post is worth a read if you’re still at the persona-building stage.

Marketing Persona

The big takeaway that we’ll repeat here is this:

Actually talk to your customers. And if you don’t have any, talk to the customers of your competition.

“Instead of trying to guess what your customers were thinking, you can actually ask them what they were thinking.” — Josh Gallant, Digital & SEO Strategist with Foundation

Before you start planning your marketing strategy, you need to figure out if you’re on the right track—will your efforts create value, or are you trying to fish with dynamite?

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” — Sun Tzu in The Art of War

But talking to your customers is only the first step in the research process.

It’s not enough to just send a survey, book a few calls, take some notes and call it a day. Your research needs to go deeper than that. And that’s where the qualitative and quantitative analysis comes into play.

2. Conduct qualitative & quantitative analysis

Talked to your customers? Fantastic.

But…

Collecting answers to interview or survey questions from your customers is only the first step.

What you have at this point is data—not insights.

The same goes for having Google Analytics installed on your website (if you don’t, you should). Just because it’s collecting data doesn’t mean you have insights in a bottle.

Next—you need to analyze that data.

  • Look at the customer research you’ve collected.
  • Look at common behaviours and actions that are happening on your website
  • If you have a sales team, ask them what questions come up the most
  • If you have active social media pages, look at what people are messaging you
  • If you have a support team, ask them what problems are the most common

And when you’re analyzing this data, remember that you can find insights using two different approaches—qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative analysis…

Is intentionally open-ended and not necessarily based on numbers. (i.e. asking a customer “What’s one thing that frustrates you the most about ABC product?” to understand what their most common problems are.)

Quantitative analysis…

Relies on questions that can be answered with data, numbers and/or statistics. (i.e. researching which questions are getting the most search volume in Google, and using the findings to prioritize your customers’ most common problems.)

To gain the best possible understanding of the market and your customers, you’ll need both.

Here are two of our favourite methods to put into practice here:

1. Ask your customers what their biggest pain point is.

And leave it as open-ended as you can. If you ask leading questions here (i.e. “Is ABC a major pain point for you?”) you’ll miss out on what their pain points *actually* are.

Ask them the question, let them share whatever they’d like, then compare the responses to look for trends after you’ve conducted a handful of interviews.

2. Use the Sherlock Homeboy Technique to see what’s working best for your competition.

Define what result or metric you want to focus on, then study your competition.

What are they doing marketing-wise that’s achieving that result the best? Don’t be afraid to get specific as well—if they’re creating blog content that’s working, which specific topics are performing the best? Is there a certain *type* of content that’s working best?

The Sherlock Homeboy technique will become your best friend here.

For example: Which HubSpot blog posts are attracting the most backlinks?

sherlock homeboy technique

#SherlockHomeboy 🔍

3. Establish key objectives and metrics

Every organization is chasing success. But what “success” actually looks like varies wildly from one company to the next, and how “success” is measured varies just as much.

The same is true for B2B marketing strategies—a successful strategy could be one that increases sales, or generates awareness, or attracts more leads, or increases customer referrals, and the list can go on & on.

Our walkthrough on how B2B marketers can identify key content marketing metrics and objectives outlines how to approach this from a content marketing lens, but the same thinking can be extrapolated to other marketing strategies.

  1. Identify your business goals first—what does success look like?
  2. Work backwards from that goal to figure out what actions and results will lead to hitting your business goals & achieving success
  3. Connect these actions to metrics you can track that show progress

And you’ll have a (rough) map of which metrics matter most and how exactly they tie into your overall business goals.

Here’s the thing that we see a lot of B2B marketers get hung up on:

All data can be important, but if you try to measure and analyze everything, you’re going to end up with nothing.

Just because you can track and measure 100 different metrics doesn’t mean you should be tracking and measuring all 100. The key is to prioritize the metrics that best align with your business objectives.

Are click-through rates from Twitter posts impacting your business goal of generating more inbound leads? It’s unlikely, but if they are then it’s something you want to track.

How about click-through rates from your blog posts to your demo request landing page? The impact on your business goal here is likely going to be a lot higher, so it’s a metric you’ll want to pay closer attention to.

