What is B2B Marketing: Strategy, Trends and Recommendations

Brand belongs to everyone at the company. Marketing drive certain aspects of it but if they're the only ones you don't have anything. You need to build trust and that comes from consistency.

Updated on
January 29, 2024

B2B (Business-to-Business) marketing has evolved significantly in recent years, driven by changes in technology, the digital landscape, and buyer behavior. Understanding and leveraging the most effective modern B2B marketing strategies is crucial for businesses looking to thrive in today's competitive environment.

Why Customer Research is the foundation of a successful B2b Marketing Strategy?

The Importance of Customer Research

Customer research is the cornerstone of any effective B2B marketing and content strategy. Without thorough customer research, you lack the direction necessary to target the right audience, create relevant content, and develop a cohesive strategy. Even if you have established customer personas, ongoing and deep customer research is essential.

Core Elements of Effective Customer Research

1. **Mapping the Buying Process**:
  - **Understanding Attraction and Repulsion**: Identify what draws customers to your product and what might push them away. This helps in tailoring your messaging and content to highlight benefits and mitigate concerns.

2. **Understanding Customer Problems**:
  - **Relevance in Content Creation**: By understanding the specific challenges your customers face, you can create content that addresses their pain points and offers practical solutions.

3. **Speaking the Customer's Language**:
  - **Connecting with Needs**: Use the terminology and language that resonates with your target audience, making your content more relatable and impactful.

Impact Beyond Marketing

Customer research benefits multiple departments:
- **Sales**: Provides insights into buyer behaviors and preferences, enabling more effective sales pitches and strategies.
- **Product Development**: Helps in understanding customer needs and feedback, guiding product enhancements and innovations.
- **Customer Support**: Identifies common issues and pain points, allowing for better support and service solutions.

The Value of Ongoing Customer Research

Continuous customer research is crucial for staying updated with evolving market trends, customer preferences, and industry changes. While it’s valuable for solving specific problems, ongoing research ensures that your strategies remain relevant and effective over time.

Techniques for Conducting Customer Research

Beyond customer interviews, consider using:
- **Surveys and Questionnaires**: Collect quantitative data on customer preferences and behaviors.
- **Focus Groups**: Gather qualitative insights from discussions with small groups of customers.
- **Analytics and Behavior Tracking**: Analyze website and usage data to identify patterns and trends.
- **Social Listening**: Monitor social media channels to understand customer sentiments and discussions.

Who to Interview for Insights

Key individuals to interview include:
- **Current Customers**: Understand their experience and satisfaction levels.
- **Prospective Customers**: Gain insights into what they look for in a solution and their decision-making process.
- **Lost Customers**: Learn why they chose a competitor to identify areas for improvement.
- **Industry Experts**: Obtain broader industry perspectives and trends.

Focus Areas in Customer Interviews

- **Broad Pain Points**: Identify overarching challenges that your target audience faces.
- **Specific Details**: Dive into detailed aspects of their needs and preferences to tailor your solutions more effectively.

Essential Interview Skills for Marketers

Marketers need the following skills for effective customer interviews:
- **Active Listening**: Fully engage with the interviewee to understand their perspectives.
- **Empathy**: Connect on a personal level to gain deeper insights.
- **Analytical Thinking**: Interpret and analyze responses to extract meaningful insights.
- **Effective Questioning**: Ask open-ended questions that encourage detailed responses.

Uncovering Deeper Insights

Adjust interview questions and framing to dig deeper:
- **Probing Questions**: Follow up on initial responses to explore underlying reasons and motivations.
- **Scenario-Based Questions**: Ask how they would react in specific situations to understand their thought processes.

Transforming Research Data into Actionable Insights

1. **Content Themes**: Identify recurring themes from customer research and develop content around these areas.
2. **Buyer Personas**: Refine and update buyer personas based on the latest insights.
3. **Content Formats**: Choose formats that best address the identified needs and preferences of your audience (e.g., blogs, videos, case studies).
4. **Messaging Strategy**: Craft messages that resonate with the pain points and needs uncovered during research.

Customer research is not a one-time activity but an ongoing process that forms the foundation of a successful B2B marketing and content strategy. By deeply understanding your customers, you can create relevant, engaging content that resonates with your audience and drives business growth.

In-depth exploration of transformative trends in B2b Marketing

The evolution of B2B marketing in the digital age is characterized by rapid technological advancements and changing customer expectations. The five key areas highlighted indicate a shift from traditional strategies to more innovative, personalized, and technology-driven approaches. Here's an in-depth exploration of these transformative trends:

1. Personalisation at Scale

The transition from a lead-centric to a customer-centric approach requires leveraging data analytics and advanced AI technologies. Personalization at scale involves creating tailored content and experiences for each prospect and customer, making them feel uniquely valued. This can be achieved through the integration of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems with AI-driven analytics tools. These tools can analyze customer behavior, preferences, and engagement, enabling marketers to deliver customized messages, product recommendations, and experiences at every touchpoint.

2. AI’s Answer to Content Struggles

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing content creation by making it possible to generate on-brand, high-quality content at an unprecedented scale. Tools like GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) and other AI-based content generation platforms can produce diverse content formats—from blog posts and social media updates to entire marketing campaigns—quickly and efficiently. This capability is especially valuable for small teams or solo marketers, as it significantly reduces the time and resources needed for content production, allowing for a more dynamic and responsive content strategy.

3. Customers Expect Digital 2-Way Conversations

Today's customers expect interactions that are not only digital but also personalized and responsive. This requires the implementation of sophisticated AI chatbots and virtual assistants that can provide instant, 24/7 customer service and support. These AI-driven solutions can understand and respond to customer queries in a natural, conversational manner, making digital interactions feel more personal. Integrating these technologies across all digital touchpoints—website, social media, messaging apps—ensures a seamless and engaging customer experience.

4. The Importance of Great Content and Digital Experiences

Echoing the sentiments of industry leaders, the creation of compelling content and immersive digital experiences is now a critical competitive advantage. This means investing in quality content creation, interactive design, and user experience (UX) optimization. Brands that can tell their story effectively and create meaningful connections with their audience will stand out. It's not just about the quantity of content but its relevance, engagement, and the value it delivers to the audience.

