For B2B businesses, relying on just a single marketing channel is simply no longer sufficient.
With constantly changing customer conduct and rapid developments of digital technologies, B2B businesses must actively improve their marketing strategies to keep up with their competitors.
One of the best approaches a B2B company can take to tackle this challenge is to adopt a adopt multi-channel marketing approach, By integrating both traditional and digital marketing channels into multiple touch points, they can more effectively reach and engage their target audience.
In this article, we will explore various available channels and approaches to B2B marketing and the benefits of integrating the different approaches into a comprehensive, multi-channel marketing strategy.
This guide will cover the following:
- Benefits and challenges of implementing multi-channel marketing in B2B businesses
- Traditional B2B marketing channels
- Digital B2B marketing channels
- Setting up a robust content plan for multiple channels to ensure a seamless cross-platform experience
- Mapping out the customer journey and user experience across multiple channels
- Measuring and optimizing results
The goal of this article is to provide insights and helpful information for B2B marketers in order to develop an effective marketing plan. By the end of this guide, you’d have learned about how multi-channel marketing can improve your B2B company’s marketing results and help you more effectively achieve your business objectives.
Multi-Channel Marketing for B2B Companies: The Concept
In this section, we will define what multi-channel marketing means and explore its importance for B2B firms. We will also explore the benefits and challenges of combining traditional and digital channels and discuss how B2B companies can successfully implement the complex multi-channel strategy.
Definition of Multi-Channel Marketing
Multi-channel marketing, simply put, refers to using multiple marketing channels and tactics in a comprehensive way to reach and engage the target audience across multiple touchpoints.
In a multi-channel marketing approach, a business integrates both traditional channels, such as print advertising, offline events/trade shows, and PRs; with digital channels, such as email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO, in a single, cohesive, and seamless strategy.
The goal is to provide a seamless and consistent user experience and brand message across all these different channels, which will:
- Provide options and flexibility to these target audiences so they can choose to interact with the business at their own convenience.
- Allow the B2B company to reach its target audience more effectively wherever they are, both in online and offline channels.
- Facilitate stronger relationships by offering relevant and valuable content throughout the whole buyer’s journey.
- Provide businesses with the ability to track marketing performance and customer behavior across multiple channels in real-time.
Why You Need Both Traditional and Digital Approaches
In this digital age, when seemingly everyone is active on social media and spends most of their days online, are traditional marketing channels still relevant?
Shouldn’t we invest more of our time and resources in digital marketing instead? After all, digital marketing channels have been proven to be increasingly effective in recent years.
Admittedly, with the hype and trends surrounding digital marketing, it’s easy to fall into this type of mindset. However, despite all the benefits offered by digital marketing channels, doesn’t mean traditional channels like printed ads or direct mail don’t have their weight.
For example, direct mail can provide a more personalized touch and can more effectively reach specific types of demographics, which can help establish brand recognition that may result in more conversions.
Both traditional and digital channels have their own benefits and disadvantages, and both can play important roles in a B2B marketing strategy. In this table below, you can see the unique benefits and disadvantages offered by traditional and digital channels:
|Pros||Wide reach through mass media (TV, radio, print)||Targeted reach through various online platforms|
|Tangible materials (brochures, billboards, etc.)||Interactive content (videos, quizzes, games, etc.)|
|Establishes brand authority and trust||Real-time tracking and analytics for optimization|
|Offers a personal touch with face-to-face meetings||Lower cost and greater flexibility|
|Cons||Limited targeting and personalization options||Overwhelming amount of content and competition|
|Difficult to measure ROI and track effectiveness||Lack of tangibility and physical presence|
|Can be costly and time-consuming||Dependence on technology and internet connectivity|
|Slow response time to market changes||Privacy and security concerns may impact trust|
As you can see, the benefits offered by the traditional channels shouldn’t be overlooked.
Integrating digital and traditional channels in a comprehensive multi-channel approach would allow B2B companies to leverage the strengths of both channels and achieve the following benefits:
- Amplified reach: integrating both traditional and digital channels allow B2B companies to amplify their reach to a wider audience, improving their brand visibility in the process.
