B2B Marketing channels are the various ways businesses can reach and communicate with their target audience. For B2B (business-to-business) companies, these mediums differ from those used in B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing.
This article will cover the basics of marketing channels for B2B, including effective strategies, best practices, and examples so that you can choose a proper source mix for your business.
What are B2B marketing channels?
B2B marketing channels are the various methods businesses use to reach other companies and promote their products or services. These foundations can be online or offline, including website advertising, email marketing, social media marketing, and trade shows. The marketing channels for B2B aim to generate leads, build relationships with potential clients, and ultimately drive sales.
What Are B2B Marketing Channel Strategies?
It is essential to have a clear strategy to ensure that your efforts are focused and effective. The three key strategies to consider when developing your B2B marketing plan are the following:
- Inbound marketing. This strategy focuses on attracting potential customers to your business through valuable and informative content, such as landing pages, blog posts, social media, and digital advertising. This B2B marketing channel aims to establish your company's credibility and bring in potential clients.
- Outbound marketing. This strategy involves actively reaching out to potential customers through cold calling, email campaigns, and direct messages. The goal is to generate leads and drive sales.
- Account-based marketing (ABM). This strategy targets and personalizes marketing efforts to specific accounts or companies. The goal is to build relationships and drive sales with a narrow audience group.
The three strategies are the starting point for setting reasonable marketing goals, prioritizing marketing efforts, and choosing relevant traffic sources to focus on.
17 Most Effective Marketing Channel for B2B (+Examples)
Many different marketing channels are effective for B2B companies. Some of the most common ones we're going to review comprehensively include:
- Review platforms
- Email Marketing
- Paid Social Ads
- Content Marketing
- Display Ads
- Retargeting Ads
- Programmatic Ads
- Video Marketing
- Word of Mouth
- Traditional Marketing
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO involves optimizing your website and content to rank highly in organic search engine results for relevant keywords. It can drive traffic to your site and increase leads.
In a nutshell, SEO activities can fall into three groups:
- Technical (or on-page) SEO
- SEO content writing
- Back-links building
You must perform those activities non-stop by hiring SEO specialists, a digital marketing agency, or freelancers.
Why SEO for B2B?
People won't stop to search information on Google and other search engines. Approximately half of traffic and buyer intent is captured by organic search results from the first page. So, this B2B marketing channel can take your business to rank in TOP-10 for your targeted keywords and have more pages in search results.
- Cheap traffic and leads
- Increased visibility and credibility
- Long-lasting effect
- It takes time to get it up and running
- The result isn't 100% in your control
- It gets more complicated over time
2. Paid Search (PPC)
PPC involves paying for ad space on search engine results pages above the organic results, typically on a pay-per-click basis. It's an effective way to drive traffic to your site and generate leads.
Why PPC for B2B?
This marketing channel for B2B captures another half of the same buyers and their search queries as SEO. Moreover, paid results are displayed in the first four positions on the result page above organic ones, meaning they catch more eyeballs. A side effect of this is the impact on the brand awareness of the company and its services.
- Immediate result
- Allows to check the hypothesis, iterate, and improve quickly
- Captures a lot of traffic, up to 50% of the overall search volume
- You can target KWs unachievable yet for you in SEO
- Simple and effective ROAS tracking
- Expensive, you can bury all your budget here
- It works as long as you pay and stops once you don't
- Costs grow quicker than the amount of traffic
- Competitors' aggressive bidding can kill your ROI and CAC
- It can get very complex and resource-intense to support
3. Review platforms
Every mature B2B industry already has the leading review platforms, like Clutch, G2, Gartner, Capterra, or even reviews on Facebook and Google. They share unbiased reviews and a compound rating to rank your business against the competition. This B2B marketing channel usually provides tools and integrations to simplify and accelerate review gathering and/or buy a sponsorship at listings.
Why Reviews for B2B?
As the B2B customer journey is usually more extended, buyers spend more time researching and background checking before signing a giant check. Clients often verify a vendor's reputation on 3rd party review platforms outside the brand's direct control. From a business point of view, review sites are a powerful tool for reputation management. Moreover, they can get you the hottest ready-to-buy leads in the active solution provider evaluation stage.
