B2B Marketing Tactics That Work Today

Today I will be on a panel moderated by Craig Rosenberg from Focus including Lisa Horner from Citrix and Gregg Holzrichter from Virsto Software. The topic is B2B Tactics That Work (And Those That Don’t).

I am often asked “what is the best tactic in B2B Marketing for driving leads, pipeline or new sales?” While the answer is often that it really depends on your business, I think the bottom line is that most companies are not focused on solving the right problem.

To me the real answer lies within our company culture, marketing perspective and customer frame of mind . . .

The Hottest Topics in B2B Marketing

What’s hot in B2B Marketing? Everyone is talking about the shift to digital or Social, Local and Mobile (aka “SoLoMo”).

Augmented Reality? QR codes? Crowd-sourced creative design? Yeah man, that stuff is hot too.

But I believe that in many cases these are symptoms, not the causes of the massive shift in consumer control we have all witnessed in the just the past decade. Consumers increasingly ( if not completely) control what media and entertainment they consume and when they consume it.

These hotly-debated and widely-discussed tactics need to be considered but within the context of what they are: the evolution of consumer choice. And it is for this reason that some say the differences between B2C and B2B marketing has disappeared completely.

What B2B Marketing Tactics Work Today?

Inbound marketing tactics will consistently deliver the best return on marketing investment. But this is now a foundational activity. It simply must be done for companies to survive in today’s customer-driven world. We must have effective websites that are easy to navigate and provide ample opportunity for customer contact and calls to action.

And this only works on the back of an effective content marketing strategy that puts our customer needs at the center. And then defines the delivery model for all the needs, from all the customers, in all the places our buyers will seek information when they have a problem.

Some of this content will need to be created. Some will need to be found and curated. And some will simply need to be syndicated.

Email, Social, Mobile, Local, SEO, Paid Search, Direct Mail…none of these tactics are an effective answer to the question because they all rely on an effective content strategy.

In my view, if you are looking to be effective in B2B marketing, look at your content and ask if it meets the needs of your customers when they are seeking solutions.

9 Steps You Can Take Today To Be More Effective

  1. Understand first that Marketing’s goal is to get and keep more customers and to do so more effectively than our competition.
  2. Realize that, especially in B2B, we need to help our sales people sell stuff.
  3. Help your organization to the conclusion that the best way to do this: focus on customers’ needs.
  4. Orchestrate a company-wide content strategy that delivers valuable content that our customers want in all the places they go.
  5. Set clear goals for all marketing activity that is mapped to business outcomes.
  6. Create an integrated annual marketing plan mapped to buyers journeys and media consumption patterns.
  7. Work closely with partners on a pay-for-performance basis.
  8. Drive customer-centric content into all channels and test out as many variables as possible.
  9. Focus on optimizing your plans not on tactics and execution.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo is The Little Spinner, by Lewis W. Hine, 1908 from Library of Congress

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

19 thoughts on “B2B Marketing Tactics That Work Today

  1. Michael, welcome back.

    I agree that what you outline here will make B2B marketers more effective. It provides the focus and framework that keeps marketing moving in the right direction.

    The B2B is dead debate has certainly added an interesting dimension. You have hit on the consumer choice or consumer in control side of it. I think the another side is that B2B decision making isn’t nearly as rational as many of us would like to believe. We need to create an emotional response, and many B2B marketers are focused on physical response today.

    I posted It’s Not Rational, B2B Marketing Needs to Get Emotional!! last week, and Doug Kessler added a great comment. I would love too see this emotional side acknowleged and adopted as part of the objective in B2B marketing, as a goal to your #5 and a method to your #1.

    Welcome back, as always, a great post!

    — @wittlake

    1. Eric,

      As usual, you and I are on the same page. I really like the point you make about B2B decision making and the need to get emotional. It’s a really important factor in any effective marketing technique for any business outcome (branding, demand gen, loyalty).

      I wish I saw your post last week while on vacation because I would have totally referenced it. I’m glad you did for us all here in the comments. Have a great week and hope we can continue to inspire each other!


  2. “In my view, if you are looking to be effective in B2B marketing, look at your content and ask if it meets the needs of your customers when they are seeking solutions.”

    True now, true then. Before social media, when content marketing was called “information marketing,” I was smacking my head into walls trying to get my clients to understand that their offer (content) is the most important part of whatever tactic they were using, whether that be their home page, sales letter, email blast…whatever.

    Thankfully, the importance of content has now been pushed front and center by social media. The tools and tech will keep changing, but the relevance of the content we create, and the value it brings to our market, will always be key.

    1. Thanks Marcus! It was the content gap that got me into marketing in the first place, As a sales person I did not see the kind of content I KNEW would be valuable for my customers. I also didn’t see content created for me. I saw a lot of me, me, me, features and functions and “trust me we’re great” stuff.

      You are correct that this has been true forever and thankfully social, mobile and consumer control over the media consumption has forced marketers to think like publishers.

      Or as I inferred in my previous article: “Content Strategy Can Save Marketing!”


  3. Michael, this is a really good topic and a great blog!

    With regard to the content strategy, I think other important aspects are the amount of information, its complexity and the right timing. Hence it is not only about the WHAT, but also the HOW and the WHEN.

    Personally I believe that given the information overkill people are facing these days, the arts of a good content strategy is also how to portion information in the right dose, so that people find it useful yet easy enough to consume and digest. Sometimes less is more.


    1. Hi Matthias,

      I couldn’t agree more. The last thing we need is to create more content people do not want. But if we execute a content strategy that focuses on creation, curating “best of” type content and syndicating the types of content people want (in the right doses), then the only limit is the amount of content our audiences consume.

