Deciding which B2B marketing channels to invest in can be a daunting and overwhelming task for sales and marketing teams. Marketing channels are constantly evolving and coinciding with each other. Understandably, we feel uncertain about which one to dedicate a significant amount of time, effort, and dollars to.
Depending on your industry, target audience, product or service, and resources, you’ll find that some channels are preferable over others.
The best business-to-business channels for marketing include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Video marketing
- Email marketing
- Referral marketing.
Here, we’ll cover every B2B marketing channel you need to consider for your business, how they work, what they produce, and some advice on using them effectively.
Business-to-business (B2B) marketing means companies marketing to other companies. Marketing to a professionally-based client base means marketing efforts take on a different style and flavor to be considered a different category.
Some examples of companies that offer services online and employ B2B marketing efforts include Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, wholesalers, cyber security firms, tools and accessories vendors, and many more.
Some B2B companies sell to customers as well. Companies tend to make more calculated, less impulsive decisions than individual consumers.
As previously mentioned, B2B marketing tends to be more straightforward than business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. However, the differences also impact the value and use of different marketing channels.
B2B companies tend to be more service-based and also tend to require ongoing communication. As a result, one-time purchases of individual products are far more common in B2C markets.
Additionally, B2B marketing tends to be more informational than B2C marketing. To stay competitive, companies need to continue learning and adapting to their market. This creates a commonality between companies that are less focused on emotionally-guided decision-making.
Long-term professional relationships, the efficiency of communication, and delivering an ROI are all more prominent selling points in B2B marketing.
Digital B2B marketing channels are no longer optional for businesses relying on online sales. That’s not to say that offline methods, in-person sales, and local marketing is dead. Far from it, these marketing channels are alive and well, as we’ll discuss below.
However, digital B2B marketing channels are now a requirement to compete in a market that’s becoming more global by the day.
Digital marketing channels offer several benefits over offline channels. First, they tend to be more cost-effective. Putting boots on the ground, buying billboard space, taking the time and money to print and disperse fliers, and other traditional advertising methods are expensive. On the other hand, digital channels like SEO and social media are often entirely free to set up while only requiring a fraction of the time.
Another benefit of utilizing digital channels is reach. Digital marketing and advertising can potentially reach millions of potential clients worldwide overnight. Additionally, when working through digital marketing means, analytics become another perk.
Analytics refer to various software platforms, such as Google Analytics, that collect and report data points or metrics about user behavior. Intelligent analytics practices lead to precious insights into your target audience’s behaviors, demographics, and psychographics.
Last, the advantages of opting into digital B2B channels are scalability and adaptability. For example, a wholesaler that has historically only sold to B2B may branch into B2C markets due to evolutions in eCommerce platforms.
Turning attention towards B2B marketing trends in 2022 reveals a few interesting developments to keep in mind.
First is the emergence of Marketing Technology (Martech) as popular terminology. Martech refers to marketing software and technology’s integration with pre-existing company systems.
In other words, the amount of software in the form of SEO platforms, social media channels, Customer Relations Management (CRM) software, analytics software, marketing tools, and more have begun to consolidate themselves into “tech stacks.”
Another critical trend to acknowledge is a focus on your audience’s intent. That means defining and focusing on what action or result your audience seeks at each stage of the buying cycle. For example, don’t try to close a prospective client who’s in the research phase, and don’t bore someone ready to buy with a flood of educational resources.
While advertisements through social media channels are historically more popular with B2C markets, platforms like LinkedIn are seeing a rise in B2B targeted ads.
Last on this short list of B2B trends is the importance of omni-channel and cross-functional marketing. This refers most specifically to repurposing one’s marketing content across multiple channels.
Every company is interested in staying in the know when it comes to marketing trends in their industry. However, a superficial understanding of each B2B marketing channel will result in poor results and an unlikely ROI.
When going through the list of digital and offline marketing channels below, consider which might appeal most to your target audience and which ones you have the most capability to execute effectively. For instance, an instructional YouTube series may be popular with your client base but delivers the same sales results as a paid ad campaign that requires a fraction of the time and effort.
