Ultimate Guide to B2B Marketing Strategies
Welcome to our ultimate guide to B2B marketing strategies. We’ve got three parts and 10 chapters to help you build campaigns that delight your audience and deliver tangible results for your business.
At Castleford, we specialise in content-driven, B2B digital marketing campaigns. We’ve worked with hundreds of clients across Australia, New Zealand and beyond over the past nine years. So we’ve got plenty of first hand experience to draw upon for this guide.
But an ultimate guide is no small undertaking – both to create and to read. So, we’ve chopped it up in case you want to jump straight to the part or chapter that’s most relevant to you. You’ll also find our bite-sized takeaways and link to further reading at the end of each chapter. Here’s the full breakdown:
PART ONE: ANALYSIS AND PLANNING
CHAPTER ONE: Personas, Goals, Website Development and UX
CHAPTER TWO: SEO Analysis and Content Planning
PART TWO: CONTENT CREATION
CHAPTER THREE: Landing Pages
CHAPTER FOUR: Blogging
CHAPTER FIVE: Downloads
CHAPTER SIX: Video
PART THREE: AMPLIFICATION
CHAPTER SEVEN: LinkedIn
CHAPTER EIGHT: Google Ads and Facebook Advertising
CHAPTER NINE: Remarketing
CHAPTER TEN: Email and Marketing Automation
PART ONE: ANALYSIS AND PLANNING
Your B2B marketing campaigns should be on a constant cycle. So, while the analysis and planning stage is the start, it’s also the end. Digging into the results of your previous campaigns is one of the most important parts of planning your next campaign. So, let’s get started.
CHAPTER ONE: PERSONAS, GOALS, WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT AND UX
All marketing campaigns should start with the target audience. One of the most common mistakes marketers make is to run campaigns aimed at themselves. Their own preferences – consciously or subconsciously – skew everything from the target keywords to the tone of the blogs. The best way to avoid that with your strategy is to create some robust user personas.
Always start with user personas
When we run campaigns for our clients we always start with personas. Once you understand who the campaign is aimed at, what they want from your brand and what actions you want them to take, everything else flows from there.
You can use your user personas (or buyer personas if you prefer) to establish your campaign’s goals and objectives. Having both goals and objectives is important in our view.
Goals and objectives
Your marketing strategy needs a strong link back to your bottom line. It’s not enough to create really great content or drive a tonne more traffic to your site from SEO. Your B2B marketing campaigns need measurable, tangible actions that connect back to your wider business goals.
Those are your goals.
We recommend splitting your goals into primary goals (the most valuable actions users can take) and secondary goals (not as valuable as your primary goals but still useful and much more relevant to people earlier on in the buyer journey).
Campaign analysis first and last
Before you jump into your next B2B marketing campaign, we’d recommend looking back the personas, goals and objectives from campaigns you’ve already run. When you dig into your Google Analytics or whatever measurement tools you use, how well did the goals line up with the personas? And how successful was the campaign in delivering on those goals?
UX analysis and web development
This is a good point to jump into user experience (UX). UX analysis can be an excellent tool for learning the lessons from old campaigns. It’s how you identify and smooth out the bumps that stopped people completing your goals.
UX analysis provides a hit list for your web developers to go in and remove barriers between your users and the actions you want them to take. It might be something really simple like how fast important landing pages load. Or it could be finding ways to reduce the number of steps between arriving on the site and completing a goal.
Chapter One Takeaways
- Analysis of previous campaigns should always be the first step as you prep for a new campaign.
- User personas are an essential tool for preventing marketers skewing their B2B campaigns with their own conscious and subconscious bias.
- UX analysis before your campaign launches gives your web development team priorities for smoothing out user journeys and helping you drive more conversions.
More on this topic: How marketers knock content strategies off course
CHAPTER TWO: SEO ANALYSIS AND CONTENT PLANNING
SEO should always come after UX. SEO is primarily about acquisition. It’s getting your brand in front of people who typed in a relevant search term.
There are two really important things to remember with SEO:
- It’s risky to rely on any single channel to deliver traffic. SEO should always be part of the recipe, but not the only ingredient.