Not only does this keep you focused on what matters, it prevents you from being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data points you have at your disposal.

After you identify which metrics have the most impact on your business goals and which you’re planning to actively track—the next step is setting targets and marketing goals.

Here’s the key:

Make sure your goals are SMART.

smart goal framework

Specific: Explain exactly what it’s you’re trying to accomplish.

Measurable: Make sure there’s a way for progress and success to be tracked.

Achievable: It needs to be realistically possible (i.e. “generate 50,000 inbound leads this year” when you only had 200 last year is likely a major stretch)

Relevant: If the goal doesn’t connect to your business goals and won’t directly impact your overall success, it’s not worth setting.

Time-Bound: A goal without a deadline is just a dream.

Let’s say you’ve identified blog post visitors from Google as your highest converting source of traffic and you want to increase the volume here.

Instead of your goal being:

“Get more visitors to our blog”

It would look more like this:

“Since organic blog traffic is our best converting traffic source, I want to increase organic blog traffic from 2,000 sessions to 3,000 sessions per month within 3 months.”

4. Develop your B2B customer journey map

At Foundation, we start every content marketing strategy with a B2B customer journey map.

The customer journey map is an opportunity for you to become familiar with the various touchpoints that are involved in your B2B marketing strategy as customers move through the sales funnel, as well as what influences their decisions and what questions they may have.

This is also a great place to include ideas for content that may answer those questions, how many searches that content might receive based on your research, and what format is best for that content.

This is the template we use at Foundation:

b2b customer journey map

(You can download a copy of your own here)

And here’s how you can get started with a journey map:

  1. Identify who the key stakeholders are (and who needs to buy in) at each stage of the buying cycle
  2. Outline what’s most likely to influence them at each stage
  3. Note down the most common questions they’re likely asking (your customer research is going to come in handy here)
  4. Use a tool like Ahrefs / Moz / UberSuggest to get a rough estimate of the monthly search volume in Google for the commonly asked questions
  5. Brainstorm a few quick ideas for content that could answer these questions (don’t worry about getting too into the weeds with these ideas)
  6. Jot down the types of content you’re planning to use at each stage

At its core, the customer journey map helps you understand your different buyer personas and identify opportunities to get their attention.

It’ll also keep your sales team from becoming the annoying sales reps that keep showing up in your inbox with the wrong message at the wrong time.

When you know the specific pains your best customers are experiencing at each stage of their journey, you can reach out with the right message at the right time to help them solve those pains.

5. Identify executional marketing tactics

At this point, you’ll have your customer research, a customer journey map, qualitative & quantitative analysis, and a breakdown of your key metrics and SMART goals.

It’s time to map out what you want to do to reach those goals.

Let’s run with an example… Here’s the details:

  • In Q3/Q4 last year, the case studies on your website had 40 downloads
  • Of those 40 leads, you were able to close 10—a 25% close rate
  • The rest of your downloadable resources only had a 10% close rate, so case studies generated the best results for your business

And here’s the goal you’ve landed on:

“Since our case study leads have the highest close rates, we want to generate 100 total case study downloads by the end of Q2 this year.”

What you need to figure out now is how you’re going to increase the amount of case study downloads this year.

  • What tactics are you going to test?
  • Which distribution channels are you going to experiment with?
  • Are you going to share the case studies directly on these channels?
  • Are you going to use content like blog posts & videos to attract people first?

Before you make any decisions, let’s take a look at the common content marketing funnel:

b2b marketing funnel

You’re trying to bring in strangers and convert them into leads. In order to do that, you first need to turn those strangers into visitors.

Looking at the funnel, we can see that at the top of the funnel, blog posts, SEO, videos, podcasts, and social media are the most effective methods for doing exactly that.

So it would make sense for a few of your marketing tactics to look like this:

  • Publish at least 2 blog posts per month
  • Create 1 short-form video for social media each week
  • Be a guest on at least 1 podcast per month
  • Conduct at least 1 link building outreach campaign per week promoting our new blog posts to improve our rankings in Google

That will help you turn strangers into website visitors.

