1. What is B2B Marketing?
Before we talk about trends and the 2023 economy, let's strip it back to the basics to ensure we're focusing on the key themes.
B2B marketing is different from B2C promotions, principally because the needs and pain points of a commercial buyer are substantially different from those of an individual consumer.
Buyers need to address organisational, competition-based and efficiency requirements rather than simply selecting a brand based on personal preferences.
The focus behind your B2B marketing campaigns needs to be on brand awareness, nurturing potential leads, generating new leads from a possibly small pool of relevant buyers, and maintaining a positive brand reputation to keep buyers coming back to you.
In contrast to B2C, B2B marketers need to laser-focus their objectives on expertise, efficiency, and ROI (return on investment). B2C outfits often benefit from a fairly transient audience with a large pool of buyers who are sole decision-makers. They must show buyers why their product or service represents fantastic value, resolves their issues, performs better than the competition or will improve their bottom line.
A crucial factor to remember is that a B2B buyer is rarely a sole decision-maker. They will need to share their proposed purchasing plans or seek approval from a broader procurement team. So to be successful, marketing needs to meet a wide range of demands and expectations. A B2B buyer will often become a longer-term partner, so even after sales are completed, the buyer journey doesn't stop!
2. Developing a B2B Marketing Strategy for 2023
Okay, let's think about how we organise your B2B marketing activity in 2023 – because, without a clear, logical, and defined roadmap, any marketing campaigns or activities are, at best, random. Instead, you need to have a series of steps and actions you take at different points in your sales funnel.
2.1 The B2B Sales Funnel
The point is to understand the process a buyer will follow, from first hearing about your brand to converting into a paying client, to repeat purchase and service renewal. Here is the general thought process behind a B2B buyer:
- Awareness: the buyer has a problem, is looking for an opportunity, or needs to upgrade a legacy product or solution and discovers your company as a possible option.
- Consideration: no buyer will make a purchasing decision right off the bat! Before moving forward, they will compare pricing, offers, value, and quality or contrast possible solutions to their issue.
- Decision: once a buyer has selected their course of action or chosen a preferred vendor, they will decide. Usually, researching each brand or business to narrow down a shortlist. Many buyers will defer to a procurement manager or buying group to make a final choice.
- Retention: B2B services, for example, SEO, are often continually assessed over time.
Why are buyer-purchasing journeys important?
Because when you know the stage each buyer is at, you can customise your approach to encourage them to the next step. For example, if you have too few buyers at the awareness stage, you need to invest effort into your brand awareness.
Conversely, if you have prospects stuck at the decision step, you need to provide information, expertise or incentives to urge them to swing your way.
It's essential to get a picture of where each of your potential buyers is currently located in your sales funnel so that you can figure out exactly what activity is needed to help encourage a sale.
2.2 Establishing Essential Groundwork for Your B2B Marketing Approach
There are several pieces of information and planning you need before you can create or implement a high-return B2B marketing strategy.
Much of the work will already be done for you but collating those messages, USPs and company objectives is a great starting point to inform your tone, focus and value propositions.
Know your Brand Positioning
B2B marketers need to know what their brand stands for before they can write a single piece of marketing content. Most companies will cover this within their brand story – or need to write one if they don't currently have this valuable content within their digital assets.
Band positioning defines:
- Why your brand exists
- Who makes up the company
- When it was formed
- The needs you address
It is critical to be conscious that external perceptions of your brand positioning might differ. You need to create a comprehensive statement that explains who you are, why you are there, and what you can achieve. Make that mission statement believable so that buyers will engage with it. This is the groundwork needed for your marketing strategy going forward.
Know your Target Buyer Personas
Most B2B businesses will sell a specific product range or service to certain types of clients – perhaps within a particular industry, at a business lifecycle stage, or of a defined size.
You need to know who your ideal buyer is, what they want from their B2B vendors, and how you can adapt your marketing to meet their needs head-on. You may have several different personas - each with unique needs. It's critical that this is documented, as each persona will need a different approach.
Know your Competition
The next stage is to see what the competition is doing, analysing market share, competing offers or pricing, sales techniques, revenues and profitability, social media presence and rival marketing campaigns.
Knowing what other competing businesses are up to is helpful since you can recognise gaps in the market, exploit weaknesses, or be proactive about overcoming obstacles to success by doubling down on what you can do better.
