Your First B2B Online Marketing Campaign: A Beginner's Guide

Julie Ewald
Julie Ewald

Last updated on

April 11, 2023

Setting up an online marketing campaign to attract and convert new leads isn’t exactly easy, especially when it’s your first time. With the massive amount of digital marketing information that abounds on the internet, it seems like something one should be able to sort out, right?

The digital marketing gurus out there sure make it seem simple and approachable by breaking things down into bite-sized tips and short, digestible lessons, which really works great when you’re focused on fine-tuning one piece of the puzzle. But bringing it all together into a comprehensive marketing machine that actually functions as a comprehensive campaign and works to drive your business objectives needs more than a handful of helpful tips or tricks. It needs a whole roadmap.

So here’s your roadmap!

This is a step-by-step guide to help you develop your first B2B marketing campaign to attract leads. From the work you need to get out of the way on the front end to whipping up and distributing your lead magnet, here’s the 101-level framework you need to craft a killer first campaign.

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Before Your Online Marketing Campaign

Before you can start working on your online marketing campaign, there are a few things you should probably sort out first -- your campaign will work so much better when you build it up from a solid foundation.

The way I see it, this starts with keen insights around who your brand is, why you’re out there, what you’re trying to accomplish, and who your audience is. This vital collection of need-to-know marketing information is something I call the Brand Blueprint.

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Brand Blueprint

A Brand Blueprint doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you do need to put in some time using your noggin to do research and gain greater insight into your brand. Ideally, the insights you’re looking for are those that are universal to your brand – not just one product, service, or campaign. This is information you can use as a foundation to guide all of your upcoming marketing efforts.

Once you’ve created your Brand Blueprint, you want to think about whatever the heck it is you’re trying to get folks to do. And given that this is your first campaign, you’re most likely just trying to get them into your funnel in the first place. In order to convert visitors into leads to drop into the top of your funnel, you’ll need to collect some basic information from them.

So, about that funnel…

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The Sales Funnel

The idea of the sales funnel (a.k.a. conversion path, buyer’s journey, or whatever your favorite marketing pro calls it) is that prospects get converted to leads and enter the top of the funnel, your marketing and sales magic runs its course, and they come out the bottom of the funnel as customers. Pretty neat, huh?

I like how Marko Saric describes the sales funnel:

It's like a chain of events a person in your target audience goes through to become a customer of your company. Stages such as realizing the need for something, discovering different options that can fulfill that need, considering the differences between them and choosing to purchase the most appropriate one. You need to understand the different stages and how best to communicate (and where) with your prospects at each of these stages.

In order to make the funnel work for your brand, there are a few things you’re going to need.

1) You need to have a pool of strangers to possibly convert to leads in the form of traffic to your website and/or landing page.

2) You need to have a reason for these strangers to decide to convert themselves to leads. Usually, people decide to convert into leads because they’re getting something of value, like an educational email series, a useful checklist, an interesting white paper, or an insight-rich case study. We call these free morsels of valuable information lead magnets.

3) You have to give people a way to convert. Too many folks toss up high quality top of the funnel content on their websites without a gate. Non-gated content does allow more people to see it, but can also give the perception it’s of lesser value, not to mention that you have no way to follow up with those who showed interest in it. Having a form or popup for visitors to fill out before receiving the lead magnet gives them an easy way to become a lead.

4) You need to take action to deliver the offer. If you fail to hand over the lead magnet, any trust your prospect had in you goes right out the window. I mean, if you can’t come through on something free, what’s going to happen when they give you money?

5) You need a call to action at the end of the funnel. Eventually, you want to turn strangers into customers or clients, and to pull that off you need to have a final something for them to purchase at the end of this journey. And if you don’t, be prepared to continue to nurture these leads through regular email communications, including automated sequences, in order to give them a reason to stick around and eventually give you money.

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The Core of Your Online Marketing Campaign

In order to pull off this top of the funnel B2B online marketing campaign, you need to attract leads into the funnel with a high quality, relevant content offer. So what does one of those look like?!

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Selecting a Content Offer

As already mentioned, there are many kinds of content offers digital marketers choose to run with. However, at the top of the funnel, there are certain kinds of content that just make more sense and are generally agreed upon by pro marketers.

Tip sheets, checklists, educational how-to videos, and ebooks are all generally considered to be safe territory, and most would expand that list to include white papers, kits, and educational webinars as well.

When selecting an offer, I like to keep in mind another name for the sales funnel: the buyer’s journey. Through the buyer’s journey framework, the top of the funnel is known as the awareness stage for a potential customer.

In the awareness stage, your almost-leads know what their pain points are, and your job is to help further define the actual problem that’s manifesting itself through those pain points. Think of yourself as a doctor diagnosing an illness based on a patient’s presented symptoms.

As Marko Saric puts it:

The best thing you can do is to try and learn the most you can about the audience you are targeting. What questions do they have? What problems do they want to solve? What pain points do they want to get rid of? When you know what your audience wants, it becomes easier to speak and communicate to them and to create products (and landing pages) that fit them.