From there, you want to figure out what you’re going to do to turn website visitors into leads—how are you going to carry them from a blog post or video to your case studies?

Your tactics here may look like this:

  • Include multiple call-to-actions in blog posts to relevant case studies
  • Launch a retargeting campaign on Facebook/LinkedIn to promote our case studies to blog post visitors and video viewers
  • Ask current customers for testimonials & include them on your case study landing pages

Depending on your business and marketing goals, the tactics you outline are going to look slightly different. You may have the most success with TV ads, so your tactics will reflect how you’re going to get more value out of that channel.

Or perhaps your focus is further down the funnel and your goals are to increase your close rates on inbound leads—if that’s the case, your tactics should include ways to improve your email marketing and automations that trigger after a visitor becomes a lead.

Whatever your goals are, make sure your tactics can be directly tied to achieving those goals and alleviating the pain points your customers are feeling throughout their journey.

Developing your B2B brand strategy: Methods & examples from some of the top brands

At this point, you’ll have conducted plenty of research—customer research, industry research, analytics research—to pull out as many valuable insights as you can.

You’ll have set your high-level business goals and connected them to marketing activities and metrics that carry you toward them.

Then used that research and those marketing goals to plan your customer journey map and executional tactics.

You have a plan that’s ready to be implemented.

But before you dive right in, we want to share a handful of examples from the real world. Both from a brand-building and lead generation (further below) standpoint.

Let’s jump in:

1. Transparency

A brand development strategy that more and more companies have been adopting in recent years is transparency.

For Buffer, this has meant making all of their behind-the-scenes data—revenue, workplace diversity metrics, even salaries—freely available to anyone who wants to access them.

Here’s a great example from their CEO, Joel Gascoigne:

buffer announcement

He talked about how they tried to scale too quickly and had to let 10 of their recent hires go. This type of honest communication simply isn’t common in the business world.

What’s more, he outlined the steps the company was taking to right the ship, starting with a salary cut of 40% for himself and then-COO Leo Widrich.

“It’s more work to be transparent, because you’re sharing the data, the numbers, and you’ve got to explain the context. One of the things I love about transparency is it forces us to do that.” —Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer

Here’s what they share directly on their about page:

buffer transparency

Companies are always eager to talk about their successes, but never their failures, even though that’s where the valuable stuff is.

Businesses don’t always talk about the negatives. They’d rather focus in the moment on trying to be successful, assuming there will be time for reflection afterwards.

That strategy may work for some, but the fact is that having transparency as a core value has earned Buffer a ton of attention from the likes of Forbes, The Atlantic, and Fortune.

As a brand development strategy, transparency may be trendy, but open and honest communication with employees and a commitment to providing more opportunities to underrepresented groups will never go out of style.

2. Cause & Purpose Association

Earlier in Slack’s lifetime (before the brand refresh & before the IPO) the company had a storefront on its website called the Slack Shop, which sold items like wooden coasters, shirts, and socks with Slack branding.

slack shop

Swag is cool, but the real value of the storefront was in charitable giving.

Every six months, Slack selected a new charity to support through store proceeds, with a minimum $10,000 donation.

While the Slack Shop is no longer a permanent fixture (it only appears from time to time), it’s an example of cause and purpose association, also known as cause marketing or cause-related marketing.

Put simply, cause and purpose association is tying your business to an issue or a topic that is more important to the world than your bottom line.

One of the most prominent companies to embrace cause and purpose association is the outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia.

In 2016, they donated the entirety of their Black Friday sales to environmental groups fighting climate change ($10 million, a 300% increase in sales over the previous year).

“It cost us a bunch of money because it was total revenue. But 60 percent of the customers were new buyers. Sixty percent. It was one of the best business things we’ve ever done.” —Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

While the initiative got the company a bunch of attention, helping to save the environment is in Patagonia’s DNA.

In 1986, Chouinard committed either 1% of sales or 10% of profits (whichever was larger) to environmental activism, and 10 years later the company started to exclusively use organic cotton.

