B2B Online Marketing

The comprehensive guide about Online Marketing for B2B

When the Customer Journey began more than a hundred years ago, the famous AIDA formula was created. Attention, interest, desire and finally action - which marketing expert does not know this principle? However, during the last tenth of the last century, what you as a CMO know today as digitization has manifested itself. With this process, new channels have been and continue to be added to the Customer Journey.

Table of Contents

B2B marketing and its diverse opportunities

The decision-making process of a customer is much more complex than in the past and confronts the company and you as CMO with completely different challenges.

Definition of terms

The term B2B marketing or business-to-business marketing refers to the marketing of products between companies or organisations. Basically the same rules apply to B2B marketing as to B2C marketing, although the decision criteria are quite different. While B2C marketing deals with emotionality, companies are more likely to be motivated to buy on the basis of rational criteria.

The modern B2B customer journey

When the Customer Journey began more than a hundred years ago, the famous AIDA formula was created. Attention, interest, desire and finally action - which marketing expert does not know this principle?However, during the last ten years, what you as a CMO know today as digitization has manifested itself. With this process, new channels have been created and continue to be added to the Customer Journey. The decision-making process of a customer is therefore much more complex than in the past and confronts the company and you as CMO with completely different challenges.

There are different interpretations of the customer journey that represent a different number of phases. However, such a Customer Journey does not work like a blueprint because the individual phases are often very different.

How do I identify the customer journey of my own company?

Just like the B2C Customer Journey, the Business Customer Journey is also a component of the Customer Experience. The buying process is more complex and therefore not simply linear. The original AIDA formula therefore looks quite different - depending on the product and company. The usual journey of a potential buyer is roughly divided into five phases:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Conversion
  4. Retention
  5. Advocacy

At the awareness phase the customer becomes aware of his problem or need, at the consideration phase the customer looks for possible solutions and weighs them up. In phase 3, the conversation phase, the product is finally purchased. In the retention phase, the customer is enthusiastic about the product he has purchased and, in the best case, even buys it again. In the last phase, the Advocacy phase, the customer "takes sides" for the company and recommends the product or the company to others.

Therefore, get to know the journey of your customer. This works best with data analysis.

The Web data is one of the basic sources for this. An important tool at this point is Google Analytics with its free tools for collecting various data. To find out how users reach your website, for example, the acquisition report is suitable. If you want to know at which point in the purchasing process your users stop, funnel visualization is a suitable solution.

Furthermore, the sources in your own company should also be used: Your customer service. Interview the employees, because they are close to the customers and can best reflect their needs. By means of a personal survey you don`t just give the customers the feeling that they are an important part of the company, you also establish an emotional basis.

The next step is to define the customer type, the so-called Buyer Persona. This involves determining the needs and interests of your target group on the basis of an analysis. In this way, you can address your customers even more specifically. This Buyer Persona serves as the basis for the development of the Customer Journey.

This is followed by the third step, which is to define the different phases or steps of the Customer Journey Map that the customer passes through on his "journey". For a better visualization, it is advisable to record these steps graphically. While these steps represent any change in customer behavior, touchpoints are interactions with your company. Which brings us to step four: The touchpoints are relevant to determine when and where the customer comes into contact with your company in order to better respond to them.

The Touchpoints and Steps define the channels through which the buyer persona comes into contact during their journey. Ideally, your company will be present with a channel in all phases of the customer's journey in order to interact sustainably. Among the common channels that should be served by the company are (besides social media and Google Ads) of course good discoverability (SEO), successful storytelling on the different channels (or even the website itself), possibly also print adverts, recommendations etc. Also try to find out the emotions of the buyer persona in this step. With this assessment you will be able to deal with possible frustrations on the part of the customer accordingly and avoid them in the future. 

In the fifth step, you should evaluate which steps are experienced by the potential customer as being particularly formative or intensive - in both a negative and positive sense. This is where empathy can help the company to gain plus points with the buyer persona.

