B2B Digital Marketing 101: A Guide for Small Businesses
Small businesses are more empowered than ever to create a dynamic and tailored marketing plan. Business-to-business (B2B) brands are in the unique position of marketing to other businesses, meaning these brands need an individualized strategy to properly approach their target markets.
While creating an intensive digital marketing program as a small business may seem daunting, below are tips to get you started on the right track.
B2B vs. B2C Marketing
To understand the unique position of B2B marketing, you must understand the difference between B2C and B2B branding. Both types of companies are in the business of making money and pleasing consumers, but what value companies bring to consumers and how they go about it can vary drastically.
There are many similarities between B2B and B2C brands and how they market, but there are two key differences to be aware of.
One major component of your brand should be the intention of your business. Who you are and why your company exists is as important as what you do, especially as a B2B company; B2B consumers are looking to create long-term relationships, and building trust is the first step in building a customer-brand relationship. Understanding and recognizing the humans behind your brand will help consumers learn to trust you.
Start by defining your brand purpose; why does your company exist beyond making a profit? Gone are the days of intermittent sales calls and indifference towards client experiences. Now your audience wants to know who you are as the humans beyond the brand, how you relate to other humans behind their brands, and where you meet on common ground.
The intention of your brand is therefore going to impact how you market to consumers. What vision do you have for your company and which customers are best served by what you have to offer?
You might assume business buyers are more analytical and cold with their judgment of brands, and that consumers are more likely to buy based on emotion. A study by Lippincott found the opposite- B2B companies are more influenced by brand than price, compared to B2C consumers who were more influenced by price than brand. According to Lippincott, this is because B2B buyers are more concerned with the longevity of the brands they work with. Changes in products and service providers are much more consequential to a business than a consumer; for a business, changing brands could mean altering entire processes and workflows.
This means B2B consumers are going to be more informed and have higher expectations than your average B2C consumer. B2B buyers are in the position of making big decisions that impact many people. Before a decision is made, they will want to do their research; that’s where you come in.
As a small business marketer, it is your job to connect leads and clients with relevant information. Understanding what your audience needs and expects will help you create a user experience that delivers everything they ask for. B2B consumers are often in niche markets, and being able to provide them with the specific tools, services, and information they need will prove your value and encourage them to come back for more.
Many B2B companies work in niche markets, so you need to fully understand consumer habits, buying cycles, and other industry-specific details that will help to target the unique needs of your industry.
You need to understand who your target market is and what they are looking for before you can begin effectively marketing your business. Defining your intention and understanding your audience are the first steps to creating a cohesive brand. Maintaining a unified brand throughout your marketing efforts will build brand recognition and authority.
3 Steps to Building a B2B Digital Marketing Program
Once you have defined your brand, you can start building a digital marketing program. You can make your marketing plan as simple or complex as necessary for your brand, but there are three key aspects all brands need to build a B2B marketing program.
Your B2B website is the mothership of your digital marketing strategy. Your homepage may be the first impression of your brand for many leads, meaning you need to put your best foot forward.
Your website is where you can cement your visual identity and clearly communicate your brand voice. Maintaining a consistent design throughout your site will help to build brand recognition and professionalism. For a small business, using a website builder like HubSpot or WordPress can simplify the process of creating a custom, branded website from scratch. These platforms provide customizable themes so you can maintain a dynamic visual brand identity across your site.
Imagery can be an incredibly powerful tool, no matter your industry. When listening to something, people will only remember 10% of what they heard three days later, but if an image is paired with the same information, people will remember 65% three days later. Attractive aesthetics are not just reserved for B2C brands; B2B companies must utilize all the creative tool available to best engage their target audience; even though the audience’s goals and intentions may differ, B2B and B2C consumers still want to be dazzled; 38% of people will abandon a website if it is unattractive. Having an attractive, well-designed website is essential for any modern business, as it is directly tied to your professionalism and reliability.
