Digital marketing is opening windows of opportunities for B2B marketers to promote their companies on a wide range of digital marketing channels — including websites, email, social media, organic search, paid search, mobile and display ads, for example. With so many options, a common question B2B marketers ask is: Which digital marketing channels should I use? Before planning an effective digital marketing strategy, marketers need to understand the different channels, including the pros and cons. With this insight, they can identify which channels are most likely to work best for their businesses.
Here are 10 channels B2B marketers find most effective for generating leads.
10 Best Digital Marketing Channels for Lead Generation
- Content Marketing
- Social Media (Organic)
- Paid Social Media
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
- Native Advertising
- Display Ads
- Sponsored Content
- Guest Blogs on Industry Websites
To help you answer the question—Which digital marketing channels should I use?—we’ve prepared an overview of the pros and cons of each of these 10 channels, along with tips on how to optimize their marketing value.
1. Content Marketing
Content marketing is an essential digital channel for every company operating today. Content is the workhorse for communicating and selling to prospects and customers. Prospects today expect companies’ websites and blogs to provide copious amounts of content that answer their specific questions. Also, when they care about a brand, they expect to receive regular blog posts that provide them with news, insight, offers and more.
- Flexible platforms with multimedia capabilities for distributing content in a variety of formats
- Low barrier to entry with minimal technical or IT skills required
- Attracts new prospects, while engaging with existing customers
- Excellent for brand awareness, authority building, storytelling and passive sales messaging
- Provides the ability to measure and track performance
- Boosts SEO
- Creating sites that attract and retain visitors requires strategic, design and content creation expertise
- Creating relevant content on a regular basis can be challenging and time-consuming
- Requires a publisher mindset from brands possibly not used to this model
- Requires planning, organization and editorial control, particularly if there are multiple authors
- Create websites and content that serve your prospects’ and customers’ needs and answers their questions
- Understand your audience by creating detailed buyer personas
- Give away your knowledge
- Deliver a compelling call-to-action throughout the customer journey
- Consistently publish new content
- Be true to your company’s voice and tone
2. Email Marketing
B2B email marketing is an effective way to build and maintain rapport with potential clients and maintain relationships with existing customers. As the prospects progress through the sales funnel, companies can focus on helping them solve specific problems and achieve specific goals, rather than abruptly pushing them toward sales. Some companies send a weekly or monthly email newsletter to keep their businesses top-of-mind so that prospects and customers will look to them when they’re ready to buy.
- Cost-effective way of engaging an audience on an ongoing basis
- Helps build relationships by regularly sharing valuable information
- Can be customized and tailored to specific buyer personas
- Relatively fast to create and send
- Allows consumers to grow into their decision to make a purchase
- Provides many segmentation options
- Companies retain complete control over the content prospects and customers receive
- Can micro-track and analyze everything from open rate to click-throughs
- Building a customer email database can take time
- Risk irritating customers by sending too many emails
- Customers can easily unsubscribe or mark emails as spam
- So saturated that many people ignore emails
- Spam filters kill some emails
- Competing with other email marketers
- Track what works well and what doesn’t to improve your email results
- Find the right balance for sending emails to prospects and customers
- Invest in a good inbound marketing application to manage email operations
3. Social Media Marketing (Organic)
Social media has grown from being merely a digital channel for socializing into one of the most powerful digital marketing tools for brands and businesses. All forms of social media, from Facebook to LinkedIn to YouTube, have built large networks and communities by allowing users to interact with each other, share opinions, participate in discussions and engage in real-time. Today, businesses can leverage social media platforms to create brand awareness organically (versus advertising) for their products and services. Also, they can reach out to highly targeted potential customers through person-to-person engagement.
- A social media presence makes your company more accessible and keeps your clients in the loop with your business
- Allows you to react or respond in real-time to relevant news or conversations
- Nurtures brand loyalty through targeting and consistent, relevant presence
- Great for customer service, including praise, suggestions and complaints
- Can be inexpensive if managed well
- It’s hard to break through the noise and get your potential customers to focus on your posts
- Takes a large time commitment to grow and maintain a following
- Must engage in continuous communication to keep customers’ and prospects’ attention
- Attracts spammers, scammers, trolls and all other sorts of malicious individuals
- Reach is declining on many platforms due to changing algorithms
- ROI for organic social media efforts is hard to measure
- Identify your company’s goals and targeted audience before you get started
- Choose the right platforms for your industry, company and consumers
- Regularly post links to new content, articles, company events, industry awards, etc.