The visualization of the map is helpful and in any case important in order to gain an overview. You should always try to look at your company from the customer's perspective. If you succeed in this, you are well on the way to identify unsatisfactory processes and to take appropriate measures for change.

In an article by management consultants McKinsey, three important key factors of customer satisfaction are named. The so-called customer-journey consistency, which describes the importance of standardizing customer processes. According to this, in order to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction, a congruent strategy for dealing with customers throughout the company is required. In contrast, "emotional consistency" is about the emotional customer loyalty that creates a relationship of trust between the company and its customers - through positively experienced customer journeys. The third "C" of the key factors is "communication consistency", which attaches great importance to the uniform communication policy of a company. Promises made to the customer should be kept under all circumstances. 

The B2B Marketing Plan

The Challenges

The buying process of a customer - also from the B2B sector - has changed a lot in the past decades, especially with the beginning of digitalization. This is also because the majority of today's buyers are millenials who grew up as digital natives. Acquisition, which used to be so important, mostly on the phone, no longer works with this generation - unlike the generation before them, Millenials no longer know what to do with cold acquisition.

Millenials have an affinity for social media and only decide on a product after thorough research. In most cases, the desired information is searched for online, several offers are compared and weighed up before a concrete decision is made. Only then does the potential buyer contact the company. More than half of the buying process is already completed at this point.

In addition, the buyer's journey is becoming increasingly multidimensional, i.e. more people are involved than was previously the case. Decision-makers are therefore no longer only members of the upper hierarchical level of a company, but also other employees. Why? The hierarchies in companies are becoming flatter; especially in young companies, decisions are increasingly "democratic" because more opinions are involved.

This means that the Buyers Journey is no longer linear, but chaotic, i.e. there is a switch from one step to another. Around 20 years ago, the buyer's journey of the classic B2B customer looked different, because there were fewer opportunities to obtain information, purchasing processes were more predictable and fewer people were involved. The buyer was therefore more dependent on the information and knowledge provided by the supplier.

The difference between the B2B Customer Journey and the B2C Customer Journey is no longer significant, but is becoming increasingly similar.

Just as in the case of purchases by end consumers, the decision to buy is ultimately no longer necessarily dependent solely on the price or the conditions of the offer, but on the buying experience. Companies must therefore reconsider their previously perhaps rather conservative strategies and also offer their customers a digital experience.

How do I begin? Practical tips and advice

The purpose of lead generation is to acquire concrete, qualified new customers who will provide your company with sufficient contact details to establish a successful relationship. With high probability, these leads will then also become customers who select and validate your company's product or service and create consensus.

In the process of creating lasting customer loyalty and winning back customers, the company is more or less back to where it started: with generating demand.

Every customer must be convinced in a new way

The purpose of lead generation is to acquire concrete, qualified new customers who will provide your company with sufficient contact details to establish a successful relationship. With high probability, these leads will then also become customers who select and validate your company's product or service and create consensus.

Elements of a B2B marketing plan

Generating demand

Generating demand comes before generating leads. This means that potential customers must first be made aware of their existing problem, so that they start to look for solutions - and in the best case, they will find your product.

Generating demand includes several measures such as content marketing, SEO, video and social media marketing. All of these have one goal in common: the establishment of a long-term customer relationship. The most important thing, however, is to have a good and consistent content marketing strategy in place.

Therefore, it is important to analyse your own target group in detail in advance to avoid using channels that are not used by your potential customers.

Social media is probably also an increasingly powerful tool for generating demand, as many B2B buyers use social media in their decision-making. The content of social media posts should be in the professional area, i.e. professional articles, webinars or news from the industry. This content can then be communicated to the customer in many different ways.

Blogs in particular can be used excellently for storytelling in order to create an emotional bond with the potential customer. A good, technically sounding article can work wonders - especially when it is shared by the customer. Similar content can also be packaged differently, for example as short videos, because they also play a role in the buying process of many customers. It is important to always keep an eye on the target group and their favorite channels.