- Improved targeting: traditional methods such as hosting events (i.e., trade shows) or sending direct mail can be much more effective at engaging specific target audiences. On the other hand, digital channels like social media, online retargeting ads, or email marketing would allow much more precise targeting. Combining both advantages can provide so many benefits for the B2B business in targeting potential customers.
- Enhanced engagement: different marketing channels offer distinct ways to engage with customers, some are more engaging to specific types of customers than others. Utilizing a wide variety of channels allows B2B companies to cultivate stronger relationships and encourage loyalty.
- More holistic customer insights: by combining data from both digital and traditional marketing channels, B2B companies can gain a more comprehensive view of the customer’s behaviors, pain points, and preferences.
Potential Challenges in Implementing Multi-Channel B2B Marketing
Despite the various benefits multi-channel marketing approach, there are also challenges to consider when attempting to integrate traditional and digital channels. Overcoming these challenges will be the key to achieving success:
- Resource allocation: managing multiple channels is naturally difficult and will require more resources. Without careful planning, one channel or another may not get the required resources, time, and attention it needs. When one channel is not performing well due to inadequate resource allocation, it can affect the whole multi-channel strategy’s performance.
- Brand consistency: ensuring consistency in brand messaging across all marketing channels can be difficult. On the other hand, inconsistent brand image and messaging may sacrifice the cohesiveness of the marketing strategy and lead to confusion among customers.
- Measuring ROI of each channel: measuring the effectiveness of each channel, as well as the whole multi-channel marketing campaign, can be difficult in practice. You’ll need to keep track of and analyze data from multiple sources, which can often prove to be a very complex undertaking.
- Target audience fragmentation: the fact that you can amplify your reach by using multiple channels can be a double-edged sword. The more channels you use, the more challenging it will be to identify and reach the target audience of each channel accurately.
- Technical expertise: each marketing channel may have a steep learning curve, and integrating the different channels will also require technical expertise. This technical know-how and required experience may not be readily available within the B2B company’s current workforce.
- Integration with sales: without close alignment between marketing and sales teams, it can be very challenging to properly nurture leads collected from multiple channels until they are ready to convert into actual customers.
- Adapting new technologies: there are rapid developments of technologies for both traditional and digital marketing channels, and B2B companies are required to be adaptable and agile to keep up with these changes.
To overcome these challenges, it’s critical for B2B companies to develop a clear and comprehensive multi-channel marketing plan that considers:
- The target audience (and potentially different target audiences for each channel)
- The strengths and weaknesses of each channel
- How to measure the effectiveness of each channel
In the next sections, we will explore these.
Understanding The Target Audience
To effectively plan and execute a multi-channel marketing strategy, B2B companies must first identify and understand their target audience.
It’s important to remember that for B2B companies, the target audience is other businesses rather than direct consumers. Also, each target company may have multiple stakeholders and decision-makers involved in the purchasing process.
This means the B2B company may need to consider each of these different roles as a unique target audience, each with its own needs, goals, and preferences.
To properly identify and understand their target audience, B2B companies can use various market/customer research methods, including the following:
- Surveys: B2B companies with an existing customer base can conduct online or offline surveys to collect data on this customer’s needs, behavior, goals, and preferences. You can use tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to easily conduct online surveys, and you can ask questions that cover a range of topics, from customer satisfaction to pain points to feedback for your product/service.
- Interviews: interviews with customers, prospects, or even random persons that fit your audience profile can provide more in-depth and valuable insights into their purchase decision-making process and pain points. You can conduct the interviews in person, over the phone, or even online (i.e., with tools like Zoom.)
- Focus group discussion: B2B businesses can also use focus group discussions to gather a small group of prospects or customers to discuss their experiences and opinions about your product/service or with your competitors’ expectations, preferences, etc. Focus groups can provide more in-depth and nuanced insights into customer preferences and needs.
- Customer feedback: you can collect feedback through channels like online review platforms, social media interactions, customer support conversations, etc. Gathering and analyzing customer feedback can allow your business to get valuable insights into areas you can improve and your customers’ expectations.
- Competitor analysis: B2B businesses can also analyze their competitors’ target audience and marketing strategies. They can choose to pursue the same target audience or identify gaps/opportunities elsewhere. You can also analyze your competitors’ customer engagement tactics to identify areas for improvement.