Long-term planning, content calendars, extensive user research, marketing strategy, and an in-depth understanding of your chosen B2B marketing channels are essential for success. You can use this guide as a starting point and introduction to the world of B2B digital marketing.
Here’s a list of channels you can use to help navigate the post.
- Social Media Marketing
- Website Marketing
- Blog and Content Marketing
- Video Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Omni-channel Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM)
- Influencer Marketing
- Offline and Local Advertising
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
- Display Advertising
- Podcast Marketing
- Partnership Marketing
- Community Building
Social media platforms offer a powerful digital marketing channel through an ever-expanding network of users worldwide. In fact, research shows the average daily usage is over two hours a day for more than half the world’s population. Social media channels allow you to generate awareness for your brand and market directly to your target audience.
Brands have been using social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Youtube to generate awareness since the inception of these digital platforms. Every year, social media marketing proves to be a viable, if not necessary, means to attract clients.
Digital marketing through social media platforms means using these platforms for brand building, establishing a following, forming relationships, and generating sales.
Posts, paid ads, paid search, promotional content, interactive content, search engine optimization, and many other methods all constitute different means of social media marketing.
Connecting with prospective clients to generate leads is a typical result of social media marketing.
Companies interested in leveraging social media marketing would do well to invest time and effort into segmenting their audience, consistently posting relevant content as part of a content plan, and using social media in tandem with content marketing. When executed effectively, social media marketing is one of the best channels for lead generation.
Digital marketing through a website helps businesses connect with website visitors and nurture ongoing relationships.
For as long as companies have been using websites as a digital storefront, website marketing has been a foundational digital marketing effort.
Website marketing means using your company website to connect your various social media profiles under one roof, showcase your product or service through landing pages, offer informational content, publish blog articles, and connect directly with your company through email or a sales call.
When creating your website, keep SEO in mind. Landing pages, about pages, and even the domain name of your site all impact how search engines like Google decide to rank you.
Additionally, it’s important to consider potential customers visiting your site the same as you would if they were approaching your company in a traditional brick-and-mortar capacity. Why are they here? What are they looking for? How would you engage them? Evaluate site visitors to further amplify lead generation.
Hubspot reports that 82% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. Blogs and other forms of content marketing can result in connection points throughout every part of the buying journey or sales funnel.
Blogs, which is slang for weblogs, are as old as the internet itself. To this day, strategic blogging is a considerable investment for companies in every industry.
Content marketing, which includes blog articles, refers to providing your audience with informative and engaging content for different sales funnel levels. For example, some articles may be targeted at the top of the funnel, build your brand, and gain website traffic from potential customers.
High-conversion articles may be targeted lower down the funnel or towards the end of the buying cycle to generate leads or close a sale.
To achieve success in content marketing, it’s important to play the long game to see the digital marketing ROI that makes content marketing so valuable. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the majority of successful B2B marketers, in the realm of 60%, have a documented content marketing strategy. Extensive user research, strategic content, and following a content calendar are all markers for successful content marketing.
In addition, content marketing pairs well with other digital marketing efforts such as SEO, website landing pages, and social media marketing.
Hubspot reports that video marketing was the primary channel developed in 2021. Video marketing, such as through social media platforms like YouTube, allows companies to build their brand and deliver information in the form of video content.
YouTube alone provides over one billion hours of new video content every day. In addition, other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and others have incorporated their video services within the platform.
When we mention video marketing, we’re referring to delivering informational content, brand building, attaining followers on social media, lead generation, advertising products and services, expanding social media presence, and offering instructions.
Video marketing comes in many forms and should be viewed broadly. Understanding how your target audience likes to consume content at different buying cycle stages is vital.
More than any other digital channel, video marketing allows brands to connect in a very human way. This is extremely important for goods and services that require a significant amount of trust to be established, such as for doctors and coaches.
Video marketing can be combined with other digital marketing methods like paid ads or blog articles through embedding the video. But, most of all, if using a platform with a massive number of users, like YouTube, posting consistent and strategic content is necessary to gain a steady flow of followers that may be converted into clients.