Know your Marketing Options
There are more marketing channels available now than ever before, and investigating the platforms your target buyer uses most often will ensure you focus your marketing endeavours on the places where they will achieve the greatest visibility. You'll see more on this below.
3. B2B marketing activities for each stage of the funnel
Once you've established your core principles, USPs and offerings, you can start to think about the type of communications and touchpoints your users want to see at each stage of the funnel. You should have a clear vision of your targeted buyer and brand offer and have selected the optimal channels you will use to reach them.
We've written an in-depth article on this here: content for every stage of the funnel. Here is a quick summary:
- Engaging blog posts
- Top 10 tips/advice guides
- Solutions-based editorial
Realisation of needs
- Exclusive industry research
- Buyers Guides
- Podcasts or vodcasts
- Product guides
- Case studies/client videos
- 3rd Party Product Reviews
- Industry standards
- Industry awards
- Positive editorial
- Regular reports
- Email newsletters
4. B2B Marketing Channels
Once you know the type of content your customer would find valuable at each stage of the funnel, the key is to use the right channels to communicate and distribute this content. We've written an article on this, the 13 best B2B marketing channels, but here is a quick summary.
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Content marketing (blogging, podcasting)
- Social media (Linkedin, Twitter, Youtube)
- Pay per click (Google Adwords)
- Email Marketing
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Content marketing (Reviews, Testimonials)
- Email Marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Referral marketing
5. Top B2B Marketing Tactics for 2023
Whether you're using content marketing, email campaigns, social media promotions, digital PR pieces, direct sales marketing or any other technique, we recommend you keep an eye on several emerging and long-running tactics.
- Influencer marketing
- Social Proof
- Brand awareness
- Education content
- Search Marketing
5.1. The Power of the Influencer
Influencers are nothing new to experienced marketers – and we're not necessarily talking about insta-famous celebrities or reality TV show stars!
Rather, an influencer can be anybody of relevance within your industry or sector. Let's take an easy example: Elon Musk tweets about Dogecoin (with which he has no formal association), and the cryptocurrency skyrockets in value.
Now, crypto isn't necessarily a B2B sector – arguably, since most high-level investors are professional hedge fund managers – but you get the point!
Cision US reports that:
- 95% of brands that use B2B influencer marketing find it successful.
- 85% believe that the use of business influencers will grow in the year ahead.
- Over 50% intend to expand their influencer marketing budget.
A third of businesses engaged in this form of marketing state that it has led to improved revenues or profits, and 72% use it to boost their brand reputation. You can read our full article on B2B influencer marketing here.
5.2. The Value of Social Proof
Our next trend looks at social proof. Specifically, using case studies to evidence results achieved through a B2B branded product or service and showing the feedback or impacts existing clients have reported.
Case studies are another aspect of B2B marketing that is far from new but social proof is becoming a pivotal factor in marketing success. Buyers don't necessarily trust everything a vendor says, but they will buy into it if a third party endorses the service.
There is a similarity with influencer marketing if you look for it!
The key is to appreciate that buyers have a wealth of digital information at their fingertips and will no longer solely rely on branded content to make important purchasing decisions – they want proof.
Online PR has long used case studies to act as social proof. This format has become more popular than interviews, infographics, or e-books in terms of ROI and buyer engagement.
- DemandScience says that 54% of B2B buyers resonate with case studies when researching potential vendors.
- VantagePoint reports that 80% of buyers reference case studies when making a decision, and 42% of those towards the end of the sales funnel, find them useful.
- IronPaper indicates that, in terms of results, 39% of B2B marketers find case studies the most important content assets.
Looking for something a little more dynamic and exciting than a written case study? Why not film a short promotional video as a great piece of digital marketing media to cross-post on your website, socials, and YouTube to gain maximum exposure?
5.3. The Focus on Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is a big-picture priority for B2B brands going into 2023. Particularly because business spaces have become crowded and are competing for buyers' business within smaller pools of vendors.
Part of this relates to the pandemic, where established enterprises looked for new ways to offer services digitally or remotely. This adaptation has created an environment where slow economic growth and increasingly online services pressure brands to compete.
Awareness and visibility are fundamental because a buyer is unlikely to advocate for a vendor they have never heard of or don't immediately think of as a thought leader or innovator within their field.
A couple of statistics from ThriveMyWay, a digital marketing tuition company, demonstrate the importance of brand awareness:
- 25% of businesses use social media to increase brand awareness – yes, including B2B-focused companies!