- SEO is not free. It is expensive, difficult and time-consuming to get your content ranking in the top results for the most valuable search terms (see Chapter Four and Chapter Five for more on that). So, it’s a good idea to first make sure you have suitable conversion goals in place and that you’ve removed the barriers that are stopping users from completing them.
When you’re ready to jump into the SEO element of your B2B marketing strategy we recommend starting with some analysis of your site and your Google Analytics set-up. Even if you’ve been running B2B marketing campaigns with some success in the past, it is always a good idea to have a look for problems that could be preventing Google from crawling and indexing your site.
Often fixing these issues can be a relatively painless process. Similar to UX, some SEO analysis before your campaigns get going can be an excellent efficiency saving.
Once your SEO tune-up is complete you can start looking at your content. These days, getting content to rank in search takes a lot more planning.
There was a time when SEO was like a content arms race. Publish more than your competitor and you could make a land grab and occupy the most fertile keyword territory in your space.
Now the algorithms are more sophisticated. As a result there is a greater emphasis on quality and more competition than ever before.
Where to find keyword targets
We recommend looking first at keywords your site already ranks for. There are lots of third party tools you can use to help with that. You’re looking for keywords that have good volume (are enough people searching for them?) and good intent (do you want someone searching for those terms on your site?).
If the answer to both of those questions is “yes”, then you can turn your attention to pushing your pages further up the rankings. In most cases, getting from page two in a Google Serp to page one is a lot easier than earning page one rankings from nowhere.
Chapter Two Takeaways
- SEO is about getting more of the right people on to your site from Google’s organic search results. Making sure your site set up for conversion should always come first.
- SEO and Google Analytics health checks are worthwhile exercises ahead of any B2B marketing campaign to find the quick wins that can make your strategy much more efficient.
- Valuable keywords that your site already ranks for are often a good place to start your SEO strategy. Improving what you have tends to yield quicker results.
More on this topic: How important are keywords for SEO in 2019?
PART TWO: CONTENT CREATION
Now it’s time for your marketing team to get creative. B2B marketing campaigns need to leverage a full range of content to cut through the noise, engage users and drive useful actions. We’re going to look at four content pillars:
- Landing pages
CHAPTER THREE: LANDING PAGES
In the previous chapter we talked about SEO and keywords, which brings us neatly to landing pages. Your landing pages will be the big assets when it comes to ranking for valuable search terms in Google’s organic results.
Product and topic landing pages
In our experience, a lot of content marketing strategies focus too much on product landing pages. These are the pages that talk specifically about what you do and how you do it. These pages are super important but your landing page strategy shouldn’t stop there.
There are often some really good opportunities for B2B marketing teams to create new topic landing pages. These pages are aimed at the broader issues and questions that matter to your target audience. Usually they are not related to a particular product or brand.
Whereas product landing pages are most useful at the bottom of the sales funnel, the opposite is true of topic landing pages. They provide the helpful, useful information users need earlier on in the customer journey.
If you can get at these users before your competitors, you can nurture them down the funnel and turn them into customers.
Landing pages and conversion rate
Landing pages do more for your marketing strategies than SEO. They are also where a lot of conversions happen. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure that any UX analysis includes your most heavily-trafficked landing pages. This is where the opportunity lies to convert visitors into qualified leads.
In our experience, a really useful tactic for boosting landing page conversion rate is to call on your designers. Graphic design is part of the essential content marketing toolkit. When it comes to landing pages you’ll want infographics.
One of the challenges with B2B brands is that their products and services can be complex or dry. Infographics are an excellent way to help users visualise how a process works or why a particular product better serves their needs. And they dramatically improve the aesthetic appeal of otherwise text-heavy pages.
Chapter Three Takeaways
- Create dedicated landing pages for each of the keywords that are most valuable to your B2B marketing strategy.
- Product landing pages are important, but there may be an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors and target users higher up the sales funnel with topic landing pages.
- Infographics help B2B brands take dry and complex subject matter and present it in a memorable and visually-engaging format.
More on this topic: Mixing up your content strategy with different types of infographics
CHAPTER FOUR: BLOGGING
Blogging is the engine room of your B2B marketing activities. Your blog can expand your website’s keyword footprint and provide content that you can re-use in social media and email campaigns.
A common mistake B2B brands make is to limit their blogging to talking about themselves. If you only post when you’ve won an award or have a new product to push you don’t really have a blog. What you have is some press releases on your website.
