12 Essential Components of Great B2B Marketing Campaigns (And 24 Examples)
What are the most common traits of great B2B marketing campaigns? How are innovative companies breaking through? These examples can guide your strategy.
August 23, 2017
In our information-saturated world, it can be a tall order to catch a consumer’s attention with marketing content. That challenge is even greater for B2B marketers. We tend to have less “sexy” products to sell, fewer resources at our disposal, and approximately zero pop stars to do the pitching for us.
Even given these hurdles, great B2B marketing campaigns have managed to achieve remarkable results. It takes planning, strategy, flawless implementation, and continued optimisation, but it can be done.
There are 12 distinct elements that must work together for a great B2B campaign. Follow along as we outline each of the twelve, along with inspiring examples of real-life applications.
1. SMART Goals
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Sensitive. In many ways, this acronym sums up the modern movement in marketing as the entire field becomes more data-driven and focused in its strategies. Every great B2B marketing campaign today starts with proper planning and groundwork. Embracing the principles of SMART is how we can prove our value.
Examples of SMART Campaigns:
In attempting to engage a challenging audience, asset management firm J.P. Morgan put together an extensive blueprint that focused on reaching financial advisors with specific messaging at different stages of the customer journey. The measured results (20% increase in on-site conversions, tenfold growth in FA followers on Showcase Page, 200% engagement rates compared to benchmarks) reflected successful achievement of clear objectives.
Software solution provider NICE had a set of goals in mind: build awareness of its back-office solutions, engage high-level decision-makers, and generate more leads. In tandem with agency Pravda Media Group, the company formulated a strategy around eBooks with high relevance to their target audience, promoting them with LinkedIn ads. They blew away their projected leads, and had salespeople follow through with timely InMails to push those leads forward.
2. Knowing the Audience
Who are we trying to reach? How can we best engage them? Identifying and researching your target audience invariably leads to higher click and conversion rates. Savvy marketers use all of the tools at their disposal to learn everything they can about potential buyers, and then tailor their content completely around the particular habits and needs of these individuals.
Examples of Audience Research:
The EC works to match investors with infrastructure projects based in Europe, giving them two well defined niches. By analysing trends gleaned from previous campaigns on LinkedIn, and developing additional precision targeting criteria, this Sponsored InMail outreach delivered a stunning 60 percent open rate, blowing away industry benchmarks.
Engaging C-level executives is never easy, but in promoting its IoT-enabled EcoStruxure system, Schneider Electric took advantage of LinkedIn’s deeper targeting features to refine audience segments, conveying specific benefits to acute subsets. Headlines that spoke directly to the needs of recipients helped produce strong open and clickthrough rates .
3. Creative Concept
Here’s where B2B marketers can work to shed that “boring” label: by coming up with something truly unique and refreshing. We should all be thinking outside the box when hatching a new idea, seeking out ways to captivate web users desensitised from exposure to the same old marketing approaches.
Examples of Creative Concepts:
Looking to highlight the Surface device and its many B2B functionalities, Microsoft Germany created a Showcase Page on LinkedIn demonstrating the tablet’s usage in business settings.
With a mission to reach business professionals in India, lifestyle brand Van Heusen created a “Most Fashionable Professional” microsite, wherein users could log in with LinkedIn credentials and nominate their most stylish connections to appear on a leaderboard. Mashable selected the campaign among its eight most innovative in 2013.
4. Influencer Impact
Contemporary marketers are increasingly harnessing the power of influencers. The recognition factor weighs heavily, so when you pinpoint the right person with a message that aligns with their audience, engagement levels can skyrocket. Influencers are particularly powerful on LinkedIn, where members are already following and consuming their content heavily.
Examples of Influencer Integration:
Hoping to build relationships with financial influencers who could help them engage key decision-makers for its foreign exchange services, Swissquote used LinkedIn’s business demographic data to identify the right introductory brokers, asset managers, and financial advisors to target. Then, the company ran a Sponsored InMail campaign to connect with these professionals, achieving unprecedented response rates. As a result, Swissquote ended up with a network of 300 influencer contacts, and loaded their pipeline with qualified leads for the featured service.
