B2B Marketing: Definition + Strategies

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover B2B marketing, common B2B marketing channels, and how to build your strategy.  

[Featured image] Two men shake hands at a business meeting about b2b marketing.

What is B2B marketing? 

Business-to-business, or B2B, marketing refers to a business’s process of promoting products and services to other companies to help them improve their operations. 

When selling to other companies, remember that B2B marketing involves considerations and best practices that differ from those associated with marketing to individual consumers (B2C). For example, B2B customers generally look for products and services that will contribute to a healthier bottom line while avoiding investments with low chances of return. Considering that businesses may be responsible for payroll and other large business expenses, there may be more at stake for B2B than B2C customers, so when marketing, you’d want to bear this difference in mind.  

Explore other differences in the chart below:

B2BB2C
What it isMarketing to the decision makers at organizationsMarketing to individual consumers
Product examplesSoftware, office equipment, and supplies, co-working spacesFood, clothing, electronic devices, books, media subscriptions
Service examplesConsulting and training, web or graphic design, product distribution, ad campaign managementTutoring, hair styling, health care, home cleaning, car repair
Buying motivesLogic: What’s the financial ROI of an investment? What’s the expertise level of a service provider?Emotions: Will this product solve a problem or fulfill a desire?
Sales cycleLonger sales cycle as decision makers consider the return on investmentShorter sales cycle, especially for impulse purchases
Market research focusFirmographics of businesses and psychographics of decision makersDemographics and psychographics of individual consumers

5 common B2B channel marketing strategies 

In this section, you’ll discover common B2B marketing channels, both digital and offline, as well as best practices for promoting your business on these channels so that you can plan your next steps.

B2B content marketing

Content marketing, particularly SEO content on your website, is an effective way to reach B2B audiences. Focused content can build trust with decision makers, increase your website’s ranking in search engine results, and serve as the basis for marketing efforts on other channels. 

Here are different types of content that work well for a B2B audience:

  • Thought leadership and educational content on important industry trends and strategies that your target B2B customers can use

  • Videos explaining how your products and services can help B2B customers 

  • Webpages explaining your company’s method of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion and what these efforts mean for your target B2B customer

  • Customer testimonials 

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B2B social media marketing 

To attract B2B customers on social media, adopt practices that are specific to a business-oriented audience, including the following:  

  • Leverage the power of videos for product demonstrations, tutorials, industry highlights, behind-the-scenes content, case studies, about us stories, and business building strategies. 

  • Tailor your posts to each platform. For example, you could repurpose long-form content into a Tweet-able tip, an infographic for Instagram, and an excerpt for LinkedIn.

  • Set up in-platform purchase and subscription options on social media. Algorithms may promote this content to more viewers, as it doesn’t lead users away from the platform. 

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Read more: Digital Marketing: What It Is and How to Get Started 

B2B email marketing 

Email marketing can be an effective way to build relationships with B2B customers and convert leads (also called potential customers or prospects) into buyers. 

  • To build your subscriber base, design a lead-capture landing page that addresses a problem or a need that is top-of-mind for your target B2B customers and promises a solution in the form of a lead magnet, such as a downloadable report or a free video tutorial. 

  • Make sure your lead magnet actually provides the solution promised on the landing page and demonstrates how your company can help other businesses operate more smoothly.  

  • Divide your subscribers into smaller segments based on their roles within a decision-making unit, the kind of business, where they are in the customer journey, and other factors so that you can tailor email marketing content accordingly. 

  • Include attention-grabbing words in your email subject lines, such as solutions to a problem or product offers, to get B2B email subscribers to click. 

  • Craft each email message to deliver value and guide subscribers to make a purchase. Emails can expound upon social media and content marketing pieces, offer exclusive information, invite subscribers to complete a survey and shape future content, and announce new products. 

Read more: What Is Content Strategy? + How to Create Yours

B2B event marketing

Hosting, attending, and sponsoring events—either in person or online—can increase your brand’s exposure and generate qualified leads. 

