B2B Marketing for SMEs
CEOs, Founders, Sales and Marketing Heads

This post is not for the IBMs of the world. They have teams and teams of B2B marketing and sales staff with budgets in the millions and tens of millions of dollars.

This post is for the vast majority of SME B2B organizations looking to build a better platform for sales and business growth using proven B2B marketing approaches.

It is designed to be the ultimate resource for SME B2B Founders, CEOs, Heads of Sales and Heads of Marketing looking to attract and manage sales leads.

We cover the key components of B2B Marketing and provide a series of “You need to know” points. These points are the key things you need to know to be successful and are based on more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing and will help you to avoid making common mistakes.

Your Business Goals

If you are similar to most B2B organisations your top goals are:

  • Increasing overall revenue; and
  • Increasing customer retention

To unpack that a little you probably want:

  1. A reliable, predictable, consistent stream of new customers but may be struggling to create an effective process that’s getting new leads and converting them to customers;
  2. Rather than just relying on new customers for growth you want to focus on prospects that will become loyal long term customers;

An effective B2B marketing process is key to achieving that first goal.

Your Marketing Challenges

If you ask people about their top B2B marketing challenges you get the obvious answers:

  • Generating traffic and leads,
  • Proving ROI,
  • Securing budget,
  • etc.

But these simple answers hide the true sales and marketing challenges B2B organisations face.

They are as follows:

Challenge 1: So. Many. Choices.

20 years ago your B2B marketing options were pretty limited:

  • Advertise in industry magazines;
  • Attend tradeshows.

Now you could:

  • Advertise in industry magazines
  • Attend tradeshows
  • Run webinars
  • Create youtube videos.
  • Advertise on Linkedin and/or facebook and/or twitter etc
  • Create on-line content
  • Advertise on Bing or Google
  • Launch Company pages on LinkedIn.
  • Social Advertising (facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc)
  • Organic reach on Social Networks
  • Etc., (so many more etcs)

Almost every day there are posts on new B2B marketing ideas you could try. However, success lies not in attempting to execute all of them but identifying a limited set of tactics you can deliver effectively then implementing relentlessly.

Challenge 2: Limited Client Attention

It’s cliched, but also true, that prospects have less attention than ever to direct to any topic, including what you want them to hear. If you want to have any chance of being successful you have to be 100% relevant to their problem.

Notice I did not say, “what you sell”.

I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you but nobody wants to buy what you’re selling. On the other hand,  they sure do want to solve their problems. If you help them to do that you will grab and keep their attention.

Challenge 3: Integrating Marketing and Sales

It’s an old joke that Marketing and Sales don’t talk to each other – but it’s no longer funny. The two groups need to be different sides of the same coin not different sides of a canyon.

Besides, it’s getting harder and harder to tell them apart.

Sure a marketing person designing a website is doing a marketing task. And a sales person negotiating an order is doing a sales task but what about:

  • A marketing person designing an email lead nurture program? In the past it was the sales person who called prospects on a routine basis to nurture them – so is marketing doing sales?
  • Or the sales person posting a company announcement to their personal LinkedIn feed. Are they promoting, a.k.a. marketing?

In reality you can’t run marketing and sales separately – they need to work together – HubSpot calls this Smarketing.

Core B2B Marketing Assets

There are a few key B2B business assets that are critical to marketing success. If you have not already created these for your business: stop now and create them. They underpin everything else you do.

Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are detailed descriptions of your ideal customers that can be used in the marketing process. They are necessarily fictional and generalised but they are useful.

We use Buyer Personas because it’s much easier to create content and positioning statements for “real” people than a fuzzily defined “customer”. Personas make our customers more tangible and understandable.

Because they need to be accurate, the best personas are generated using market research, real customer interviews and other data collection approaches. Imagined personas, without verification, can be inaccurate and misleading.

target buyer persona
Get the eBook on creating an effective buyer persona

Buyer's Journey

Buyer’s Journey is the typical or most likely process a prospect will go through leading up to the purchase of a product or service. It involves the thought process, reactions and interactions they may go through before they are on-boarded as a client.