Pillar and cluster content
Really your blog should feed off your landing pages. If you have strong product and topic landing pages they can provide the structure for your blog.
Your landing pages will target the very competitive, high volume keywords. Your blog sits underneath, with each post going after a related longer-tail variation of those keywords.
This is what HubSpot calls a “pillar and cluster” approach to content creation. This video does a great job of explaining how it works:
Not all of the “pillar” content you create needs to be landing pages. You might choose to do that on your blog as well. This post is a good example. It’s an extended blog post (4,000 words plus). We create one or two of these per month. The idea is that we’ll be able to link back and forth between this post and a whole bunch of shorter posts on related topics.
Whether your big, meaty content is on landing pages or blogs the important thing is that it is competitive.
That means it should be written based on an analysis of what already ranks in search. SERP analysis is a now a key ingredient of any B2B blogging strategy.
Without it, even the best writing will struggle to get traction in Google’s organic search results.
Chapter Four Takeaways
- Don’t limit your blog to press releases about new products. It’s your chance to own the topics and questions your audience cares about.
- We recommend a hub and spoke approach to blogging, with big, meaty posts linking back and forth to smaller posts on related topics.
- Blogging is highly competitive. You need careful planning as well as excellent writing to rank for the most valuable search terms.
More on this topic: Top Australian marketing blogs of 2019
CHAPTER FIVE: DOWNLOADS
Downloadable content is a must-have for your B2B marketing strategy. Downloads provide an opportunity to dig deeper into a particular topic and offer some thought leadership to your target audience. And you can really stretch your design team to create something aesthetically beautiful.
Capturing and nurturing leads
The real benefit of downloadable content is the opportunity to capture and nurture leads. In Chapter One we talked about goals – your marketing strategy should have tangible, measurable actions for each market segment you’re targeting and each stage of your sales funnel.
In our experience, a lot of B2B brands are missing a strong mid-funnel goal. What this means is that a significant proportion of website visitors leave without doing anything really useful. If they’re not ready to commit to the primary goal – buy something or book a meeting – there’s nothing else for them to do.
Gated downloads can fill that gap. By offering a relevant, compelling download on key landing pages and around your blog you give your users a natural next step. For people you don’t know, you can get a name, email address and other useful lead information for the first time.
For customers or regular website visitors you’ve already identified, accessing your download tells you more about them and what they’re interested in. It might also be an indication that they’re ready to receive more sales-oriented content.
Chapter Five Takeaways
- Downloadable e-books or whitepapers can fill the mid-funnel gap in your B2B marketing strategy.
- Remember that users who swap their lead information for a download will expect something that looks great and offers real value beyond what’s freely available on your website.
- Like any high value asset, you need to maximise your return from your downloads. That means promoting them aggressively around your site, in your emails and in social media ads.
More on this topic: How to decide when content should be gated
CHAPTER SIX: VIDEO
Content creation should support every stage of your sales funnel, and that doesn’t apply just to writing. It’s also true of video.
Video can help your B2B brand reach out to new customers at the top of the funnel. It can build familiarity, trust and credibility in the middle of the funnel. And it can provide the social proof that is so important for closing deals at the bottom of the funnel.
Video is accessible to all B2B brands
While video can seem like a big investment, the cost of producing high quality video for your B2B marketing strategy has never been lower.
There are now a huge range of options from very simple, templated videos for a few hundred dollars up to TV-quality content that runs into the tens of thousands.
One of the great benefits of video over written content is that it can be reused. With blogs and landing pages you have to be careful not to duplicate your content. Pages that look very similar can lead to your site getting penalised in search.
But with a video, like graphics and other similar content assets, you can embed it in blog posts, add it to landing pages and upload to it to multiple social media sites. Often this means video works out a lot cheaper than it first appears.
Chapter Six Takeaways
- Video can be effective at every stage of the sales funnel. From awareness and consideration, through to action and customer retention.
- Like graphics, video can bring a significant uplift in conversion and engagement on landing pages.
