How to reliably win customers with the right B2B online marketing strategy

Most likely you have landed on this page because you want to know what opportunities and strategies there are in online marketing for the B2B sector.

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Although you already know that the Internet holds great potential for your company, we would like to illustrate the urgency again at the beginning with an impressive figure:

In his 2016 book They Ask, You Answer, Marcus Sheridan cites a B2B study that found the following:

Nowadays, 70% (!) of customers have already made their purchase decision before they contact the company for the first time. (1)

Why is this number so high? 

Because the internet enables customers to inform themselves in detail about a product or service before they contact the supplier.

With minor exceptions, this applies to almost all sectors. 

Think about it:

What do you do when you are looking for a solution to an internal problem or want to find out more about a service? That's right: you "Google". 

The German Institute for Marketing writes about buying behaviour in the B2B sector:

"[Customers should] be provided with sufficient information. The better [they] can inform themselves about the product, the more likely they are to buy."(2)

Potential corporate customers are asking questions on the internet... Why shouldn't you find the answers on your website or channels?

Before we look in detail at how we can do effective online marketing in the B2B sector, let's take a quick look at the terminology:

What is B2B Online Marketing?

Behind the term "B2B Online Marketing" is basically nothing more than a strategy with which we can acquire targeted corporate customers via the Internet.

This strategy usually consists of several components / measures / tactics / channels. 

What is the difference to B2C online marketing?

The difference to the B2C sector is not as big as you might think. Of course, not all measures and strategies from the B2C sector can be applied 1:1 to the B2B sector.

But the goal ultimately remains the same: we want to acquire new customers in a targeted manner. 

In contrast to a pure end-customer market, however, in the B2B sector we are usually dealing with a smaller target group that can be narrowed down by very specific characteristics (e.g. business model, company size, turnover).

However, we must not make the mistake of taking the term "company" too literally. Sure, the company is shown on the invoice - but there is always a human being behind every business relationship

That is why we prefer the term "B2P" (= Business to People).

The B2B Online Marketing Strategy

Before we get down to work and develop a B2B online marketing strategy, we should first ask ourselves a crucial question:

Who is our client?

Here we should be as specific as possible in order to be able to target the customers later and to keep wastage as low as possible. 

With countless platforms, ever new advertising opportunities and an almost infinite reach, the world is literally open to us in online marketing...

This makes it all the more important to clarify from the outset who we want to address and - even more crucially - who we do not want to address.

The B2B Customer Journey

Once we know who our customer is, the next step is to look at what we call the customer journey.

The customer journey describes the path that the (potential) customer takes before deciding to buy from us

Although this path does not look exactly the same for every customer or for every industry, the journey can basically be divided into 5 phases.

Let's take a closer look at these 5 phases with an example.

Mr Müller is an entrepreneur and currently acquires his customers via conventional "offline marketing": 

Phase 1: No awareness

Mr. Müller relies on conventional "offline methods" for customer acquisition and is not aware that he could also effectively acquire new customers online.

Phase 2: Problem awareness

Mr Müller learns from a business partner that online marketing can also be very effective in winning new customers. He shows interest and begins to look into the subject intensively via the Internet. He is enthusiastic about the approach - there is only one problem: neither he himself nor his employees know how to implement an online marketing strategy.

Phase 3: Solution Awareness

In the course of further internet research, Mr Müller learns that there are specialised agencies that can take over the implementation of an online marketing strategy for his company

Phase 4: Product awareness

Mr Müller compares the offers and services of various agencies. He makes direct contact with three providers whose websites have convinced him.

Phase 5: Purchase awareness

After intensive research and a lively exchange with the agencies, Mr Müller decides to have the company website redesigned and to place the implementation of an individual online marketing strategy in the hands of the agency that convinced him in the course of his customer journey.

Identify the phase of the customer journey & act accordingly

The customer journey model is not just another theoretical construct that marketers like to use because it has a fancy name... 

For our further considerations, it is imperative that we orient ourselves to the different phases.

That means concretely:

We have to adapt our approach to the respective phase.

If we already offer the customer a service in phase 2, it would be wasted effort. Because the customer is not yet "empowered" to make a decision. In the worst case, we might even scare him off.

Imagine the following situation:

You walk into a shoe shop and before you can look around, a frantic salesman comes up to you with a pair of shoes and says, "This is just the shoe for you!".

Would you buy this shoe? Probably not...

