Visit Us

Marketing, PR

B2B Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business

Post updated on February 13, 2018.

As a small business owner, it’s is easy to have a one-track mind when it comes to marketing. Marketing attracts customers, and customers are the ones who grow your business. So, all marketing should be directed toward customers, right? Well, the answer to that question is both yes and no.

Not all marketing is created equal nor does it work for the same customers. One of the biggest divisions in marketing strategies and demographics occur when you determine whether you are going to target the everyday consumer (business-to-consumer marketing or B2C) or other businesses (business-to-business marketing or B2B). Yes, other businesses are your customers and you are theirs, but the marketing that is geared toward other businesses shouldn’t and can’t be the same as your B2C marketing.

To really understand how to use B2B marketing for your small business, you have to understand what this type of marketing really is. By definition, it is marketing to commercial businesses, governments and institutions. This includes selling products or services to other companies or organizations that resell them, use them in their products or services, or use them to support their operations.

As a simple example, imagine that you own a company that makes and sells thread. One market would be everyday consumers who buy thread in a craft, sewing or specialty store. That is your B2C market. But you also want to market to those companies that could use your thread in their products. Perhaps a company that makes sheets, shirts or even a dry cleaning business. That is your B2B market.

When you see the difference in your markets, it becomes clearer that there is a substantial difference between marketing to a business and marketing to a consumer. Although you are still selling a product to a person, experience shows that the difference between these two types of markets runs deep. They may both be looking for thread, but both aren’t looking for the same things from your business.

When you market to businesses, you will realize quickly that they work hard to streamline the buying process in order to save time and money. As a business owner, you should be able to relate to that. Time is money. This often explains why a B2B purchase is based more on logic and why a consumer’s purchase is based more on emotion.

You may have heard that this type of marketing is expensive. Don’t let that scare you off. While it is true that the cost of a sale for the B2B market is more expensive and typically higher than the B2C market, the payoff is almost always larger as well.

Let’s go back to our example of thread. You will definitely make a larger profit and sell more thread to a business that uses thread in one of their products than to Sally Homemaker who needs to sew a Halloween costume.

B2B marketing strategies: Go big or start small?

Now that you have a better understanding of this type of marketing, the next question is how do you do it? How do you effectively use B2B marketing for your small business?

Completing a B2B transaction for a large corporation may be no big deal. Large corporations do it every day. These big businesses can market their strengths easily and quickly. In many cases, they have a budget and people set aside specifically for these activities. So, how can a small business like yours compete? Could it have the same success?

When developing your marketing plan for selling to other businesses, you need to consider who you are marketing to. This is really no different than B2C marketing. However, when trying to get the attention of businesses, there are some characteristics of businesses to consider.

For starters, the sales cycle is longer. Most businesses have a chain of command in place. The original person who may have noticed your marketing is unfortunately not likely to be the one making the purchasing decision. Your marketing efforts may need to reach up the ladder two, three, maybe four more levels before a final decision is made. Each new person who views the marketing will have a new set of questions. If you have not already predicted and answered these questions, the business will move on.

One way to get around the long lead time is to focus on selling to other small businesses. They will typically “travel in the same circles” and have many things in common with your business. Using your connections and similar situations may help you make that sale.

When marketing to small businesses, you will need to focus more on an emotional connection than details. It is quite likely that your B2B marketing will be seen directly by the small business owner or someone closely in contact with him or her. This makes the decision of working or not working with you more of an individual one. And since you are dealing with the individual, your marketing can play on impulse. Much like a typical consumer, a small business owner may make quick decisions without needing the extra information. He will only be looking at a few specific factors rather than the whole picture.

With time and experience, you can take what you learn from small business experience and begin to market to larger companies. Be aware that larger companies will expect a larger marketing package. You will be competing with the “big guns.” With a business in place to do or provide just about every product or service imaginable, the business world is extremely competitive. It’s important for your business to know and understand where its place is for marketing to other businesses. By aiming for sales from other businesses either too big or too small, the business will fail. Aiming too big will lead to few sales and your business will drown from lack of revenue. Aiming too small will keep you going for a while but your business will never grow into more.

Small business B2B marketing: where to focus

Marketing has grown incredibly large and diverse. There are countless different ways to reach your audience. As a small business owner, you are usually limited by your budget, personnel, and time. Yet there are a few marketing areas that have proven to be the most effective areas to focus on for B2B marketing.

In Person

Yes, even with everything online and technology accessible, doing things in person is still one of the most effective marketing methods, especially for a small business. In-person events, which can include everything from seminars, lunch and learns and networking events, are consistently rated as one of the most effective B2B marketing strategies. B2B marketing for small business is all about building relationships, and in-person events provide you with the opportunity to build a relationship with a person, not their computer. With B2B marketing being largely a relationship-driven sales model, in-person events should be included in your yearly budget, and the proper resources should be allocated for planning, promoting and producing all of your in-person events.

If your audience spans beyond a 100-mile radius or crosses U.S. borders, webinars are a cost-effective alternative and a powerful way to attract prospects and showcase your company’s industry knowledge and subject matter expertise. While they are not in person per se, seeing you on screen is pretty close. If your company has never produced webinars or if you have dabbled with webinars in the past, consider budgeting for and creating an educational webinar series.

Website

You obviously know that you should have a website. In fact, you probably have one, but when is the last time you updated it or posted something new? Your website is the face of your business for many people. Do you really think they will come back time and time again to just see the same thing? Your website needs to be a living, breathing, active marketing machine and the absolute center of your online marketing program. If you had no other marketing, your website could potentially do it all.

Don’t run your business and have a “launch it and forget it” attitude about your website because your customers will do the same. There is always room for ongoing improvements, additions and current information. If your website hasn’t been refreshed in a few years, you might want to consider budgeting for a website redesign. Web design has changed so much in the past few years that your website may not do what you want it to and what your customers expect it to do! But even if you’ve recently redesigned your website or don’t feel you need to go through a complete overhaul, your marketing budget should include an allocation for additional functionality, features and especially ongoing content updates. The bottom line is that you should put both time and money into your marketing budget every year to make ongoing improvements and enhancements to your website. Your customers expect it.

Social Media

Social media today can be used for more than just reconnecting with your high school love or college roommate. It’s likely that you are using various social media outlets for yourself but haven’t put much thought into how to best use them for your business. Social media for B2B companies has become a valuable source of website traffic, brand awareness and lead generation. Almost half of all small businesses that use social media have acquired a customer through their social media marketing efforts, and the other half might not be doing it correctly. While social media channels are free to use, the reality is that an effective social media marketing program requires a great deal of time, commitment and money. But it’s money well spent. Just take a few minutes to check if your competitors are using social media.

So many small businesses have gotten caught up in trying to determine the return on investment of social media marketing, but if your competitors are already using it, it might be wiser to ask, “What would be the cost of not having an aggressive social media strategy?” If you are looking for a place to put your marketing dollars, be sure you commit the proper resources and budget to your social media marketing program.

Obviously, every small business will have their own unique marketing initiatives that make up their budgets. And there are an unlimited number of marketing tactics and initiatives that B2B companies can invest in, but it’s so important to do what will really have the most impact. If you are just starting out in small business B2B marketing, make sure that you meet potential customers in person, adjust your website so that it is alive and participate on social media. As your business grows, you can turn to funding to help your company take advantage of larger marketing projects. Getting the word out and using your connections will help you ensure that your marketing efforts will pay off.

Want to learn more about the Kabbage process? Check out these helpful links:

email

Kabbage Team

The Kabbage Team is here to not only fund the small business loans you need, but to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.

Latest posts by Kabbage Team (see all)