Addressing The Marketing Constraints In B2B

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Whether you’re a consumer or a seller, you know that the past two years have seen explosive growth in digital sales. The global pandemic continues to have a huge impact on how we live, shop, and work.

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Smart B2B marketers have seen the writing on the wall. They recognize that to remain agile and competitive, digital is the way to go.

But the transition has unique challenges. How do you translate the often lengthy and multi-layered B2B negotiation process into a smooth online operation?

Can B2B marketers enjoy the success of their B2C counterparts?

The answer is yes – but be prepared to roll up your sleeves to make it happen.

From Bricks to Clicks

In the B2B world, over 60% of all transactions now start online. And that percentage continues to grow. If you want a slice of that pie, you need to devise strategies that will help your business thrive online.

You’ll have your work cut out for you: thanks to online marketers like Amazon, consumer expectations are high. They want quick page loading, effective on-site searching, easy navigation, informative product descriptions and images, self-serve options, and fast checkout.

Your customers want and expect the same experience as B2C shoppers: a transaction that is smooth, easy, and efficient.

But B2B enterprises face unique challenges – because their customers have unique needs. One-click doesn’t seal the deal.

As a B2B marketer, you have to support a complex mix of workflows - including customer-specific contracts and pricing, customized catalogs, purchase approvals, terms of credit, ordering, delivery, pickup details, etc.

It’s a longer buying process that involves multiple decision-makers, customer-specific agreements, bulk orders ... and on and on. That’s a lot to manage – all while trying to provide customers with the personalized experience they expect.

Follow That Lead

No question - B2B online marketers face substantial hurdles. But according to about 60 percent of B2B CEOs, one challenge is a particular thorn in the side: lead generation.

Lead generation is the oxygen that your B2B business needs to survive. You must be able to not merely collect information on potential leads – but also to direct targeted communication to them once you’ve got them in your pipeline.

Lead generation software can help generate and collect new prospects from multiple channels. As the leads are collected, they’re routed to the appropriate sales and marketing teams for nurturing and conversion.

Since the software is generally automated, you and your team can focus on the more important core tasks of nurturing warm leads and refining marketing campaigns.  You’ll be able to grow your pipeline faster with qualified leads – rather than getting mired in cold lead prospecting that all too often leads nowhere.

To optimize the lead generation tool’s efficiency, integrate it with your customer relationship management (CRM) software. That way, you’ll be able to efficiently manage and connect with your leads after they enter your pipeline.

Making the Connection

One of the major challenges of B2B e-commerce is maintaining and nurturing customer relationships. Consumer studies show that the vast majority of B2B buyers prefer to buy from a supplier with whom they’ve built a great relationship – even if the competition is offering them better business terms.

Keep this in mind: the lifetime value of B2B buyers far exceeds that of B2C customers – so positive customer relationships are essential. And the key to generating and maintaining successful relationships online lies in providing an outstanding customer experience. That means knowing your customers, what they need from your system, and how you can deliver it.

But how do you connect with the right prospects without wasting time and effort on unfocused, automated outreach?

Try account-based marketing. This approach requires more effort to reach each customer, but the payoff will make it worth your while. Here’s how:

  1. Identify key accounts that can potentially contribute most to your company’s revenue
  2. Identify the account holder's needs, pain points, and where they are in their buying journey
  3. Develop customized marketing campaigns based on your account research
  4. Launch the campaigns to targeted accounts using channels most likely to have an impact – e.g. website, events, email, etc.
  5. Analyze data to assess the marketing campaign’s success

Expect positive results. Account-based marketing is measurable and precise and yields higher returns than any other B2B marketing approach.

When you focus your efforts on personalized messaging to targeted segments, odds are you’ll hit a bullseye.

Know Your Competition

As an online B2B business, you face far more competition than your brick-and-mortar counterparts. Online shoppers can easily compare one online company’s offerings with similar products anywhere else in the world – not just with what’s available at the store down the street.

Your business can only maintain traction as long as it’s on your market’s radar – and that’s a huge challenge in the face of so much potential competition.

Detailed competitor analysis will allow you to better understand your market and how other sellers function in it.

  • Research the products and services offered by competitors
  • Assess competitor price points
  • Look at the competition’s marketing strategies
  • Review competitor promotions, special offers, discounts, etc.
  • Understand their marketing moat - do they rely on SEO, or PPC? Or one-off viral marketing campaigns?

The more you learn about competing businesses, the more you’ll understand about your market - and how to make yourself stand out.

Your marketing plan should focus first on making yourself seen and heard. As an online business, you don’t need colorful signage – but you do need a compelling landing page!

Take advantage of digital marketing options like websites and social media to help increase brand exposure, gain visibility – and ultimately convert leads into sales.

Amp It Up With AI

Once you’ve found your B2B foothold, you’re bound to start strategizing for growth.

Scaling up your content marketing can help you reach an ever-larger audience by using hundreds of long-tail keywords and topics. But when your bandwidth is limited, scaling up can seem like a pipe dream.

That’s where AI comes in.

When applied to marketing, AI can operate algorithms and data models that provide valuable customer insights. This enables marketers to customize content and personalize the buyer journey.  In other words: this can be a powerful conversion tool.

Explore AI content startups that combine the use of emerging content automation technology with the expertise of manual writers to crank up your content.

If your blogging output is dragging its feet, this type of service will get you back up to speed. You’ll be able to start publishing large numbers of industry-specific blogs – far more than you’d be able to do on your own steam - for a fraction of the price.

It’s a hybrid operation. Content creators review the marketing activity in your industry and collect relevant keywords. Next, their AI tool uses that information to generate fresh blog posts. Writers then optimize the content for SEO, add relevant images, and do a final edit.

But having said that - please note that your OKR is not simply content production, but how effective it is in bringing qualified leads and money into your system.

The result: you’ve got a good shot at being top of the pops on the search engine charts.

Make The Pivot

Yes, B2B e-commerce has its challenges – but making the digital pivot is essential if you’re serious about staying in the game.

You want to see a steady transition from prospect to conversion in your business pipeline. Here’s the good news: by defining your market and targeting it with the innovative digital tools that are now available, that’s exactly what you’ll begin to see.

And that’s what will make your pivot a smooth one.