The culture of cause and purpose association has thrived even without Chouinard at the helm.

Last fall, CEO Rose Marcario donated $10 million (Patagonia’s tax cuts) to environmental charities to protest a tax bill.

Patagonia isn’t in the B2B space, but the same principle applies: One of the most surefire brand development strategies is to stand for something.

Advertising great Bill Bernbach once said:

“If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.”

3. Being the Underdog

Everyone loves to root for an underdog, and many brands have positioned themselves as an alternative to something other companies are or aren’t doing.

In their classic book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Al Reis and Jack Trout write about The Law of the Opposite:

“If you want to establish a firm foothold on the second rung of the ladder, study the firm above you. Where is it strong? And how do you turn that strength into a weakness?”

That’s exactly what Salesforce leadership did in the early days:

They picked an enemy to oppose—their biggest rival, Siebel Systems.

Ahead of a major campaign launch, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff hired actors to pose as protesters at a conference for Siebel. The protesters descended on San Francisco’s Moscone Center with the rallying cry “The internet is really neat! Software is obsolete!”

Another group of actors pretended to be a news crew covering the “protesters” (who were advocating for Salesforce’s cloud-based system).

marc benioff tweet

Because the protest was so realistic, Siebel Systems called the police, and it wasn’t long before actual reporters showed up (ultimately earning Salesforce hundreds of new customers).

“This marketing stunt worked across many fronts: we built Salesforce.com morale, got great press coverage, and brought our competitor’s customers to our event to hear our message. Within two weeks, more than 100,000 organizations signed up for our service; most were introduced to it through articles about the launch. Later, our End of Software campaign was recognized by PR Week as the ‘Hi-Tech Campaign of the Year.’” —Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce

Over the years, Benioff has grown fond of these guerrilla marketing tactics—using the actions of competitor companies to put a spotlight on his own brand.

It’s a tactic that Slack also utilized recently, when it put an open letter to Microsoft as a full-page ad in the New York Times the day the software giant’s competitor, Microsoft Teams, was unveiled.

slack newspaper ad

In that letter, Slack spoke about the lessons it had learned in building its platform, noting that communication software has to be more than a list of features.

With one advertisement, Slack positioned itself as both the underdog and the master.

The company couldn’t fight Microsoft in a battle of resources (see $1.27 trillion with a “T” market cap), but Slack’s role as the king of communication meant they weren’t afraid to offer some tips for success to the competitor infringing on its turf.

Naturally, some people loved the ad. Some people hated it.

But that’s the goal, right?

Getting people talking.

4. Employee Empowerment

First of all—what does this *actually* mean?

According to study.com (great domain name), employee empowerment means giving employees a certain level of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organizational tasks.

As Mike Tanner explored in his book Really Little Wins, when given autonomy and the ability to tackle his tasks in whichever order he desired, he experienced a dramatic increase in job satisfaction and productivity.

One of the best examples of employee empowerment as a B2B marketing strategy was the video campaign the live chat company Drift ran on LinkedIn in 2018—a campaign that was planned only five days before it was launched, yet generated 3 million views and resulted in the highest single-day traffic in the company’s history.

drift linkedin takeover

Dave Gerhardt (Former VP of marketing at Drift) had been running some engagement experiments using LinkedIn video, which was a fairly recent addition to the platform, and found his videos getting thousands of views and a ton of engagement. People he did not know would recognize him as “that guy from the LinkedIn videos.”

Seeing how far his message had spread, he wondered what would happen if a hundred people at Drift posted videos to LinkedIn to promote a new product.

It started with half a dozen people posting videos during their daily commutes, and then things started to get really crazy when one of the product managers posted a video while on vacation:

“She’s literally skiing and … she’s talking about how, you know, ‘Modern email is broken. We built an email marketing platform that actually matches how people want to buy…’ and she’s literally skiing down the mountain. That was when just all hell broke loose, because at that point, then once people saw it, it turned into a competition here internally where everyone started to one up each other.” —Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift

With its super-engaged workforce, Drift is also one of the leaders in employee advocacy.

It’s a strategy where employees share company content to their personal social networks and in turn are able to grow their personal brands.