5. From Experimentation to Execution with Generative AI

The application of generative AI in business has moved beyond experimentation to become a core component of digital marketing strategies. This technology's ability to generate innovative ideas, automate content creation, and enhance decision-making processes is transforming business operations. Companies are now applying the insights and capabilities of generative AI to drive real business results, from improving customer engagement and personalization to optimizing marketing campaigns and content strategies.

As digital integration deepens, the ability for B2B marketers to adopt and adapt to these trends will determine their success in building trust and connecting with their customers in meaningful ways. The key lies in leveraging technology not just for its own sake but to enhance human connections, deliver value, and create memorable experiences. This approach will redefine B2B marketing and set new standards for customer engagement and satisfaction in the digital era.

Let's break down the key components and tactics of successful B2B marketing:

Key components and tactics of successful B2B marketing

1. Understanding Your Audience

  • Buyer Personas: Develop detailed buyer personas that reflect your ideal customers, including their roles, pain points, and decision-making processes.
  • Customer Journey Mapping: Understand the steps your customers take from becoming aware of a problem to making a purchase decision.

2. Content Marketing

  • Educational Content: Create valuable content that addresses your audience's questions and challenges at each stage of the buyer's journey.
  • Formats: Utilize a variety of content formats, such as blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, webinars, and videos, to engage different segments of your audience.
  • SEO: Optimize your content for search engines to improve visibility and attract organic traffic.

3. Digital and Social Media Marketing

  • Social Media: Leverage LinkedIn, Twitter, and other relevant platforms to share content, engage with your audience, and build your brand presence.
  • Paid Advertising: Use targeted advertising on social media and search engines to reach specific audiences and drive leads.

4. Email Marketing

  • Nurturing Campaigns: Develop email nurturing campaigns that guide prospects through the sales funnel with targeted content and offers.
  • Segmentation: Segment your email list based on buyer personas and behaviors to personalize your communications.

5. Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

  • Targeted Approach: Identify and target key accounts with personalized marketing campaigns designed to resonate with the specific needs and characteristics of those accounts.
  • Collaboration Between Sales and Marketing: Ensure close alignment between sales and marketing teams to effectively engage and convert targeted accounts.

6. Customer Experience and Retention

  • Onboarding: Provide an exceptional onboarding experience to set the foundation for a long-term relationship.
  • Customer Feedback: Regularly collect and act on customer feedback to improve your product, service, and customer experience.
  • Loyalty Programs: Implement programs to reward and retain your most valuable customers.

7. Analytics and Measurement

  • KPIs: Define clear key performance indicators (KPIs) for all your marketing activities to measure their effectiveness and ROI.
  • Continuous Optimization: Use analytics to continually assess and refine your marketing strategies based on performance data.

8. Innovation and Adaptation

  • Emerging Technologies: Stay informed about emerging technologies and platforms that can offer new ways to engage with your audience.
  • Market Trends: Keep an eye on market trends and shifts in buyer behavior to adapt your strategies accordingly.

Gong's B2B Marketing Strategy, a case study

Gong's impressive growth journey from inception to a multi-billion dollar brand outlines a holistic and forward-thinking approach. Here's a breakdown of the key strategies Gong used and how they can be universally applied:

  1. Stewardship Over Ownership of the Brand: Emphasizing the collective responsibility of every team member in building the brand is a powerful way to create a cohesive and authentic brand identity. This inclusive approach ensures that the brand's values and messaging are consistently reflected across all touchpoints.
  2. Humanizing the Brand: In an era where authenticity and relatability are highly valued, moving away from corporate clichés to a more genuine and engaging brand personality can significantly enhance audience engagement. This strategy helps in breaking through the noise and establishing a deeper connection with the target audience.
  3. Valuable Content and Experiences: Your emphasis on creating content and experiences that are genuinely engaging and offer real value reflects a shift from traditional marketing to a more consumer-centric approach. This is crucial in a landscape saturated with content, where quality and relevance stand out.
  4. Culture of Experimentation: Encouraging risk-taking and experimentation allows for innovation and differentiation in marketing strategies. This approach fosters creativity and can lead to breakthrough marketing tactics that capture attention and set new trends.
  5. Alignment with Sales and Customer Success: The integration of Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success functions highlights the importance of a seamless go-to-market strategy that enhances customer experience and drives growth. This synergy is essential for a unified approach to achieving business objectives.
  6. Perception Management: Strategically positioning the company as ahead of its actual stage can create a perception of leadership and innovation. This not only attracts attention but can also build trust and credibility in the market.

Takeaways: This playbook suggests that the evolution of marketing from a purely promotional role to a strategic, integrated function is essential for achieving sustainable growth. The focus on authenticity, innovation, and alignment across the organization are key themes that resonate not just in 2016 or 2023, but will continue to be relevant in 2024 and beyond.

This comprehensive approach, combining brand stewardship, humanization, value creation, experimentation, cross-functional alignment, and strategic perception management, outlines a blueprint for building a successful brand and demand generation engine in the modern digital age.

Implementing B2B Marketing Strategies

To effectively implement these strategies, businesses need to:

  • Integrate Marketing Efforts: Ensure that all marketing activities are cohesive and aligned towards common goals.
  • Focus on Relationships: B2B marketing is about building long-term relationships. Prioritize engagement and value over transactions.
  • Leverage Data: Use data to inform decisions, personalize marketing efforts, and understand your audience better.
  • Be Patient: B2B sales cycles can be long. Focus on consistent, value-driven marketing efforts to build trust and authority over time.

In today's digital and increasingly competitive environment, B2B marketing requires a strategic, integrated approach that puts the customer at the center. By focusing on these key elements and continuously refining your strategies based on data and feedback, you can achieve success in B2B marketing.

Truths about B2B marketing

These realities can be frustrating, but acknowledging them is the first step towards navigating the complexities of marketing in a business-to-business environment. Let's break down these truths further and explore how marketers can address them:

1. Untrackable Marketing Impact:

 High-impact marketing activities, such as networking or brand building, are notoriously difficult to measure but are crucial for long-term success. Marketers should advocate for a balanced approach that includes both measurable tactics and those whose impacts are more qualitative.

2. Channel and Tactic Suitability: 

The effectiveness of marketing channels and tactics varies widely across different businesses and industries. It underscores the importance of understanding your audience and selecting the person or team with the right expertise and approach for each tactic.