High-quality content is eminently important, because studies have shown that buyers make their buying decision to a large extent dependent on a company's content, or let themselves be decisively influenced by it. On the other hand, this also means: poor content = fewer customers → less sales. Companies need to be clear about the requirements of the prospective customer in order to be able to provide well-founded information on the appropriate channels.

Lead generation

As soon as demand for a product or service from a prospective customer is generated, leads can then be generated from these. The question is, which strategies can be used to generate concrete leads?

Lead generation distinguishes between offline and online strategies. Offline marketing includes in particular advertisements in print media and events. The latter still prove to be the best way to generate leads. When it comes to personal contact, customers are generally more willing to give out their data.

Online marketing, on the other hand, includes all digital measures that are used online and aime at winning customers. The content marketing described for generating demand is also suitable for generating leads through press articles, testimonials and content about the corporate identity of your company. Here again, it is important to pay attention to the quality of the content. This is the basis of a customer's trust.

Next to content and event marketing, SEO is of course first and foremost. Without good SEO it will be impossible to find a website. Therefore, do not save money in the wrong place, but focus on good keywords that are relevant.

Automation allows the use of software to automate and optimize workflows. It starts with the generation of a lead and includes the creation of a profile and the evaluation of its maturity level (inappropriate, not yet matured, matured), the so-called lead scoring. Furthermore, such software can also be helpful when sending e-mails and publishing content. In addition to the classic functionalities, there are also systems that include the creation of landing pages, the optimization of conversion rates and the creation of content.

The process could look like this: due to a very good SEO the prospective customer will find you on the first page of the organic results. The prospective customer clicks on the link and finds himself on your Youtube channel, where he watches an informative video. At the end of the video he would like to get more information and clicks on the link inserted in the video which leads him to your landing page. After looking around on the landing page, the customer enters his contact details in a form. By submitting the form, the customer either agrees to be contacted by your customer service, receives an e-book or similar - depending on what you specify.

In this manner, the potential customer has qualified himself as a lead, lands in your database and can be further segmented by your customer service regarding interests, company and products, etc. In this way, high-quality customer lists can be created that you can use for further marketing activities - with minimal wastage.

Lead-Qualification

The purpose of lead qualification is to evaluate the quality of the generated leads. This is particularly important for the successful course of the purchasing process.
This is where lead scoring becomes important, which is used to define certain criteria. With the help of a scoring system in which the lead is classified according to points, the customer is classified according to his behavior. In practice, this would look like the following: Content that signals a high level of interest in your products is awarded with more points or rated higher than content for which there appears to be only superficial interest. Similarly, "negative" behavior, for example due to poor ratings given to your company by the customer, can lead to a "points deduction" in the scoring. The higher the scoring, the more interested the lead is and the more value it has for the company.

Meanwhile lead scoring is about evaluating customers, lead grading takes care of their demographic information. Using predefined buyer profiles or buyer personas based on this information, you can determine which type of lead is suitable for your product or service. For example, if a lead matches your predefined buyer profile in all respects, it receives the highest rating. If this match is missing in one point, the lead receives a lower rating, but it is still qualified.

This means in simple terms that lead scoring is based on the behavior of the lead, while lead grading is based on demographic data.

Lead management

In lead management or lead nurturing, marketing measures are used in such a way that the prospective customer is provided with all relevant information - and this is precisely tailored to the respective phase of the buying process. In other words, the aim is to create a customer out of the prospective customer with whom a relationship has been or will be built up, in the best case on the basis of various measures. A functioning lead management system significantly increases sales opportunities. A well thought-out and profound strategy is important to ensure that the customer stays with us in the long term.

Close cooperation between the sales and marketing departments is indispensable for this. Coordinating these two key departments with each other is the prerequisite for a successful and sustainable lead management.

Email-Marketing

What is email marketing?