- High-intend leads ready to buy
- Improve the brand's credibility and visibility
- Positive impact on SEO, PPC, and other channels
- Can be leveraged to improve CR on your site and forms
- Easy to setup
- Limited targeting and control
- Leads quality is beyond your control
- (for sponsored listing) Expensive
- (for organic listing) It takes time and effort to perform
- Unscalable channel
4. Email Marketing
This marketing channel for B2B involves sending targeted and personalized emails to potential clients to promote your products or services. It can be an effective way to nurture leads and build relationships.
Email sequences and automation can get complicated with modern technologies and the latest approaches. Simply put, every B2B email marketing communication falls into two groups:
- Automated trigger emails
- Manual recurrent newsletters
All email marketing activities follow three main goals:
- Gather and grow the contact base
- Increase engagement with the channel
- Increase sales from the channel
Why Email for B2B?
Emails are the dominant mean of communication in the B2B world. Business executives start and finish their day with email checks and processing. Every critical project, initiative, order, and arrangement is reflected in an email thread. Otherwise, it's not very important.
- Almost free sales, upsells, and repetitive purchases
- Automation and personalization heaven
- Powerful retention opportunities
- Accurate targeting and limitless segmentation
- Precise measurement and analytics
- Difficult to maintain relevance while growing sales
- Overwhelmed channel with a spammy reputation
- Easy to lose control with a growing complexity
- Easy to lose credibility and clients' attention
- Difficult to scale continuously
- Possible legal and deliverability issues
5. Social Media Marketing (organic)
Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook can be effective marketing channels for B2B, especially for building relationships and engaging with potential clients.
It's difficult to withstand the temptation to promote your services with every post and interaction, and it takes time to find the content-audience fit. Although once you grasp it, social media will become a significant driver of your awareness and retention strategies.
Why SMM for B2B?
Being in the channels where your audience spends time regularly is crucial to establish first touches with your clients and building top-of-mind. Social media has become an irreplaceable part of buyers' day-to-day life. Consequently, SMM should become an inevitable part of B2B brands' marketing strategy.
- Possibility for content virality
- Brand transparency and client-centricity
- Easy to establish connections and grow a community around a brand
- The capability of building engagement and loyalty to a brand
- Opportunity to deliver brand's value outside core products
- Ability to track the customers' feedback and provide timely response
- Almost free
- Difficult to stand out in the feed
- Limited tools and controls
- It takes time to find an approach and gather a community around
- Low buying intent, unformed or already satisfied need
- Difficult to attribute SMM success to actual revenue
- Decreasing organic reach and overall efficiency
6. Paid Social Advertising
In addition to organic social media marketing, paid social ads can help increase your content's reach and visibility, grow brand awareness and lead generation.
Why Paid Social for B2B?
With sophisticated feed algorithms and personalization, reaching out to your audience has become much more challenging. Even getting your latest post in front of your subscribers requires money invested into post promotion on the platform. Unfair, but that is something we are used to with organic B2B marketing channels.
Additionally, running traffic from social media to your site became difficult and more monetized. Ultimately, Facebook and LinkedIn don't want users to leave their comfy platforms. So, paid promotion is the only option to capture buyer intent and build awareness.
- Tremendous reach and frequency
- Cost-effective lead generation
- Precise targeting and analytics
- It works as long as you pay
- It can get costly
- Costs grow unequally to the result you get
- Frequent creatives rotation is a must
- Difficult to excel banner blindness and stand out in user feeds
- Increasing complexity with the account growth
7. Content Marketing
Content marketing involves creating and sharing valuable, relevant, consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. These marketing channels for B2B can effectively build trust and establish your business as a thought leader in your industry. Content includes text format, images, videos, and sound.
Why Content for B2B?
Content is the central element of a successful B2B marketing strategy. The rest of the channels act as distributors of it. Content consistency throughout the platforms is challenging but drives powerful synergy and boosts your marketing results. Lastly, a well-executed content strategy builds your thought leadership in the industry.