So, how do you find out what your target audience’s pain points are? Here’s how marketing pro Roger Huang from Springboard figures that out:

I reverse engineer user needs for different persona types by hanging out where they hang out and seeing what content trends. Subreddits on Reddit are the perfect places to see this in action: you get to see your target audience vote on what matters to them. Infer what user needs are being met by studying trending content in these communities, then build a fantastic offering that speaks to those needs to make the perfect top of the funnel offer.

In the awareness stage, while some of the content offer types I listed a few paragraphs ago are easier fits than others, my viewpoint is that any content that educates without selling will work just fine. Yep, that’s right -- no talking about your product or service just yet.

Joshua Ho told us, “Remember your buyer is in the early stages of research. Keep in mind they don't know nearly as much about your topic as you do, so don't go too deep into the weeds that they will lack the context of your insights.”

He’s right. They’re strangers. They don’t care. This is the time to talk about them and what brought them to you in the first place.

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Targeting Your Lead Magnet

Beyond making sure that your content offer is appropriate for the top of the funnel, you want to make sure it’s targeted. You’re going to want to revisit your brand-related notes here.

As you brainstorm topics and content types, you want to hone in on something that makes sense for who your audience is. You’ll base this on well-researched, thoroughly developed personas -- hypothetical profiles of the type of person most likely to do business with you (that you also want to do business with).

If you have determined that one of your personas is a busy female executive who isn’t into professional sports and has a busy home life with two children under 10, she may not be too keen on reading a 45-page ebook that includes ample humor about bachelor life, tips around happy hour and other social outings, and sports analogies. But if your persona is a junior executive and former high school jock in his mid-20s who is single with an active social life, he’ll appreciate that kind of content and start identifying with your brand because of it.

Of course, your offer needs to be aligned with your business strategy too. And while you don’t want a content offer that talks about your company, products, or services until further into the funnel, your offer at the top of the funnel needs to have some kind of connection to what your company does.

A good way to do that is to pick an offer that speaks to the pain point(s) your product or service relieves.

Here’s an example. A checklist of ten ways to increase sales, while of interest to my usual audience, wouldn’t be the right kind of content to offer. It would be a dead end for me to write about on my company blog because we offer marketing support, not sales support and related services. Also, because my expertise falls into a category other than sales, the content wouldn’t be authoritative and as helpful as it could be.

Instead, my top of the funnel offer could be a checklist of ten things to do to increase traffic to every blog post. Lack of traffic is a pain point many of our clients and leads struggle with, caused (usually) because folks don’t promote their blog posts.

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Creating a Content Offer

While your lead magnet doesn’t necessarily need to be a content offer (a free consultation or software trial could also serve as lead magnets), these are probably the most popular. Relatively inexpensive and easy to produce, targeted, on-brand, funnel stage-appropriate content offers tend to convert relatively well, making them a solid choice for your B2B online marketing campaign.

If you have the resources to have an offer created for you – whether in-house, by an outside agency, or by freelancers – awesome! That makes life a lot easier. Just be sure to provide a creative content brief to ensure that whatever is being developed does what you intend it to do and provides rich, high value information. Also, stay involved with the process to make sure it’s headed in the right direction, and speak up if something doesn’t seem on-brand, like it’s a good fit, or like it’s well done. And be ready to provide input and feedback when asked.

Most B2B content offers coming from small businesses and solopreneurs end up being a bit more DIY. Even if you make it yourself, it should still look polished and professional. I recommend using a design tool like Canva and asking someone you trust to proofread and provide feedback -- an amateurish layout and typos galore won’t get you the results you’re after.

Take it from Adam Connell, the Blogging Wizard:

There are lots of useful content creation tools out there. I like Canva for creating quick shareable graphics. And the Hemingway App for improving written content.

One of my more recent favourites is Fleeq. It's not quite video, not quite images. It's a cross between the two which makes content easy to create, and even easier to edit afterwards.

But when it comes to actually crafting the offer itself, there's not really a tool that can help with that.

Here's why:

The best content offer is the one that directly speaks to the needs and wants of your target customer.

Well said, Adam.

Bringing your b2b marketing plan together section heading with men pushing together a lightbulb puzzle

Conversions and Offer Fulfilment

You have the basics down for your online marketing campaign. You’ve built a sales funnel and know where you want folks to go and what you want them to do. You’ve even developed an awesome, targeted content offer for the top of the funnel. So now what?

You need to get people to convert. This means that they transform from strangers into leads by giving you some information about themselves, like an email address. The information they provide allows you to deliver the offer, do additional marketing, or even start a sales process. But how do you get that information?

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Landing Pages and Forms

You need a landing page. Your landing pages should have text that talks up your offer, letting your audience know how they should expect to benefit from it.

Some landing pages – my favorites – are super brief. They don’t have a lot of text, use visuals to give visitors an idea of what they’re going to be getting, and include a short, easy-to-find form to submit information and claim an offer.

Then there are others that are information-rich, include a lot of text and a high degree of detail, and usually have the form at the bottom of the page. These are probably a better fit for very bottom of the funnel online marketing campaigns that promote demos or free trials or directly drive a sale. In other words, for our purposes, go with the short one!