Time is one of the greatest factors in creating a good impression; according to Google, a page speed loading time increase from 1 second to 5 seconds the chance of a bounce increased by 90%. Once a user bounces, you lessen your chances of catching their attention again because 88% of consumers are less likely to give you a second chance after a bad experience. Increase page speed to decrease the probability of users leaving by compressing and optimizing images, reducing redirects, and upgrading your site hosting provider.
Intuitive navigation and a positive user experience are also imperative to minimize your bounce rate. B2B consumers are always on a mission, and usually with a time limit, so you need to provide an intuitive and stress-free user experience from the moment they reach your site.
Explore your website from the perspective of different buyer personas, and imagine what next steps they might take upon entering the site. Put the navigation menu in an obvious place and include basic information in the footer like business hours and contact details.
You can also build landing pages to customize user experiences and encourage specific actions. Sending users to specific pages will increase the likelihood of them taking the next desired step in the sales funnel; when you encourage a user to follow a link, it is most effective when you send them somewhere relevant to why they first clicked.
Making your website as intuitive as possible will drastically reduce confusion and frustration, thus reducing bounce rates.
Once you have a professional, well-designed website, you need to populate it with content. Content marketing has become one of the most widely used digital marketing strategies for both B2B and B2C brands; 85% of B2B companies are utilizing content marketing and 42% plan on increasing their investment in content marketing.
The main goal of B2B content is typically to provide answers to consumers’ questions. B2B consumers are looking for straightforward information and full transparency. While B2C consumers may be looking for entertainment, B2B consumers are on a mission. Providing a convenient, seamless experience tells website visitors that you are there to support their needs and provide the answers to their problems.
You can create informative, practical content and still be engaging and creative. As a small business, you have the freedom and opportunity to explore your unique voice. Try experimenting with different media to see what fits your brand. Exploring new ways of sharing information can reveal exciting opportunities to customize your user experience. Infographics, podcasts, calculators and tools, and other digital content can easily be created using affordable online applications, helping you elevate your content to a more sophisticated and effective level.
Once you have filled your website with content, you have to find ways to drive an audience to your site. There are many easy ways to implement free techniques to increase site visits.
Once you have defined your audience, you can begin to customize your user experience to fit the needs, desires, and expectations of specific audience groups. Knowing where your audience is on the internet is the first major step in engaging them.
Generating organic search traffic is your best bet for increasing website traffic. Although Google search ads can be effective, 70 to 80% of users will not click on paid search results. Google’s algorithm makes it so that users can trust that the top result is the most reliable answer to their query, rendering those paid results unnecessary.
Optimizing your site for search engine crawling is simple and user-friendly when you build your site using HubSpot or WordPress. With actionable suggestions, HubSpot and Yoast will guide you in improving each page of your site so you can be confident that your content is reaching the right viewers. SEO is an ever-evolving field, but these tools make it easy to keep up with the changes so your site doesn’t get left behind.
Social media has become a key player in digital marketing for both B2C and B2B companies. Though you might picture B2C content when you first think of social media, 89% of B2B companies are using Facebook and 81% are on LinkedIn according to Statista.
When you create blogs, graphics, videos, and other content for your website, the easiest way to share it immediately with your audience is through social media. Sharing content on Facebook and LinkedIn is a simple but impactful step for small businesses looking to build their social media presence.
You can boost your engagement by paying to advertise your content. This is a convenient and affordable way to increase the number of viable leads who see your content. Define demographics like industry, occupation, location, income, and more to target your ideal consumer. These platforms will also make suggestions to your demographics and ad settings to make sure you are making the most of every dollar you invest.
Email marketing has proven to be a cornerstone of B2B digital engagement. Email is one of the most affordable marketing tools, with a return rate of $42 for every dollar spent, or a 4200% ROI; and with 81% of B2B marketers saying that email marketing is their most-used form of content marketing, you can’t afford not to start an email marketing campaign.
Email marketing is completely free to start out, and using the many email marketing tools available online you can quickly and easily create stunning email templates without a design expert.
Taking the Next Steps
Now that you have covered the basics of a B2B digital marketing plan, you can begin to build on this foundation to create an increasingly effective and engaging marketing program.