- Influencer marketing proves useful for 84% of brands looking to increase awareness of their services or products.
Gains in brand awareness aren't only about increasing the number of buyers who take the first step on your sales funnel; they can also be a viable way to improve engagement with your brand, assist with lead generation and boost the number of prospects that convert.
Suppose your business is well-known, respected and highly regarded. In that case, a buyer is considerably more inclined to place credence in your marketing messages, recommend you to their procurement teams or think of you when they encounter a problem or need.
5.4. Education content
We believe that education is still the key to great B2B marketing. It's true that when it comes down to selecting suppliers and contractors, businesses today have more choices than ever. Your customers will be looking to partner with businesses that are in line with their values, reliable, efficient, and forward-thinking. But most importantly - they know their 'stuff.'
This means businesses should be constantly demonstrating their expertise, staying ahead of the trends and even creating the trends.
Education through webinars, blog posts, case studies, white papers and informative social media posts. In fact, we've written a post on why we believe education = great marketing here.
5.5. Search Marketing
While customers can find your website via many different channels, search engines are still the primary way they discover you if you're in the B2B space. B2B SEO is important for generating valuable inbound leads from other businesses that need your products and services.
SEO and Google Adwords are still at the forefront of any long-term B2B marketing strategy as it's applicable to more than one of the touchpoints we discussed above. A B2B sale has much more 'touch points' during the sales process. With this in mind, B2B SEO activities should align to satisfy each touchpoint (or stage of the funnel) in the customer journey.
You can read more about how to use SEO for B2B here.
6. B2B Marketing Trends for 2023
What B2B marketing trends can we expect to emerge in 2023? Trends come and go, but we've listed our top 6 emerging trends that we think will grow in 2023:
- B2B social media
- Video Marketing
- Mobile for B2B
- B2B Podcasting
- Augmented / virtual reality
- People first marketing
6.1. The Rise of B2B Social Media Marketing
When we talk about social media marketing, the immediate assumption is that this best applies to B2C companies selling consumer products to individuals, but in 2023, we expect the take-up of this marketing opportunity to soar in B2B.
One of the big mistakes businesses make is relying on Facebook for marketing. While 90% of companies have a profile, and Meta is now a huge player in the social media world, a whopping 80% of B2B leads come from… drumroll, please… LinkedIn.
The networking site has over 830 million users, with 153 million in management-level positions. Yes, it's much smaller than Facebook but far more relevant to B2B businesses that need to market to a defined niche persona.
Hootsuite says that:
- One advert on LinkedIn can reach as much as 14.6% of the global population.
- In Q4 of 2021, ad reach through the platform expanded by 22 million people.
- Marketers double their conversions using LinkedIn targeted-marketing tools.
- Brands see a 33% increase in lead generation using advertising exposure.
These metrics are exciting and make sense if we go back to our earlier point about differentiating between B2C and B2B.
Social media is a prominent part of the digital ecosystem. Still, be mindful of the platforms your buyer persona will use – and for what purposes – when you decide where to allocate your marketing budget.
6.2. The Interest in B2B Video Marketing
Using social media to market a B2B brand has two parts – which channel to use and tailoring the format of your messages to suit each channel.
In 2023, there may be a move away from traditional imagery and text content with an appetite for video marketing. Making it faster, easier, and more personal to connect with potential buyers and explain what you offer.
Video content has multiple applications within a B2B context:
- Technical explainer videos and detailed product information in a digestible and user-friendly context.
- Product reviews and testimonials – nothing is as credible as watching someone test your product or service and show how well it works!
- Opinion or thought pieces. Establishing yourself as an expert is a key aspect of brand reputation. Long white papers or complex trade journals aren't always at the top of a buyer's to-do list. A shorter video is more engaging, puts a face to the brand, and allows you to explore topics or ideas that relate to your buyer's priorities.
As we might expect, around 49% of marketers use LinkedIn as their main channel to post video marketing. However, TikTok is making a surprise debut in the business space. Featuring 28% of B2B video content.
TikTok is niche and won't always be relevant to every business. Still, there is another cross-over here, where interactive marketing, influencer exposure and brand awareness are focal themes for marketers in the year ahead.
6.3. Mobile for B2B
Smart Insights extracted data from The Boston Consulting Group's research project into mobile marketing in 2018, specifically in the B2B space and quantified what we already knew – buyers use their mobiles as much as anybody else, including for work purposes.