- Video has never been cheaper for B2B brands to produce, but users expect high production values and content that works just as well on a smartphone
More on this topic: How to generate engaging video ideas
PART THREE: AMPLIFICATION
The third and final part of our ultimate guide to B2B marketing is about amplification. This is the bit where you take the amazing content you created and devise clever ways to get it in front of as many relevant people as possible. We’re going to look at LinkedIn first, followed by Google Ads, social media advertising, remarketing and email.
CHAPTER SEVEN: LINKEDIN MARKETING
LinkedIn is the world’s largest social media network for professionals. According to its website, it now has more than 600 million users in 200 countries. So, it felt right to give it its own chapter.
That’s not to say that LinkedIn is the only social media presence you need to reach a B2B audience (more on that in the next chapter). But a presence on LinkedIn is a hygiene factor for any brand targeting other businesses. It’s something users expect, even if their interaction with a company’s Linkedin page is very limited.
Extend your brand reach through your employees
So assuming you have a Company Page already the first thing to focus on is branding. This should extend beyond your Company Page and on to the profile pages of your employees.
Providing help to employees for improving the look and feel of their profiles will help you control a little of how your brand is perceived by people in their networks.
Some businesses choose to take this further by paying to promote content created by key employees.
By building up thought leaders and influencers in your space, you can access a wider audience when you have your own creative or promotional material to promote.
This can also be a good way to keep hold of influential employees who might not get offered the same support elsewhere.
Posting to your LinkedIn Company Page
While organic reach is very limited on LinkedIn, posting updates does still matter. Just like updating your blog, posting to LinkedIn shows users that you are open for business and trying to engage with your audience.
Your employees can be a useful asset in helping to promote the content you post to your LinkedIn Page. If employees share your content with their personal networks, it can help to boost your engagement metrics. This in turn is a helpful trust builder for any potential customers coming to check out your Company Page.
The real value LinkedIn can offer your B2B marketing strategy is through its ad products. LinkedIn allows brands to advertise with text ads and sponsored posts. It also offers sponsored InMail, which gets your content into the internal inboxes of LinkedIn users.
As an advertiser you can target users by an increasingly broad range of criteria such as job title, seniority, experience, location and group membership. You can also match users anonymously to email addresses you already have in your CRM. And you can retarget people who have visited your website (more on that in Chapter Nine).
The downside with LinkedIn advertising is that the cost per click is usually higher than Google Ads or Facebook. However, LinkedIn argues that its audience is better-qualified, with the profiling effectively based on each member’s resume.
But what that means is that testing out a campaign designed to send traffic to a landing page will require a bigger investment before you start seeing results. That carries some risk, but of course if the results are there the cost of getting the traffic matters a lot less.
Chapter Seven Takeaways
- A LinkedIn presence is a hygiene factor for brands targeting a B2B audience and something users just expect to see.
- Your employees offer a way to promote your content and extend your brand into a much larger network. It’s worth investing some time and money in helping some of them improve their profiles.
- LinkedIn advertising offers some really compelling targeting options for B2B campaigns but cost per click will often be higher than other channels.
More on this topic: Why your staff should have appealing LinkedIn profiles
CHAPTER EIGHT: GOOGLE ADS AND FACEBOOK ADVERTISING
LinkedIn can be an excellent way to promote your brand, your content and what you sell. But the majority of B2B buyer journeys – 71 per cent according to Google – still start with a search. That means your customers are searching for information in your space. And when they do that, they either see links to your site or links to your competitors.
We talked a bit about SEO in Chapter Two. But of course the other way to get among those page one links is to buy your way in.
Google Ads is arguably the most successful advertising platform of all time. Its search and display ads helped Google’s parent company, Alphabet, generate US$116 billion from advertising last year. That is close to half of all online ad spend going to one company.
And there’s a good reason for that. Google Ads works. Take a search campaign, for example. There are 3.5 billion Google searches every day. Google enjoys market share in Australia and New Zealand of more than 90 per cent. It knows what we want.
Google Ads allows brands to bid for slots on the first page of results for relevant keywords. And it supports its golden goose with a suite of free tools, such as the Keyword Planner. This is an excellent starting point for campaigns, helping you find new keywords and showing you historical trends for volume and seasonality.
Google Ads also gives you access to a display network. But we’ll get into that in the next chapter.
Before we move on, let’s talk about Facebook.
There is plenty of skepticism about the role Facebook can play in a B2B campaign. A lot of people still categorise Facebook as play rather than work.
