Before I get all the way into this thing, there is one Band-Aid I have to rip off right away. There is no, I repeat, NO one-size-fits-all approach to an effective B2B marketing strategy.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t give you a checklist of the things to do every day that will guarantee you marketing mastery. Anyone who says they can is lying to you.
Now having said that, there are some universal tenets of a great B2B marketing strategy that every marketer worth their weight in MRR should know. I’ve outlined here some of the most important insights I’ve learned in my tenure as a marketer/brand builder, as well as examples of these insights in actions.
Remember: none of these tips require a massive budget, or any extraordinary abilities. Just a willingness to experiment, take risks, and learn. Let’s go:
1. Your marketing strategy is just that…YOUR marketing strategy
The truth of the matter is that your marketing strategy has to be unique to you and your business. This means fully understanding:
- Your overall company marketing goals – revenue, MQA’s, ops, etc. Whatever metrics are important to YOU
- Your competition – where do you stand in your market?
- Your team – what are you actually capable of executing on?
- The money situation – just how scrappy do you need to be?
It makes sense right? Trying to compare your strategy to that of a company with a vastly different set of circumstances than your own is apples to oranges.
For instance, let’s say a LI influencer at a massive, VC-backed company says to invest a lot of your marketing spend into sponsored webinars because his company just generated 752 new MQA’s from a one-hour session. It’s a lot easier for him to cut that $15,000 check than someone at a 10-person startup just trying to keep the lights on. Focus on your business when crafting a marketing campaign/strategy, no one else’s.
Takeaway: Just because a strategy works for one business doesn’t mean it’s the right strategy for yours.
2. Copy is king
Copywriting is the #1 skill in marketing. I don’t care how great your product is, how many people you have on your team, or how much money you have to play with. If you can’t communicate clearly and sell through words, then you may as well stop reading right here.
Luckily you do not need to be a good copywriter or even enjoy copywriting to do it well. I’ve put together 10 simple copy rules that can help anyone write great marketing copy. Just for the sake of your time (and mine), I won’t get into all of them right now, but here’s a few that you can apply to your marketing copy today:
Write like you talk
You’ll notice that I’m not peppering you with ten-dollar-words. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. I’m a pretty casual guy (I own a LOT of hoodies), so I write casually. This style is effective for 2 main reasons:
- It’s much more human
Talking like a real person instead of some weird sales robot is a much more effective way of capturing a prospect’s attention.
- It takes the pressure off of you as a marketer
Copywriting becomes much easier when you don’t have to try so hard to play this marketing character. Writing the way you talk means being yourself which is not only more authentic, but much easier to execute on a consistent basis.
Here’s an example from my LinkedIn:
Casual copywriting doesn’t mean I’m just shooting the shit about nothing. I’m still giving a lesson, providing value, etc. I’m just saying it like a real person.
Keep copy short and choppy
This sentence is easy to read.
So is this one.
Copy is a lot more digestible when you break it up like this.
On the flip side, if I were to write some long, run-on sentence that morphs into a long run-on paragraph filled with a bunch of buzzwords that don’t really tell you anything but just look and sound good because I want you to think that I spent hours laboring over this eloquent marketing content, when in reality I could have said the exact same message in a few short lines and actually captured your full attention, then you would probably be less inclined to read it.
See what I mean? That was exhausting to write…I can’t imagine how you felt reading it.
Sweat the headline
It all ties back to the human psyche, right? Our attention spans are super low these days. And whether we admit it or not, we all just read the headlines. Any frequent Twitter users know what I’m talking about.
Furthermore, when you consider the sheer amount of content your prospective buyers are bombarded with on a daily basis, it makes sense to take some extra time to make sure your headline cuts through all that noise.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re looking to attend a webinar to learn about running virtual events. And given the last year, you have your pick of the litter when it comes to that topic. So you’re browsing around online and you see two webinars from two different companies. Here are their headlines:
Company A: Our ultimate guide to running virtual events
Company B: How we created a 6,542 person virtual event from scratch in just 6 weeks
You’re going to give your time to Company B, right? They took the time to craft a headline so specific that it not only stands out in a crowd, but provides credibility right up front. You don’t know that company A has any specialized knowledge of running virtual events. Anyone can create a guide and pitch it as the end all, be all of that topic. Company B is successful here because they’re showing you that what they did worked. They actually ran the event and had major success with it. Automatically, you’re more inclined to trust them. This lesson applies to your email marketing, your blog posts, and your social headlines.
