Consumer goods & FMCGs know their customers will open up Amazon and UberEats and come across their product.
But where does a B2B business find its customers online? It's a bizarre question that every business-owner thinks about when thinking about customer outreach. But they end up wasting money on platforms where their target audience doesn't even exist.
And that's precisely why this manual exists: To help B2B business-owners and marketers find their future customers online. It's a brief directory of where your customers hang out so you can approach them there.
Warning: What this directory doesn't do is help you figure out who your target audience is. Ideally, you should know that before you dive in to this list.
To make it even more actionable for you, we have divided it according to where they are in the funnel.
- Awareness phase. They don't know about you yet or they're not actively thinking about solving the problem that your company solves.
- Consideration phase. They're aware of the problem and they're actively looking for ways to solve it.
- Decision phase. They're in the market looking to buy a product/service that solves that problem.
Awareness Phase: Inform & Attract
These people aren't aware that they have a problem that needs solving and they don't know about your company yet. Your message will therefore seek to inform them about the problem, and how it could benefit them to think about it.
For people in the Awareness Phase and Consideration Phase, Harry Dry of Marketing Examples has a great strategy:
No matter what channel your audience is present on, don't try to consciously drive them back to your website by spamming them with links. People need valuable advice from you on the platform that they're already on. Give them them that complete advice on that channel. That will reinforce your brand. You can read more about it here.
Here are the forums where you can find your customers in the Awareness Phase.
Social Media Feed
Unless you're selling to people who are in their 60s, you'll find your customers lurking around social media feeds. For B2B businesses, this usually means Linkedin & Facebook.
The best way to attract them through the social media feed is to create content that is incredibly helpful for your "smallest viable audience."
Contento helps expertise driven businesses to post such content week-in-week-out on social media to makes them look like the authority they are in that industry. Learn more in a free demo.
Social Media Extended Networks
Social media doesn't end at your own social media feed. Your friend's and follower's networks are the next most accessible area to look for your target audience.
To get to them though, you'll have to encourage your immediate network to engage with what you post. If they like it, comment on it, and share it, it'll be visible to their network with their endorsement. And people trust their friends more than they trust businesses.
Download our ebook: 6 Pillars of Social Media to start building a strong presence right away.
Video & Display Ads
It's easy to target people's search interests and titles on social media, Google, and Youtube. You can run brand awareness campaigns on Youtube or social media with a focus on impressions. People who are in the awareness phase won't decide to buy suddenly.
Consideration Phase: Engage & Educate
Audiences in this phase are thinking about the problem your business solves. Which means they are searching online, are subscribed to publications, and are consuming content which helps them solve their business problem. That's how you reach them.
Backlinks on other websites
When people are thinking about the problem, they will be consuming a lot of content about it. For example, let's say you're part of an accounting firm. Your future customers will reading blogs about how to handle their books. If that blog contains a link to a report or blog that you wrote, they might click through to your blog.
A lot of backlinks occur naturally if people find your content helpful and link to it. But once you have some decent content on your website, you should actively look for backlinks.
Reach out to complementary businesses' blogs that are talking about similar topics. Reach out to their content marketer on Linkedin or email and send them the link. They might not put a link in an existing blog, but if they find your content helpful, they might link to it in a future blog they write.
Besides being a great way to repurpose content, Youtube is a great way to attract audiences that are already thinking about you. After Google, Youtube is the largest search engine, which means people are looking for basically anything and everything they can on Youtube. From SaaS reviews to how to videos of products, to legal and accounting advice.
What does this mean for you as a B2B business? It means you should be creating engaging and educational content for your target audience on these platforms. Make sure they're subtitled. Make sure the title and description makes it easy for people to find it. Make sure you include important links in the description too, so you can drive them to the website so they can convert.
Content curation websites
Medium's mini-magazines, such as Elemental and OneZero, feature good articles on particular topics for their audiences. People can also subscribe to certain topics of interest on Medium to receive some articles every day around those topics in their inboxes.
People subscribing to these publications are already signaling their interest in these topics and want to be educated on them regularly. If you end up in that curated bunch of articles, there's a high chance that they will check out your article, and get to know more about your business.
How do you do that? You write amazing content specifically for these websites either as a company with a Medium page, or as an expert. Pick the relevant tags when you're publishing your content, and if it is good enough, you might end up on their carefully curated publication pages.
Editorial websites charge to get your article published on their website, such as Forbes, Fast Company, and Bloovi. They generally have a good reach with their content, they create a buzz when your content is published, and allow you to get some good leads in the process.
As a rule, the more niche editorial magazine you're going to go for, the more qualified your leads will be. If I'm a design agency looking for business, it will make sense for me to have my work published in an online magazine with a branding focus such as Onbrand Magazine or Branding Magazine. This will make sure my work influences people, but more importantly, people thinking about rebranding or creative campaigns reach out to do business with my agency.
As a comic artist, I find myself spending a lot of time watching a lot of my favorite Youtubers creating art. Likewise, as a student of SEO, I watch a lot of videos around the subject. Independent Youtubers allow businesses to reach out to them to sponsor their videos with a special discount for the subscribers of that Youtuber. That is a powerful way to make interested people aware of your product or service. And a discount is a great incentive.
