What is B2B Marketing? Strategy and Tactics for SaaS

b2b marketing

According to Wikipedia B2B Marketing, or Business marketing is a marketing practice of individuals or organizations (including commercial businesses, governments, and institutions). It allows them to sell products or services to other companies or organizations that resell them, use them in their products or services, or use them to support their works. It is a way to promote business and improve profit too.

Ummm, yea thanks Wikipedia, but I think we need to be a little bit more specific and we definitely need to modernize this very general definition.

So … What is B2B Marketing?

In the most basic sense, B2B marketing is the act of marketing a product or service that is sold to another business. For the purposes of this article, I’ll zero in on B2B Marketing of SaaS products, and discuss the strategy and techniques associated with marketing SaaS to other businesses.

SaaS (Software as a Service) 

Salesforce is what many consider to be the beginning of the SaaS revolution, and it was founded over 20 years ago, in 1999. Since then SaaS businesses have become more and more popular, as founders opt to reduce hardware costs, leverage the growing ecosystems of cloud services, and enjoy the ease of use and flexibility of operating in the cloud.

But that’s only part of the story …

SaaS has also made it incredibly easy for consumers to research and try products before they buy them, and to switch platforms or services if they are unhappy.

Before SaaS when you purchased software you were signing long term contracts and investing in hardware. You were ALL IN, committing to do business with a single company for the long haul. The seller held nearly all of the buying power and was in control of the narrative for the full sales cycle.

Fast forward to the present and SaaS has completely flipped the script. 

Today, the consumer holds ALL of the buying power, and are often more knowledgeable about your product and your competitors than your own sales reps. 

Consumers are able to try multiple products and see which one fits their needs best.

And, if your business fails to deliver on its promises, does not innovate, or falls behind in any way it’s easier than ever for consumers to switch to one of your competitors.

Why is this relevant? Because B2B Marketers are no longer marketing to businesses. Yes, we are still selling a product to another business, but we are marketing to the consumer. The person doing the research, trying the products, reporting back to the business and, ultimately making the buying decision.

People buy products. Even in drawn-out Enterprise sales cycles … it’s people that make the decisions regarding which products to try and in the end, which product to buy.

B2B Marketing Targeting and Tactics

B2B marketing begins with acquiring a thorough understanding of your customer.

The person whose problems your product is trying to solve. 
The person that is researching for solutions. 
The person that is talking to your competitors.

Today research = Google. Which makes showing up in search engine results incredibly important. If your brand is not in the search results when people are researching the problem you solve, you don’t exist.

The Importance of Search Engines in B2B Marketing

In order to market your product or service effectively, you need to show up in search results. It’s not an option, you have to be there. Every business knows that content is one of the best ways to build a strong foundation for your marketing and business.

There is no argument here.

The step that often gets forgotten is the targeting, and overall content strategy!

Who is your content for?
What is their problem?
What are the words they use to describe your problem?
How competitive are the terms you’re targeting?

These are all questions to ask yourself before investing significant time in creating content. Trust me, going into content creation with a plan that is rooted in research and SEO science will help you gain traction faster, and attract the right people to your website.

Google answers people’s questions all day long so you need to show up in the SERP when people search for your business and the problems you’re solving.

Setting up for content B2B marketing success:

  1. Claim your domain in Google Search Console
  2. Invest in an SEO tool (ubersuggest, moz, or semrush)
  3. Do your research: 
    1. Understand your customer (e.g. the terms they use)
    2. Keyword volume and ranking difficulty
    3. Focus your content on 3-5 phrases at a time

Once you have your content engine up and running you need to ensure you have a content distribution strategy. Remember, you’re creating content for people to consume. You don’t create content to collect leads, or to sell a product (not directly anyway). A successful content program is one that acquires regular readers, which is where your social media plan comes into play.

How to do Social Media for B2B Marketing 

Leveraging social media to build brand awareness can be an incredibly effective tool in your B2B marketing strategy, but only if you take the time to research, plan, and execute the strategy properly.

Start by building on the research you’ve already done – add layers of depth to further build out the profile of your target customer.

What social media channels do they use most?
What are they looking for when they’re on that channel? What is their mindset?
What types of content are they engaging with most?

Once you have an understanding of the channels you need to be present in and the types of content you’ll be creating, start experimenting with different types of content.

Setting up for social media B2B marketing success:

  1. Know your audience and target your content for them
  2. Spend time to create content that is specifically formatted for each channel
  3. Be present. Don’t just post content, engage with other people’s content that is relative to your business, and the problems you are solving

One other thing worth mentioning is that you should leverage your internal people as much as possible in your social strategy. This is especially true for early-stage businesses that does not have the brand awareness to trigger a response. Your founders and first hires are likely to have established networks. 

Encourage your team to spread the word, to share information, to promote an event, to start conversations, to ask questions … you get the point.

Social media becomes powerful when the people consuming your content trust and understand you. It’s about people, and connections, and conversations, and education.