It’s important to realise your buyer’s journey is never going to be exactly correct for every prospect but helps you to “get into” the buyer’s thought process so you can help them more effectively.

With a detailed buyer’s journey, you will know;

  1. Where prospects are in the B2B buying funnelToFu (Top of the Funnel), MoFu (Middle of the Funnel)  and BoFu (Bottom of the Funnel) do
  2. What they are interested in
  3. How to better convert them from one stage to the next
b2b buyers journey

Positioning Statements

Positioning Statements are the critical intersection between Personas and Buyers Journey.

Per HubSpot:

A positioning statement is a brief description of a product or service and target market, and how the product or service fills a particular need of the target market. It’s meant to be used as an internal tool to align marketing efforts with the brand and value proposition.

Your positioning statement needs to reflect both the customers need and how you will fulfil it. With the other two key assets they also keep sales and marketing aligned.

For example:

We help SME B2B organisations that want a reliable, predictable, consistent stream of new customers but struggle to create an effective process that’s getting new leads and converting them to customers;

You Need to Know:

  1. Distinct to your organization: As much as possible, your Positioning Statement should be distinct to your organization. If you can remove the company name and have the statement apply to any of your competitors, then it’s probably not specific enough.


There are an almost endless number of types of content you can use in B2B marketing and content is the cornerstone of an effective market process.

Regardless of whether you engage a content marketing agency or keep it in-house, you need content assets.

Core B2B Marketing Tactics

Most Effective B2B Marketing Tactics

There are a lot of B2B marketing tactics that you can use. Here are the ones that are most effective for early engagement and driving sales conversions.

2018 Most Effective Channels for Different goals (Source)

What is important to note here is that no-one channel works for across the board. You need to chain together different channels to move the prospect along the sales process.

For example: you might use Search Engine Marketing and SEO to brings leads to your site, convert them with Content, then move them along the sales process using Email and Telemarketing.

Now let’s review each tactic in tern. In this list we’ll:

  1. Cover what they are,
  2.  Give each an effectiveness star rating and;
  3.  Tell you what you need to know to be successful.

Inbound Marketing


Creating information (content, blogs, etc) that your buying persona will find useful and then promoting that content. Typically, your content marketing will include assets targeted at different stages of your buyers purchasing journey.

You Need To Know

Works for long sales cycles: This works particularly well for B2B sales because the long sales cycle means you must stay top of mind for weeks or months. Inbound marketing excels at nurturing prospects over time.

First, be helpful: Inbound marketing hinges on being helpful and relevant to the customer’s problem. Everything you do should be focused on helping the buyer persona to solve their problem.

Convert website visitors: Contrary to popular belief, the primary goal on Inbound Marketing is not to get people to come to your website. The primary goal is to have them come your website AND leave their contact details so you can engage with them.

Check your website now: if any page does not have some type of conversion action then add one. Putting “please contact sales now for more information” doesn’t count because it only addresses people a long way down the sales process. You want to capture early in the sales cycle so you can educate them and become a trusted advisor.

Inbound Marketing includes some sub-tactics that you should know about.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


SEO is the art (I use that term deliberately) of arranging the content on your website in such a way as to get it listed as high as possible on the search engines and thereby get visits to your site from people interested in your content.

You Need To Know

No-one knows exactly why a page ranks: Due the complexity of the ranking algorithm, no-one, not even the people at Google, know exactly why a specific page ranks at a certain place in search results.

If any company guarantees to get you on Page One of the search results in a short time, walk away. At best they selling “advertising services,” at worst they are charlatans.

Having said that, there are lots of things you can do lift the potential for your site to rank highly.

Long term approach: This is a long term approach, it will take weeks or months to rank highly for terms relevant to your business.

Long term success: This requires long term investment: you need to continue to work on SEO once your page ranks well.

Email Marketing


Email marketing remains the best way to nurture newly acquired contacts and customers alike.

Email gives you the opportunity to reach contacts who are more likely to convert into customers and then, based on their activity, segment them into different categories of interest and stages of the buyer’s journey.