Back everything up with social proof
One of the best things about the B2B marketing community is that we all LOVE to share our great product/brand experiences online. Follow enough B2B marketing folks and you’re bound to see them gassing up a colleague, contemporary, or company. And when you’re the brand that is getting all the social hype, USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
If someone writes a glowing Tweet or LI post about their experience with your product/service, don’t just like it and move on. Screenshot that thing and send it to everyone as proof of how awesome you are.
Check this out:
If you don’t think that I’m blasting that Tweet out to my followers to get them excited about joining DGMG, you’re crazy. You can promote yourself all you want. It will never carry the same weight as the words of your customers.
Takeaway: Copywriting is not a piece of your marketing strategy. It IS your marketing strategy.
*For more, check out my copywriting cheat sheet
3. End the Marketing vs Sales Turf War
No matter how much you actually buy into the whole marketing vs sales rivalry, we can all agree that there’s at least some friction there. But there really shouldn’t be. Every company on earth has one overarching goal: revenue. And there are basically two main ways to reach that goal:
Groundbreaking concepts, I know. Stick with me.
The real conflict that marketing and sales run into is that most of the time, neither team has a clear sense of their overall contribution to that big revenue number. So no one is sure who’s accountable for what, there’s no definitive attribution system, and before you know it, the quarter is over, you haven’t even sniffed your revenue target, and everyone is pointing fingers across the office (or into their webcams now I guess).
It doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s up to your marketing & sales leaders to set clearly defined contributions towards revenue and then work with their respective teams to achieve those goals. Let me give you an example: I had my guy Tom Wentworth (CMO, Recorded Future) on the podcast (here’s the full ep btw) recently and Tom told me that his marketing team is responsible for 50% of ARR each year. So there is absolutely no ambiguity. Marketing owns 50% of that number, guess who owns the other 50%? It’s that easy. Now actually achieving that number is a whole different story, but at least this way you start with a clear understanding of where the finish line is.
Beyond that, it presents an opportunity for sales & marketing to cross the aisle and work together towards that common goal. You can go into every meeting as a marketing leader and say to the CFO, CEO, whatever C-O combo you want, that “we have a goal of 50%, here’s where we are, sales, what can you do to help? What’s been working for you?”
So now when there does need to be a handoff between sales and marketing, the rapport is there, there’s no confusion about who owns what, and everyone understands that they’re working towards the same goal.
Takeaway: Focus on delivering your contribution. Get verbal buy-in from your stakeholders on who owns what. Work with sales to achieve a shared revenue objective.
4. Find underpriced attention
This is all about recognizing underutilized channels where you can win against your competitors. And like everything else related to your marketing efforts, it has to be unique to your situation.
What’s the big channel that no one in your industry seems to be using to market to their prospects? An email campaign, as useful as it is, isn’t really going to help you stand out from the pack in B2B marketing. But are any of your direct competitors really taking advantage of video? Should you run more webinars? Improve your social media marketing strategy? What types of content are needed in your market? Or are there any specific pieces of content you can create that would serve your prospective buyer and their needs? These are the questions you need to be thinking about.
Let me give you an example. When I got to Privy in January of 2020, I knew right away that we needed to start a podcast. Why? Because no one else in the ecommerce space had really explored that channel, despite its obvious popularity. And just like that, The Ecommerce Marketing Show was born. Now over a year old and hosted by our CEO Ben Jabbawy, the podcast has helped to establish us as the one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to grow their ecommerce business, and made us the default thought leaders in our space.
Takeaway: Find the most effective channel for lead generation, capture the underserved audience, and win in your space.
5. Be authentic and entertaining
It doesn’t matter what profession you’re in, to be successful, you need to be authentic.
This applies most of all to your content marketing strategy. This is the classic example I always offer up:
I was out to dinner a few years back at a restaurant I had never been to before and the menu was MASSIVE. Think Cheesecake Factory but bougier. Anyways, the waiter comes over and I ask him what he recommends between a fish and a chicken dish (no I wasn’t RSVP-ing to a wedding). He tells me, “Definitely the fish. The chicken is a new dish the chef is working on and it’s not quite there yet.” Boom, I’m sold. Fish it is.