Influencers don’t necessarily need to come from outside of your company. In Shell’s case, they took advantage of the expertise of Climate Change Adviser and blogger David Hone in order to convincingly communicate their message on tackling energy issues. Placing him at the forefront of an informational campaign, Shell crushed expectations for impressions and engagement.
5. Killer Content
As Lee Odden once wrote: “Content isn’t king, it’s the kingdom.” While the strategies surrounding your content are crucial for delivery and exposure, ultimately a well-crafted and relevant message must be at the heart of all great B2B campaigns. Killer content should be the launching point for every effort to reach and educate an audience.
Examples of Content that Connected:
With a well conceived strategy, Lenovo sought to influence IT professionals at the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey by creating localised content hubs for 13 different European countries. The campaign tapped into LinkedIn’s geo-targeting and language-preference capabilities for an experience that hit home with members, boosting leads in Lenovo’s pipeline by 63%.
As a global inbound marketing authority, HubSpot knows a thing or two about the power of content to pull in traffic and leads. With this Sponsored Content campaign, the company promoted its premium content offerings -- such as ebooks and how-to guides -- alongside similar topics appearing on organic LinkedIn feeds.
6. Visual Assets
Statistics show that people are far better at remembering pictures than words. It goes without saying that when you’re scrolling through a website, SERP, or social media feed, poppy images are going to catch your eye more than blocks of text. So it isn’t hard to see why fetching visuals are fundamental elements of high-performing B2B campaigns.
Examples of Visual Excellence:
SlideShare is a popular platform for drawing in readers with visually appealing slides that bring copy and statistics to life. In 2013, Toshiba created a SlideShare account and started running ads as business slides, adding some color to a topic they were struggling to energize (sustainable “smart communities”). In conjunction with an aesthetically vivid Showcase Page, Toshiba was able to dramatically boost engagement and lead conversions.
We find that promoting content by using quick-hit stats or small bits of copy in combination with striking visuals leads to a substantial increase in click rate. Additionally, using larger rich-media graphics as opposed to thumbnail previews raises CTR by 38%, so we like to make our favorite images quite prominent. Who doesn’t love a cat in sunglasses?
7. SEO Optimisation
Social media is one part of the puzzle, but companies also must make sure that they are visible on search engines, especially when it comes to prioritised keywords and initiatives. Competition for many terms is is reaching such heights that B2B marketers must get creative in order to keep appearing in results.
Examples of Stellar SEO Strategy:
Playing off the ability of search engines to recognise misspellings of popular keywords and recommend the correct version, MailChimp launched an expansive campaign with several satirical products and creations under slight alterations of their brand name (for instance, the short film JailBlimp and the beauty treatment SnailPrimp). Then, they created paid search campaigns around each, so that searchers who came across the quirky content would find their way back to the email marketing platform.
Now known as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, ExactTarget showed some serious SEO savvy in 2014 by creating a State of Marketing report and then supporting it with cross-channel assets, tons of inbound links from authoritative sources, and easy shareability.
8. Paid Social
Achieving organic reach on social media is great, but in many cases a paid boost is necessary to gain visibility against competitors and ensure targeted reach. With the right message, oriented toward the right audience, you can get plenty of bang for your buck and score serious ROI.
Examples of Powerful Paid Social Campaigns:
MarketShare is in the business of big data and analytics, so the company had a particular appreciation for LinkedIn’s extensive targeting parameters, which they used to pinpoint marketing executives at larger companies through Display Ads. The campaign’s CTR ended up doubling internal expectations, and MarketShare was able to generate many leads in new verticals.
Many of the best paid social strategies incorporate multiple ad formats, as Seed Equity did in efforts to raise awareness for a new crowdfunding platform for startups. With a combination of Sponsored Content and Dynamic Ads, the registered broker dealer saw explosive gains in investor signups and Company Page follows while cruising past engagement benchmarks.