Successful B2B events can take on many forms, including:

  • Workshops, classes, and webinars on topics of interest to your target B2B customers 

  • Networking events, exhibitions, and trade shows where you can build relationships with company decision makers in your target market and introduce them to your products and services 

  • Professional conferences where your target B2B customers can learn new information and network with peers 

  • Parties, performances, dinners, and other social events to entertain target B2B customers and offer individualized  or VIP experiences

Word-of-mouth and referrals  

Loyal and satisfied customers can be a great source of new leads, especially in B2B marketing. When a business recommends your product or service and can also quantify a positive outcome, it comes with authority.

To encourage customers to make thoughtful referrals, you might offer referral bonuses or set up an affiliate program.  

Build your B2B marketing strategy 

A B2B marketing strategy can have a measurable impact on your business as you reach new markets with your products and services. Follow the steps below to begin building your B2B marketing strategy.

Determine your brand’s positioning. 

Brand positioning is the combination of factors that differentiate your brand from competitors in the minds of your target customers. Clear brand positioning can make your B2B marketing efforts more effective. 

  • How will your B2B products and services help businesses succeed better than competitors’ offerings?

  • What associations, ideas, feelings, and concepts will your brand create in customers’ minds? 

  • What will they believe about your products and services?

  • What factors will inspire loyalty in your customers? 

Use answers to the above questions to craft a brand positioning statement: [B2B audience] will choose [product / service] to experience [benefits and outcomes], because [B2B audience’s beliefs].

Read more: What Is a Marketing Plan? And How to Create One

Describe your buyer personas. 

To create buyer personas for B2B marketing, gather firmographic data (how different organizations behave) on the kinds of businesses you want to target, as well as psychographic data (how individuals behave) on decision-making units within these businesses, using the prompts below to start.  

Firmographic data on businesses:

  • How would you describe the target businesses' industry, including key players, trends, opportunities, and untapped markets?

  • What kinds of products or services do your target businesses offer?

  • What types of consumers do they serve?

  • How many employees work at these businesses?

  • What’s the average annual revenue?

  • How are these organizations structured, in terms of leadership, departments, teams, and individual contributors?

Psychographic data on decision makers:

  • What is the role of each decision maker within your target businesses, and how will they interact with you during the sales process?

  • What motivates these decision makers professionally?

  • What inspires them to work in this industry? 

Develop a brand voice.

Your brand’s voice is an essential part of connecting with B2B customers, personalizing their experience with your products and services, and inspiring their trust in your business solutions. The brand voice will shape how you craft every email, social media caption, video script, piece of long-form content, web copy, and more.

When conducting B2B market research, collect insights into the language company decision makers use to describe their challenges and goals. Draw from customer language to develop a distinct, empathetic brand voice.  

Select your marketing channels. 

While it’s a good practice to build a presence and create customer experiences on multiple channels, don’t feel pressured to be on every channel. Prioritize the channels where your target B2B customers are most likely to engage with your content. Create a seamless omnichannel customer journey to increase loyalty and retention rates.  

Make sure you tell your full brand story on every channel so that your target B2B customers fully understand your offerings, value proposition, what you stand for, and how to take action.  

Read more: What Is a Marketing Channel? 8 Types to Prioritize

Identify your B2B marketing tactics. 

Once you’ve selected your marketing channels, your next step is to identify the specific tactics you’ll use to reach your target B2B customers. Here are four examples of tactics to implement: 

  • Offer a freemium service or trial period so that B2B customers can experience the impact of your offerings on their business operations. 

  • Take an account-based marketing approach by networking with contacts at key business targets, building rapport with them, personalizing the communications, and encouraging sales. 

  • Use cause-based marketing to design products and campaigns in collaboration with charitable organizations and show your business's commitment to creating a better world. 

  • Create a more impactful and detailed customer journey, based on a longer sales cycle. You can do this by delivering content that supports buying decisions and emphasizes the outcomes and benefits your products offer. 

Improve your marketing with Coursera

Online courses can be a great way to build marketing skills and reach your target B2B customers more effectively. 

The Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate, offered by Meta, can be a great way to master this social media platform and leverage its tools for B2B marketing purposes.

The Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate teaches digital marketing fundamentals for channels including search, email, e-commerce sites, and more.

Consider the International Marketing & Cross-Industry Growth Specialization, offered by Yonsei University, to gain a deeper understanding of B2B marketing and envision global possibilities for your business.   

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