As you build out your B2B marketing strategy, you might wonder how much you should invest in organic search, paid media, and events.
Are you using account-based marketing (ABM)?
What about TikTok?
Search engine optimization?
… What about the other (literally) hundreds of unique marketing channels?
It can feel impossible to know which B2B marketing channels to focus on, especially with a limited budget.
Without a clear strategy, marketers get caught in a whirlpool of never-ending testing, constant “pivots,” and a marketing budget spread across too many channels.
The good news? You don’t have to do it all. Select what channels are most relevant to your target audience and invest your marketing efforts there. Use personalization in your outreach to delight prospects while still keeping your marketing metrics in check.
Direct response marketing, in particular, bypasses the slow drip of brand awareness campaigns. Form a meaningful connection with potential customers, then encourage them to take the initiative through a clear call-to-action.
Read on to learn which B2B marketing channels actually work and tips for creating an outbound strategy designed for success.
The Problem: Saturated Marketing Channels
Let’s take a stroll in your prospective client’s shoes …
It’s exhausting being a B2B decision-maker.
(Ask any VP or Director — they’ll agree!)
From the moment they brew their morning coffee, they wade through an avalanche of emails hawking everything from “lists of decision-makers” to “life-changing software” to gurus promising their exclusive tips on how to reach number one on Google rankings overnight.
Then they open their LinkedIn to find more of the same: an InMail full of lead generation gimmicks and flattery.
Need to make a quick Google search for some new software solutions? Inescapable retargeting ads will now chase them across the web.
Every ad and email promises to be the unicorn product or service they’ve been longing for — thousands of marketing teams competing for your prospect’s attention, 24/7.
Traditional marketing campaigns have become impersonal, saturated, and underperforming. B2B marketers squeeze communication channels dry at the expense of trust.
It’s a small wonder that business leaders are skeptical of the hundreds of ads they encounter every day.
And for the little time they spend on social media, newsfeed algorithms serve up repetitive — often uninspiring — ads when they just want to keep up with industry trends.
Processing this overwhelming marketing is enough to be a full-time job. Yet decision-makers must also update budgets, attend conference calls, weigh in on hiring decisions, evaluate marketing tool renewals, and deal with other work priorities.
How to Win at B2B Marketing:
Do What 99% Are Unwilling to Do
How can you cut through the noise and stand out to potential clients?
Instead of demanding that they pay attention to you, pay attention to them first!
Recognize that they exist in a world constantly battling for their attention through ads, sales pitches, and impersonal outreach. Don’t stand out by “shouting louder,” be thoughtful instead.
Business leaders are real people, not an avatar on a target audience profile. They go wine tasting, attend their kid’s soccer games on Saturday morning, and look forward to catching up on the latest Marvel movie.
Cookie-cutter marketing initiatives treat your prospects as homogenous leads rather than individuals.
Instead of spamming potential clients with dull advertising, focus on making a personal connection and providing value. Aim to be a genuinely helpful resource and build trust before pushing for a sale.
? See The Top B2B Marketing Trends for 2023 →
Top B2B Marketing Channels
- Cold Email Outreach
- Meetups & Industry Groups
- Live Events
- Social Media
- Influencer Marketing
- Case Studies
- TV & Radio
- Guerilla Marketing
- Personal Videos
- Customer Referrals
Cold Email Outreach: Be Helpful & Direct
Cold email outreach, when done correctly, can be one of your most effective B2B sales channels. Nearly 90% of B2B businesses use email as a distribution channel, and with good reason. The average email marketing ROI hovers around 30–40x for every dollar spent, per a Litmus email benchmark.
The key lies in crafting an effective outreach email that’s personal, relevant, and direct.
Here are some tips for avoiding a business leader’s Deleted folder.
Get personal: Individualized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%. And no, just auto-populating the recipient’s name or company field won’t cut it here. Aim for personal, not merely personalized. If you have a shared connection or memory with the recipient, reference it to build a sense of familiarity. Avoid “cheap” personalization tactics like mentioning a recent LinkedIn post or company award. At most, this shows the recipient you’ve done a cursory scan of their LinkedIn page.
