Introduction: Building a B2B Marketing Strategy
Like every business on the Internet, your B2B eCommerce initiative cannot function without an online marketing strategy. Given that as much as 57% of B2B buyers, according to Statista, are willing to access product information and make a purchase online, marketing now plays even a more important role in generating and converting B2B leads.
Having a B2B marketing strategy is particularly important in B2B eCommerce because there is a large number of tools you can use to attract new customers, nurture loyalty, maximize customer retention, and optimize buying experiences across the board. We prepared a shortlist of 10 essential marketing tactics and how they should be used to constitute an effective B2B eCommerce marketing strategy.
Account Based Marketing
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a cornerstone of a B2B long-term strategy that brings together a number of marketing and optimization activities to seek more opportunities with your key accounts. Specifically, in the context of B2B eCommerce, ABM makes you focus on personalized buying experience, continuous feedback analysis, and, ultimately, customer retention. It’s highly documented that obtaining new customers may cost from 5 to 16 times more than keeping an existing client. Retaining your existing customers should be your #1 goal in B2B.
- Personalization – starts with B2B catalog management capabilities that allow sellers to customize product catalogs to specific corporations, divisions, business units, and even individual buyers or customers. Personalization also includes distributing unique content and product recommendations via email marketing, offering extended loyalty program privileges, etc.
- Continuous feedback analysis – a crucial part of ABM and overall B2B eCommerce marketing strategy. The goal is to put your main effort into enhancements requested by your existing clients and eliminate any bottlenecks in their online buying process. Collecting such feedback may be orchestrated via email marketing or other means.
- Customer retention – making your visitors buy the second time takes an ingenious combination of proactive marketing activities, smooth omni-channel customer experience, and continuous optimization of your B2B eCommerce web store.
Content and Inbound Marketing
In B2B eCommerce, content marketing starts as early as producing high-quality product descriptions and overviews. This helps your website rank by a variety of related keywords in Google as well as allow your potential buyers to make informed purchasing decisions. Detailed content is estimated to be extremely important for up to 90% of shoppers and even more so for B2B buyers. Orchestrating content/product information management activities is a critical capability of a true B2B eCommerce platform, and it should be the first thing to help bolster your content marketing metrics.
Other key inbound marketing activities for your B2B eCommerce marketing strategy:
- Blog – a great way to boost your website rankings in Google and increase your brand awareness. Blogging helps you generate leads, run effective email marketing campaigns, and, according to numerous research data, drive one of the best ROI among other marketing techniques.
- PPC – a very flexible tool to utilize alongside your content activities and improve the effectiveness of your inbound efforts. It is widely utilized by all companies doing business online, so should be a good choice for your B2B marketing mix.
- Premium content – whitepapers, webinars, podcasts, presentations, etc. available for subscribed customers. It is considered to be the best lead generation tool in inbound marketing and also have a strong impact on promoting your brand, running ABM activities, and building customer loyalty. Consider also that in some cases SEO content may give better results through the sheer volume of new traffic, in which case premium content may be repurposed for SEO pillar pages and high-ranking long-reads.
- Content upgrades – a low-hanging fruit tactic for boosting SEO. Reviving your old blog posts takes much less effort but can be just enough to secure your spot on the first page in Google by the target keyword.
Product Sheets, Brochures, and Downloadables
In B2B, buyers need to know that the product they are purchasing is exactly the right product. Otherwise, the purchase can be a waste. This means they often need more information to make a purchase whether it’s a spec sheet, brochure, certifications, etc. Supplying buyers with this information while they experience your online store can be critical in making a customer feel safe about their purchase.
To learn more about how you could implement downloadable content in your B2B eCommerce website, read our Product Information Attachments feature post.
Email marketing is nearly as versatile as content marketing and, therefore, an essential part of your B2B eCommerce marketing strategy. According to some findings, email marketing may even stand above any other digital marketing strategy in terms of ROI. This is the best way to offer your existing customers their personal product offerings, suggest recommendations, and run loyalty campaigns.
In connection with your B2B eCommerce website, email marketing can be used to automate communication with your buyers at every touchpoint – send welcome emails, reach out to people on their special days, remind customers about abandoned carts or products they were viewing on your website, etc. Integrating your B2B eCommerce platform with an email marketing tool can give you these and other capabilities out of the box.
Customer loyalty programs are another important element of B2B eCommerce marketing strategy. B2B buyers are naturally looking for long-term partnerships and that makes for a good start for all types of loyalty programs. Due to B2B customers’ typically ordering larger volumes compared to B2C customers, B2B loyalty programs have great lifetime value.