Unrivalled reach and better ad products
While that may be true, Facebook’s unrivalled reach and superior ad products mean dismissing it without proper consideration is a mistake.
If, for example, you want to build brand recognition with your target audience, getting your content into their Instagram feed is probably the best way to reach them when their on their phones.
Chapter Eight Takeaways
- B2B buyer journeys usually start with a search. You can get among the top results organically with SEO or you can buy your way in with Google Ads.
- Google offers a range of free tools to help you build bigger and better search campaigns.
- LinkedIn is not the only social media network for B2B marketing. The huge reach and sophisticated ad products across Facebook’s properties can offer real value in this space.
More on this topic: Ultimate guide to successful Facebook promotion
CHAPTER NINE: REMARKETING
Remarketing or retargeting is about reaching out to people who have already engaged with your brand in some way.
This could be something as simple as visiting your website. Or it might be more nuanced. Visiting certain pages or making multiple visits within a set timeframe, for example.
Awareness and consideration
The idea is firstly to build brand awareness.
If you want someone to know about your business and associate you with what you sell, then getting in front of that person regularly really matters. Even if they don’t engage with your ads, the visibility alone is worthwhile.
Secondly, you want further consideration. Someone who has spent time on your website must have been there for a reason. If you can put something compelling in front of them, maybe they’ll come back. And maybe they’ll do something more useful next time.
Google Ads and social media remarketing
The most popular remarketing channels are:
- Google Ads: Which offers access to more than 2 million websites globally.
- Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: Which offer some form of website tag, allowing you to build audiences for remarketing ads.
An alternative provider that we’ve had some success with is AdRoll.
There are two big challenges for running effective remarketing campaigns in the B2B space. First is “filling the hopper”. If you want to retarget people who visited your site, you have to get more people visiting your site.
Second, if you want to get beyond brand awareness, you need relevant and engaging content for your ads.
While that might sound like a given, remarketing works best when the targeting is really tight. That requires good segmentation of your audience and the creation of specific content assets for each segment.
Chapter Nine Takeaways
- Remarketing campaigns are an excellent way to move people down the sales funnel and show some early results from your marketing strategy.
- If you want to make remarketing part of your campaign you can do it through Google’s display network or one of the big social media sites.
- Remarketing works best when the ad content closely matches the audience segment. This requires good audience segmentation and also the ability to create enough ad content to support each segment.
More on this topic: Facebook remarketing in 60 seconds
CHAPTER TEN: EMAIL AND MARKETING AUTOMATION
Email is the oldest online marketing tactic.
But it can still be one of the most effective in terms of marketing ROI.
For B2B campaigns, email is absolutely essential. More than 80 per cent of people said email was their preferred method of business communication, according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018.
When considering email for your B2B strategy there are two elements to consider. The first is a regular email newsletter. The second is more targeted drip emails.
The key benefit of a regular newsletter is that it provides a touchpoint with your audience.
People who aren’t ready to buy now are more likely to choose your brand when they are ready if they get an email reminder from you every week or every month.
Email newsletters also offer you the chance to show your audience that you have more to offer than just selling.
You can use your newsletter to promote the helpful, useful content that you’ve created for your blog or social media.
This is the content that answers questions and solves problems ahead of pushing special offers and promotions.
If your email marketing starts and stops with a newsletter you’re missing a huge opportunity.
Even without a full service marketing automation platform you should be able to do some basic automated functions. This includes drip emails.
Drip emails are a series of messages sent at regular intervals after a trigger. This trigger could be manually fired. For example, your sales executives might enroll prospects in a drip campaign if they were interested but not ready to buy.
Or the trigger might be automated, such as when someone downloads an e-book or submits a feedback form. This video does a pretty good job of explaining how that works:
Drip emails can save you time.
And they can help you separate the wheat from the chaff. You can have thousands of people enrolled in a drip campaign – more than your sales team could ever reach out to manually. Only when people engage does a manual process need to kick in.
Chapter Ten Takeaways
- Email should be part of every B2B marketing strategy.
- Brands targeting B2B customers should consider both a regular email newsletter and more targeted drip emails.
- Even without full service marketing automation software most email platforms now support basic drip emails.
More on this topic: Your complete guide to successful drip emails