3. Messaging Misalignment: 

When messaging caters more to executives and investors than to actual customer needs, it can misfire. Marketers must strive for a balance between addressing internal expectations and genuinely engaging their target audience.

4. Internal Politics and Missed Opportunities:

 Politics and a focus on short-term leads can kill creative and potentially successful campaigns. Creating an internal culture that values testing and long-term thinking over immediate results can help mitigate this.

5. Forecasting and Estimating: 

While often inaccurate, forecasts are necessary for planning. Acknowledging their speculative nature allows for flexibility and adaptability in strategy execution.

6. Evolving Growth Goals: 

Growth goals that consistently increase, regardless of resources, highlight the need for scalable and efficient marketing strategies that can adapt to changing resource levels.

7. Low-Impact Activities:

Identifying and minimizing time spent on low-impact activities can free up resources for more strategic, high-impact initiatives.

8. Misleading Benchmarks:

External benchmarks can be interesting but are often not universally applicable due to differing definitions and contexts. Focusing on internal benchmarks and continuous improvement can be more beneficial.

9. The Importance of Brand:

A strong brand can enhance all marketing efforts, making it a critical focus for long-term success. Investing in brand building is essential, even if its impact is difficult to measure in the short term.

10. Strategy Sameness: 

The perception that different strategies are just variations of the same thing highlights the need for clear, customized strategy definitions that are aligned with specific business goals.

11. Challenges of Innovation: 

Innovation is essential but requires time and flexibility that may not always be available. Encouraging a culture of experimentation and learning can help organizations innovate more effectively.

12. Misaligned Growth Goals and Resources: 

The disconnect between growth goals and available resources is a common issue. Open communication between marketing and leadership about what is realistically achievable can help align expectations.

13. "It Depends": 

The nuanced nature of B2B marketing means that there are rarely straightforward answers. Emphasizing the importance of context and specific business needs can help in crafting more effective, tailored strategies.

By understanding and addressing these harsh realities, B2B marketers can better navigate the challenges they face, leading to more effective and impactful marketing strategies.

Navigating the intricate landscape of B2B marketing indeed requires a nuanced understanding of both its tangible and intangible elements. The challenges we have highlighted—balancing measurable outcomes with the less tangible aspects of marketing, maneuvering through internal politics, ensuring messaging aligns with actual customer needs, and carving out space for innovation amidst constraints—are central to the role of a B2B marketer. These challenges underscore the need for a strategic approach that is both flexible and resilient.

Here are a few strategies to help address b2b marketing challenges

1. Foster a Culture of Data-Informed Decision Making: 

While not all aspects of marketing are directly measurable, fostering a culture that values data alongside qualitative insights can help justify the less tangible aspects of marketing strategies. This involves educating stakeholders on the importance of brand awareness, customer satisfaction, and other intangible assets as key contributors to long-term success.

2. Navigate Internal Politics with Transparency and Education: 

Internal politics can often derail innovative marketing efforts. Building strong relationships across departments and educating stakeholders on the marketing process and its importance can help mitigate resistance. Transparency about goals, strategies, and outcomes can foster trust and collaboration.

3. Customer-Centric Messaging: 

Regularly gathering and analyzing customer feedback can ensure that your messaging resonates with your target audience. Use this data to advocate for customer-centric approaches in your marketing strategies, which can help align internal expectations with market realities.

4. Innovation Within Constraints: 

Innovation doesn't always require sweeping changes or massive budgets. Small, iterative experiments can lead to significant improvements over time. Encourage a test-and-learn culture that allows for failure and learning from mistakes, which can pave the way for breakthrough ideas without the need for substantial upfront investment.

5. Strategic Alignment on Growth Goals: 

Open and ongoing dialogue between marketing teams and leadership about realistic growth goals and necessary resources is crucial. Developing scenarios and contingency plans can also help manage expectations and prepare for changes in the market or business environment.

6. Invest in Brand Building: 

Consistently communicate the long-term value of brand investment to stakeholders. Highlight case studies or industry examples where strong brand equity has led to competitive advantage and business growth. This can help secure the necessary buy-in for brand-building initiatives.

7. Adaptability and Continuous Learning:

 The B2B marketing landscape is constantly evolving. Staying informed about industry trends, customer behavior changes, and new marketing technologies can help you adapt your strategies effectively. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and curiosity within your team and organization.

By implementing these strategies, you can more effectively navigate the complexities of B2B marketing, balancing the need for measurable results with the understanding that some of the most impactful aspects of marketing are those that touch on the intangible.

Top 10 mistakes in b2b marketing

These identified lists provide a comprehensive overview of common pitfalls in B2B marketing, highlighting areas where businesses often stumble. Let's delve into each point and discuss how to avoid or rectify these mistakes:

1. Over reliance on Product Quality Alone: 

Relying solely on the merit of your product without a strategic marketing plan is risky. Identify your unique value proposition (UVP) and clearly communicate how it solves specific problems for your target audience.

2. Failure to Engage with Customers: 

Building a customer-centric approach is key. Regularly gather feedback through surveys, interviews, and direct interactions to understand their needs and preferences, which should inform your marketing strategies.

3. Inconsistent Branding and Messaging: 

Develop a strong, consistent brand identity and messaging that reflects your values and resonates with your target audience. Clear positioning helps differentiate you from competitors and makes it easier for customers to understand why they should choose you.

4. Misalignment Between Marketing and Sales: 

Foster a collaborative environment between marketing and sales teams. Regular meetings and shared goals can ensure that marketing efforts are aligned with the sales team's needs, leading to more effective lead generation and nurturing.

5. Feature-focused Communication: 

Shift the focus from what your product does to how it benefits the customer. Highlighting benefits addresses the customer's pain points and demonstrates how your product or service provides value.

6. Neglecting Content Marketing:

 Invest in a content marketing strategy that offers valuable, relevant content to your audience. Educational and engaging content can help build trust and authority in your industry, guiding potential customers through the sales funnel.

7. Lack of a Defined Marketing Strategy: 

Having a clear, documented marketing strategy is essential for direction and focus. It should outline your goals, target audience, key messages, channels, and metrics for success.

8. Not Measuring Results:

Implement tools and processes to track and analyze your marketing efforts. Understanding what works and what doesn't allows you to optimize your strategy and improve ROI.