- A practical tool to attract and retain customers
- Improves lead generation and conversion
- Decreases marketing spending and customer acquisition cost
- Increases customer experience
- Expensive to create high-quality content
- It doesn't work without effective distribution
- Difficult to create and maintain a recognizable and appealing tone
- Challenging to measure the impact on revenue
8. Display Advertising
This B2B marketing channel involves placing ads on online media and other websites to promote your brand and services and acquire customers.
For most businesses, banner advertising doesn't return the invested budget. It happens for a few reasons:
- Unlike other digital channels, banners perform awfully by click-based attribution, which is the default for traditional web analytics systems. So, a comprehensive analytics solution is required to accurately track and wisely improve this channel's performance and remove low-quality and fraudulent inventories.
- The audience is overwhelmed with advertising. You're competing for attention with thousands of advertisers, your competitors, and any other mass-market product, like Cocke or Nike. On the one hand, it's tough to stand out. Conversely, a subtle fringe exists between standing out with creativity and losing credibility.
- Low weekly/monthly frequency of impressions and campaign duration. It means that "tasting the waters" with display ads is more expensive than with many other digital channels. To achieve a statistically significant result of whether your campaign works or burns your budget, you need a weekly frequency of 4+ and monthly of 12+ per user. Testing your creatives on narrow/local audience can help, but the campaign duration isn't off the table.
Why Display Ads for B2B?
It is the most powerful solution to boost your brand awareness among B2B buyers. The technology has just enough targeting to be cost-efficient. Moreover, it provides performance insights quickly, so you can iterate and improve without spending a fortune on poorly performing ads.
- Decent targeting capabilities
- Brand awareness uplift
- Cheaper reach, compared to other marketing channels for B2B
- It takes time to find traction
- Requires unique brand style
- Difficult to measure success
- Lack of relevant context
- Ad fatigue and ad blocking
- Ad fraud
9. Retargeting Advertising
It involves showing ads to users who have visited your website or engaged with your business in some way. The goal is to bring these users back to your website where they left off or nudge them to convert into customers. Retargeting helps your brand keep in the buyer's mind from the first interaction up to conversion or at least subscription.
Why Retargeting for B2B?
With the extended buying cycle, it is easy to drop from the prospects' top of mind. Especially while they have been evaluating multiple vendors of similar products, this B2B marketing channel won't help you win the deal, but it can help you stay on their list longer.
- Squeeze more leads from the traffic you acquired like no other channel or technology
- Excellent segmentation and personalization capabilities
- Cheap source of leads
- Overwhelming technology with a bad reputation
- Effective only in a few days/weeks after the interaction
- You need a decent amount of relevant traffic for a launch
- Scale slower than the traffic of your site due to lower audience overlap
- Privacy issues and legal concerns, especially outside the US
10. Programmatic Advertising
It involves using technology to automate the buying display ad space to target specific audiences. Programmatic is the most advanced solution for media buying. It contains sophisticated delivery optimization algorithms that take time to learn and perform. The marketing channels for B2B can significantly impact your display advertising and overall results.
Why Programmatic for B2B?
As B2B companies have narrow audiences, large-scale branding campaigns aren't a cost-efficient way to spend marketing dollars. Programmatic allows gently filtering the audience and cherrypicking the most relevant buyers to target the advertising efforts.
- Exclusive access to elite publishers and unique inventories
- Advanced and precise targeting capabilities
- Comprehensive tracking and measurement out of the box
- Algorithms improve campaign efficiency on the fly better than humans
- Expensive from the very beginning
- Difficult to setup initially and negotiate with some publishers
- A lot of fraud traffic
- Automated strategies require time to learn
- Lack of transparency and limited control
- It can get very complex due to sophisticated settings and targeting
11. Video Marketing
It involves creating and sharing videos on platforms like YouTube and Vimeo to promote your business and connect with potential customers.
Why Video for B2B?
YouTube is the second largest search engine (after Google), with many eyeballs daily. The users prefer video content as clips are more concise and easier to perceive. The B2B brands need to adapt and repurpose the existing content to grasp the demand and intent on video platforms. Besides, linking your site on YouTube and inserting YT videos into your website pages positively impact SEO and video views, multiplying the outcome. Lastly, this B2B marketing channel is more engaging than video ads, bypasses ad blockers, and is shown to YouTube premium accounts.
