It’s time to upgrade your B2B digital marketing strategies and tactics. For years, marketers had to rely on gut and intuition before making decisions. They would spend hours creating a digital marketing strategy, programs, and campaigns that reach audiences and drive business value. Today, with B2B data analytics and insights, they can make decisions with precision.
When I first started my career over 20 years ago, I purposely avoided data. I was terrible at math and afraid of numbers. As a result, I lacked confidence and was unsure how to leverage B2B data analytics to inform digital marketing and brand programs. It seemed like such a foreign concept to me. Yet, today, I can’t imagine a world without it. Using data to inform all digital marketing strategies is table stakes.
I had a mentor about ten years ago who taught me how to make big data small. This is a good lesson for B2B marketers today. There is so much data and analytics available internally and externally that it could overwhelm. Many people I talk to don’t know where to start, and I don’t blame them. My mentor showed me that isolating data can make it actionable.
What is a B2B Marketing Strategy?
A B2B digital marketing strategy is a documented plan of action that serves as a blueprint for companies to reach their target audiences through digital marketing campaigns and programs.
A B2B digital marketing strategy can be developed in various ways. It could be an annual plan. It could be revised and optimized quarterly. Or it could support short-term product launches and brand campaigns. It all depends on your goals and objectives and your general marketing approach.
However, there are several things to consider when developing your strategy, and they should be constant. Here is how I would outline a plan of action, not necessarily in this order:
Strategy & Vision: This is a straightforward statement that highlights the company’s overall vision for digital marketing and why it’s essential. It should answer the question, “What do we want to accomplish with digital marketing this year and why?”
Audience Snapshot: This doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-on audience analysis; however, the plan should always include critical insights. It could be one slide for each audience persona or one that shows all personas and key takeaways.
Goals & Objectives: While this is self-explanatory, the goals and objectives should always be measurable and align with larger business goals.
Narrative: This is poetry. It is meant to set the stage to introduce the digital marketing campaign or program. It’s not necessarily language to be used publicly, although it could. Sometimes it is more of an internal rallying cry to get everyone aligned and motivated to launch the campaign. It should answer the following questions:
- What does the brand (or campaign) stand for?
- Why does our existence matter?
- Why should anyone care?
Key Messages are key message points meant to inform all B2B marketing tactics. These are more guideposts that will help inform creative, ad copy, tag lines, social content, PR pitches, and everything else that makes up a B2B digital marketing strategy.
Channel Execution: This part of the plan covers all channels to execute the marketing strategy and campaign. There are a few different ways to categorize this part of the strategy. one way is to break it down by paid, earned, shared, and owned media. Then, within each section, there would be a tactical plan showing all the campaign elements.
For example, the paid media section will include a media plan and the following:
– Media Placements (native, display, video)
– Paid Search Approach
– Example Creative
Another way to create this section is to break it down by each marketing tactic. However, each program should include the target audience, creative execution, paid media (where applicable), and KPIs.
- Email Marketing
- Demand Generation (Display, Search)
- B2B Social Media Marketing (Paid, Organic)
- Influencer Marketing (Paid, Organic)
- Blogs & Online Communities
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Public Relations Strategy
Measurement: Measurement can either be in its section or the programs above.
Whatever way you decide to lay out your plan, building a marketing strategy for B2B could get complicated for a few reasons. In many cases, enterprise brands have more than one audience segment. They may have different products targeting different verticals, industries, and users.
B2B Marketing Strategies: Lessons to Learn
When I think about B2B data analytics, I put it into two categories–performance measurement and research & analytics. I have struggled with ADD my entire life, so I want everything to be black and white. It makes everything simple. With gray areas, it becomes complicated and challenging for me to focus. So, bear with me.
Performance & measurement during and after a digital marketing campaign. Most B2B marketing strategies and tactics are focused on performance data. In other words, marketers are looking at the performance of their digital marketing campaigns and programs, optimizing the programs, and then using the insights to improve in the future. The same is true for public relations programs and campaigns. Once a campaign is in the market or after it ends, a coverage report will show performance measurements and KPIs.
Performance data from paid search, display advertising, and paid social is valuable. It can tell you whether particular messages resonate with the audience or not. Many marketers are also doing message testing to create narratives in other channels. Enterprise companies can use this data to track leads and conversions.
B2B data analysis might also include a brand lift study in many cases. Most media companies and social networks provide these studies when significant investments are made in paid media. Brand lift studies help brands measure the impact of their advertising campaign.
For example, suppose you partner with a media publication like Business Insider or Facebook on significant brand activation. In that case, they will include a brand lift study to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. They may use primary research, survey their readership, and provide quantitative metrics like web traffic, unique visitors to a particular web page, engagement, etc.
When doing a brand lift study like this, the critical consideration is that it is limited to the audience and readership of that specific media outlet or social network. This could be problematic if you have an extensive campaign across the entire digital ecosystem.
Upfront research & analytics provides insights into market white space. Innovative B2B digital marketing strategies should always include a landscape and audience analysis.
A landscape analysis will provide insights into a specific vertical or industry and include several data points. For example, for B2B brands in the artificial intelligence space, a landscape analysis will consist of the following:
Paid search analysis will include a breakdown of all the keywords that make up artificial intelligence and adjacent topics and themes. This will also include insights into what competitive brands are bidding on and general CPC data.
SEO analysis: this will include a breakdown of which brands own the real estate in the organic search results. It will often consist of competitive research and show gaps and opportunities.
Cultural insights: if applicable, a landscape analysis might include integrating primary or third-party research that would provide qualitative insights around behaviors, culture, and values.
Audience analysis will include an analysis of a specific target audience important to a brand. It may also include an audience segmentation study and persona development.
Conversational analysis: This will include a general social listening analysis uncovering topics, trends, and themes discussed on social media, blogs, and forums.
Using B2B Data Analytics for Strategy & Planning
Early in my career, the idea of collecting social media data and visualizing it for storytelling did not exist. However, I was lucky enough to leverage the in-house B2B data analytics team to help analyze the data.
One thing was clear, though. There was a high demand for analytics for B2B marketing, and social media innovation was well on the way.
Today, the opportunities for marketers to use B2B data analysis for planning are endless.
The first opportunity is audience intelligence. This isn’t a new concept because marketers have built buyer personas and have commissioned audience research for years. But the way of thinking about research has changed, and there are technology providers that can explore and uncover real people to understand who they are and what they care about. Audience analysis is critical to inform B2B marketing strategies and tactics. It’s not nice to have either. It’s table stakes at this point.
The second opportunity for marketers when planning their B2B marketing strategies and tactics is understanding how influencer marketing is used in the larger digital marketing ecosystem. There are many ways to think about and deploy influencer programs. My philosophy has always revolved around the 1:9:90 influencer model. It’s a model that segments markets and clusters audiences as influencers, promoters, and lurkers.
Regardless of your industry, B2B data analytics must be the cornerstone of your B2B digital marketing strategy and tactics. It’s the only way to differentiate your brand from others and separate yourself from your competitors.