Now had he said, “Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either, everything on the menu is equally great,” then he’s lost me. Because I’m not buying that every dish is 100% perfect and this restaurant can do no wrong. By honestly critiquing a dish, he immediately earned my trust. So when I go to order a bottle of wine and the waiter tells me, “I know this red is a little more expensive, but I promise you it’s well worth the extra $20,” I’m not going to think twice. He has successfully upsold me just by being authentic and honest.
Now let’s apply this example to B2B marketing. Here’s a real email that I used when I was at Drift:
There’s no buzzwords or corporate lines in there. Right off the bat, I’m like the waiter — I establish trust. I acknowledge the fact that it’s an automated email, rather than using tokens and pretending I wrote it just for them.
It doesn’t come across phony and fake. It’s not a corporate email from a big company. It’s an informal message from Dave, the guy who heads up the marketing efforts at Drift.
And since I established trust early on in the email, my potential customer will believe me when I say that I won’t reach out to them unless I genuinely have something useful to share. So the next time they see an email from Dave, they’ll click it because they know it will be real.
WAY too many B2B marketers try to be overly serious with their content marketing strategy. Yes, you should obviously be taking your work and business seriously, but not everything you create needs to be so buttoned up that it’s a turn off.
And no, this doesn’t mean you need to polish up your tight 15 for the Comedy Store. On the contrary, I believe the best form of entertainment in B2B marketing is educational content. All content marketing whether it’s an email, blog post, podcast, etc, should be aimed at helping people get smarter and better. But the great marketers are the ones who package these lessons as entertainment – in my experience that usually ends up taking the form of a video, podcast, or social. For example, at Drift I used to do a video series called Coffee with a CMO. As the name implies, I would meet up with a CMO, usually from the Boston tech scene, grab some coffee and shoot the breeze about all things marketing. Now a Q&A with a marketing leader is nothing special. What made it stand out is the way we shot and edited the video to make it fun and engaging. It wasn’t two businessmen sitting down to discuss strategies. It was two old friends having coffee and talking about what’s worked for them in their careers. Check out my very first Coffee with a CMO with Joe Chernov, formerly at InsightSquared, now at Pendo.io to see what I’m talking about.
Takeaway: Be real and provide value at all times.
6. Know your buyers/ideal customers
I don’t have to tell you that no one wants to be sold to. This goes back to what I was just saying about being real and authentic. Buyers are more skeptical than ever nowadays. Take me, for example. I LOVE marketing, but I HATE being marketed to. And believe me, I am not alone on this.
So how do you effectively reach your target buyer persona?
Well you have to know exactly who your ideal customers are, what their customer journey looks like, and how to appeal to them. You can’t send out a spray and pray email marketing campaign to 50,000 marketers, salespeople, and biz ops folks of all different ranks and titles and expect to see any real ROI from it. Why? Because you can’t be everything to everyone. Someone who has no impact on the purchasing decision has no use for a sales email. CEO Sally and Account Exec Eddie don’t have the same focus, goals, needs, anything.
But if you were to send an email to just CEO Sally, specifically addressing her needs as an executive leader who’s looking to better position her company among her competition in the new year, you’ll have a better shot at selling your solution.
Takeaway: Define your target audience and adjust your messaging accordingly.
7. Work backwards
Don’t overthink your marketing strategy. This is something I struggled with when I started DGMG. I kept asking myself what this thing would look like, what type of content I would focus on, what my ideal customer profile and target audience was, etc. And I kept jumping between concepts, styles, formats until finally, it hit me…just work backwards.
Understand what your mission is and shape your strategy to reflect that mission. It really is that simple. Here’s my mission, summarized on the DGMG site:
“Dave Gerhardt is creating DGMG: Because no one goes to school for B2B marketing.”
One sentence. No marketing decks, no one pagers, nothing. Just the simple premise that no one goes to school for B2B marketing so I’m going to create content that fills that need.
Takeaway: Figure out what your mission is and work backwards to fulfill that mission
Remember what I said at the beginning of this guide: there’s no silver bullet to crafting a great B2B marketing strategy.
Use this guide as a…well…guide.
Take these lessons and apply them to your business, your goals, and your unique situation. Nail down the basics (great copy, your mission, your competitive landscape, etc) and the rest of your strategy will form around that foundation.