The principal email marketing tools used are the mailing or newsletter. While the letter is usually sent out at regular intervals, mailings are sporadic and more likely to be sent out on specific occasions or campaigns. The advantage of email marketing is that it is much cheaper than advertising in ordinary media and can be evaluated with the help of a program and thus made measurable. A newsletter is quickly created and delivered in-house. The major disadvantage of email marketing is obvious and can certainly be understood by you: the flood of emails we constantly receive means that newsletters are rarely read - even if we have consciously subscribed to them. Nevertheless: with the appropriate lead qualification, email marketing is a valuable and established tool to address customers with minimal wastage. Unfortunately, too often only one newsletter is used for all contacts and is not personalized to the target segment.

Use of an email program

In order to send the emails, you primarily need an editor in which you can create the cover letters. This should also include an option for checking the correct display for different mail providers. It should also include processes for the automated registration and deregistration of e-mail addresses. "Normal" mail servers are usually not suitable for the mass emails. You should therefore use a hosted system where the provider provides all services.

Content-Marketing

What is Content Marketing?

As already briefly discussed above, content marketing is mainly concerned with creating relevant content for a specific target group, which at best offers them added value. It is therefore not about advertising, but rather about creating high-quality content that makes the company appear competent. As a result, customer loyalty is intensified.

How is content marketing used?

Blogs, e-books, white papers and infographics are a good way to use content marketing in the B2B sector. Why? They elevate the company to a kind of expert status and give it credibility and competence.

Social Media-Marketing

What is Social Media-Marketing?

Social media marketing relates to the field of online marketing, but refers exclusively to social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. Here, social media marketing includes certain measures that serve the targeted dissemination of company messages, but also lead to interaction with users and, last but not least, lead them to the company's website.

How is a social media strategy established?

Dropping social media posts without any sense and reason makes little sense - especially if certain goals are to be achieved. A successful social media marketing requires a well elaborated, clear strategy. Initially, it is important to determine to what extent social media fits your company. Be aware that a profound strategy needs time, money and personnel in order to be successful in the long run and to generate customers or to bind them to the company. Social media must be received authentically and seriously by the user or potential customer.

At the outset, it is important to analyse the current social media activities. The issue of whether existing channels are to continue to be recorded or perhaps in a modified form must be clarified. Afterwards, this should be compared with the previous communication strategy - remember that social media channels are normally used "on a first come, first served" basis and then consider if this suits your company.

Also, find out about your resources. Be aware that social media is not just a side issue, but an elaborate marketing tool that requires intensive management.

Then analyse your target group with regard to its demographic structure and whether or where it is active. In order to know who on the market is still courting the attention of this target group: simply take a look at your competitors. Take a close look not only at their products, but also at their social media strategy.

In order to achieve goals, they must set such goals. Should customer service be supported, should new customers be acquired or brand awareness be built? Communicate with your "Likes" on Facebook or Instagram, be in touch and honest. Therefore, do not concentrate on too many goals at once, instead quickly focus on what is important.

Once the goals are set, it is much easier to define the content. Of course, the content is also dependent on the social medium. The same applies to the frequency of posts. It is best to create a proper editorial plan with content and date of the postings.

Indispensable: controlling. Facebook and Co. provide extensive tools that allow a fairly accurate analysis of the activities. Only in this way you will know in the end which content works and which doesn't.

The return on investment and its key figures

In order to determine at the end of the day how successful your marketing campaigns were, closed-loop reporting must be used to look at the relationship between these and sales successes. In order to perform effective closed-loop reporting, your CRM system should be connected to your marketing automation system. You can also determine how successful specific campaigns have been.

With regard to the efficiency of marketing activities, the ROI becomes ROMI and reflects the relationship between capital and profit of the marketing department. Key figures such as product costs, placement costs and price are important.

Starting with your own B2B Online Marketing strategy?

Creating a strategy for B2B Online Marketing is not easy - do you need help?