How is the salesperson supposed to know at this early stage that this pair of shoes is the right one for you? He neither knows what occasion you are looking for a shoe for nor does he know your preference for certain brands and colours. 

The aim is therefore to approach the customer in the right way at every stage and thus accompany him on the way to choosing the service that best suits his current situation and goals. 

By the way: If you are reading this text, you are probably in the transition from phase 2 (problem awareness) to phase 3 (solution awareness).

Measures for your B2B online marketing strategy

As mentioned at the beginning, there are various measures and tactics that we can implement as part of an online marketing strategy. In the following, we present the measures in detail.

In principle, the individual channels can also be used in parallel. For the best results, however, the measures should build on each other. 

Your website as a central building block

At the beginning of any online marketing campaign, the website should be optimised from both a technical and content perspective. The website is the central building block of your strategy. 

Because regardless of which channels and platforms they will use later on: all users will end up on your website sooner or later

On the website, interested users should be able to find detailed information about your company and about your products / services. 

If the user does not receive all the necessary information, all the effort you have put into directing the user to your website will be in vain.

That has to be said so clearly.

Directing potential customers to a poor website is like an ice cream parlour running out of ice cream on a 30°C July day. -- The customers are there, but something crucial is missing....

B2B lead generation via search ads (Google Ads)

We recommend placing search ads via Google Ads as a first step to generate leads.

Why?

Search ads have the decisive advantage that they are displayed to users in a very precise manner. The ads are only displayed to those users who have expressed clear interest with their search query.

The user has therefore already "admitted" that he or she is interested in topic X or service Y. Due to the high relevance, the quality of the leads is usually very good.

Furthermore, with Google Ads we can test which search queries actually lead to enquiries or orders with relatively little financial risk.

Knowing which keywords are relevant for our purposes is invaluable for us.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Content Marketing

By placing paid search ads, we already know which keywords generate the most enquiries and orders - so we know which keywords have a particularly high conversion rate.

We can now take advantage of this knowledge by creating content for these keywords that will rank in Google's organic search results. 

Creating this content can cost a lot of time and money. But since we already know that we will gain customers via these keywords, we can invest here with a clear conscience. 

In the long run, a good positioning in the organic results can even lead us to reduce the budget for the paid search ads. 

Social media & other networks

Social networks should not be underestimated in the B2B sector either.

We remember: Behind every business is a person who probably also uses social media...

In addition to business networks such as Linkedin and Xing, you should also think about using classic channels such as Facebook, Instagram & Co. 

In our experience, in the social media sector it is not always a question of which channels are used, but above all how the channels are used.

To find out how worthwhile or effective social media is for your company, we recommend carrying out the most detailed analyses and tests possible. After all, the effort required for professional channel management should not be underestimated.  

E-mail Marketing

Although the term "email marketing" makes the hairs on the back of many marketers' necks stand up, it is still one of the most effective methods in online marketing.

Similar to the topic of SEO, the magic word here is: Quality over quantity!

Impersonal mailings that are quickly cobbled together with the sole aim of selling the recipient a new/additional service are - quite rightly - frowned upon. 

In email marketing, it is therefore important to give the recipient the feeling that this email has actually been written for them and is tailored to their specific needs. 

In addition to emails sent exclusively to already qualified contacts, we can also write to "cold" contacts in the B2B area. 

Classic offline marketing

The impression is often given that the classic offline channels in marketing have had their day. However, this is by no means the case, especially in the B2B sector. 

It is not without reason that trade fairs, conferences and events are still an integral part of the general marketing strategy in many industries.

Not to be neglected, of course, is referral marketing, with which highly qualified and very "warm" leads can be generated in the best case. 

In the B2B sector, the step into online marketing should therefore not be seen as a substitute, but as a sensible addition to offline marketing. 

Cooperations with target group ownership partners

Not only, but especially in the online sector, cooperations with so-called target group ownership partners are a good idea. 

Consider who has direct contact / access to your target group.

This can be another company that is not in competition with you, an online portal or even an industry magazine that is read by your target group. 

Due to its high relevance, this method can be crowned with great success.

Summary

Although classic offline marketing still plays a major role in the B2B sector, as a forward-looking company you should also think about the implementation / execution of an effective online marketing strategy

The possibilities available to you for this in the online sector are almost unlimited. The first step is to optimise your website so that it offers interested users all the information they need.

Based on this, you can think about further measures and the promotion of other channels.

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