However, B2B loyalty programs also require a carefully planned strategy in and of itself. The B2B segment uses more personalized customer engagement strategies and unique value propositions depending on each individual client’s needs. Therefore, before approaching business customers with a loyalty program, it is necessary to assess each of your buyer’s incentives to engage in one. Some good strategies may include:
- Tier incentives – reward your repeat clients as they increase their purchasing volumes and encourage them to climb up to higher tiers
- Partnering with third parties and resellers – create loyalty programs for your resellers to build a strong distribution network, increase brand awareness, and have more customers
- Referral programs – give bonuses to customers that bring new opportunities for your business
- Here are more practical examples of B2B loyalty programs
According to Google and Boston Consulting Group, mobile drives, or influences, an average of more than 40% of revenue in leading B2B organizations; they also project that by 2020 the share of mobile traffic will take up as much as 70% of B2B search queries. There are substantial benefits that mobile apps offer to buyers and sellers, which makes them indispensable for the modern B2B eCommerce.
To stay relevant within the mobile transformation mainstream, it is important to start with mobile-friendly eCommerce technology. Test your mobile speed to see if your website is up to par with the competition and plan your further mobile eCommerce transformation, whether it’s a mobile-friendly UX on your existing website, a native mobile app, or a PWA.
See an example of how a leading US animal food supplier improved their customers buying and restocking experience via B2B mCommerce with OroCommerce.
Also known as A/B testing, split testing is a great way to optimize your website pages for conversion. While inbound marketing helps you pull more organic traffic, split testing gives you an insight into what type of page sells better. Many online sellers, such as Netflix or booking.com, are famous for running excessive split testing to understand what types of UI layouts, pictures, call-to-actions, and general information better captures their customers’ attention and leads to desirable actions.
In B2B eCommerce, split testing can be applied to qualify different product page layouts, website navigation flows, search and filtering mechanisms, checkout steps, and others. It is relatively easy to set up and give measurable benefits for your bottom line.
B2B Brand Building
Brand reputation has always played a role in shaping a buyer’s preference, and that’s more prevalent in the B2B segment where customers seek reliability and longevity as much as a compelling price. In their report on brands, McKinsey provides evidence that B2B customers consider the brand a central element of a supplier’s proposition. By their estimate, a company’s brand may constitute as much as a 20% influence on a potential buyer, which is on par with sales efforts. A more recent study from Lippincott uses the example of a tablet to illustrate that a business’ decision to purchase may be driven up by as much as 40% due to branding.
In much the same way, building a brand is vital to attract and retain customers via B2B eCommerce. The power of your company’s brand rests on the effectiveness of all of the other marketing activities, including offline marketing, building strong partnerships, attending events, and raising your presence in the industry’s media and influencer’s publications.
Some of the benefits of a strong brand for B2B eCommerce:
- Differentiates your website among the competition
- Gives room for higher margins
- Helps convert occasional customers into repeat buyers
- Gives more media coverage, PR, and SEO at less effort and cost
B2B marketplaces present great opportunities for sellers to expand their customer base, build up their omni-channel presence, and gauge demand for new products. For manufacturers, selling on B2B marketplaces can be a low-risk starting point into full-scale B2B eCommerce solution. However, you may need to do your research on top online B2B marketplaces before selecting the one that fits your business goals.
Companies experienced in B2B eCommerce can go further and launch their own B2B marketplace. This is how eCommerce companies scale up to provide their customers with greater product variety, which makes a B2B marketplace so convenient for corporate buyers. Running a B2B marketplace also opens up a variety of new revenue-generating tactics and business development opportunities, such as:
- Expanding product assortment at marginal effort and cost
- Utilizing drop shipping to further reduce operational costs
- Analyzing customer data to optimize merchandising and buying experience
- Building brand
- Cooperating with other vendors to drive more partnership opportunities
CRM and B2B eCommerce integration
Finally, a successful B2B marketing strategy should clearly address the continuous optimization of customer experience. In the dynamic e-Commerce environment, it means automating what you can as much as you can. Moreover, B2B customers require highly personalized marketing and sales approaches, which should be also kept in sync at all times.
This is where CRM and B2B eCommerce integration plays a key role in B2B marketing. CRM for eCommerce, such as an integrated OroCRM solution for OroCommerce, enables you to have 360-degree visibility into your customer data and create targeted marketing campaigns depending on each customer’s unique needs and buying habits.
What’s Next: B2B eCommerce Adoption Done Right
As you can see, B2B eCommerce adoption is not only about technology – B2B marketing is one of the key drivers of your flourishing online business. But it doesn’t stop there as well. Make sure you’ve got the big picture for more streamlined B2B eCommerce.