9. Turkey Slicing
Just as you shouldn’t throw away the rest of a delicious turkey after enjoying one single serving, no great marketing idea should go to waste before you get all you can from it. Turkey slicing refers to the repurposing of content in different packaging and compositions -- like taking your leftover meal and turning it into a sandwich or stew days later. When executed properly, this strategy enables you to really stretch your content, sometimes unlocking new perspectives and insights on the same topic.
Examples of Tasty Turkey Slices:
Recognising the inherently short attention spans of internet users, insurance company AIG took one big idea and broke it down into digestible content that was more educational than promotional. They served the slices across various Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, and Display Ads, vastly increasing the reach of their message.
A few years back we created a digital guide to connecting with the millennial segment on LinkedIn. In order to get more eyes on the Playbook and what it contained, we pulled a variety of compelling stats from within and created an infographic around them, garnering thousands of views and driving traffic back to the main asset.
10. Lead Capturing
Anyone who works with a sales funnel understands the importance of keeping the top end filled with potential opportunities. Social media channels are among the best places to do this in a cost-effective manner. The best social lead gen campaigns are those that combine quantity and quality, aiming for not only volume but relevance as well.
Examples of Exceptional Lead Gen:
Frustrated with the expense of acquiring leads through social media, research group Info-Tech turned up the targeting to sharpen its scope, and continually optimised all aspects of its content. As a result, they drastically reduced CPLs and captured a fantastic 42% click-to-conversion rate, while yielding 90% qualified leads for specific titles.
The tricky thing with generating leads on social media is that it can be very tough to guide a user away from the network they are surfing. This is why LinkedIn’s Lead Gen forms are handy; these pre-filled forms can be completed without navigating away from the platform. IR utilized this capability and enhanced its efficacy by making the forms mobile-friendly, leading to a twofold increase in conversion rate and a 44% drop in CPL.
11. Follow-Up and Lead Nurturing
Of course, even with a strong lead generation methodology, not all prospects will be qualified as soon as they enter the pipeline. In the B2B world, with high competition and high stakes, it is often a very gradual process. This is where marketing must function as a nurturing force, helping inform and sway decision-making through continual efforts.
Examples of Following Through:
BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service) provider Kinvey used Sponsored Content to keep the leads rolling in, but smartly didn’t stop there. They used marketing automation software to run email nurture campaigns, to stay in touch with prospects who showed a preliminary interest in their solution. “We educate and nurture our leads so when they’re ready to buy, our brand is top of mind,” said digital marketing manager Lauren Pedigo.
Building a strong follower base is step one in a long-term nurturing program, which can be fueled by a steady stream of quality content on your Company Page. In 2015, professional certification training provider Simplilearn ran a 12-week campaign that drove a 40% increase in followers, fostering a targeted collection of subscribers who now continue to interact with the company’s regular shares and links.
12. Measurement and Improvement
Initially, creation of a campaign is based on informed guesswork. We don’t really know what is going to work until the content goes live and we can gauge the way people are responding to it. This is why continual tweaking is critical. Optimising on the fly can dramatically bolster your final results, and those who leave out this component are doing themselves a disservice. In the age of metrics for measuring everything, applying insights from campaign data has never been easier.
Examples of Effective Optimisation:
In order to get the most out of its ad spend, ConnectWise implemented a conversion-tracking tool on LinkedIn and monitored every element of its Sponsored Content, specifically zeroing in on CTAs to see which ones were proving effective. Based on this information, they swapped in top performers to ensure maximum ROI.
Marketing software company Percolate used Sponsored Content to promote a digital report but, upon reviewing the numbers, found it was receiving disappointing engagement. Instead of continuing to let it run as is, they ran it again with a new headline and fresh creative, and the adjustment paid off: this time around, downloads spiked and lead generation increased by 500%.
B2B marketing may seem complicated, but it’s easy to get great results if you go by the numbers. Make sure your campaign includes these 12 components, and you’re far more likely to join the ranks of great B2B campaigns.