Why is this interesting for B2B businesses working on their 2023 marketing strategy?
Because it means that several elements of your digital website or app need to be optimised to ensure you provide a great customer experience. Such as super-fast loading speeds and mobile-friendly interfaces.
This also emphasises that your customers are likely to be consuming content through their mobile phones.
The ONS reports that one in seven UK adults works exclusively from home and around 24% work from home part of the time. More businesses are adopting remote or hybrid working models following the pandemic.
Therefore, even the best quality content needs to be configured to ensure that it is accessible by any target buyer, using any device, and in any location.
Slow website pages, glitchy apps, blurry images or landing pages incompatible with Android or iPhone users are an instant turn-off. So ensure that your marketing campaigns are visible, engaging, and effective – in any medium.
6.4. The rise of podcasting
Over the last year, more and more B2B businesses have been investing in alternative forms of content marketing – think podcasts and audio content.
Interestingly, some experts predict businesses will move away from these dynamic pieces of content, mainly because they cost much more time and investment to produce and command a large number of resources. For example, it can take several hours of planning, recording and editing to release a podcast.
However, plenty of research data shows buyers are engaged with audio and alternative reality content as it's a little more interesting, exciting and relevant than conventional written or visual content.
- The Drum says that millions of brands ignore the potential of podcasts and interviewed several respected marketers for their take. Feedback indicates that podcasts, as part of the media mix, can be an excellent tool for education, engagement and adding value.
- Statista reports that around 20 million people in the UK listen to podcasts, accounting for 61% of the population.
Remember that podcasting may not be suitable for your target audience. The trick is always to monitor the preferences and attitudes of your target buyer rather than follow every marketing trend. This could be the defining factor that sets you apart.
6.5. AR/VR for B2B
For some B2B audiences that sell physical products, AR/VR can be an interesting way to display and market your services. Here are some examples of brands using AR/VR in a practical way.
The soft drinks powerhouse makes a large chunk of revenue from product placements in cinemas, stores, supermarkets, and entertainment venues. It switched to AR marketing pitches to show B2B clients how their fridges and POS displays would fit in the store.
Agents bring AR-enabled tablets to demonstrate how their branded equipment would work and flick through catalogues presenting different options and configurations for the client to choose between.
IBM Immersive Insights
Tech has long been seen as a relatively dull industry until IBM took things to the next level with Immersive Insights. Using 3D data visualisation with AR headsets to help data analysts control large volumes of data, look for patterns and cut down work processes from days into minutes.
The hotel chain has adopted VR technology to sell event spaces to organisers looking for venues for conferences, trade fairs and shows.
Clients can see 3D impressions of custom room set-ups, make decisions about layouts, themes, or designs, and analyse things like traffic flow, stage placement and seating without visiting the venue in person.
6.6. People first marketing
The old adage - people do business with people - has never been more applicable. In fact, Google took a big step towards rewarding websites that focus on their people and expertise first with their Helpful Content Updates. Sites that use the following principles are being rewarded:
- Demonstrate First-Hand Experience
- Focus on one topic and cover this in full
- Provide sufficient answers to user queries
- Showcase the people behind your business and their expertise
Make a real effort to provide and give away real expertise from real people in your business, and your efforts will be rewarded.
7. Looking for help with your B2B marketing?
We hope this summary of all the emerging and ongoing trends helps shape your B2B marketing approach for the year ahead and gives you some benchmarks to aim for, with inspiration about those core drivers influencing buyer decisions.
Over the past three years, the volatility and uncertainty around most industries have meant that marketers need to be more intentional and agile in their approaches.
Still, in a challenging economy, it becomes even more vital to understand best-in-class practices, extract maximum value from every marketing campaign, and address your buyer pain points as closely as possible to set your value proposition and brand offer apart from the competition.
Simple tweaks such as retargeting your strategy, swapping a low-volume social media channel for another, or adding data-driven case studies to your marketing material mix could make a big difference to the outcomes you achieve – and, ultimately, the success of your marketing efforts.
Tiga is a B2B-centric marketing agency providing expert marketing services from our creative team of web development, content marketing, digital marketing, and design professionals.
If you would like more advice about any of the trends or tips included in this guide, please get in touch at any time. Schedule a marketing strategy review, begin work on a new campaign, or unpick our suggestions to revamp your marketing approach to address the needs of a fresh new year.