Learn how to launch a B2B product in eight steps. Whether you're almost at launch day or still in R&D mode, you need to read this post.
How to Run a B2B Marketing Campaign That Gets Results [Updated for 2023]
One of the keys to success for business-to-business companies is knowing how to run a B2B marketing campaign. Every campaign is different, but these seven proven tips should help you turn a great idea into new clients and fresh revenue streams.
- Define Your Unique Selling Points
- Define the Marketplace
- Decide What You’re Offering
- Define the Message & Creative
- Build A Campaign Workflow
- Set Clear Goals & KPIs
- Start Your B2B Marketing Campaign, Test & Measure
Introduction: What is a B2B Marketing Campaign?
Before we dive into the steps involved in planning and running an effective B2B marketing campaign, we need to define what a campaign is … and what a campaign is not.
A B2B marketing campaign is a targeted, systematic set of efforts designed to achieve a specific goal. This could be generating awareness and buzz around a new product launch, lead generation for an existing product or service, a company rebranding, a response to major industry news or regulations, or just about anything else.
A B2B marketing campaign is not just some pretty creative, a tagline and a few print ads. If you’re not thinking of the entire buyer’s journey, from initial identification and engagement through the close, you’re doing it wrong. Creative is incredibly important to the success of a B2B marketing campaign, but it can’t be the entire show – even if you have millions of dollars to spend. A creative-only approach might work in B2C, but the dog-eat-dog world of business-to-business marketing is far beyond that.
With that definition in mind, here are step-by-step instructions on how to run a B2B marketing campaign that gets results.
Step 1: Define Your Unique Selling Points
Before you even start thinking about the audience of your B2B marketing campaign, you need to think about your own company and its unique selling points (“USPs,” for short).
- What are you hoping to promote?
- Why are you different?
- Why should anyone care?
If you can’t define your USPs – “It’s just another X, Y or Z” – you should really rethink whether you want to run a B2B marketing campaign about this product or service at all. The strategic goal of a B2B marketing campaign is to define your superiority in a compelling way and to use that message to engage the right types of prospects. If you can’t define why you’re superior, why would anyone else?
Some examples of USPs are:
- “Our software processes 1TB of data 25% faster than the competition.”
- “Our team of consultants possesses truly unique domain expertise.”
- “Our product has a useful, patented feature that none of the competition offers.”
- “The total cost of ownership of our solution is half that of the competition.”
- “Our product is plug-and-play, and the competition requires a team of consultants to deploy theirs.”
- “Our product lasts twice as long as the competition.”
- “We offer free upgrades and support for life, and the competition charges for annual maintenance.”
Come up with your best USP or two. This is going to form your campaign’s core message in Step 4. In the meantime, you need to think about your prospects.
Step 2: Define the Marketplace
The more you know about your prospects, the better you’ll be able to tailor a message to them about your USP. To run a high-return B2B marketing campaign, you’ll need to know at least:
- Is your product or service targeted at SMBs, large companies or an entire industry?
- Who in a target company can make the decision to buy, and who are the key influencers?
- What types of prospects have traditionally turned into your best customers?
- What are their pain points?
- What questions are they asking?
- What are their media consumption habits like?
The results are traditionally called buyer personas – a key piece of the B2B content marketing mix. To get the information you need to build them, you’ll want to start by talking to your team – outside sales reps are a great source of buyer persona data. Google Search Console, Google Trends and Google search itself are solid tools – they’ll tell you the types of queries people in your industry are using. Sometimes you’ll need to do some market research and actually ask potential prospects about their day-to-day challenges and business realities. The best personas typically include a mix of all three, ideally mixed with some AI input.
Only after you know your USP and you’ve defined who you’re speaking to is it time to think about the message and creative you’ll base your campaign on.
Step 3: Decide What You’re Offering
Regardless of whether you’re looking to run a B2B marketing campaign for pure lead generation, brand awareness, interest generation or any mix of goals, you want to make it easy for interested users to “convert” – that is, give you their contact information so the sales team can follow up. There are lots of ways to do this, from the extreme high commitment – “Give us you phone number and a BD rep will call you!” – to the extreme low commitment – “Give us your email address to sign up for our monthly newsletter!”
As a rule of thumb, you’ll get more conversions from lower-commitment conversion points, but they’ll be of lower quality. Conversely, fewer users will commit to speaking to a salesperson, but they’ll be marketing qualified leads right off the bat.
For most B2B marketing campaigns, the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Generate a piece of premium content – an eBook, an industry study report, a how-to guide – that’s worth “selling” for the cost of some contact information. Make sure it’s wildly useful for the user, and use your outbound efforts (like advertising and social media) to get it in front of as many prospects as possible.
