10 B2B Customer Acquisition Marketing Strategies for Startups

At a startup, marketing is the cost-effective method for growing a customer base and building a brand, without spending a large amount of capital on expensive ads. As brands get more creative with how they engage their customers, it can be hard for B2Bs and strictly enterprise-focused businesses to compete and stand out. However, knowing your audience and taking some pages out of the B2C customer acquisition book can be extremely helpful.

By developing a focused strategy aimed at capturing the attention of companies in your sector, you can better serve your community and deliver your product to a wider clientele. Here are our favorite strategies for marketers targeting the B2B customer.

1. Content Marketing

Content marketing is the number one strategy we would recommend for B2B customer acquisition. Content marketing is crucial to the B2B space, especially within the startup community. The best way to drive traffic to your site is to be the premier source of information in your given sector. If you take the time to put out top-notch, informative content, you will acquire customers who have been driven to your site because of its reputation as a resource. A great way to acquire new customers and keep current customers interested is by being a source of engaging and informative content. Consider developing a guide or book available for download on your site. For example, inDinero offers a free guide on startup fundraising. They use compelling content as a way to collect email addresses to find new leads and get their contact information.

2. SEO

A good content strategy should also start with SEO. Your content will not produce large conversions if it’s not optimized for search results. You should use keyword research tools like Moz to find compelling keywords about your industry that your customers are searching.

Potential customers will find your company through Google search results if you have a strong SEO strategy. Picking topics, headlines, and keywords that have high SEO value and are relevant to your company will make sure your content marketing efforts are not going to waste and provide you leads over time.

3. Partnerships 

If your startup is new to the particular market it belongs to, it could greatly benefit from an existing consumer base. Partnering with a company in the same market (or an adjacent one) on a guide, article, webinar, event, or even a bundle deal could mean automatic exposure to a relevant customer base. Here are some resources that might further help you discover routes to creating mutually beneficial partnerships:

4. Follow a B2C2B Strategy

More often than not, companies buy software on the recommendation of one member or team, rather than making decisions as a unit about what is needed. As Matthew Bellows, Founder and CEO of Yesware explained to us,

“When you are a startup, the margin of error is small as the tools that you use can really help or hurt your company. The more you share what works, and the more you learn from others, the more successful your startup can be.”

A great way to infiltrate a company is by targeting an influencer within it. Following a B2C2B strategy means offering your product to an individual, especially an early adopter, who will use it and then recommend it to their team and company at large. 

5. Email Marketing

Every time you meet or engage with potential customers, whether it is through your content, at events, or any other channels, there should always be an invitation to sign up for your newsletter. An informative newsletter that links to great, industry-relevant content will build engagement with your brand and acquire customers who will come to trust you as a resource of valuable information and tools (without spamming their inbox). Shameless plug: sign up for the Stacklist newsletter here. We provide great digests about new tools, stacklists, and more. Here’s our last issue.

Drip marketing is another effective way to reach your acquisition goals via email. Have a schedule of follow-ups with anyone who has engaged with your brand, to both test their affection for your content and to gradually collect contact details from them.

Email marketing platforms like MailChimp or SendGrid can be great for educating your subscribers and customers on your product, and for creating newsletters.

And cold emails to a targeted list can be an easy and inexpensive way to engage with new potential customers, remotely. Tools like Reply, Hunter, Outreach, and Prospect.io can assist your email marketing team in this effort and are favorites of the Stacklist community.

6. Social Media 

Just because you are a B2B enterprise, it does not mean that you cannot utilize social media effectively. Almost every tech company is on the major social media networks, and most marketing managers who scour this content prefer to be surprised and amused, rather than to read more pitches in business language. Building a creative, funny, or engaging social media presence, while still remaining professional, is the key to making an impression on the businesses you want to be your customers. Utilizing high-quality graphics and copy, and storylines that are poignant and connect with your audience, are also great tactics.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 12.06.25 PM.png Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 12.15.42 PM.png

Zendesk on Twitter                                                                                  Cisco on Instagram

One way to develop a social media strategy is by tracking and reacting to your competitors’ mentions. By seeing how they engage with customers, you can learn from both what they are and are not doing, and attempt to create a more enticing online profile. You can also discover what has worked and has not worked for them, and learn from their mistakes to provide better posts. Mention is a favorite amongst startups for tracking brand mentions.

One network that B2Bs can utilize much more effectively is LinkedIn. The addition of a professional network means one more potential marketplace for selling to other startups and companies. Posting professional and industry-related content and connecting with potential partners via this online networking platform will help you find and convert new customers. If you do have some money to spend, LinkedIn for Business is also an excellent platform for B2B advertising.

Finally, YouTube is the most popular social platform among B2B marketing specialists, and 50% of executives watch enterprise-related videos on YouTube, with the majority following on the poster’s website. Through your YouTube channel, you can engage with your customers, explain topics of interests, and even demonstrate ways in which to use your product.

7. Referral Program

Your best source of new customers are your current ones. If you’re producing a good product with responsive customer service, your customers should only have great things to say about you. Focus on building great relationships with your customer base and then incentivize them to refer you to other companies by offering discounts. This is an excellent way to make connections within your industry. 

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Waldman, President and CEO of Billy. He has established a referral program and recommends, 

"For affiliate marketing, we use FirstPromoter. It allows users to sign up and get a unique Billy link to send to friends. When they make the referral, the app lets us know so that we can send them a check or credit their account.It allows users to sign up and get a unique Billy link to send to friends. When they make the referral, the app lets us know so that we can send them a check or credit their account."

8. Creative Tactics

Get creative in your tactics for garnering more users and buyers. One way is to take a page out of the books of some great companies. Stripe ran a collision installation campaign where they physically installed Stripe on the computers of new customers they interacted with at conventions, events, and through other in-person marketing techniques. Run promotions and offer services that are unique to businesses you are targeting and stand out.

Another way to stand out is by going bigger with any of these tactics. One method that has worked for many B2B companies is releasing a book on your topic of expertise. If your book picks up traction, your brand will reach entirely new markets and could stand to become your industry’s choice of resource for years to come.

9. Networking & Event Marketing

People can sell much better in person because of the added personalized and human touch to the transaction experience. Meeting potential and current customers through running meetups, holding conferences, and sponsoring events is a great way to meet a large volume of people interested in what you do.

One way we build our community here in New York is by holding events with startup founders to help other entrepreneurs. We’re hosting a panel discussion on B2B Customer Acquisition on October 4th. Join us and other entrepreneurs from Silicon Alley!

10. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

You’ve used these strategies and gotten potential customers to your site, but they’re still not purchasing your product. This means it’s time to revamp your site and optimize it for conversions.

Experiment with fonts, colors, design, placement, size, pop-ups, and chatbots that will highlight your CTA, or call-to-action. Make the process of signing up for a beta or purchasing the full version as streamlined and obvious as possible.

There are popup tools that create email sign-up forms or CTAs on your site easily! We use Sumo for our sign-up forms.

Another way founders get users attention to their product or service is by using the chat functions of Intercom or other live chat tools to message visitors to their site. A rising alternative is Drift. Marat Stary, Co-founder & CEO of getPartnered says:

“On the website, we have a product similar to Intercom called Drift. It’s geared much more to sales. That’s why it’s on our marketing site.”

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And if you’re in NYC, join us October 4th for our panel “B2B Customer Acquisition: Strategies & Tactics for Startups.”