- Excellent organic reach and opportunity to acquire new audiences
- Ability to gather community on the video platform
- The capability of brand uplift and build thought leadership in the industry
- It might be too late to start a YT channel from scratch in 2023
- High-quality video production is expensive and doesn't guarantee the return
- Impossible to accurately attribute video marketing results to revenue
- Some niches and search queries are very competitive
12. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing involves partnering with influential people in your industry or niche to promote your products or services. This marketing channel for B2B can effectively reach a new audience and increase your brand's visibility. Influencers are especially effective for early-stage startups and brand-new products.
Why Influencers for B2B?
Thoughts leaders gather a narrow like-minded, and loyal audience. Product recommendations from influencers not only provide an appealing wrapper but also contribute to the overall awareness of your brand. The more and the more often your prospects will stumble upon your services in different places, the higher their chance to convert.
- Highly motivated buyers that convert very well
- Improved brand credibility
- Low effort after you agreed on the terms
- Requires a full-fledged loyalty program unfolding to track and measure a result
- Comprises a lot of manual work and negotiation
- Expensive and doesn't guarantee the result
- The influencers that are easy to engage with promote a lot of brands at a time
13. Event Marketing
Attending or hosting industry events is an effective B2B marketing channel to connect with potential clients, build relationships, and pave the way to conversion. Online events can be hosted more frequently as they are easier to organize and generally cheaper. Although the outcome of any event depends on three crucial factors:
- The audience you've attracted
- The quality of content you've shared
- Whether you enhance your brand credibility or not
Why Events for B2B?
Industry conferences and meetups were created for B2B businesses by B2B companies. It's the most natural way to build new connections and authority in the niche. Although, for businesses hosting a poor event is worse than not organizing it at all. So, keep the audience's expectations high and always deliver on your promises with every event.
- An opportunity to acquire prospects early in their customer journey
- Increases brand awareness and establishes thought leadership
- Ability to remove leads tension and convert them into customers
- Native products and services placement
- It can be a part of the customer retention strategy
- In-person interaction with the actual audience and occasion to know them better
- Require a well-defined strategy and comprehensive organization
- Low-intent leads that require much time to nurture and convert
- Time and resource-intense preparation
- Limited reach, small audience size, attendance is always lower than expected
- It's a subtle art to make events profitable
14. Podcast Marketing
Partnering with or sponsoring popular podcasts in your industry can be an excellent marketing channel for B2B to reach a new audience and promote your business. Regarding immediate reach, podcasts are invaluable for companies and products that get off the ground. It isn't easy to find a more effective way to boost your services in terms of audience quality and price per interaction.
Why Podcasts for B2B?
It is a relatively new format for young audiences of Gen Z and Millennials. If you appeal to those buyers, you should adopt it. If not, wait a few years until they grow up and embrace it anyway. The sooner, the better.
- Reach a new audience of tech-savvy early adopters and followers
- Improved awareness and authority
- Resource-intensive preparation and distribution
- Requires specific communicational skills and experience
- Difficult to measure success
- Complicated to repeat success and scale
15. Word of Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing encourages satisfied customers to spread the word about your business to their networks. It can become your spinning wheel to generate leads and build your reputation at scale. There are several motivations for loyal customers to refer their friends or colleagues:
- Monetary benefit. It is usually provided to both those who refer and those referred in the form of free credits to use in a product.
- The product itself gets more valuable with more peers on it. For example, social media or messaging apps.
- Social gains. The referring user recommended an excellent product and increased their credibility in front of their peers.
Why WoM for B2B?
Happy customers are the best outside sellers of your services. It's natural to recommend something you like to somebody you care about. This B2B marketing channel takes word-of-mouth to the next level by motivating and rewarding your loyal customers.