Content and social media are common to nearly every B2B Marketing Strategy, they’ve become the norm.

A tactic that is less common, but equally important, is Evangelism. In my experience, these three B2B Marketing pillars are critical to success. Having a well-respected thought leader with an established community add credibility to your content and brand narrative will give a serious boost to your entire B2B marketing effort.

Evangelism for B2B Marketing

Having a plan to recruit and leverage evangelists is a great way to build credibility and awareness into your B2B marketing strategy. There are people with “street cred” in the industry you are marketing to, and if you’re truly building something that can benefit the community you’re targeting, then it makes sense to get a well-known thought leader in the space to help you build awareness and interest for your product.

In the consumer world, these people are called “Influencers”. They have established a following on YouTube and Facebook, and you basically pay them to endorse your product and promote it to their audience.

In the B2B world it’s a bit different.

B2B Evangelists need to maintain their credibility as a thought leader and expert in their field. Blindly backing a brand that does not align with their established beliefs and passion is likely to end in disaster for both the brand and the evangelist.

The only way this B2B Marketing Strategy works is if the product and evangelist are in perfect alignment with regard to their motivations and mission.

Keys to building Evangelism into your B2B Marketing Strategy :

  1. Your evangelist needs to believe in your mission
  2. Your product needs to solve meaningful problems for your target market
  3. Your evangelist needs to be willing to put themselves out there and actively host events, give talks, write articles, do interviews, jump on sales calls, give demos … whatever it takes. 
  4. You can’t force this. If it comes off as anything less than natural it won’t work

This next one might surprise you a bit, but when done well it is an incredibly effective was you build awareness for your products and brand. A well trained and focused Business Development Team it a great way to deliver targeted outreach. I’m not talking about pulling a bunch of random email addresses and spamming them with email. I’m talking about a targeted approach that is rooted in data, relationship building, and education to extend the reach of your content, social, and evangelism into key areas of focus for the business.

Business Development B2B Marketing Strategy

Often the BRD function is part of the sales organization, but that doesn’t mean the work they do has no impact on Marketing. In fact, this is one of the most overlooked B2B marketing opportunities out there.

What does a BDR do?

  • They source contacts that fit your target market
  • They build outreach that promotes the value and benefits of your product
  • They hold meetings to help prospects understand your business
  • They give demos of your product, 
  • They qualify prospects, and
  • They feed all of the juicy intelligence they collect along the way back into the sales, marketing, product engine so that we can continuously iterate and improve our product, targeting, and messaging.

Yep, Your BDR’s are pretty amazing!

But, they’re also highly undervalued and underutilized in many businesses.

This team is on the front lines of the business. They are talking with prospects daily, and getting real-time feedback on the product, messaging, features, failures, successes, positioning, etc.

Keys to including BDR’s in your B2B Marketing Strategy :

  1. Hold regular meetings (or sit in on existing meetings) with BDR’s with the goal of understanding how prospects are reacting to outreach and marketing assets
  2. Get involved with crafting BRD messaging and strategy. Partner with your Sales Lead on this and work together to optimize for desired outcomes
  3. Listen in on calls, sit in on discovery calls and demos, and debrief with them at the end of the calls – help each other improve
  4. Listen to your BDR’s – this team might be junior, but they have important information to share, that can help you pivot more quickly to capture market opportunities.

Being a BRD is difficult. You’re in the trenches all day long, getting rejected over and over. For every 100 emails you send you might get a handful of responses. You’re expected to set meetings and build a pipeline with predictability, under difficult circumstances.

Give them some love (and recognition) and include them in the higher level conversations. It will benefit the entire company.

Other Tactics and Strategies

I’m calling out Content, Social Media, Evangelism, and BDR Outreach because these are what I believe to be the foundational elements of every B2B Marketing Strategy.

When these tactics are executed well they will feed every other micro strategy to choose to implement. For example: 

Are you thinking of implementing an Account Based Marketing Strategy? 

Great, you’re going to need content, and social, and you’ll definitely benefit from having an evangelist in your corner, oh and BDR’s will be a must-have component for a successful account-based marketing program.

Not going the ABM route …

You must be thinking you’ll run a Product Led Growth Strategy?

Still going to need content, and social, and definitely an evangelist to build community … and yes, BDR’s will still be needed but maybe you call them account managers, product specialists. Either way .. you’re strategy is still going to benefit from these 4 components.

What is B2B Marketing? 

B2B Marketing is:

  1. Understanding your customer
  2. Prioritizing your product to meet your customer’s needs
  3. Creating a messaging hierarchy to communicate the value of your product
  4. Building a plan to attract people to your website
  5. Enticing people to try your product (or enter your pipeline as you’ve defined)
  6. Keeping the promises you make in your messaging
  7. Helping people find value in your product
  8. Listening to your customers (actions and behavior) to continuously improve

We are marketing to people. The better you understand the person you are marketing to the more effective you will be at designing a product they love and communicating the value of your product to them.

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