Keep it short & sweet: Avoid lengthy intros. Write about half as much of what you’re accustomed to sending. They’ll follow up if they need or want more information.
Provide value: Offer genuinely helpful information or tips. Share an interesting idea for them to think about or a quick sample of your work. A neat infographic or quick screencast video helps here!
In short, email marketing should treat your recipient like a human — not a template. Respect their time by being direct and providing value. Recognize their individuality through thoughtful personalization.
Here’s a cold email example that deserves to be honored, courtesy of Noah Kagan:
Meetups & Industry Groups: Practical Offline Marketing
Think global and act local! In today’s surge of digital marketing channels, don’t neglect the impact of face-to-face relationship building.
Identify which industry associations and trade groups your target audience participates in. Prospective customers who interact with your brand in these spaces will associate your company with similar interests and values.
Plus, addressing any objections over coffee is quicker and more personal than a piece of content behind a lead generation form ever is. With new connections, make a lasting impression with a personal, relevant, and thoughtful business gift.
Associations, like a local Chamber of Commerce, often host networking events for business leaders. Consumers are 80% more likely [PDF] to purchase goods from them in the future. There could be a few reasons for this, but it’s probably because of the recall from brand awareness activities. Said differently, when people need help they hit up their trusted contacts first.
Association membership also increases the likelihood that other businesses will refer customers to you.
Live Events: Attend & Participate
In-person events are continuing to rebound post-pandemic. A survey by Salesforce of over 8,200 marketers suggests that 35% of events in 2022 are projected to be in person. An earlier study commissioned by Forbes reports that 85% of people build more meaningful business relationships in person rather than through a screen.
If you lack the marketing budget to sponsor an event for prospects, consider attending an event hosted by your target customer. This allows you to understand better their POV and how they can benefit from your services.
Attending their events give you a peek into their “world” and gain context from their speakers and company leaders. Learn about their company culture, priorities, and goals. A nice perk is that you’ll pick up emerging marketing trends to reference later.
Show that you’re interested in what your prospect wants to achieve, rather than just making a sale. Offer helpful insight before handing over your business card.
When you return, add new contacts to your CRM and provide personalized talking points to help your sales team follow up thoughtfully. For instance, did you provide pricing or indicate if they want to attend an upcoming product webinar?
As we move back to a world of corporate events, there’s an appetite for connecting with others in the industry. Strike up conversations with fellow attendees, and you’ll come back with quality intel and referrals.
Social Media: Become a Trusted Authority
If your ideal customer regularly uses the internet (spoiler: they do), you’ll likely find them on social media. Nearly all use social platforms for an average of 2 hours and 27 minutes per day.
But just being present on social channels isn’t enough. If your social media marketing mainly consists of just sharing your latest blog posts, it’s time to re-strategize.
Don’t rush to entice followers off-platform to your website or landing page. Instead, consider building a genuinely helpful presence on the social media platform itself. Provide value and create a profile your potential clients will look forward to engaging with.
Many marketers have become familiar with the boom of “thought leadership” social posts since 2020. The result has been an overgrowth of low-quality, regurgitated thought leadership content. The PR firm Edelman found that 4 in 10 decision-makers [PDF] encounter more thought leadership posts than they can manage, with many being redundant and of poor quality.
Done correctly, however, the ROI speaks for itself: brands successfully building persuasive authority on social media are far more likely to win business and build consumer trust.
This B2B content marketing form earns trust and authority on social media by engaging thoughtfully and building community rather than regurgitating well-worn information.
Share helpful industry stats, actionable tips for your audience, life stories, and relatable examples. Interact with loyal followers through sharing thoughtful gifts and responding to engagement.
Carve out a community in social media where your audience actually wants to be and reward them with worthwhile content.
When you have a new whitepaper, chop it up into a carousel or high-quality images, so the audience consumes it unimpeded. And plug a link to your sign-up form in the comments.
Social Media Marketing Marketing Example:
Podcasts: Share Ideas Your Target Audience Wants to Hear
Did you know 104 million Americans listen to podcasts regularly? It’s an ideal space to share value with your target audience. What better way to attract clients than by letting them hear your voice?