Create Buyer Personas
Once you’ve collected enough information through market research, you can start creating buyer personas for your business.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional but data-driven model for your ideal target audience. However, for B2B businesses, you’ll need to create two different types of buyer personas: company personas and personal personas:
- Company persona: simply put, is a model of the ideal organization or company your B2B business should target. Company personas should list the needs, goals, and characteristics of the organization as a whole, that includes factors such as:
- The industry it operates in
- Company size (number of employees)
- Geographic location
- Personal persona: personal persona is a model of the specific individual within the company; a stakeholder or decision-maker involved in the purchasing process. In modeling your personal persona, the key is to identify the roles and responsibilities of this stakeholder and understand their pain points, challenges, and motivations. The personal persona should include the following:
- Job title, role and responsibilities
- Demographics data (age, gender, education level, income level, etc.)
- Psychographics (interests, values, personality traits)
- Goals and challenges
- Information source (how they consume content and receive information)
- Their role in the buying process, their budget constraints, and decision-making criteria
- Communication preferences
- Their individual priorities and how they align with the company’s priorities
Due to the potential complexities when developing buyer personas for B2B businesses, it’s critical to adopt a strategic approach to gather data and gain insights from a variety of sources.
To do so, consider following these steps:
- Conduct market research: use the various market research techniques we’ve shared above to identify your competitors, analyze market trends, understand the state of your niche/industry, and identify your target audience.
- Identify your target companies: determine the types of companies your business should target based on criteria such as industry/niche, location, company size, revenue, etc.
- Identify key decision makers: within this target company, identify the key stakeholders and decision-makers who will be involved in the buying process. This may include different roles (managers, executives, etc.), so it’s important to understand the needs, goals, preferences, and motivations of each of them.
- Gather data: you can collect data with various means, including conducting surveys, interviews, focus group discussions, and so on. The focus is to gather information on your target audience’s needs, behaviors, pain points, and preferences.
- Analyze data and create personas: analyze the data you’ve collected, and start creating detailed buyer personas (both company personas and personal personas for individual decision-makers.)
- Share personas with your team: once you have developed your buyer personas, share them with your team. Collect feedback from them so you can refine the personas and communicate the personas to ensure everyone is aligned on who your target audience is and how they can effectively reach them.
- Update and refine: as your business grows and your industry evolves, it’s critical to continuously refine, optimize, and update the buyer personas. Gather regular feedback (both internal and external) and conduct market research to ensure your personas accurately reflect your customers’ current profiles.
Setting up Robust Content Plan
A robust content strategy is critical for a multi-channel marketing approach while considering three things:
- Consistent brand message: your content will be the one responsible for maintaining a cohesive and coherent brand message throughout all channels and touchpoints.
- Optimization for each channel: content should be optimized for each channel while taking into account how each channel is used by the target audience, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each channel.
- Tailored for each buyer persona: content strategy should be aligned with the buyer personas you’ve developed. This is to ensure content is tailored to the specific needs, goals, preferences, and behaviors of your target audience.
To achieve these, B2B businesses can follow the following tips and best practices:
- Understand your buyer personas: use the buyer personas you’ve developed in the previous step to identify keywords, topics, and content types that will effectively resonate with your target audience.
- Develop a content calendar: plan your content in advance and create a content calendar that outlines the topics, titles, channels, and publishing dates. Your content calendar can help you stay organized when publishing content across different channels.
- Leverage different content formats: experiment with different types of content formats for each channel (blog posts, infographics, videos, etc.) Consider the different preferences and learning styles of each buyer persona.
- Optimize content for each channel: each channel has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as unique content requirements and audience. Tailor and optimize content for each channel to
- Maintain consistency in your brand messaging: besides tailoring your content for each channel, it’s also important to ensure that your content remains aligned with your brand messaging with a consistent style and tone across all the different channels. This will help the business establish trust and credibility with its audience.
- Ude data to inform your content strategy: leverage analytics tools to monitor your content’s performance and adjust your strategy accordingly. Keep track of engagement metrics such as click-through rates, number of shares/comments, and others to assess which content is resonating with your target audience and which can be improved.
Optimizing Each Channel for Maximum Impact
Now that we’ve developed a comprehensive multi-channel content strategy, we can implement the strategy to optimize each channel.