Since a download of an eBook or study report isn’t necessarily buying behavior, you’ll need steps included in your campaign to nurture your new leads. We’ll cover this later.
Step 4: Define the Message & Creative
Every brand is different, every industry is different, and every potential buyer is different. What works for a B2B marketing campaign designed to sell software into the legal services industry might not – and probably will not – work for selling clinical trial management services to Tier 1 pharma companies.
Think hard about your own brand and the targets defined in Step 2. How will you craft an engaging message that fits with your own mission and values while making sure it offers what your potential buyers are looking for? How will you illustrate that message in a compelling, thought-provoking fashion?
Here are two examples of recent B2B marketing campaign creative. They’re advertising similar assets – downloadable eBooks featuring primary market research data – but they take dramatically different tacks due to the existing brands and the audience they’re going after.
In this case, the advertiser is seeking to reach pet food producers and brands in the market for private label services. These buyers are driven by keeping up with industry trends, so the asset being advertised is an “industry outlook” report featuring new consumer data derived from market research. The creative keeps with the industry, which is focused on helping consumers treat their pets like members of the family.
In our second example (from Altitude, naturally), we’re attempting to reach B2B marketers. They want data, too, but they need to know what their competitors are doing to make sure they’re on-trend (and able to sell initiatives to the C-suite). Naturally, the message is different, from the terminology used to the use of a question as the headline.
You should take a similar path when you develop creative for your B2B marketing campaign. Reflect your existing brand, and be sure to tune messaging and visuals for your chosen audience.
Step 5: Build A Campaign Workflow
You can’t know how to run a B2B marketing campaign without knowing how to build a workflow. These are fantastic visual ways to show how users will progress through your campaign, from initial engagement through final conversion. The sooner in the process you create your workflow, the sooner you’ll be able to start creating the assets – landing pages, digital ads, etc. – that you’ll need to make your campaign a reality.
Here’s an example, built using LucidChart. (Visio is an option, too, if you prefer Microsoft.) This campaign used display ads as the primary method of getting the creative in front of prospects, backed up by retargeting advertisements. You can use any number of tools to reach prospects, from Google-based digital advertising and demand side platforms to sponsorships and print advertising. You’re only limited by your prospect’s behavior – if they’re not on Twitter, don’t advertise on Twitter – your budget and your imagination.
It doesn’t all have to be digital, either! B2B marketers are seeing increasing success with direct mail, if the budget supports the effort. Sending a prospect something really cool – a great poster, a useful sample product, a hard copy of a book or report – is a great way to catch their attention, since direct mail is so rarely used these days.
Step 6: Set Clear Goals & KPIs
What are you trying to accomplish with this campaign? How will you measure success? Where are potential failure points? You can’t figure out how to run a B2B marketing campaign without answering these questions ahead of time.
Make sure your goals are SMART. That is:
In other words, “get more leads” is not an acceptable goal of a B2B marketing campaign. “Make verified contacts with 10 of the top 25 companies in our target industry,” “generate 500 eBook downloads, of which 50 are sales qualified,” and “close $100,000 in attributable deals within six months” are acceptable goals.
Don’t forget to think about how you’ll track your progress toward your goals. An enterprise marketing automation platform or CRM is a great place to store and refer to your campaign data, but you’ll do best if you build a custom dashboard to track KPIs. (You can find instructions on building a marketing dashboard in Google Data Studio here.)
Step 7: Start Your B2B Marketing Campaign, Test & Measure
Most B2B marketing campaigns don’t start with a huge event or a party. They simply … go live. Ads start running, emails start going out and teams start executing on the campaign workflow plan. Looks like your work is done!
You can’t start a B2B marketing campaign and assume you’re in “set it and forget it” mode. You need to constantly test and optimize to ensure you meet your SMART goals. Is a landing page not performing? A/B test in a variant. Nobody clicking on an ad? Remove it and try something else. Email not getting opened? Change your subject line or “from” address. There are a ton of variants in play when you run a B2B marketing campaign – and your success is only as strong as your weakest link. Keep an eye on things, and remember that hiccups aren’t failures – they’re opportunities for optimization.
We hope this post has been helpful in terms of how to run a B2B marketing campaign. If you follow the seven steps here, we can’t guarantee success … but we can promise you’ll be a whole lot better off than a marketer who assumes that “running a campaign” means a pretty print ad and a tagline.
Need a hand with your B2B marketing campaign? That’s literally what we do. We’d love to chat about your needs, give you some advice and help you turn your marketing efforts into revenue. Contact us online, or call 610-421-8601 x122 to get the ball rolling. If you want examples, you can see our work here.