9. Underutilizing Social Proof: 

Leverage social proof through testimonials, case studies, and reviews to build credibility and trust. Sharing success stories of how your product or service has helped others can significantly influence potential customers. MoEngage's website is a great example of how a b2b brand can use testimonial video on a website as the primary action point on the hero section. Make each testimonial count by focusing on the impact and the difference you make in your clients' professional lives.

10. Doing Everything In-House: 

Recognize when outsourcing could bring value to your marketing efforts. External experts can provide fresh perspectives, specialized skills, and efficiency gains, especially in areas where your team may lack expertise. Hire a website design agency that specializes in the B2B space.

By addressing these common mistakes, companies can significantly improve their B2B marketing efforts. Effective marketing not only attracts and retains customers but also establishes a strong brand presence in the market, ultimately driving growth and success.

B2b Marketing's role is not just  driving leads or managing promotions

This is unfortunately common in many B2B environments, where marketing's role is perceived narrowly as solely driving leads or managing promotions. This limited view overlooks the strategic depth that marketing can bring to the table, encompassing market segmentation, targeting, positioning, developing value propositions, setting goals, enhancing customer experience across the lifecycle, and conducting thorough market research. These are fundamental elements that contribute to a comprehensive marketing strategy, essential for long-term business success.

Here's how to address this misconception and elevate the role of marketing within a B2B context:

 1. Educate Stakeholders on the Full Scope of Marketing

Initiate conversations with key stakeholders to broaden their understanding of marketing's role. Use data and case studies to illustrate how strategic marketing functions contribute to customer acquisition, onboarding, retention, and ultimately, the company's bottom line. Highlight examples where these strategies have led to measurable success.

 2. Demonstrate the Value of Integrated Marketing Strategies

Show how integrating marketing throughout the customer lifecycle can enhance customer experiences, improve satisfaction, and increase loyalty. Explain the concept of the marketing funnel, which extends beyond lead generation to include nurturing, conversion, retention, and loyalty.

 3. Involve Marketing Early in Product and Strategy Discussions

Ensure that marketing representatives are involved in product development and strategic planning discussions from the outset. This allows marketing to align strategies with product features and business goals, ensuring a cohesive approach to market segmentation, targeting, and positioning.

 4. Implement Cross-Functional Teams

Create cross-functional teams that include members from marketing, sales, product development, and customer service. This fosters collaboration and ensures that marketing strategies are well-integrated across different stages of the customer journey, including onboarding, upselling, and retention.

 5. Use Data to Make Your Case

Collect and present data on customer behavior, preferences, and feedback across different touchpoints. Use this information to make informed arguments for why marketing should be involved in various aspects of the business, including post-sale activities.

 6. Propose Pilot Projects

Suggest small-scale pilot projects where marketing takes a lead role in areas beyond traditional lead generation, such as customer onboarding or retention programs. Use the results from these projects to demonstrate the value of a broader marketing approach.

 7. Offer Training and Development

If there's a gap in knowledge or skills within the marketing team, address it through targeted training and development opportunities. This ensures the team can effectively execute on strategic marketing functions and contribute to broader business objectives.

By taking these steps, you can help shift the perception of marketing from being seen as merely a promotions department to a strategic partner capable of driving significant business outcomes. It's about showcasing the depth and breadth of marketing's impact on the business, from the initial market analysis and segmentation to the ongoing engagement and retention of customers.

Strategic recommendations for b2b marketing

The following analysis succinctly captures the common pitfalls that lead many B2B companies to struggle with their marketing efforts, turning what should be strategic endeavors into what feels like a game of chance. Here's a breakdown of these issues and strategic recommendations for each:

 1. Broad Positioning

- Strategic Recommendation: Narrow your focus to specialize in specific market segments where your product or service offers the most value. Develop buyer personas based on deep market research and customer interviews to ensure your messaging resonates with your target audience's specific needs and pain points.

 2. Lack of Customer Insights

- Strategic Recommendation: Regularly conduct customer interviews and gather feedback through surveys, social media, and direct interactions. Use this data to understand customer behavior, preferences, and the buying journey. Leverage these insights to inform and optimize your marketing strategies and campaigns.

 3. Switching Between Inbound and Outbound

- Strategic Recommendation: Adopt an "allbound" approach that leverages the strengths of both inbound and outbound marketing. Ensure these strategies are integrated and aligned to support each other throughout the customer journey, from awareness through to purchase and beyond. This approach ensures a cohesive and consistent message is delivered to potential customers, regardless of how they encounter your brand.

 4. Focusing on Leads or Vanity Metrics Instead of Revenue

- Strategic Recommendation: Shift the focus towards revenue-centric metrics and KPIs that directly reflect the impact of marketing efforts on the business's bottom line. These include sales opportunities, average contract value (ACV), sales cycle length, and deal close rate. Supplement these with leading indicators of success, such as engagement with strategic accounts and the number of meaningful interactions with potential customers.

 Implementing a Full-Funnel GTM Strategy:

- Awareness: Use inbound marketing to generate awareness and create buying intent. Content should educate the market on your solutions and the problems they solve.

- Engagement: Leverage both inbound and outbound tactics to nurture target accounts and influence decision-making. Content marketing, social media, and targeted outreach can work together to engage prospects.

- Conversion: Align sales and marketing efforts to ensure smooth transitions from marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) to sales-qualified leads (SQLs). Use insights from inbound marketing to personalize outreach and follow-ups.

- Retention and Expansion: Utilize customer insights to improve onboarding experiences, identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How to create a successful B2B marketing strategy?