Below, we will explore the common traditional and digital marketing channels widely used by B2B companies and discuss how to optimize your content for each channel.
Optimizing Traditional B2B Marketing Channels
Traditional—or offline—marketing methods have been around for a long time but are still widely used in B2B marketing in various ways. Some of the most common and effective traditional B2B marketing channels are:
This Includes advertisements in newspapers, magazines, billboards, and industry publications.
B2B companies can use print advertising to establish brand awareness in reputable platforms and to reach a broad audience.
To optimize content for print advertisements, the key is to identify and understand the ad’s target audience and find out what type of message would resonate with them. Here are a few tips:
- Choose design and layout that is visually appealing and attention-grabbing, but don’t go overboard
- Use appropriate language that resonates with your target audience, speak their terminologies
- Clearly highlight the benefits of the product or service you are offering
- Use high-quality graphics, photo, and images that are visually pleasing and can convey the intended message
- Use compelling but concise headlines that clearly communicate your product/service’s value proposition
- Publish the ad in relevant publications that can effectively reach your intended target audience
Direct mail refers to sending printed promotional materials (catalogs, brochures, letters, coupons, etc.) directly to potential customers’ addresses. Can be effective in building awareness and generating leads, even for B2B companies.
Best practices in using direct mail in your B2B multi-channel marketing includes:
- Use high-quality printing and professional design to make your mail stand out, especially on the envelopes and packaging to grab their attention, so they’ll at least open it
- Personalization is key. Use the recipient’s first name and try to cater to their needs to improve engagement
- Use clear call-to-action, and make it as easy as possible for potential customers to respond to the mail or take the desired action
Trade shows and conferences
Visit, join, or host industry events like trade shows and conferences to build awareness, showcase your products/services, learn about the latest trends in the industry, and network with potential partners and customers.
A few tips on how to incorporate offline events in your multi-channel strategy are:
- Create engaging booth displays, signage, and content to attract attendees’ attention. Use these opportunities to communicate your brand message and your product/service’s UVP
- Create and provide high-quality and informative promotion materials, such as brochures, signages, product/service demos, and case studies to engage and educate attendees about what you sell
- Use social media, email, and other digital channels to promote the event, so you can drive more traffic
- Use the event to collect contact information (lead generation), and make sure to follow up with them after the event
Public relations (PR) is about managing your B2B firm’s reputation, as well as the relationship with the public.
Important PR practices to consider in your multi-channel strategy include:
- Compelling and informative press releases that highlight your business’s achievements, newsworthy events, or launch of your new product/service
- Build relationship with relevant media outlets, journalists, and even influencers so they are more likely to cover your business
- Monitor media coverage regularly, and respond to negative and/or inaccurate information promptly and accordingly
Networking and referrals
Another important traditional marketing initiative to consider is building relationships with potential and existing customers to continuously generate leads. B2B companies should effectively use networking and referral to build awareness, establish credibility, and engage customers.
- Create a referral program to incentivize existing customers to refer new customers
- Attend relevant industry events to meet potential partners and customers and expand your company’s network
- Develop a clear and persuasive elevator pitch that effectively communicate your company’s value proposition and your product/service’s benefits
Optimizing Digital B2B Marketing Channels
In today’s digital age, obviously we can’t ignore the importance and effectiveness of digital channels in the overall marketing strategy, especially if your B2B business is looking to adopt a multi-channel approach.
Here are some key digital channels to consider:
Website and landing pages
Your business website should be the foundation of your digital marketing strategy and digital presence. It’s often the potential customer’s first touchpoint with your company where they first learn more about your business and products/services.
Your B2B company’s website should be visually appealing, informative, easy to navigate, and optimized for both desktop and mobile devices. Some additional best practices to consider:
- Focus on clear and easy navigation and easy-to-find information. Make sure your website is intuitive and user-friendly
- Use professional design and consistent branding
- Include well-placed and clear calls-to-action (CTAs) on every page
- Make sure all elements of website design are optimized and responsive to mobile devices
- Leverage analytics to continuously track user behavior, and optimize your website accordingly
- When appropriate, create landing pages optimized for specific products/services, offers, or campaigns
SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to the practice of optimizing your website and its content so it can rank higher in Google’s and other search engines’ search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Starting every content development with proper keyword research with the following principles:
- Finding keywords that are relevant and popular among your target audience by measuring search volume.