You Need To Know

Continues to be very effective: From the chart above you can see email marketing is still the most effective channel for driving early stage engagement and conversions to sales.

Send targeted and relevant content: While it’s easy to send generic content to everyone on your list, doing so just decreases their engagement or drives them to unsubscribe. Use information that you know about them (role, etc) and what they do (email clicks and website page views) to tailor the content people receive. You goal is to stay interesting and relevant to them long term.

Fine tune your content over time: Review key email metrics (open, click through, unsubscribe and engagement rates) on an ongoing basis. Small changes and improvements can be made regularly to keep improving the quality and the engagement of your emails.

Content Marketing


According to the Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

You Need To Know

Allows you to connect early in the buyer’s journey: Content marketing is very effective partly because of the way the buyer’s journey has radically transformed over the past 15 years.

Much of the research for any purchase is now done on-line before a sales person is even contacted. Just how much of the process is completed prior to contact is up for debate but we all know from our daily experience, it’s substantial.

From problem identification through to vendor identification, prospects search on-line. If you’re not appearing in their searches then you’re not on their radar. This means your content must cover the entire buying process from problem identification to vendor selection.

If your website focuses solely on “why buy us” you’re appearing very (too) late in the sales cycle.

Content creation needs to be prioritisedCreating good and appropriate content on a consistent basis is difficult. You need to plan properly to be successful and that planning must include

  • What you are going to produce (whitepaper, blog post, case study, etc)
  • Who will write it
  • when it will be ready.

You should mange it using a content calendar.

You will need to support technical staff: In most B2B businesses the people with the knowledge to write content relevant to buyers are often technical staff, not adept at writing content. You need to support them with people who can convert their knowledge into engaging content.

You need to create the right content: It’s relatively easy to rank on page one of Google or Bing for obscure or odd keywords but if those keywords don’t connect with your: Buyer Persona and Buyer Journey, you’ve wasted your time.

Before writing any content make sure you know: which keywords you want to rank for and how they impact your client.

Trade Shows / Conferences
(Multi-Vendor Events)

3 star rating

Traditionally a staple of B2B marketing, trade shows and conferences are still attract a lot of both attendees and companies presenting. These multi-vendor events, essentially, pit each vendor against the other to capture the attention of people (potential prospects) walking past.

You Need To Know

Great for Branding: These work well as broader branding events

Follow-up effectively for maximum ROI: If used for direct lead generation care must be taken to actively manage the prospecting process pre and post event.

Trade show marketing frequently fails to maximise ROI through poor pre-invitation and post event followup processes.

Live Webinars (On-line Events)


The entry point for live webinars has dropped from high cost dedicated hardware and communications systems, to wifi, laptop, headset and webinar account. As a way of engaging with prospects they can be quite effective but, as for other event type a lot of the work occurs after the event has finished.

You Need To Know

Brace yourself for low attendance: Average no show rates for webinars are around 65%, Yes, only 35% of people who register will attend. So you must have a plan in place to create engage with people that don’t attend the webinar itself.

Attention rates are falling: Even people logged into the webinar may have it running on a second screen and don’t really hear the content so you need to consider how to actively keep their attention.

Follow-up effectively for maximum ROI : Just like trade shows, to gain the maximum value from a webinar you need to have great pre and post event processes to turn interest into action. Many webinars “fail” the ROI test because nothing happens at the end of the webinar. This is when the real work starts.

Reuse for on-demand content: Turning your live webinar into an on-demand webinar (Content Marketing) is a great way to get enduring value from the time and effort required to create the webinar content in the first place.

all you need for a webinar

Everything you need for a webinar!

Single Company Events
(User Groups, Strategic Round Tables, etc)

3 star rating

Single company events are a great way to get prospects and clients into the same room. If you have happy customers, putting them in the same room with prospects can move those prospects along the buyer’s journey.

You Need To Know

Significant no-show rates: If the event is free, no-show rates are high, typically 30%+, and can be affected by weather and other factors beyond your control. Surprisingly, charging a nominal fee can increase both attendance and take up.