The company will routinely have employees from different departments create content based on their expertise, such as a customer success manager hosting an informational video about using video in customer success.

5. Launch Free Tools

People tend to love things that help them solve problems.

And they love it even more when that help is free.

Creating helpful tools and releasing them for free is a fantastic way to help your customers solve their problems and build up brand affinity. And one of the best in the industry at doing exactly that is HubSpot.

They’ve created and launched dozens of free tools over the years. The current tally is at 45 different tools available for download—with everything from buyer personas to invoice templates making the cut:

hubspot free tools

But one of their most well-known tools launched in 2007 (the early days)—the Website Grader.

website grader

Visitors type in their email address and the URL of their website, and the Website Grader will measure the site’s marketing effectiveness, generating a score between 0 and 100 based on factors including traffic, SEO and social media. Based on its findings, the grader will also suggest ways to improve inbound marketing efforts.

The user gets actionable insights and suggestions.

HubSpot fills their pipeline with well-populated leads.

Win-win.

HubSpot may be one of the best-known free tool providers, but it’s not the only one.

Over the past few years, Shopify’s also gotten in on the action—creating privacy, refund, and terms of service policy templates for its users (which are bundled with a free trial of the product, of course).

shopify privacy policy

Having new stuff to play with online is always cool, but the reason that offering free tools is a great brand development strategy is that it’s all about empowering the customer to do things they wouldn’t be able to on their own.

Consultants to analyze our website are expensive.

So are lawyers that write custom privacy, refund and TOS policies.

If you can give customers the tools to tackle their own problems to a certain standard, they’ll value the experience, gain confidence, and remember that it was YOU that helped them.

And as an added bonus, it’s no surprise that the best free tools are also often the most linked to free tools.

 

If you can create something that’s helpful for your target users or customers, they’re highly likely to be willing to give you their email address to get access. And the more helpful your tool becomes, the more people will be talking about it.

6. Own Your Position of Strength

Here’s the reality:

There’s little room for humility in marketing.

“Marketing, like war, is a zero-sum game. If you want something you have to take it from someone else. In order for someone to win, someone has to lose. Adam Morgan described it as ‘like a knife-fight in a phone box.’ there isn’t anywhere to hide. There isn’t any place for bystanders. Everyone has to choose.” — Dave Trott, advertising legend

In other words, businesses aren’t often going to succeed by caring deeply about how their competitors might feel.

You need to be willing to own your position of strength. When something great happens to your business, you should use it to your advantage.

This doesn’t mean you need to ship a press release for every single thing that ever happens with your company, but promoting and announcing that your company is top rated SaaS product in your category can affirm your position at the top.

salesforce #1 crm

You won’t be at the top of a product or service category forever, but when you say your business is #1 in your vertical or within a certain customer base, that becomes your reputation with customers and competitors alike.

Find out what your organization is knocking out of the park and promote yourself with it.

If the goal of marketing is to persuade the right sort of customers to buy, then promoting yourself as a leader in a specific area is one of the most surefire ways to do so.

7. Being Customer-Focused

It’s easy for a business to say they’re customer-focused.

But this typically means the great service they provide ends with sales and support.

Companies that are truly customer-focused are investing in long-term relationships with their customers. They treat the amount of money they can make as secondary to the personal growth and development of the customer.

Naturally, this focus on helping their customers win is going to lead to the company winning long-term as well.

Plenty of B2B companies host conferences with the goal of helping to educate and inform. HubSpot hosts Inbound, a conference dedicated to marketing, sales, and business. Slack is behind Frontiers, about the intersection of technology and organizational performance.

One of the best conferences is Twilio’s Signal.

signal event

It’s a two-day customer and developer conference focused on Twilio’s products, one-on-one engagement with experts, networking and building stronger relationships with customers.

Demonstrating their commitment to their developers and customers, Twilio also hires developer evangelists who can teach others about coding and the world of software development to serve as the public face of the company to local groups around the world.

Another business demonstrating their focus on customers in their marketing is customer success company Gainsight.