- Observe your consumers’ pain points, and address them in real-time
- Always think and review content before posting
4. Paid Social Media
In the same way that social media can be a powerful driver of organic traffic, it can also be a powerful driver of paid visits. Facebook usage alone still outpaces that of all the other social media, with YouTube close behind. It plays a big role in most people’s daily lives, and it makes sense to place ads where potential customers spend portions of their days.
Many of the pros and cons of using paid social media are the same as using it organically, with a few exceptions.
- You’re reaching your audience where they already are
- Paid ads can now conform to feel like they’re a part of a person’s timeline feed rather than being placed only on the sidebar of the site, which means they’re more likely to engage
- You can highly segment ads to find the audience you’re looking for or even target a new audience
- Find useful analytics to help make your ads even more powerful
- Affordability. Facebook and Instagram ads tend to be cheaper.
- Affordability: While Facebook ads tend to be cheaper, platforms like LinkedIn can be more expensive.
- Privacy concerns
- Finding the right platform for your ads can take a lot of trial and error. For example, depending on your industry, you may find you have better success advertising on LinkedIn than Facebook, and maybe no success at all on Twitter.
- Know which platform resonates with your target audience. If your organic posts perform better on Facebook than LinkedIn, try advertising on Facebook first.
- Refine your goals to know where to post. If you’re looking to promote a new product, Facebook or Instagram are the better platforms because LinkedIn does not allow product advertising.
- Use interactive or video ads for better performance and engagement
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Every day millions of people use search engines to hunt for information about brands, products, services and the pain points they experience. It still rules as one of the best B2B marketing channels because it’s the most popular medium for locating any and all information.
Marketing masters understand that SEO is the lifeblood of a thriving, effective digital marketing strategy. SEO involves several activities to boost rankings, including keyword research, making use of both on-page and off-page optimization, linkable asset creation, organic link building and more. Optimizing SEO in your content will dramatically improve your search rank and make it that much easier for customers to find you. For example, you can publish original content related to your industry and include the keywords in strategic places like your title tags, headings and content.
- Practically everyone uses a search engine to explore products and services before buying
- Supports a cost-effective marketing strategy
- Ranking well for your chosen niche can pay off for years to come
- Scales up over time for the maximum reach of a niche
- Delivers a continuous flow of targeted traffic
- Gives businesses exposure to people actively looking for solutions
- Generates traffic that has a good chance of converting
- Supports making you an authority in your niche
- Can take years to match the scale of your competitors
- Requires a big investment for a competitive niche
- No control over search engine algorithms’ updates and changes
- Potential for penalties if you stray into gray or black hat arena
- Rank better in the search results by being the first one there
- Reach out to other reputable websites to earn links to your content
- Know your keywords and incorporate them into high-quality, engaging content
- Work with your tech team to ensure your website is high-functioning, fast-loading and delivers the quality content your customers are seeking
6. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC is like SEO except companies pay for it. There are two key differences when considering SEO or paid search. The first is that paid ads appear at the top of the page, above the organic listings. The second is that traffic from organic is free, whereas traffic from paid search has a cost for each click. Essentially, paid search dominates above-the-fold. With typically four ads on desktop and three on mobile, users will always see the paid search ads, even if they choose to scroll past them. Ads can be targeted by search keywords, time of day, day of the week, geography, language, device and audiences based on previous visits. Some of the options for creating ads are calls-to-action, locations, site links, pricing and bullet points.
- Laser-targeted visibility
- Fast deployment and results
- Testable and trackable
- Granular control, including budgets
- Unrestricted access to keyword data, which can inform all advertising
- Easy to conduct AB tests on ads, landing pages and call-to-action buttons to find the best results
- Requires constant investment, so costs can quickly add up
- No staying power, unlike good inbound marketing
- Poor management can deliver poor results
- Requires ongoing work to test results and continually optimize ads
- Competitive keywords are expensive
- Lots of competition and keyword bidding wars with other advertisers
- Easy for competitors to copy your strategy
- Learn more about your audience
- Focus on quality keywords
- Create landing pages that match your ads’ visuals and content
- Focus on the ads’ images
- Optimize ads for mobile
- Set up conversion tracking
7. Native Advertising
Native advertising is when ads are placed on third-party websites, and they’re designed to match the look and feel of that website. Typically they run in the center of an article as you’re naturally scrolling through to read more. The idea is that native ads appear less like ads and more like links that encourage people to click and go through to your landing page.