Creating a successful B2B marketing strategy requires a nuanced approach that goes beyond traditional product-centric tactics. Drawing insights from "Humanizing B2B" by Paul Cash and James Trezona, a comprehensive strategy should involve the following principles:

  • Understand Your Audience Deeply: Know not just the businesses you're selling to, but the people making decisions within those businesses. Understand their challenges, goals, and the context of their industries. Understanding your audience deeply involves comprehending not just the businesses you're targeting but also the individuals within those organizations who make purchasing decisions. It's essential to grasp their specific challenges, objectives, and the broader context of their industries. This approach enables marketers to tailor communications and solutions that genuinely resonate, facilitating a more meaningful connection with potential clients and significantly enhancing the effectiveness of B2B marketing efforts.
  • Emphasize Emotional Engagement: Even in B2B transactions, decisions are often influenced by emotions. Crafting messages that resonate emotionally, demonstrating empathy, and building trust are key to forming strong business relationships. Emphasizing emotional engagement in B2B marketing involves creating messages that connect on an emotional level, demonstrating empathy for the audience's challenges and aspirations, and fostering trust. This approach is pivotal for building strong, enduring business relationships, as it acknowledges the human aspect of B2B transactions, where decisions, though professional, are still made by individuals with emotions and personal motivations.
  • Leverage Storytelling: Stories have the power to make your brand memorable and differentiate your offerings in a crowded market. Share stories that illustrate your brand's values, the problems you solve, and the success of your clients. Leveraging storytelling in B2B marketing involves sharing compelling narratives that highlight your brand's values, the challenges it addresses, and the successes of your clients. This strategy not only differentiates your offerings in a competitive market but also makes your brand more memorable by engaging the audience on an emotional and intellectual level, thereby fostering a deeper connection with your prospects and customers.
  • Focus on Building Relationships: Long-term relationships are the backbone of B2B success. Invest in nurturing these relationships through regular communication, providing value beyond the sale, and being a reliable partner. In B2B marketing, prioritizing relationship building is key to achieving long-term success. This involves cultivating enduring connections through consistent communication, offering continual value after the sale, and proving to be a trustworthy partner. Such a strategy enhances trust and loyalty, essentials for securing repeat business and earning positive referrals.
  • Innovate with Technology: Use technology not just for efficiency, but to enhance the customer experience. This could be through personalized marketing, data-driven insights, or digital platforms that improve the buying process. Innovating with technology in B2B marketing involves leveraging tech not only to streamline operations but also to significantly improve the customer experience. This can be achieved through personalized marketing campaigns, utilizing data-driven insights for more targeted strategies, and developing digital platforms that simplify and enhance the buying journey for customers.
  • Prioritize Content Quality: Produce high-quality, informative content that helps your audience solve real problems. This positions your brand as a thought leader and a valuable resource.Emphasizing content quality involves creating high-value, informative content that addresses the real issues faced by your audience. This approach not only aids in solving their problems but also establishes your brand as a thought leader and a trusted resource in your field.
  • Be Authentic and Transparent: Authenticity fosters trust. Be clear about what your product can do, your business values, and how you operate. Transparency in your processes and pricing can set you apart. Embracing authenticity and transparency is crucial for building trust in B2B marketing. Clearly communicate your product's capabilities, your company's values, and your operational methods. Differentiating your brand can often come down to being open about your processes and pricing, setting you apart in a crowded marketplace.
  • Measure and Adapt: Continuously measure the impact of your marketing efforts against clear KPIs. Be ready to adapt strategies based on what the data tells you about your audience's changing needs and behaviors. Adopting a data-driven approach, continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives against well-defined KPIs. This process enables you to swiftly adapt your strategies in response to evolving customer needs and behaviors, ensuring that your marketing efforts remain aligned with your audience's preferences and the market dynamics.

By integrating these principles, businesses can create a B2B marketing strategy that not only reaches but resonates with their target audiences on a human level, fostering deeper connections and driving growth. These insights are distilled from the core arguments presented in "Humanizing B2B," emphasizing the shift from traditional, product-focused marketing towards a more holistic, human-centered approach.

Build your b2b marketing strategy after talking to customers

Your marketing strategy is useless unless you talk to your customers.

Begin by asking them to tell you:

- What were they using before you

- Why did they decide to change

- How did they compare options

- What channels did they discover you on

- Why did they make the purchase decision

Engaging directly with customers to understand their journey and decision-making process is a foundational element of an effective marketing strategy. This approach ensures that your marketing efforts are grounded in the real needs, behaviors, and preferences of your target audience. Here's why each of these questions is vital and how the insights from them can inform your marketing strategy:

What were they using before you?

  • Insight into Status Quo: Understanding what solutions your customers used before switching to your product reveals their baseline expectations and dissatisfaction points. It highlights the gaps in existing solutions that your product can fill.

Why did they decide to change?

  • Understanding Pain Points: This question helps uncover the specific triggers or pain points that motivated the switch. Knowing why customers are seeking alternatives gives you key insights into their priorities and the perceived shortcomings of current solutions.

How did they compare options?

  • Decision-making Process: Learning about how customers evaluate and compare different options provides insights into the factors that are most important to them. This includes features, price, customer service, and brand reputation. Understanding this process can help tailor your messaging to emphasize the strengths of your product that matter most to your target audience.

What channels did they discover you on?

  • Effective Channels for Discovery: Identifying the channels through which customers discovered your product helps you understand where to focus your marketing efforts. It reveals which channels are most effective in reaching your target audience and can guide budget allocation for marketing campaigns.

Why did they make the purchase decision?

  • Key Factors Influencing Purchase: This question gets to the heart of what ultimately convinced them to choose your product. It could be specific features, pricing, customer testimonials, or the overall brand promise. Understanding these factors allows you to refine your value proposition and messaging to highlight these persuasive elements more effectively.

Implementing Insights into Your Marketing Strategy

  • Customer-Centric Messaging: Use the language and phrases your customers use to describe their challenges and decision-making process in your marketing materials. This ensures your messaging resonates more deeply with your target audience.
  • Tailored Content and Campaigns: Develop content and campaigns that directly address the pain points and triggers for change that your customers have identified. This targeted approach makes your marketing efforts more relevant and compelling.
  • Optimized Channel Strategy: Focus your marketing and advertising efforts on the channels that have proven most effective in reaching your customers. This maximizes the efficiency of your marketing spend.
  • Refined Product Positioning: Highlight the features and benefits that have had the most significant impact on the purchase decision in your marketing and sales materials. This could include developing case studies or testimonials that showcase these benefits in action.

By starting conversations with your customers and truly listening to their feedback, you can build a marketing strategy that is not only more effective but also deeply aligned with the needs and preferences of your target market. This customer-centric approach not only improves your marketing ROI but also fosters stronger relationships with your customers, leading to higher retention and referral rates.

Marketing to executives, a critical challenge in B2B marketing in 2024

If you can’t explain when someone would use your product, you’re not marketing, you’re just explaining a feature. You are just hoping for a visionary customer to come to you with a real use case.

