B2B Digital Marketing: Planning Tips & Techniques

I spend a lot of time talking with executives at business-to-business (B2B) companies about digital marketing — assessing the competitive lanscape, evaluating options, and defining strategies. Digital marketing is appealing to B2B companies — especially the small- and medium-sized (SMB) sector — for many reasons, but it’s especially attractive because of its accessibility, targeting ability, and track-ability. 

Until recently, meaningful marketing and promotion activities were often cost-prohibitive to many B2B companies; advertising via television, radio, print and event channels requires a significant upfront cost, and not much opportunity to make adjustments on-the-fly. Digital marketing is quite the opposite. When done properly, a B2B website can be an organization’s most effective salesperson — an asset that works 24/7/365, around the globe. 

Yet while digital marketing is accessible to the masses, the internet is a noisy environment, and so programs can quickly get complicated. Successful digital marketing initiatives are therefore comprised of a variety of moving parts and need constant tuning to realize optimization. The following tips and techniques are intended to serve as a user-friendly checklist for managers who are launching, managing or auditing their B2B digital marketing strategies.

B2B Digital Marketing Planning Checklist








Calculate   cost-per-acquistion and cost-per-lead

Create   digital marketing cost model to measure against offline activities


Cover   the basics

Standardize   email signatures, LinkedIn profiles, and clean up website


Analyze   the competition

Understand   their tactics and spending levels


Prioritize   tactics

Doing   a few things well is a superior strategy to doing many things average


Conduct   keyword research

Find   out what people are searching for


Measure,   analyze, adjust, repeat

Capture   data and behavior, review it regularly, and use to inform future activities

Develop CPA and CPL Metrics

Establishing quantifiable cost metrics for cost-per-acquistion and  cost-per-lead activities helps to remove digital marketing biases from  the conversation, and directs it towards a performance-based discussion,  which will be used to guide online marketing budget setting.

Add up dollars spent on sales and marketing staff, marketing tactics  (advertising, conferences, etc.) and divide by number of new customers  and qualified leads for a defined period (say, the previous 12 months). Warning: CPA and CPL metrics for B2B companies can  often be in the 5- and 6-figure categories, and may result in sticker  shock; but it can help to put a $50,000 website overhaul project or $10,000/month pay-per-click program into perspective.

Cover The Basics

Ensure the organization is optimizing its use of assets and tools that may  already be in place. Standardize email signatures to promote the  website, blogs, and Twitter accounts. Ditto for LinkedIn — make sure to  include links to the website, blogs, and skills and expertise that will promote employees in appropriate areas. Conduct a  digital marketing and website audit to identify opportunities for quick  hits; it’s not a painful as it sounds — use this checklist to guide the exercise.

Analyze The Competition

Another appealing element of digital marketing is the relative  transparency of competitor strategies (on websites, search, social,  email, and display advertising), which can be identified through  research with a high degree of accuracy and confidence. If a direct  competitor is outspending you by 200%-1000% on digital advertising, strategies  will need to be adjusted accordingly, as will expectations among top executives. Then take a page  from Wee Willy Keeler’s playbook, and “hit ‘em where they ain’t”. Savvy  marketers have been steadily redirecting dollars to the internet over  the past decade, and are often able to dominate the digital channel as a  result. But with so many tactics at a marketer’s disposal, there are almost always  fertile areas available, if you look hard enough.

Prioritize Tactics

With B2B digital marketing, it’s preferable to follow the “inch wide,  mile deep” principle. An 80% solution for most B2B companies includes a corporate  website, search marketing, LinkedIn, and content marketing. If you don’t  have the resources to cover them effectively, disregard Facebook,  Google+, Pinterest, and others. Know that blogging and content marketing  are easy to do badly and can have a negative impact if done poorly —  put blogging on the shelf if you don’t have budget for skilled writers  to produce regular content with a unique and valuable point-of-view. For  many small- and mid-sized B2B companies, a high-performing  pay-per-click program can yield great results.

Conduct Keyword Research

With all the rage surrounding social media these days, it’s easy to  overlook the most compelling piece of the digital marketing puzzle:  search marketing. Indeed, some pundits argue that search marketing is  the only form of marketing that really matters. It’s an extreme view,  but one that has merits — in the same way that “change your oil every  5,000 miles” and “drinks lots of water” are standbys for auto  maintenance and personal health care. If you can’t do any other kind of  marketing, do search marketing, and start by conducting keyword  research. Find out what terms are being searched for and how frequently,  and organize a program around those findings to get in front of  prospects; no other marketing tactic offers a similar level of  specificity as search marketing.

Measure, Analyze, Adjust & Repeat

A core appeal of digital marketing is its tracking ability, so set up  the necessary programs — such as the freely available Google Analytics  — to monitor activity, and get familiar with the data and how to  interpret it. The internet is chock full of noise, so determining the  worthy versus worthless activity in your digital ecosystem will take  some time, as will everything else, including website structure, landing  page effectiveness, conversion tracking, and ultimate impact (likely  measured in CPA or CPL terms).

The Digital Marketing Game is Heating Up in B2B

Digital marketing has changed the rules of business development in  the B2B space. Given that personal relationships play such an important  role in many B2B sales situations— which are characterized by longer  sales cycles and fewer impulse purchases — it makes sense that digital  marketing has seeped into the B2B space at a less furious pace than it  did in B2C. While dominant global brands like Coca-Cola and Procter  & Gamble consider marketing as a core competency and  aggressively work new techniques into their marketing programs, B2B  companies play by a different set of rules.

But B2B companies are starting to figure out the digital marketing  game. Indeed, in sectors such as technology, established companies don’t have much  of a choice, as upstart firms typically rely on sophisticated digital marketing strategy as a cornerstone of their success. It’s these upstarts, often venture-backed with ample resources, that are serving as the catalyst for change, and will ensure steady - if not rapid - evolution maintains its grip on the B2B marketing landscape for years to come. 



Using An Audit to Inform Digital Strategy

Digital Strategy & Planning: Defining The Interactive Vision

Digital Strategy: In Search of the Optimal Digital Marketing Investment Mix

For   more information on how to devise a corporate digital strategy,  conduct  a digital marketing audit, pursue a digital transformation, and  create a  powerful digital infrastructure for your organization,  contact Tim  Bourgeois at East Coast Catalyst at 617-314-6400 or   tbourgeois(a)eastcoastcatalyst.com. For more background information on   ECC’s digital strategy audit, see
The Digital Marketing Audit by East Coast Catalyst.