- Native ads can be used to drive more brand awareness
- They cast a wider net for new potential customers
- They have a higher click-through rate versus traditional display ads
- Find higher conversion rates by retargeting people who click native ads
- Native ads may create more brand awareness, but they don’t always lead to conversions
- Not recommended for sending people to gated content
- Depending on the native advertising service you use, some of the information you get back may not be helpful or specific enough — for example, you may get back a list of IP addresses for one company, but no information about who those people are or what their position is
- You’re reaching people at the top of the funnel, so it may take longer to see ROI on your native ads
- Create quality content. You don’t want to drive people to landing pages that don’t have the information you promise in an ad.
- Video and interactive ads garner more attention than static ads
- Upload the customer database you already have into social platforms to create lookalike audiences
8. Display Advertising
This channel involves designing graphical ads and placing them next to content on websites, emails and other digital formats. Display ads help promote new products or offers, increase online presence and reach out to customers to help drive leads and increase brand awareness. Ads can be banners, boxes, interactive ads, video ads, overlays and other similar ads that are linked to a landing page or website. They can include text, images, audio or video clips, animation or other interactive content.
- Extremely targeted and flexible
- Pay only for relevant impressions received
- Choose from a large number of advertising options
- Target ads according to consumer behavior, demographics or geographic location
- Create brand awareness as well as highly targeted traffic that may convert into leads or sales
- Track everything from numbers reached, clicks, action and conversion ratios
- Easy to manage budgets
- Difficult to reach the right demographics without detailed targeting
- Fewer people click on display ads than in the past
- Create display ads to emulate magazine and billboard ads, including eye-catching visuals and concise content
- Make your ads relevant to what your buyer personas are looking for
9. Influencer Marketing
Sponsored content is when you pay another company to create and promote content that describes your brand in some way. This could include a blog post or article. A very popular example of sponsored content is influencer marketing. Companies are using social media influencers as another form of word-of-mouth marketing and they’re finding great success. Here are some ideas for starting your own influencer campaign.
- Customers tend to believe what other people say, which makes this type of marketing extremely effective.
- It works well across B2B and B2C industries
- Influencers know their audience better than anyone else
- It leads to conversions because it comes off as less of a sales pitch
- Measuring performance is difficult
- Creating the content, especially if written, can be a long process
- Sponsored content can come across as deceiving to some viewers
- Make sure you have a firm understanding of your audience to ensure proper sponsored content placement
- Buyers trust sponsored content more than traditional ads, so make sure your content meets their expectations
- Hit the key points, but don’t continuously push your product in your audience’s face
- Make posts image-rich for more engagement
10. Guest Blogs on Industry Websites
Guest blogging on relevant industry websites is a great way to get in front of new audiences. Guests blogs can help you boost your reputation, traffic and searchability. They also help your link-building game.
- When you guest post on a reputable website, you boost your own credibility
- You’ll build up links back to your website
- If you guest post enough on one site, you can contact the site owner to see about setting up Google Authorship, which links all your written content on that site
- Finding an industry blog that aligns with your goals can be time-consuming. There’s also the chance that they don’t accept guest posts when you do find a good one.
- You risk harmful association with another website that could turn out to be bogus. Do your research before you pitch a post. Backlinks on less-reputable sites will hurt you in the long run.
- There’s a chance you’ll end up targeting the wrong audience. Make sure you ask questions about that company’s website before you decide to pitch.
- The biggest thing to remember is to do your research on any company you consider pitching. You need to make sure their audience aligns with your goals and what you’re trying to achieve.
Get Your Message In Front of the Right Audience
Clearly, digital marketing channels offer today’s marketers multiple opportunities to get their names and messages out in front of a larger targeted audience in ways that build brands, create conversions and boost profits. However, the vast number of options can also be overwhelming, leading to poor choices and wasted investments. By studying the opportunities and the pros and cons of each channel before making time and budget commitments, companies will ultimately find their best answer to the key question: Which digital channels should I use?