To market to executives, we need to transcend generic value propositions and truly engage with the nuanced priorities and decision-making processes of senior leaders. The traditional persona document, while useful in some contexts, often falls short when it comes to the complex, strategic considerations that executives grapple with daily. Here's a deeper look at the points and how marketers can adapt:

Moving Beyond Generic Messaging

  • Generic Value Propositions: Executives are inundated with messages claiming to increase revenue, improve efficiency, or reduce costs. These broad claims fail to stand out and do not address the specific strategic goals or challenges an executive faces.
  • The Importance of Nuance: Executives make decisions based on a complex web of factors, including market trends, competitive dynamics, organizational capabilities, and long-term strategic goals. Messaging must reflect an understanding of these factors to resonate.

Crafting a Robust Narrative

  • Connecting the Dots: Effective marketing to executives involves presenting a compelling narrative that connects your solution directly to their strategic priorities, challenges, and the specific outcomes they seek. This requires deep industry knowledge and a clear articulation of how your product or service fits into the broader business landscape.
  • Distributing the Narrative: Your narrative should be unfolded gradually, leveraging multiple channels and touchpoints. This approach builds familiarity and trust over time, allowing the executive to see your brand as a thought leader and strategic partner rather than just another vendor.

Playing the Long Game

  • Long-term Engagement: Marketing to executives is a long-term endeavor. It involves consistent effort to educate, inform, and engage, rather than pushing for immediate sales. This strategy helps in building a relationship where the executive sees your brand as a valuable resource.
  • Content Strategy: Develop content that speaks directly to the strategic concerns of executives. This could include white papers, case studies, industry analyses, and thought leadership pieces that provide valuable insights beyond the immediate value proposition of your product or service.

Persona Documents and Broader Organizational Engagement

  • While persona documents might not be the best tool for engaging executives, they can still play a role in understanding and marketing to other parts of the organization. Tailoring messaging to different roles and challenges within the organization can help in building a broader base of support and understanding for your solutions.

The key to cutting through the noise with executives is to deliver a nuanced, compelling narrative that speaks directly to their strategic priorities and challenges. This approach requires a deep understanding of the executive's industry, business, and role, as well as the ability to articulate how your solution can meaningfully impact their organization's success. By focusing on long-term engagement and thought leadership, marketers can build meaningful relationships with executives that transcend the limitations of traditional persona-based approaches.

Importance of clearly communicating the practical applications and value of your product to potential customers

Here’s why this distinction between merely listing features and effectively marketing is crucial:

Marketing vs. Listing Features

  • Feature Explanation: Simply listing features focuses on what the product can do, without context or relevance to the customer’s needs. It's a passive approach that relies heavily on the customer's ability to connect those features to their specific challenges or goals.
  • Effective Marketing: This involves translating features into benefits and real-world applications. It means telling a story about how the product fits into the customer’s life or work, solving problems, and delivering value. Effective marketing makes it easy for potential customers to envision using the product and understanding its impact on their lives or businesses.

The Importance of Use Cases in Marketing

  • Clarifies Product Relevance: Demonstrating use cases helps potential customers understand when and why they would use your product. It bridges the gap between a product’s capabilities and the customer’s needs.
  • Facilitates Customer Identification: When customers see specific examples of how a product can be used, they can more easily identify themselves as the target user. This connection is essential for moving from interest to action.
  • Enhances Customer Engagement: Use cases can spark ideas for potential customers about how they might apply your product in ways they hadn’t considered. This not only increases engagement but can also expand the perceived value of the product.

Strategies for Effectively Communicating Use Cases

  1. Customer Success Stories: Share stories and testimonials from customers who have successfully used your product to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Real-world examples are compelling and relatable.
  2. Scenario-Based Marketing: Create marketing materials that depict specific scenarios or challenges your target audience faces and show how your product provides a solution.
  3. Demonstrations and Tutorials: Use video or live demonstrations to show your product in action. Seeing the product being used in real or simulated situations can be incredibly persuasive.
  4. Content Marketing: Develop content that addresses common problems or goals of your target audience and illustrates how your product can be used as a solution. Blogs, whitepapers, and social media content can all be effective platforms for this.
  5. Interactive Tools: Offer quizzes, calculators, or configurators that help potential customers personalize their experience and see how the product could work for them specifically.

By focusing on when and why someone would use your product, you move beyond technical specifications to create a compelling narrative about the product’s value. This approach not only differentiates your product but also actively engages your target audience, guiding them from curiosity to conviction.

Who should own marketing messaging in B2B?

Let's break down the core arguments agaisnt conventional approach to messaging in B2B, particularly with product marketing teams leading the charge, raises several valid points about the complexities of creating effective messaging and explore the implications for a more integrated approach to messaging.

The Limitations of Single-Team Ownership

  • Complexity and Diversity of Audience: B2B audiences are indeed diverse, with varying needs, pain points, and decision-making processes. A single team's perspective, particularly one deeply embedded in product specifics, might not capture the full spectrum of these nuances.
  • Risk of Product-Centric Bias: Product marketing teams, by their nature, are product-focused. There's a risk that messaging becomes too centered on features and specifications, losing sight of broader customer challenges and how the product fits into the larger industry or ecosystem.

The Need for a Cross-Functional Approach

  • Holistic Perspective: Messaging should be a collaborative effort involving multiple departments—sales, customer success, marketing, and product development. This approach ensures that messaging is grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the customer experience, market dynamics, and competitive landscape.
  • Customer-Centric Messaging: By integrating insights from various touchpoints with customers, companies can develop messaging that truly resonates on a human level. This means moving beyond personas to understand the deeper motivations, concerns, and aspirations of the target audience.

The Role of Product Marketing

While your critique highlights the pitfalls of product marketing "owning" messaging, it's important to recognize the valuable role product marketing can play in the messaging ecosystem:

  • Feature-to-Benefit Translation: Product marketing's deep understanding of the product can ensure that messaging accurately reflects the benefits and value proposition of the offering.
  • Market and Competitive Insights: Product marketers often possess detailed knowledge of market trends and competitive positioning, which can inform more strategic messaging.