While video content may generate high engagement on organic social media posts, it’s not always a smart advertising strategy.
After all, when was the last time you wanted to watch a YouTube Ad instead of skipping it?
Podcasts are individual spaces of community where you can share your point of view to a captive listener audience of B2B leads. Listeners already want to hear what you have to say: they selected the episode!
If starting a podcast on your own sounds daunting, consider appearing as a guest on industry-related shows.
Doing so provides a “warm intro” to your prospective customers: you’ll be introduced to them by a podcast host they already know and trust. Listeners tend to have high positive sentiments toward podcast hosts.
A successful podcast appearance feels like a conversation between friends rather than shilling a product or service. Skip the lengthy resume recitation and get right to providing value.
Said differently, podcasting shortens your sales cycles by reaching and engaging an eminently qualified audience. The more B2B buyers trust you, the less uncertainty they have in the buying process.
Become a trusted colleague to listeners, and provide actionable takeaways, relatable stories, and helpful advice. Nearly 3 out of 4 podcast listeners report tuning in to learn new things.
In return, listeners will begin building a relationship with you and your brand.
Webinars: Share Deep Knowledge Openly
Marketing teams are familiar with the growth of webinars as a B2B marketing channel. 76% of marketers[PDF] say that webinars help them reach more leads than before.
However, if we’re being candid, interest in post-pandemic webinars has cooled down. But don’t write them off yet.
Much like podcasting, webinars are a unique space to build a relationship with a qualified audience by providing value. Don’t beeline to pitching your product or service, but instead, attentively engage with the content.
For some serious inspiration, see how our revenue leader, Nina Butler, masterfully balances teaching best practices and highlights how tactful corporate gifting fits into a broader events strategy.
? Watch Now: New Gifting Strategies To Deliver Must-Attend Virtual Events
Recognize that your audience may have specific needs and questions. Consumers consistently reported Q&A sessions as the most valuable content segment of webinars. Consider offering personal gifts or incentives for audience participation.
Record and publish your webinar right away to get even more mileage out of it. Equip your marketing and sales teams with the replay link so they can promote it in their outbound marketing activities.
Influencer Marketing: Reach Highly Engaged, Loyal Audiences
An increasing number of B2B brands are adopting influencer marketing on TikTok and other channels as a means for driving brand awareness, demand, and direct revenue.
The arrival of TikTok has upended the traditional advertising methodologies on social media. As ad costs on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms soar, TikTok influencers generate stunningly high returns.
Successful creators on platforms like TikTok are capturing massive audiences that number in the tens of millions. Because these content creators tend to appeal to niche audiences, their posts have exponentially higher engagement rates than those seen on traditional social channels. B2B brands such as Paycom are capitalizing by partnering with creators like Corporate Natalie to work branded mentions into their content.
@corporatenatalie There's no way I could survive the corporate world without having everything I could ever possibly need in one place – thanks @Paycom
This is an exciting new channel for B2B marketers to tap into — and they’d be well advised to enter the game while the costs are low and the demand for influencer content is high.
Case Studies: Reduce Risk with Credible Stories
Compelling case studies are, at heart, a form of storytelling. Be frank about sharing challenges, problem-solving processes, and how you overcame those challenges to produce impressive results.
Any company can promise superior results, but case studies bring it down to brass tacks. Include stats and reporting that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of your product or service.
A common mistake is to simply use them to bolster the capabilities of your SaaS tool. The angle should showcase the progression an individual or brand has made to accomplish their goals or solve a pain — and they chose your tool to help get there.
Case studies decrease potential customers’ fear and uncertainty throughout the B2B buyer’s journey. A collection of them serves as social validation to prove your value from a position of power.
Case studies are also a powerful way to increase your organic search presence. Consider pitching your brand as a case study for notable companies where you have experienced outstanding results. Virtually all brands will be fine linking back to support your SEO initiatives. You may offer more details and stats in exchange for participation in the case study.
Of course, be sure to send a “thank you” gift to any client who provides testimonials or data.
