North Wales Management School - Wrexham University

What is B2B marketing?

Posted on: April 14, 2022
Two suited arms shaking hands

B2B marketing, or business-to-business marketing, occurs when one business markets its products or services to another business, rather than marketing directly to consumers (also known as B2C, or business-to-consumer marketing).

For example, a business that supplies other organisations with products such as tools, equipment, materials, software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions, or even stock, will need to market itself to potential clients. These clients just happen to be other businesses, rather than everyday consumers.

This means that B2B and B2C marketing differ in a few significant ways:

  • Language, tone and style. B2B marketing is typically more informational and direct than B2C marketing, because rather than appealing to the emotions of consumers, it focuses on a business or organisation’s bottom-line, and usually highlights a return on investment for the purchaser’s employer.
  • Preferred channels. Rather than sweeping ad campaigns and marketing campaigns that target huge subsets of consumers, like you’d expect with B2C marketing, B2B marketing is a lot more niche. It will appeal directly to corporate decision-makers and individuals within a business who have purchasing authority, and B2B lead generation occurs through things like conferences and trade shows. However, there is some overlap between B2B and B2C marketing here, particularly with regards to digital marketing – email marketing, content marketing, paid search/PPC (pay per click), SEO (search engine optimisation), and social media marketing and advertising can all be effective in B2B product marketing.
  • Contact and purchasing expectations. In B2B, contact between the business and B2B customers will usually take place via account managers and B2B salespeople, rather than via customers visiting an in-person shop or a general ecommerce site. Sales and related administration can also take place within a CRM (customer relationship management) tool.

B2B marketing strategies

Having a B2B marketing strategy is important for any business that sells to other businesses. It can help generate leads, sales, and build brand awareness. Even if a business markets its products or services to both general consumers and businesses, having a separate B2B marketing strategy is crucial.

One of the first tasks to developing an effective B2B marketing strategy is determining the strategy’s target audience – the businesses that could become customers, and the people within those businesses who do the decision-making about new products or services.

Customer personas can even be developed for B2B buyers – just like you see in B2C marketing. Buyer personas are fictionalised versions of target customer demographics, developed with insight from market research and data, and are used to help speak more effectively to potential customers. When creating these personas, businesses should ask themselves: where do these fictionalised customers spend their time online? Which social media platforms are they on? Which industry events do they attend? All of these will help determine next steps within the strategy.

B2B marketing strategies should also:

  • be well acquainted with competitors’ products, pricing, and marketing tactics, in addition to internal product knowledge, sales cycles, and customer pain points.
  • have comprehensive metrics for success.
  • have a well-researched list of channels for marketing efforts.

Effective B2B marketing channels

Using the right channels for marketing is as important for B2B companies as it is for any other business, and there are a lot of options out there. For example, a B2B marketing team might use:

  • Search engines. Search engine marketing can be the most powerful way to attract potential customers to a B2B business. Through effective use of PPC and organic SEO, a business can ensure its web presence appears among the first results in search engines, and is therefore top of mind among new clients who are looking for relevant products and services. It can also solidify the perception that a business is trustworthy and legitimate when potential customers are researching new supplier options.
  • B2B content marketing. Content marketing is a popular marketing strategy for both B2B and B2C. It involves creating and sharing high-value content that will be of interest to an organisation’s target demographic, with the aim of building brand awareness and demonstrating expertise in a relevant area. The content strategy can include everything from blogs and articles to infographic and video content, webinars and case studies, but it should all be high quality, and it all should all be relevant to the customer as well as the B2B products offered by the business.
  • B2B social media. This is one of the most popular forms of B2B marketing. In fact, Sprout Social says that 83% of B2B marketers use social advertising, making it second only to search engines, and a significant tool in creating brand awareness, educating audiences, and building credibility and trust. According to Khoros, the most popular platforms for B2B social media campaigns are LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

How B2B marketing has evolved over the years

B2B marketing tactics have had to change significantly as digital channels have emerged. Buyers and those making purchasing decisions now have access to more information about products, companies, and competitors. So while things like traditional ads, customer referrals and testimonials still play an important role in B2B sales, they’re now complemented by more sophisticated digital methods. 

The growing reliance on digital was cemented by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the majority of B2B marketing strategies now taking a digital-first approach, and more emphasis is being placed on things like mobile-first strategies and high-value content.

This in turn has led to a growing market for B2B marketing automation tools and software. This technology enables a salesperson within a B2B organisation to automate and streamline their digital marketing tasks – such as content marketing, email campaigns, social media engagement, and SEO management – generate and secure leads, and then measure the results of their marketing activity. 

Learn more about B2B marketing

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has proved how quickly B2B marketing can pivot, and as digital channels grow and evolve, so too will B2B marketing tactics.

Whether you’re already working in marketing, or you’re looking to make a career change, a master’s degree in the field will set you on the path towards becoming a marketing leader, and ensure you stay on top of changing trends in B2B and beyond.

The 100% online MBA Marketing with North Wales Management School develops key skills required by senior marketers, including strategic marketing, integrated communications planning, and an understanding of consumer behaviour. You can study part-time around your current commitments with this flexible degree, and earn while you learn.