A Path Forward

  • Integrated Messaging Framework: Develop a messaging framework that solicits and incorporates insights from across the organization. This framework should prioritize customer needs and industry context to ensure messaging is relevant and differentiated.
  • Continuous Feedback and Adaptation: Implement processes for regularly gathering feedback from sales, customer success, and directly from customers to refine and evolve messaging. This agile approach allows for adjustments based on market feedback and changing conditions.
  • Emphasis on Storytelling: Shift the focus from features and specifications to storytelling that connects with the audience on an emotional and intellectual level. Stories that illustrate the product’s impact in real-world scenarios can be more compelling than traditional feature-based messaging.

B2B companies should rethink their approach to messaging, which helps in b2b website messaging. By fostering a culture of collaboration and customer-centricity, organizations can develop messaging that not only captures the unique value of their offerings but also speaks directly to the complex and varied needs of their audience. This integrated approach not only enhances the effectiveness of messaging but also supports a more strategic and responsive marketing function.

Sales-centric marketing vs customer-centric view

This approach not only addresses the evolving expectations of B2B buyers but also aligns with broader trends towards transparency, value, and ease of access in the purchasing journey. Let's break down the key elements of this strategy:

Shifting Focus to Prospect Experience

Prospect-Centricity Over Sales Enablement:

  • By prioritizing the prospect's experience, marketing efforts naturally align with the buyer's journey, making sales interactions more timely, relevant, and effective. This doesn't diminish the importance of supporting sales but reframes it: support is a byproduct of a well-crafted, customer-focused strategy.

Value-Driven Engagement:

  • Providing valuable content and resources that genuinely help prospects understand and solve their problems can establish your brand as a trusted advisor. This approach encourages engagement without the immediate pressure of a sales transaction.

Implementing a Prospect-First Strategy

Reducing Friction Points:

  • Simplifying forms, making valuable content more accessible, and removing unnecessary barriers can significantly enhance the buyer's experience. This ease of access encourages prospects to engage with your content and brand voluntarily.

Providing Useful, Accessible Content:

  • Focus on creating content that addresses real questions, challenges, and needs at various stages of the buyer's journey. Making this content easily accessible supports self-guided discovery, which B2B buyers increasingly prefer.

Leveraging Engagement Data for Iteration:

  • Use data from interactions with your content and platforms to continuously refine and personalize the buyer's journey. This iterative process ensures that marketing efforts remain aligned with evolving buyer preferences and behaviors.

Benefits of a Prospect-Centric Approach

Building Credibility and Trust:

  • By prioritizing the provision of value over capturing leads, you build credibility and trust with your audience. This foundation can lead to higher-quality leads and a smoother sales process, as prospects are already educated and positively predisposed towards your solution.

Improving Lead Quality:

  • When prospects voluntarily engage with your content and brand, the leads generated are more likely to be of high quality. These prospects have a genuine interest and a better understanding of what your company offers, making them more qualified and easier for sales to engage.

Aligning Sales and Marketing:

  • A focus on the prospect experience requires close alignment between sales and marketing to ensure a seamless transition from marketing-led engagement to sales-led conversion. This alignment can lead to more effective and efficient sales processes, as the groundwork has been laid by marketing's efforts.

Reframing marketing's role to focus on easing the prospect's journey rather than just facilitating sales tasks represents a more holistic and effective approach to B2B marketing. This strategy acknowledges the importance of the buyer's experience and autonomy in the purchasing process. By providing valuable information, reducing friction, and prioritizing engagement, marketing can significantly contribute to both a better buying experience and ultimately, easier sales conversions. This approach fosters a more integrated, customer-centric organization, where sales and marketing work hand in hand to meet prospects' needs at every step of their journey.

What is the difference between brand awareness and demand creation in b2b?

The distinction between brand awareness and demand creation, as well as the critical role of Category Entry Points (CEPs) in effective brand marketing, underscores a nuanced approach to B2B marketing strategies. This perspective highlights the complexity of creating not just awareness but a tangible demand for a product or service. Let's delve deeper into these concepts to provide a comprehensive understanding of their implications for B2B businesses, particularly those in branding and communication design.

Understanding Brand Awareness and Demand Creation

Brand Awareness is fundamentally about ensuring that your target audience recognizes and remembers your brand. It's about establishing a presence in the minds of potential buyers so that they think of you when a need arises. However, the mere recognition of a brand name or logo is not sufficient to prompt action or decision-making in favor of your brand.

Demand Creation, on the other hand, goes beyond awareness. It involves creating a need or desire for your product or service that didn't previously exist or was not actively sought out by the potential customer. Demand creation is strategic and requires a deep understanding of your target market's pain points, needs, and the specific contexts in which your product becomes relevant.

The Significance of Category Entry Points (CEPs)

CEPs are critical because they bridge the gap between brand awareness and demand creation. They are the scenarios or use cases that trigger a potential customer to think of your brand as a solution to their specific need. Effective brand marketing strategies identify and leverage these CEPs to ensure that the brand is not just known, but actively sought after.

  • Creating Effective CEPs: To develop impactful CEPs, businesses must deeply understand their customers' buying journeys, including when and why they seek solutions. This understanding allows businesses to craft messages that resonate deeply with potential customers' specific situations or problems, making the brand top-of-mind.
  • Integration Across Marketing Channels: Leveraging CEPs requires a consistent and integrated marketing approach. Messages should be tailored across different channels to address various CEPs effectively, ensuring that whether a customer is on social media, reading a blog post, or searching the web, they encounter messages that resonate with their specific needs and scenarios.

Practical Application in B2B Marketing

For B2B businesses, particularly in areas like branding, communication design, website development, and motion graphics, understanding and applying the concept of CEPs can significantly enhance the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

  • Identify and Prioritize CEPs: Start by identifying a broad range of potential CEPs based on your understanding of the market and your customers. Then, prioritize these based on their relevance and the strength of your offerings in those areas.
  • Tailor Your Messaging: For each CEP, develop tailored messaging that clearly communicates how your product or service addresses that specific need. This messaging should be adapted across all your marketing materials and channels.
  • Measure and Optimize: Continuously measure the effectiveness of your CEP-based marketing efforts. Use analytics to understand which CEPs are driving engagement and conversions, and optimize your strategy accordingly.

In the context of B2B marketing, particularly for startups and businesses in the early stages of growth, focusing on CEPs as a bridge between brand awareness and demand creation can offer a more strategic and targeted approach to building a market presence. This nuanced understanding of brand marketing emphasizes the importance of not just being known, but being remembered as the go-to option when the need arises. Implementing a strategy that effectively leverages CEPs requires insight, creativity, and a deep understanding of your target market, but the potential rewards in terms of brand loyalty and market share are significant.