TV & Radio Advertising: Ramp Up Your Outreach
TV and radio aren’t a pastime yet. Far from it!
Marketing is all about meeting your target demographic where they’re at, and eight out of 10 U.S. adults tune in to radio every week. Though slowed by the adoption of streaming services, 65% still subscribe to cable or satellite.
To reach other B2B company influencers, advertise on business-themed broadcast channels like Fox Business, CNBC, NPR, or small local stations.
Radio advertising can be significantly more affordable than other marketing channels. While a 30-second ad in New York costs slightly above $1,000, an ad in Las Vegas is $100, according to Fit Small Business.
The key to success? It’s all about incentives. Radio listeners are receptive to direct response marketing. Pitch your product or service, then offer a time-restricted offer: “Call in the next 60 minutes for a complimentary $20 gift card.”
The ROI speaks for itself.
Let’s say you offer a $20 gift card to 300 respondents.
$20 x 300 people = $6,000
Assuming 30% qualified leads, we get 90 MQLs. ($67 per MQL)
90 MQLs turn into 12 sales (13% conversion rate)
Assuming a $3,000 Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA)
12 sales x $3,000 = $36,000
= 5x Return on Investment
Guerilla Marketing: Drive Brand Awareness
Marketing budget a little stretched? Need to get people talking?
Consider channeling your inner Marc Benioff from Salesforce. He leveraged guerilla marketing tactics to get their “No Software” message there as they tangled with Siebel, which was previously acquired by rival Oracle.
Show up at competitor’s events (where you know your target audience will be), and hand out free coffee, digital swag, or invites to a nearby afterparty.
You don’t have to astroturf or rent all available taxis to make a pitch, but guerilla marketing helps shape the conversation.
This tactic highlights your creativity and indicates that you’re not afraid to match your product or service against competitors. Fortune favors the bold, after all.
Personal Videos: Showcase Your Humanity
Break up the monotony of templated sales emails and create a one-on-one experience for each prospect. Video outreach gifting via email increases clicks by up to 50% and offers a unique way to connect with B2B buyers.
Study a prospect’s website or social media, then select a gift aligned with their#5to9 interests. Skip past typical corporate gifts — perhaps steer clear of a branded water bottle, coffee tumbler, or charging station. Be distinct!
Effective prospect marketing gifts should look like a gift you picked out for a friend’s birthday — one designed to delight and based on their personal interests.
Once a gift has been selected, record a personal video to send alongside it. Share two unexpected, valuable ideas with your prospect that proves your credibility and recognizes their pain points.
Customer Referrals: Leverage Loyal Customers
When it comes to conversion rates, customer referrals are king.
Customers refer leads they believe are a good fit for your brand and help make a warm introduction. Not only do referrals have strong conversion rates, but referred customers have a 16% greater LTV and 18% higher retention than non-referred segments [PDF].
Best of all? High-quality customer referrals don’t have to cost a lot.
Start by identifying satisfied customers and sending personalized thank-you gifts for their continued business — check in on their business goals and offer to help with upcoming projects.
Then make the ask. Mention that referrals are essential for growth and ask if they have any connections that they would consider introducing to you.
Don’t forget to send an additional “thanks” after a customer refers you, regardless of if the lead closed or not.
Create an Effective B2B Outbound Strategy
The best B2B marketing channels are the ones that facilitate a personal, direct connection with your audience.
Focus on quality over quantity and build genuine relationships with people who have problems that you can help solve. The answer isn’t limited to traditional or digital marketing channels but rather meeting the stakeholders who provide input and recommend solutions to the C-suite.
The most effective B2B sales channel isn’t always the one with the highest reach, lowest PPC, or strongest clickthrough rate. It’s the one with the best pull-through from your effort to acquire new customers.
Amplify your inbound marketing campaigns with a highly intentional outbound marketing strategy.
Automation is not the goal here, nor is limitless scale. Make sure you can meaningfully interact with potential customers every time through personal, relevant, and thoughtful outreach. Recognize their individual needs, interests, and goals.
Build trust first, and the clients and revenue will follow.
? Must-Read: Outbound is Broken (and Hated): Here’s How We’re Fixing it