They’ve created a Slack community for leaders to share their ideas, discuss industry trends, network and learn from guest speakers.

customer success chat

One of the main advantages of being customer-focused is being able to grow a community of people with similar interests. Those relationships may end up being more valuable than the product or service that is being provided.

What’s next?

For those keeping track at home, that’s seven brand building strategies that the top brands in B2B have used over the past decade to position themselves as industry leaders.

Even if you’re not Slack or Salesforce-sized (most of us aren’t), you can still take inspiration from their initiatives and campaigns and test smaller-scale versions.

Now let’s shift gears a bit.

Let’s talk lead generation tactics for B2B brands.

Creating a lead generation strategy: What works & what do you need?

No matter how you tackle the brand building side of B2B marketing, one thing will almost always be true—you need more (or just better) leads.

Chances are your B2B marketing strategy that’s in the works as you read this post is connected to increasing revenue in some fashion. More customers, better retention, higher quality pipeline—all of these goals have one thing in common: Revenue.

And as you’re working backward from that primary business goal, the almost unavoidable step you’ll hit is lead generation. You need to find reliable methods and tactics that you can use to generate leads on a consistent basis.

In this section, we’re going to share 5 proven methods you can start using right away.

Let’s go.

1. Downloadable Assets

Pop quiz: What do the people love?

We’ve already talked about this one—the people love getting things for free.

There’s a ton of value in offering downloadable assets on your website, especially when they speak to problems beyond your product or service.

For example, Stripe offers guides and resources on everything from talent recruitment to using machine learning for fraud detection.

Similarly, Intercom offers downloadable ebooks on product management, customer engagement and even the jobs-to-be-done productivity framework.

intercom book

Free stuff is great.

And it’s even better when giving away these free assets that help your audience also result in leads for your business.

In exchange for the free template, guide, worksheet or ebook, your future customers will give you their email address (and whatever else you ask for) with a form.

And just like that, you now have the contact information of someone who’s expressed interest in something you offer. And once you have that information, you can start to reach out (manually or with an automated email sequence).

Offering downloadable assets is one of the most common lead generation strategies—and for good reason. It’s because it works. Plain and simple.

2. Hosting Webinars

The humble webinar has long been a staple of B2B marketing.

It’s a training session, product demo and Q&A all rolled into one live and interactive meeting.

However, companies are starting to recognize that webinars are more than just great tools for interacting with and helping to educate current customers—they can also be used to increase customer lifetime value, reduce churn, convert trial users and, yes, even generate leads.

Intercom in particular frequently hosts webinars that feature a well-known guest or business leader sharing their expertise.

Not only does this attract people outside of the company ecosystem, it also increases product and brand awareness and helps build relationships with these guests.

intercom webinars

You can also include incentives to convince leads to attend. Things like free strategy calls, templates, extended trials, etc.

While Intercom may talk a lot about the features of their platforms, their public-facing webinars are intended to be as valuable as possible, and that’s what will lead people to poke around their websites and sign up for trial accounts.

Notion takes the same approach.

They run weekly webinars on CrowdCast that just explore the hundreds of ways people use Notion. They’re not *selling* Notion on the webinar—the goal is to show how awesome the product can be, introduce plenty of great ways to get value from it and let the rest take care of itself.

notion webinars

Intercom also allows their trial users to attend product-specific webinars. As a result, trial users learn more about what the platform is capable of and how they might use it better, and have added incentive to become paid users.

And that’s the art of the pitch: Demonstrate the value of a product to a user, showcase how it can make their life easier, and they’ll typically be willing to at least give it a try.

3. B2B Review Sites

One of the most significant trends in the B2B world over the past several years has been the Yelpification of B2B.

Our personal behaviours of looking for social proof, reading reviews, and making judgement calls about products or services have slowly but surely spilled over into the business world.

Some of the biggest adopters of this trend are the business software review sites G2, Capterra and TrustRadius, and as a result they’re getting huge amounts of traffic.

All of this traffic, combined with the social proof these sites provide, can act as significant lead drivers for B2B software.