Building a Social Media Presence
Creating a social media platform and sharing your content is just the beginning of what social media has to offer for B2B brands. Facebook and LinkedIn are constantly implementing new features to help you better engage your audience and discover new leads.
Comments and Reviews
One of the greatest benefits of social media is the ability to communicate with your audience directly. Traditional advertisements and even your website limit how viewers can respond, but social media gives a voice to all.
Depending on what your consumers have to say, this could harm or help your reputation! It is important to keep up with what your clients are thinking about your company. To fully understand how customers are responding to your content, products, and services it is best to ask them directly. Customer reviews provide a wealth of information that is invaluable in making impactful changes to improve customer satisfaction.
Providing online reviews not only gives you information about how your customers feel, reviews can also serve as testimonials to prospective customers.
Cultivating online reviews helps to build reliability and trust; prospective customers see reviews as honest responses from real customers, so they know they are getting an authentic opinion.
It is important to respond to all reviews, good and bad- especially bad. Whether it is a comment on your most recent Facebook post or a 1-star review on Google, addressing a poor customer experience will benefit you in several ways.
By responding, you are taking accountability for the poor experience, which tells the client leaving the comment that you actually care about their experience and satisfaction. This also tells prospective clients who see the comment that you are responsive to customer input and are invested in the customer’s best interest. This also gives you the opportunity to correct the wrong and possibly hang on to the disgruntled client; leaving the comment unresolved may help to sweep things under the rug, but it’ll ultimately cost you.
Social media isn’t just for engaging clients and leads. As a B2B company, your place in your industry and influence on others has major implications for your business.
By engaging with other thought leaders in your industry, you are building your brand recognition and credibility. Even if you may be competitors in some fashion, being associated with other well-known and respected brands will help to build up your brand by association.
LinkedIn is the number one place for industry professionals to meet. There you can connect with other influential professionals to build your online network. The more people you linked up with, the more your name and brand make their way around the site. As you build industry buzz, you will drive traffic to your website and increase content engagement.
Content marketing is an important investment in your digital marketing plan because it is an affordable and evergreen source of marketing materials. As you produce and share more content of various media, you will begin to understand what best engages your audience. As you grow your online presence, you can fine-tune your content to specific subgroups, making your marketing campaigns more effective.
Create lists of evergreen content that can be recycled and reused every year, making it easy to always have a topic handy. You can update old content and republish with new information to avoid having to rewrite relevant content while keeping everything fresh and up-to-date.
Creating a content calendar will help to organize topics and media in advance, so you can always have something to share and post without having to worry about coming up with new creative ideas on the fly.
Sharing content from other industry leaders is also a great way to improve your online presence. This will build connections with other industry leaders, who can share your content and brand with their audiences; it also proves to your followers that you are a reliable source of information, and not just sharing content to drive a profit.
Using Website Analytics
Your website does more than just collect viewers. As you add more content to your site, you are creating more and more opportunities to learn about your target market. The data you collect through your website is integral to making informed decisions when making updates and changes to your website.
How your audience moves around your site, engages with content, and finds roadblocks is unique to your brand, meaning you will always need to cater your site to your visitors. The data your site is collecting can tell you what needs to change in order to get visitors to take the desired next steps.
Google Analytics is one of the easiest and most popular tools for collecting and analyzing website data. From one convenient dashboard, you can see stats that tell you what conversion tools are working on your site and where you need to make improvements. Google also offers suggestions for how to improve SEO settings and other adjustments to optimize your site.
Expanding Your Marketing Program
Your digital marketing program is what you make it. Depending on your business, you may need to take on extra help to cover the diverse and complex strategies you want to employ.
Outsourcing to a professional marketing agency can open up a world of new opportunities to take your B2B marketing program to the next level. When you have professionals dedicated to building your digital presence and optimizing your website for your unique brand, you can be confident that you are receiving fine-tuned strategies that fit your unique needs and goals.
Digital marketing agencies make it easy to customize your service, so you only pay for what you need. If you are looking to optimize your website, increase your content marketing offerings, or build your social media presence, consider outsourcing to an agency.