      To me the goal of every organization should be to act like a publisher and become the content provider of choice for our consumers. Of course that depends on what they want, and how and where they want it.


  4. How refreshing to hear this philosophy from a large tech company – And you are correct – consumers are in the driver’s seat and THEY will start targeting brands they want to participate with. Here is an Ad Article on this point – Why Google + is the best thing to Happen to Facebook – https://adage.com/article/digitalnext/google-thing-happen-facebook/228554/.

    Your current “RUN” campaign is a great transition to that reality – “SAP runs WITH the best of them” versus a normal corporate spot which would have said “SAP “runs” the best of them.”

    Well done all around. 🙂

    Judy Shapiro

    1. Hi Judy,

      I don’t often talk too much about what we’re doing but I am proud that we use our CUSTOMERS to tell our story! And thanks for sharing that article. In all the articles on Google+ I missed that one. Great read!

      Thanks for the support!
      Best, Michael

  5. Interesting article. I work for a B2B company and it really is different than a company whose focus is on consumers. Marketing efforts are extremely important to success. Social media can be an effective way because of the number of business that use these tools are astonishing. Make sure though that customer service is still a key party of your business. Customer service is crucial in developing long lasting customers. It can really be used to separate yourself from the competition.

    1. Hi John,

      I agree there are some differences in B2B and B2C marketing but I think most agree that the differences are getting less distinct. Business people shop and business people buy. Same “consumer.” Yes the tools can be different or maybe it’s just the mix that’s different. Now I adamantly agree with you about customer service being a key part of a business (B2B and B2C).

      Best, Michael

  6. I’m a layman in this area but thoroughly enjoy the blog and endeavor to apply a lot of these principles to they way I market my business. Would this apply to the listed goal or perhaps be somewhat of a summary as far as content goes? To position yourself as a thought-leader or hub of info in your industry – so other businesses look to you for insight on trends and it also serves useful to end-users/customers. Thus driving direct business or at least keeping your name in the market which in turn opens indirect channels of business.

    As always Michael, appreciate the liberal sharing.

    1. Hi Jacob,

      Thanks for your continued support and great question. I think the bottom line is that we need to create as much early demand for our solutions as possible. The best way to do this is to be top of mind for our audiences. For that to generate demand today, we would have needed to have started before today.

      I still believe thought leadership is the best way to accomplish this goal. Not necessarily just our own thought leadership but also in curating the best content from others. Having content our customers want will always be the best way to drive immediate demand into our funnels no matter what channel is used.

      I hope that helps clarify my view.


  7. Michael:

    Greatly enjoyed this. While reading, I was struck by an unintended career benefit of the focus on content, all the forms you can package it in, and all the media you can use to disseminate it: it makes B2B writing more varied, creative and fun. You’re not yoked to the same treadmill of spec sheets and press releases. You’re free to tell stories using more tools, and be more inventive in the process. You’ve knocked down the wall between yourself and other types of creatives. Not necessarily a direct benefit to the client, but still pretty cool.

    To that point, I was also intrigued by points #6 and #8 in your plan, particularly the references to “buyer journeys” and “testing variables.” Do you cover them in any detail in the “B2B Tactics That Work” talk? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nate,

      Thanks for the comment. And yes, the focus on content strategy will lead us on a much more fun, inspiring and creative approach. Instead of the same old whitepapers, we can actually express ourselves and our personalities in blog posts, tweets, or get creative with infographs. Interesting how helping customers better will help us too.

      As for buyer journeys, there are many experts out there who you can find. One of them is Tony Zambito who has trenmendous experience in this area. Also Ardath Albee, Barbra Gago and all the folks at the Content Marketing Institute. You can also get more information on testing at Marketing Experiments (MEC Labs). Look them up for more insights. You can also check out my previous post on “Can Content Stratgey Save Marketing”.

      Hope that helps. If you need anything else, please feel free to send me a note through any of the social channels!

      Best, Michael

  8. Thanks for the great post Michael, and for emphasizing the importance of rallying the company around customer needs. I’ve found that this is a significant challenge, as marketers don’t naturally have enough exposure to customers to understand their needs. So they rely on internal opinions, which are inevitably biased based on their source.

    I’m working hard to encourage more direct contact between marketers and their target audience. If the goal is customer retention, this contact should be with customers. But if the goal is net new sales, the contact needs to be with buyers.

    This is a big cultural shift for all companies, who have invariably given sales people exclusivity over contact with buyers. Plus marketers have little experience capturing the relevant information from buyers.

    My experience is that most companies know maybe 50% of what they really need to know to facilitate the buyer’s journey. I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

    1. Adele,

      That is such a great perspective. I can totally relate to the frustration you described and find that social media is at least a proxy for the “busy” marketer to have customer interaction. That is why I always tell marketers that the last thing they should do is to figure out how to use social channels for promotion. There is just so much opportunity for listening and if you’re lucky engaging with customers.

      Now having said that, there is no substitute for direct interaction and that is why I also recommend every marketer speak to a customer when creating content, go on sales calls and listen to product pitches.

      I agree it is a big shift for many marketers and I am happy for the roles social media and the sales alignment challenge are playing along with the need for a strong content strategy – to help bring marketers and customers closer together.

      Thanks so much for your comments and perspective!

      Best, Michael

  9. Great post, Michael.

    I absolutely agree that customer-need-focused content is one part of the winning recipe, but that a program that successfully guides your audience through the funnel from awareness to advocacy with clear calls to action at every stage is equally key.

    Are there any companies you see doing this especially well? At OpenView we recently released a report highlighting 10 examples of companies trying some really creative and unique B2B marketing approaches https://labs.openviewpartners.com/b2b-marketing-tactics-online/ and we’re hoping to add to the list of examples. Would love additional feedback!

    Thanks and best,

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