The Content Marketing Institute named email as one of the top three B2B marketing channels of 2021. Email marketing provides a pipeline between companies and clients that delivers communication, content, and transactions.
Using email as a form of private, person-to-person communication is nothing new. However, neither is using email marketing to promote products and services.
Email marketing means using email to interface with potential and current clients. Each phase is part of the buying cycle, whether it’s to send informational content, special promotions, or deliver a service directly.
Email marketing is primarily conversion-focused. It converts prospective customers into recurring customers.
Recommendations in executing a successful email campaign include planning, marketing strategy, and personalization. Spam, or unwelcome emails, are not only ineffective but detrimental. Additionally, personalizing emails presents an opportunity to tailor the message to the client and build your company’s brand.
Omni-channel marketing connects companies with clients across various marketing channels. It includes video, email, social media, etc.
While this business strategy is growing in popularity globally, using multiple marketing channels is nothing new. Brands have been using a combination of television ads, print ads, direct mail, and in-person promotions for a long time.
Getting more specific, omni-channel marketing means repurposing content. For example, suppose you have a podcast, a company social media profile, and a blog on your website. In that case, you don’t necessarily have to create unique marketing content for each channel.
While shared on your website, a blog post can be search engine optimized to boost web traffic, promoted on social media, and used as the topic of discussion on a podcast episode.
Omni-channel marketing provides lead generation, traffic, and conversion metrics at every level of the sales funnel. That means gaining traffic in the form of prospective clients and increasing client retention.
Research shows that 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine. SEO connects your company with clients through search engines like Google, DuckDuckGo, Amazon, YouTube, Quora, and any other website or platform that utilizes a search. This includes search results on social media such as LinkedIn and Indeed.
Historically, search engines have provided the dominant form of online traffic through organic search results.
To better understand marketing through search engine optimization, we can define it as the comprehensive efforts to ensure your company’s digital presence conforms to search engines.
Generally, SEO marketing or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) means getting ranked to appear in front of users. That could mean appearing in a Google search as a how-to article or the nearest service to the user.
SEO marketing is popular for gaining traffic. However, its potential for conversion is often overlooked. To better understand how to target different stages of the buying cycle, companies would study the intent behind search results pages or queries to attract the most qualified leads.
According to Ahrefs, over 90% of websites receive no organic traffic at all from Google. Marketing through SEO efforts is a voluminous topic that requires time and dedication to understand. Some important subcategories to explore include keyword research, backlinks, organic search, paid search, on-page and off-page SEO, crawling, and indexing.
Word of mouth marketing, or WOMM, connects companies with clients through spoken experiences of people in your clients’ social circles.
Word of mouth marketing is arguably the oldest form of lead generation, especially for qualified leads, and while it’s not specifically digital, it can be targeted through digital efforts.
Whenever a friend, family member, colleague, or acquaintance promotes knowingly or unknowingly a product or service, there is a higher level of trust present than through other forms of advertising and marketing.
One key method to achieve effective word of mouth marketing is through the quality and results produced by the product or service itself. Overall, the customer or client experience determines whether or not word-of-mouth marketing will be employed or not.
Proactive measures to promote word-of-mouth marketing include:
- Incentivizing client promotion.
- Encouraging user-generated content.
- Utilizing hashtags to connect your product or service to a popular shared topic.
- Employing reviews and testimonials as social proof on your company’s website.
Influencer marketing connects companies with clients through the influencers they follow. This typically happens through a celebrity or social media influencer promoting a company, product, or service.
Marketing through influencers has been around as long as celebrities have, and it is not a strictly digital channel to market through.
That said, influencer marketing is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. It works because influencers are not only known, liked, and trusted by a great many people. They also represent ideals that many of their viewers aspire to. This is especially true of professional athletes.
Once a company discovers which influencers appeal to their target audience, they strive to deploy a successful outreach marketing strategy. When the company connects with the influencer, compensation and expectations are established.
Influencer outreach is powerful and desirable because of its impact on the bottom of the funnel strategy. For example, a relatively unknown company that’s struggling for sales can see a large influx of revenue online overnight through an intelligently executed influencer marketing campaign.