Complex and costly (relatively): Because you are responsible for all elements of the event (location booking, audio/visual, signage: digital and physical, etc) they are complex (and can be costly) to set up and run.

Initial Invite List: You need a starting list of people to invite. Getting that list can be a B2B marketing task in and of itself.

B2B Advertising

While there are plenty of advertising options, for B2B marketing they come down to a few core types:

  1. On-line Advertising
    1. SEM: Search Engine Marketing
    2. Social Advertising: advertising in social media
    3. Display advertising: banner advertising on web pages
  2. Off-line Advertising
    1. Print media (magazines, newspapers, etc)
    2. Billboards (airports, etc)
    3. Television, radio, etc

You Need To Know

Off-line is probably not for you: For most SME B2B organisations off-line advertising is not applicable as broadcasting their message to an undifferentiated public is not cost effective. It will not be covered in this guide.

SEM/Display advertising Vs Social advertising: With SEM you can target the keywords that people are using in their searches but not the profile of the person searching. Social advertising lets you target the demographic (and company graphic) of the person, but not their current interests. So each of these approaches should be used in different ways.

Advertising can be useful for demand management: Advertising can be turned on and off quickly so can be an excellent way to manage new customer flow: look like undershooting the new customers goal this quarter – turn on the advertising, look like overshooting it – turn off the advertising.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing (Google, Bing, etc)

This is paid media that shows up in the Google or Bing search results and is driven by the keywords entered by the searcher.

Fees are generally charged by the click, i.e. literally when someone clicks on the advert link you pay.

It can become quite complex, but in simple terms your advertising is shown when people enter your “purchased” keywords into the search engine.

You Need To Know

Cost per click varies: The cost for each click depends, in part, on the competition for the targeted keyword and can be expensive per click for highly sought after keywords. However, the ROI on those clicks can often justify the higher cost.

Target buyers that are ready: You should be looking for bottom of the funnel leads – people who are interested in purchasing in the short term.

These keywords will be more expensive than generic keywords but they will be more effective. Take the example here: anyone searching for “advertising agencies sydney” probably is looking to hire one soon.

Make sure you convert them: You’ve paid a lot of money for that click so make sure you don’t send people to your homepage. Send them to a targeted landing page that has the single goal of having them contact you or leave their details.

B2B click through rates average 2.5%.

Social Advertising (facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc)

Because social networks know so much about you, then are an excellent way to target advertisements to a specific audience. In many ways, this is their core business model: to know you so well they can target advertisements to you exactly.

You Need To Know

LinkedIn is Top of the Heap: While there are lots of networks, LinkedIn is the most important social network for B2B marketing. LinkedIn profiles contain details about their job roles and companies which are invaluable when targeting your message.

Facebook for smaller B2B businesses: When targeting smaller businesses facebook can also be useful.

Target all segments of the Buyers Journey: Because you don’t know their position in the Buyer’s journey you should create advertisements with a wider range of messages: top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel

Don’t forget retargetingit is possible to track when someone lands on your webpage and use this information to re-target advertising when browse their social stream. This can be a very powerful way to reinforce your message.

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Social Networks - Organic Reach

Liking, following, sharing – these are the day to day features of all social networks. In addition to advertising you can, of course, create follower networks the social platforms.

Content can be created and shared, with the hope that it will be shared and re-shared to increase the audience for the content.

You Need To Know

LinkedIn is, again, the one to use: As for social advertising, LinkedIn is the best platform for organic B2B social reach.

What you post impacts reach: The business model for social media companies implies they want to keep people on the platform. If you share content that takes people away from the platform (links to external content) their algorithms will actively reduce the number of people that see it.

To get maximum visibility create posts that keep people on the platform – of course that limits their effectiveness for lead capture, so it’s a balancing act.

(As always) Your goal is to capture lead contact details: You done want to become a digital sharecropper and know that the networks are actively reducing the organic reach available to corporates. This is, in part, to drive companies to pay for advertising. This trend will only continue so you need always need to be focusing on capturing prospect details so you can email market them later.

Skill your team up on social selling: The growing role of social selling means marketing needs to support the sales team directly with appropriate content

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