Is differentiation the cornerstone of marketing success?

The emphasis on differentiation as the cornerstone of marketing success is indeed a profound insight. Differentiation, the process of distinguishing a product, service, or brand from its competitors, is pivotal in creating a unique value proposition that resonates with customers. This principle is especially relevant in today's saturated markets, where consumers are bombarded with choices and information.

The Essence of Differentiation

Differentiation lies at the heart of competitive strategy. It’s about understanding what makes your offering unique and leveraging that uniqueness to create a compelling reason for customers to choose you over others. This uniqueness could stem from various factors, including product features, customer service, brand image, or overall customer experience.

The Role of Leadership in Differentiation

As you rightly pointed out, the foundation of differentiation often originates from the top — with founders, CEOs, and product leaders. These individuals play a critical role in defining what sets their offering apart. Their vision and understanding of the market and customer needs guide the strategic direction and positioning of the product or service.

Understanding the Market and Customer

Achieving effective differentiation requires a deep understanding of both the market and your target customer. It involves thorough market research to identify competitors, understand customer pain points, preferences, and desires, and to pinpoint gaps in the market that your product or service can fill. This understanding informs the development of a unique value proposition that speaks directly to the customer's needs and sets you apart from the competition.

The Power of Vision and Gut Instinct

Vision and gut instinct play critical roles in identifying and pursuing differentiation strategies. Vision provides the long-term perspective and ambition to create something truly unique, while gut instinct guides decision-making in uncertain environments. Together, they empower leaders to take bold steps towards creating distinctive products or services.

The Importance of a Product Roadmap

A well-defined product roadmap is essential for maintaining and enhancing differentiation over time. It outlines the future direction of the product or service, detailing new features, improvements, and innovations that will continue to distinguish the offering from competitors. A roadmap ensures that the product evolves in response to changing market conditions and customer needs, keeping the differentiation alive and relevant.

Prioritizing Differentiation

In a scenario where resources are limited, focusing on positioning and clear differentiation is a wise strategy. This approach maximizes the impact of available resources by ensuring that all efforts are directed towards making the offering stand out in the market. Effective differentiation attracts and retains customers, driving growth even in the absence of a large marketing budget.

Differentiation is not just a marketing strategy; it's a fundamental business strategy that influences every aspect of how a product is developed, marketed, and sold. It requires a blend of leadership, market insight, vision, and strategic execution. By prioritizing differentiation and focusing on what makes your offering unique, you can create a sustainable competitive advantage that drives business growth and success.

B2B Marketing in the Digital Age: Beyond Ads

**1. Strong Product Marketing**:
- **Essentials**: Detailed b2b website, b2b website storytelling, proof points, examples, use cases, competitive intelligence, and objection handling.

**2. CEO Thought Leadership**:
- **Essentials**: CEO sharing vision and insights on platforms like LinkedIn to build a direct audience. Avoid traditional media pitches and focus on social engagement.

**3. Trusted Brand Building**:
- **Essentials**: Utilize content and social media to create a brand that is known, liked, and trusted. Use podcasts, events, videos, blogs, and social media to establish expertise and familiarity with potential customers.

Key Points:
- **Consistency**: Provide cohesive, valuable content.
- **Non-linear Journey**: Recognize the varied touchpoints in a buyer’s journey.
- **Thought Leadership**: High-quality thought leadership correlates with better sales receptivity (LinkedIn/Edelman, 2024).

By focusing on these b2b marketing strategies, B2B companies can navigate long sales cycles more effectively and build stronger connections with their audience.

B2B marketing strategy focuses on becoming the top resource for your ideal customers, and it's a highly effective approach.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of your strategy:

Core Concept:

Position the company as the leading resource in a niche, making the brand a magnet for ideal customers.

Execution Steps:

1. Strong POV (Point of View):

   - Positioning: Clearly define what sets your company apart and how it addresses specific pain points of your target audience.

   - Website: Ensure your website communicates your unique value proposition effectively and serves as a hub for valuable content.

   - Overall Company Pitch: Develop a compelling narrative that resonates with your target audience and aligns with their needs and challenges.

2. Becoming Your Own Publisher:

   - Content Channels: Leverage platforms like LinkedIn, articles, videos, community forums, and events to distribute your POV.

   - Consistency: Regularly publish fresh content that provides new insights, resources, and learning opportunities for your audience.

   - Engagement: Actively engage with your audience through comments, discussions, and interactive content to build a loyal community.

3. Highlighting Customers and Early Adopters:

   - Customer Stories: Showcase real examples and success stories from your customers to build credibility and relatability.

   - User-Generated Content: Encourage customers to share their experiences and feedback, amplifying their voices in your marketing efforts.

   - Case Studies: Develop detailed case studies that highlight how your product or service has solved specific problems for your customers.

Application Examples:

- HR: Create content that addresses common HR challenges, provides templates, guides, and industry insights. Host webinars and workshops focused on HR best practices.

- Finance: Develop resources such as financial models, whitepapers on emerging trends, and expert interviews. Organize events that discuss financial management strategies.

- Marketing: Produce marketing playbooks, run community-driven forums, and publish thought leadership articles that help marketers excel in their roles.

Real-World Implementation:

- Exit Five: Establish a platform dedicated to B2B marketers, offering resources to help them advance their careers.

- Hubspot: Blogs targeting the audience

While there are multiple ways to achieve success in B2B marketing, building a resource-rich brand creates a deeper affinity with customers compared to traditional ad campaigns. This strategy not only attracts but also retains customers by consistently delivering value and fostering a sense of community.


Marketing and sales in the B2B space should be strategic, data-driven, and integrated efforts rather than disjointed attempts to capture attention. By focusing on delivering value, understanding your customers deeply, and aligning your marketing strategies across the funnel, you can make your marketing efforts more predictable and effective, moving away from the metaphorical "marketing lottery" towards a more systematic approach that drives real business results.

Brand belongs to everyone at the company, employer branding helps too. Marketing may drive certain aspects of it but if they're the only ones you don't have anything. You need to build trust and that comes from consistency. Everyone on the team should be representing the brand.

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