Local marketing done offline helps companies catch the attention of a geographically nearby prospective client base.
It means billboards, fliers, advertising through local businesses, and more.
While not as talked about as other digital channels, local offline marketing offers a unique assortment of benefits. For one, there is an added degree of trust.
A flier in your local cafe doesn’t have the same impact as an ad seen on the internet.
Additionally, a sense of accountability comes with a physical presence.
Local offline marketing comes in many forms and works at every level of the sales funnel, from attracting followers through public speeches to closing sales with door-to-door representatives.
Pay Per Click (PPC) advertisements are a digital advertising method that most resembles traditional commercial advertising. Typically, the user knows they are engaging with an ad with PPC campaigns.
PPC ads came about before SEO and SEM marketing and before social media platforms existed on the internet. This channel involves an advertisement that users click, and the advertiser then has to pay for each click. Standard PPC ads are offered by Google, Facebook, and many other platforms.
While it can be expensive, PPC is cheaper than advertising through television. Other benefits include reporting marketing data through analytics and targeting particular audiences.
Display ads refer to text, video, audio, and images that are displayed through various channels, such as websites, email, social media, and other means.
Occasionally display ads come in PPC advertisements, but not necessarily.
Display ads share some strengths with PPC in that they can be targeted at segmented audiences and report valuable data through analytics.
While not as popular among users who are looking for information or are in the research phase of the buying cycle, direct advertising through display focuses almost exclusively on converting audiences. For that reason, the closer they are to the bottom of the funnel, the more likely they are to produce an ROI.
Podcast advertising is a billion dollar industry according to Statista. Podcast marketing connects companies with clients in a human and versatile way. Users don’t have to be looking at a screen, which means podcasts are listened to during a wider variety of activities.
Over the past decade, audio demand has increased dramatically. Edison Research announced that podcast listeners tune in, on average, to eight podcasts per week. This means great opportunities for companies to connect with clients through their own hosted podcasts or by marketing through influencer podcasts.
Podcast marketing leverages the affinity for storytelling. They can be used to further brand awareness, promote products or services, gain followers, or leverage influencers.
Partnership marketing means connecting with other companies or brands in a mutual campaign wherein both brands or companies profit.
Partnership marketing has been around since before digital channels were available and can be a powerful method of expanding your marketing throughout your chosen industry.
This channel is also cost-effective because, typically, costs are shared by both parties. Examples include co-branded content, affiliate marketing, referral programs, product giveaways, sponsored promotions, and charities.
Companies choosing to pursue partnership marketing as a B2B channel are advised to carefully choose who they partner with, set clear expectations and roles, and pay special attention to marketing efforts like attribution.
Companies marketing through community-building experience the added advantage of connecting with clients on their own terms.
Community-building is incredibly potent for brand marketing. It can work through several psychological and marketing strategies like inclusivity, exclusivity, user-generated content, and word-of-mouth, to name a few.
Additionally, communities are an excellent source of feedback that can help to better understand and market more effectively to your target audience.
Regardless of which B2B channel or marketing campaigns your marketing team or sales team pursues, each requires a thorough understanding of your audience to deliver an ROI.
Different audiences prefer different methods of interfacing with potential clients. It depends on your audience’s psychographics, the industry in question, and the stage of the buying cycle.
Last, when investing in marketing programs, it’s best not to start off spreading yourself too thin. Instead, carefully decide which channel is the most viable, and master it before branching into others.
Here are some common questions you may come across when researching B2B marketing.
B2B markets include producers, resellers, government, and institutions.
Producers refer to businesses that buy goods and services to produce their products and services.
Resellers buy products and services and resell them for a profit. Resellers include retailers, wholesalers, and brokers.
Governments purchase goods and services from companies and make up a sizable B2B market.
Institutions, such as non-profits, purchase products and services for social purposes.
Every B2B company should consider investing in the five key channels, which include social media marketing, SEO, email marketing, video marketing, and referral marketing.
B2B distribution channels refer not to marketing but to channels through which products and services are delivered.
Today, distribution channels are being more and more integrated through ecommerce platforms to provide a more direct, B2C-style, buyer experience.