- Target keywords should be relevant to the B2B firm’s niche and marketing/business objectives
- Based on the available resources and timeline, the competition for the target keyword must be manageable. Pursuing keywords that are too competitive might not be worth it, even if they are very popular/relevant.
- Optimize website content to naturally include the target keywords. However, focus on making the content valuable and relevant for human readers. Do not simply stuff the content with keywords.
- Optimize your content’s structure for search engines using heading and subheading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- Optimize meta tags (title and heading tags) and meta description. Include your target keywords, but focus on making them informative and compelling for your target audience.
- Title tag and meta description will especially affect click-through rate. Optimize them to entice prospective customers to click your page on the search results.
- Treat SEO as a long-term strategy. Continuously monitor your performance and adjust accordingly. Regularly add fresh content to the website, and update/refresh older content.
- For B2B businesses targeting local audiences, conduct local SEO:
- Claim and verify your business listing on Google Business
- Optimize your listing by adding relevant and comprehensive information
- Build local citation by listing your business on relevant online directories (i.e., TripAdvisor, LinkedIn Company Directory, Bing Places, etc.) and local/business-specific directories.
- Encourage your existing customers to leave (positive) reviews on Google Business/Google Maps, but also other relevant sites/platforms enabling users to leave reviews.
Despite the newer technologies and marketing channels, email marketing remains a crucial element of B2B marketing.
Email is, after all, still one of the most widely used digital communication channels, especially in the business world, making it a very effective channel, especially for lead nurturing and customer retention.
Email marketing allows B2B businesses to reach out to prospects and potential customers through their inbox, and here are some best practices for using email marketing in B2B multi-channel strategy:
- The key to successful email marketing is the strength of your email database. Have a strong lead generation strategy to continue collecting email addresses from qualified prospects.
- Segment your email list based on targeted campaigns, buyer personas, and interests.
- Personalize your email’s subject line and content. For example, use the recipient’s first name in the subject line.
- Use clear and concise subject lines. Remember that your subject lines will significantly affect the open rate.
- Include clear call-to-actions in your email
- Provide relevant, informative, and valuable content in every email
- Track email performance metrics and use A/B testing to improve email performance
Social media marketing
With how virtually everyone is now active on social media, including your target companies’ decision-makers, it would only make sense to leverage social media in your multi-channel marketing strategy.
B2B businesses can utilize different social media platforms (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to target different audiences.
Yet, with how saturated social media marketing is at the moment, how should B2B businesses plan and execute their email marketing strategy? Here are some best practices:
- Choose the right social media platform(S) based on your industry and target audience preferences. In general, choose a platform your target audience is the most active in.
- Develop a consistent message and brand voice across all social media platforms
- Find the right balance and mix between educational and promotional content in your posts
- Actively engage with followers. Respond to their messages and comments, including and especially negative ones. Promptly respond to inquiries and feedback.
- Create a comprehensive content calendar so you can post frequently and consistently
- Use visuals and multimedia in your posts to improve engagement
- Use paid advertising/sponsored post opportunities offered by the social media platforms to amplify your reach
- Build relationships with relevant influencers in each social media platform so you can reach a wider audience
Paid online advertising in many forms (PPC search advertising, social media advertising, sponsored LinkedIn posts, etc.) allow B2B firms to reach a broader audience faster than organic marketing methods.
However, it’s no secret that advertising can be expensive and, when not managed properly, may cause your business to lose money instead.
To make sure your digital advertising campaign is cost-effective, here are some best practices to consider:
- Targeting is key. Conduct thorough market research and identify the right audience to target with your campaign.
- Leverage keyword research to choose relevant and specific keywords for PPC advertising.
- Write compelling ad copy, and make sure to include a clear call-to-action.
- Create conversion-optimized landing pages to convert those who click on your ads into leads. Landing pages should be custom-tailored for specific ad campaigns.
- Continuously monitor ad performance, and adjust your strategy based on the analytics data.