When you visit Capterra and see that Notion has an overall rating of 4.5 stars, tons of glowing reviews, and starts at $4 a month, odds are you’re going to click through to Notion’s product page to at least see what all the hype is about.

4. Paid Search Advertising

We touched on this during the customer journey mapping stage.

Your audience has pain points and questions that they’re asking. Where are they going to ask those questions? That would be Google.

Take a look at the current search market share:

google market share

Google = 90.8%

That means 9 out of 10 searches are happening on Google-owned properties.

So if you’re customer has questions, and you have answers—where is it that you need to be? Where they’re asking the questions, of course.

A successful content marketing strategy where SEO is a major part is going to lead to long-term success when executed well, but the other search-related tactic you can start executing right away is Google Ads.

The process is fairly straightforward:

  • Figure out what your audience is searching for the most
  • Setup a landing page that offers a downloadable resource related to their question
  • Build your campaign at ads.google.com and monitor the results as you go

Eventually, you’ll want to shift your focus from entirely ads-based to a more organic content approach to trim your cost-per-acquisition, but Google Ads are definitely something worth testing at the very least.

5. Paid Social Advertising

While paid social ads are similar to Google ads in the sense that you’re paying to reach your audience right away—the stage itself is a bit different.

With Google Ads, your customers are actively looking for something that you offer. You’re just paying to show up at the top of the list.

With social ads, your customers are not actively looking for you. In fact, all they’re looking to do most of the time is figure out what their friends, family, colleagues and favourite celebs are up to.

If you want to just open up Facebook and launch a campaign to target certain interests or demographics, the audience you’re targeting is going to be quite cold. They probably don’t know you, and they’re probably going to be hesitant to give you their information or swipe their credit card right away—if they even stop scrolling and give you the time of day.

So how should you approach social ads?

Retargeting ads.

First, setup a Facebook Pixel and LinkedIn Insights Tag on your website. This will keep track of who’s visiting your site and what actions they’re taking.

Then, as the pixels collect more and more information, you can launch social ad campaigns that target people who’ve already taken specific actions that indicate they might be interested in what you’re offering.

Cold → Warm

You can narrow it down to target only people that visited your pricing page but didn’t convert, added a product to their cart but didn’t checkout, or just visited more than one blog post.

In 2019 we analyzed 100 Facebook ads from SaaS brands to see what tactics, campaigns, and ad types were working the best—be sure to give that post a read as well if you’re planning to launch an ad campaign in the near future.

b2b saas facebook ads

Wrapping Things Up

One of the most exciting things about B2B marketing is that there’s always something new to try or experiment with. And while most tactics don’t last, the rules of brand strategy have proven to be far more consistent.

If you’ve made it this far—congratulations and happy to see you at the finish line!

Hopefully you’ve been able to pull some great value from this post. Don’t forget to hit “bookmark” so you can come back to the examples we shared down the road.

Let’s recap what we just covered.

B2B Marketing Strategy Process:

  1. Start with customer research
  2. Conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis
  3. Establish key objectives and metrics
  4. Develop your B2B customer journey map
  5. Identify executional marketing tactics

B2B Brand Strategies:

  1. Transparency
  2. Cause & Purpose Association
  3. Being The Underdog
  4. Employee Empowerment
  5. Launch Free Tools
  6. Own Your Position Of Strength
  7. Being Customer-Focused

B2B Lead Generation Tactics:

  1. Downloadable Assets
  2. Host Webinars
  3. B2B Review Sites
  4. Paid Search Advertising
  5. Paid Social Advertising

If you’ve made it this far, you’re not like most marketers…

Most marketers aren’t interested in doing hard things like reading a blog post this long.

But here you are.

You’re demonstrating your willingness to do hard things, so how about one more:

We challenge you to take one of the ideas you’ve read about and act on them. Right now. Not tomorrow. Right now. Copy the section and send it to your boss or team and say “we need to think about how we can apply this.”

That’s all it takes.

And with that, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below. Strategy steps that you’re getting hung up on? Favourite brand building examples? Favourite lead generation tactics? Let’s hear ‘em. 🚀

(Post written with contributions from Matthew Rawle)

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