- The highest conversion rate to customers
- Once established, it doesn't require much support
- Able to become the most significant acquisition channel
- Free clients or cost-effective customer acquisition cost
- A way to encourage and reward customer loyalty
- Difficult to scale further
- Relatively low average contract value
- Unattended customers have a high churn rate
- No leverage to lead quality
- NPS fluctuations impact the volume of leads
16. Affiliate Marketing
It involves partnering with other businesses and individuals to promote your services in exchange for sales commissions or extra income. Affiliates can be divided into four groups:
- Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and integration partners. They are similar businesses to yours that work with the same target audience but do not compete with you. To promote both products, two ISVs create an integration via API that expands the capabilities of separate stand-alone solutions. Thus, the customers get more value and less hustle to switch between interfaces and exchange the data. ISVs uncover win-win opportunities for co-branding, co-selling, and joint marketing activities. An example of an ISV integration partnership is the Slack for Salesforce app.
- Technology implementation consultancy. The company that creates a business around your solution by providing advice and hands-on setup of your tool into client's operations. Hubspot's tech implementation ecosystem of 6k+ partners is an example of this collaboration.
- Content makers and webmasters. Affiliate commission is a decent incentive and income source for many individuals savvy in site creation, content production, and digital marketing. An example of this collaboration is the affiliate links on media websites like Investopedia and GSMarena.
- Affiliate networks. Affiliate networks can uncover access to many resellers, their inventories, and audiences at once. The biggest companies on the market are CJ Affiliate and ShareASale.
Why Affiliates for B2B?
Onboarding partners is similar to hiring extra business development teams, with the difference that you reward them with a revenue share (if any) and don't need to source them with leads and tools. Moreover, you don't have any obligations related to the actual workforce, like office, equipment, retirement plan, or sick leave. Affiliates inevitably appear around excellent products. By establishing reasonable rewards, ensuring transparent rules, and making affiliates' work easier, you can bring this marketing channel for B2B to the next level.
- Increased reach without upfront spending
- You pay for results only
- Increased credibility from many 3rd party resources
- Fraud risk
- Brand traffic and reputation at risk
- Low control of affiliates' content and techniques
- Affiliates can easily switch traffic and lead flow to your competitors
- A sophisticated tracking system is required
17. Traditional Marketing
It includes promoting brands and services through conservative channels like print advertising, direct mail, billboards, radio, and TV advertising. It is a very competitive marketplace for mostly mature audiences. Over time its performance tends to decrease, although now, it's still a compelling channel.
Why Traditional Marketing for B2B?
This B2B marketing channel is familiar to businesses, agencies, and customers. The tactics and approaches have evolved through the ages, and now it is more like an inevitable process to success backed by science rather than a game of luck.
- Significant brand awareness and sales uplift
- Poor targeting and personalization capabilities
- Inaccurate and complicated success measurement
- Expensive marketing venture
- Difficult to stand out in the advertising fatigue
- Requires much time, resources, and iterations to compose an effective campaign
How to build a marketing channel strategy for a B2B company?
Some common steps to build B2B marketing channels strategies include:
- Identifying your target audience
- It is crucial to understand the characteristics and needs of your ideal client so that you can tailor your marketing efforts to them.
- Defining your value proposition
- What makes your product or service unique and valuable to your target audience? Make sure that this is clear in all of your marketing efforts.
- Choosing the proper channels
- Different marketing channels for B2B suit different businesses and audiences. It is vital to carefully consider which channels will be most effective for your business.
Which channels are most appropriate for B2B marketing?
The most appropriate B2B marketing channels depend on your marketing goals.
Some mediums, like email and content marketing, are designed to nurture leads and build client relationships. Others, like paid search and display ads, drive traffic to your website and capture leads.
Besides marketing objectives, it's essential to consider your target audience's specific needs when choosing relevant traffic and leads sources.
What is the best marketing channel for B2B?
As a rule, there is no "best" marketing channel for B2B businesses. The most effective B2B marketing channels are those your audience relies on and spends time on regularly. Moreover, your team must be keen and savvy on these channels too. For instance, if your audience spends time on YouTube, just creating a channel and some content won't be enough today.
Lastly, experimenting with many media and analyzing the results is vital to determine the best marketing channels for B2B companies. A well-rounded marketing strategy that combines online and offline mediums are often the most successful.