I break discussion forums into two kinds where B2B businesses can find their customers.
The first are directly related to what you offer. If you offer Legal help, you can look for Discussion forums where people are trying to solve each other's legal problems. Your contribution there means more since you're a professional. You can answer people's questions. Build some authority, and get business leads.
The second. Your customers, as you might have found out from user research, also share other common interests. You can target discussion forums about these interests. For example:
e-book: It's like being interested in a complementary product. There is quite a bit of discussion around that ebook. People interested in that book might also be thinking about solving problems that your product solves.
You can run a search for this book on Reddit forums, Facebook, and Linkedin and see where people are discussing it. Be careful not to over-advertise your product. Lead with value in the forums. Give people the information they need.
People are generally very picky about what lands in their work inbox. They only subscribe to a few newsletters they really really like. That means they give them information that they're looking for, keep them updated every day or week, and introduce them to new tools that other people in the industry are using. That's what makes newsletters such powerful vessels.
Some business newsletters pack a wealth of insight and news about a specific industry, reach tens of thousands of people, and have really high open rates. For example the Morning Brew and Bloovi newsletter go out every day.
Best part? They take sponsors. You can have an ad placed inside their newsletter which speaks to your target audience.
The Yahoo answers of today. Quora is a goldmine for B2B businesses and you'll already see a lot of B2B marketers spamming the platform with links to their own websites. However, it's still relevant for B2B businesses to look for questions around their areas of interest on Quora, and then answer them as best as they can.
Often leading them back to your website might be the only option you have. In every other case, try to sound like the expert you are and answer their question. This will help to increase your authority on the platform, and bring in leads.
It's the age of the podcast. Listenership (is that what it's called?) of podcasts has gradually increased. In the US 50% of all households are podcast fans, with estimates suggesting podcast listeners will number 100+million by 2023.
There's a plethora of business-related podcasts from Marketing to Sales to Operations to Business in general. That's promising for B2B businesses who want to reach their customers through podcasts. Again there are a couple of ways to do that.
Advertise on Spotify: Spotify now allows you to place voice ads into podcasts related to your audience's interests.
Feature on a podcast: If you know of a podcast that might be interesting to your target audience, it might be interesting to get in touch with the podcaster with the intention to feature on a podcast with a clear reason and topic to do so. For instance you might want to appear on a money management podcast as the owner of an Accounting firm to give listeners some important tips and tricks. Podcasters usually ask their guest to plug their website at the end, which can be a really good source qualified leads.
Social media comments
Linkedin has an interesting feature where if you're following a few hashtags, it notifies you about trending posts using that hashtag so you can engage with it. Following a good hashtag can allow you to keep an eye out for posts which your target audience comments on.
You can also keep an eye out for such discussions on your Linkedin feed. Don't hold back on engaging in existing conversations on your feed.
If you can answer their questions, give them good suggestions, get them into a conversation and provide them with value. And eventually connect with them.
Decision Phase (I'm looking to buy)
When prospects are looking to buy, they're going through a lot of options, comparing features and prices. Comparison and review websites are a great place for that. Example. G2, Trustpilot, Capterra have an array of different opinions, ratings, detailed comparisons about similar products. People who go to these websites are in the final stages of making a decision, and may also convert on these websites.
Some of these platforms also offer good deals on these products which further incentivize your target audience to purchase. To start off however, you can complete your profile on these platforms.
Little known fact: G2 is not just great for comparison of SaaS products, but has just as good a library of law firms that you can compare. Plus if you're highly rated on these platforms, you can add a badge to your website too which solidifies your stature as a service provider.
Social media is an excellent tool to keep people engaged with your business and brand. When you have other touchpoints, and they've followed you on social media because they find your content valuable, they're ready to be converted into leads and then into customers.
You can target them with social media ads using content that helps them to convert. For example a price & features comparison between you and your competitors, benefits to your followers of signing up with your business, discount offers and campaigns to get them to convert etc.
When your target audience is looking to buy, they'll Google it. If you're already doing some great work in the Awareness & Consideration Phase, they'll look for you by name. If not, they'll Google other solutions, price & feature comparisons, and reviews. Use keywords around these topics to run Google Ads which provide them with this information (and frames you as the go-to solution obviously).
If you don't know how to start with Google Ads, Contento can help. We help businesses run Google Ads alongside their social media. If you want to learn more, get a demo from our Sales team.
Your Mailing List
Needless to say, if someone has subscribed to your mailing list, they are interested in hearing from you. It's best to segment your email lists by the phase they are in in the customer journey. Not everyone wants to hear you offer right after they have submitted their email.
B2B businesses can sometimes have longer customer journeys. so the best practice is to gauge people's interest by their level of engagement with your emails and content. If they have checked out your Pricing page, chances are they're thinking about buying. Software like Hubspot can allow you to divide your emailing lists along these criteria.
Once you have a list of people who are interested and engaged, you can send them a targeted email with your offer.
This list is by no means complete. I've tried to add as many less known channels as I could think of so you can take advantage of them as a B2B marketer or business-owner.
Have you identified other cool hotspots where B2B customers hang out online? Get in touch with me to suggest your favorite hotspot, so I can add it to this list and you'll get a free backlink to your website!