- Use remarketing/retargeting to improve the effectiveness of your advertising campaign by reaching prospective customers who have previously shown interest in your business.
Mapping Out Customer Journey and User Experience
The key to a successful multi-channel marketing strategy is how you can integrate all the different channels into a seamless, interwoven customer journey.
Understanding how your prospects and customers interact with different marketing and media channels is critical, so you can deliver a cohesive and consistent user experience within each touchpoint in the customer journey.
In this section, we will discuss how to optimize your customer journey across these different channels in a step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Understanding how customers interact with different media channels
To start mapping out your B2B firm’s customer journey, you must first identify how your customers interact with your brand.
More specifically, you need to identify the different touchpoints where these customers interact with your brand: your website, email newsletter, social media, online advertising, and so on.
Below is a customer journey example for a B2B software company:
- An accounting officer of a mid-sized company (prospective customers) is searching for a new accounting software solution for their company.
- They begin the search by doing a Google search with queries related to their needs, like “best accounting software 2023,” “best accounting software for restaurant,” and so on.
- They may also browse through LinkedIn or other social media platforms to gather more information and insights about available solutions.
- They stumbled upon several potential vendors. They research these options—for example, by visiting each vendor’s website to learn more about their products, features, and pricing—and then create a shortlist of top vendors for further consideration.
- They may also subscribe to potential vendors’ email newsletters for promotions and updates.
- After they’ve compared several potential solutions, they decide on a solution and propose the solution to their higher-up (i.e., the accounting manager)
- The accounting manager read the proposal and performed a brief research, then made a request to the finance manager to make the purchase
- The finance manager finalizes the purchase
Throughout this journey that involves multiple customers/decision-makers, they are interacting with different channels such as search engines (Google), social media, websites, and email. It’s critical for your B2B company to understand how your customers interact with the marketing and media channels so you can design a seamless cross-platform experience.
Step 2: Crafting seamless cross-platform experiences
Now that you’ve identified the touchpoints, the next step is to craft a cross-platform experience for your target audience.
The objective is to ensure that each channel or platform offers consistent and cohesive experiences through the different channels, and here are some best practices to achieve this:
- Build a strong brand identity that can be consistently applied across all your channels. Meaning, you should use the same color schemes, messaging, fonts, and branding design elements across all channels.
- Optimize the user experience for each channel.
- With mobile devices accounting for more than 50% of all website traffic worldwide, make sure that all landing pages and content across all platforms are mobile-friendly/mobile-responsive and easy to navigate on small screens.
- Aim to create smooth transitions between each touchpoint. Focus on creating a positive experience for all customers across all touchpoints
Step 3: Tracking key metrics to measure success
Last but not least, keep track of key metrics to measure the success of the customer journey and level of user experience.
Here are some important metrics to measure in the B2B multi-channel marketing campaigns:
- Conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who complete a desired action (downloading gated content, signing up for a free trial, filling out a form, making a purchase, etc.)
- Bounce rate: this metric measures the percentage of visitors who leave the website immediately after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate typically indicates that the website is not relevant or engaging enough.
- Cost per acquisition (CPA): calculates the expenses associated with gaining a single new customer through a particular marketing channel or initiative.
- Click-through rate: the percentage of the audience who click on a call-to-action (CTA) or link within an advertisement, email, search result, website, etc.
- Return on investment (ROI): measures the return on investment on a specific marketing channel or campaign.
- Engagement rate: the number of visitors that come to a website over a period of time.
- Churn rate: the percentage of customers who stopped subscribing to a service/doing business with a company over a period of time.
- Customer lifetime value (CLV): the total amount of revenue generated by a customer over the course of their relationship with the business.
- Net promoter score (NPS): how likely the customers are to recommend a brand/company to their friends or peers. NPS measures customer satisfaction.
The Bottom Line
In today’s highly competitive B2B landscape, adapting a multi-channel marketing strategy can be very effective in helping B2B firms reach out and engage a wider target audience.
By combining traditional and digital channels in a seamless, cohesive strategy, B2B companies can create an effective marketing strategy that answers the needs, behavioral preferences, and pain points of their prospective customers.
A well-executed multi-channel marketing strategy can expand a B2B company’s reach, improve their brand visibility, generate more leads, and ultimately, increase their revenue.