As I mentioned, there needs to be a form on this page so that people can fill it out to claim your offer. You can use a popup, popover, or other kind of form in conjunction with the on-page form to give folks an additional chance to convert, but the one directly on the page is non-negotiable because it will show up on any browser or device.

Instead of landing pages, some businesses strictly use popups, sliding boxes, floating bars or other kinds of forms to promote content offers and drive conversions from anywhere on their site. This does work, but I strongly suggest you do both to take advantage of the additional chances for conversion and extra opportunities to promote your campaign:

  • You can optimize your landing page with keywords specific to your online marketing campaign for search and PPC traffic
  • You can drive traffic to the landing page through social media
  • You can link to the landing page from other sites you maintain
  • You… get the idea.
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Form Fields

One of the things most folks wrestle with for their first (or fifteenth) online marketing campaign is the amount of information to be collected. How many fields should the form have? What kind of information should it collect? Should fields be required? Which ones?

So, here’s the scoop:

For an offer, you want to collect information that’s proportional to the offer. The amount of information you collect should correlate with the value of the offer, how robust it is, and the funnel stage it’s meant for. If you overdo it with too many fields and intrusive questions, people won’t want to fill out the form. If you don’t collect enough information to provide the lowest barrier to entry possible, you sell yourself short.

For a top of the funnel offer like we’re talking about here, you really can’t ask for too much. If the offer is pretty light (and if your audience is super busy or private) an email address may be all you can require. However, I’d encourage you to require them to enter a first name as well – that allows you to provide some kind of personalization when you correspond with them.

For a more robust offer like an ebook, I would suggest requiring a first name, email address, and a quick answer to a lightly-worded, fun multiple choice question that helps determining whether or not this is a good lead.

For example, I often like to ask about marketing strategy: “Describe your current marketing strategy!” The following are the answer choices:

  1. It’s awesome!
  2. It’s in need of improvement
  3. We’re working on it
  4. It’s non-existent
  5. N/A, I’m downloading this offer for a friend

You could include one or two optional fields like last name, job title, business name, or website URL, but not more than that for this funnel stage. While there are exceptions, generally try not to include more than three or four fields.

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Offer Delivery

Unless you’re a cad, you do need to deliver the content offer you promised to everyone who fills out your form. There are a few ways to do this, and you can do a combo of two of these if you want to be thorough.

Delivery Method #1: Redirect

Some brands automatically redirect right to the offer. Generally, this means a PDF opens in a new tab as soon as the form is submitted or an offer downloads automatically.

I don’t like this one! If the lead doesn’t download or save the offer to somewhere permanent ASAP, they’re not going to be able to view it (and act on it) later. Sure, it kind of forces their hand to engage with it sooner, but not everyone will want to – I rarely do.

Also, by just dishing out the offer, you’re missing an opportunity to continue your marketing efforts. You’ve already given them what they want, so there’s little reason to engage with you further.

Delivery Method #2: Thank You Email

I like this one… a lot.

The thank you email allows you to deliver the offer and an additional marketing message. You could point them to your mid-funnel offer, direct them to other helpful content, or even try to have them schedule an appointment for some kind of consultation or demo -- if you want to skip over the mid-funnel completely.

A thank you email is easy to set up. For instance, if you have MailMunch integrated with your email marketing provider, once the landing page form is filled out, that contact is added to a list. Everyone added to that list will get a thank you email that includes the link to the offer.

But, be careful! Depending on the wording on your landing page and the SPAM-related legislation in your neck of the woods, this might be the only marketing-related email you can legally send your new lead. So don’t enter them into a fancypants sequence willy-nilly! Instead, you can use your thank you email as an opportunity to get them to opt-in to your email list.

Delivery Method #3: Thank You Page

I love thank you pages! You redirect your new lead here once they’ve submitted the form so they can download their offer.

Just like with the thank you email, you can use the thank you page as an opportunity to market to them a bit further. However, unlike with the email, there are no SPAM laws in play! For example, I’ve turned some thank you pages into information hubs with links to other related offers, blog posts, and resources. This is a great way to add value and build authority, which comes in handy when trying to make a sale.

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The Next Steps

Delivering the content isn’t the last step! Depending on what kind of sales process you have, what kind of tools you plan on using, and how many resources you have, your next steps can really vary. But, there are some things that are universal for everyone:

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Driving Traffic

As I mentioned earlier, you are going to want to drive traffic to your campaign. This means getting strangers to your landing page to fill out that form and download your offer!

So what could this look like? You can try things like:

  • Social media (including paid ads and sponsored content)
  • Search engine marketing (including organic SEO and PPC)
  • Marketing to your email list
  • Email marketing through partners
  • Article syndication
  • Guest posts
  • Display ads

When we chatted with marketing guru Walter Ponce, he shared one other juicy strategy that works to drive landing page traffic: “One of the best ways to attract traffic to your landing page is to integrate links to your landing pages in blog posts.”

It’s a great strategy. Since the content already exists, it doesn’t take anything more than a couple of clicks to add links. Plus, your blog audience already cares about what you have to say, so getting them to your landing page is a natural next step.

Whatever you try, make sure to promote, promote, promote! No one will see it otherwise.

There are different metrics that marketers throw around, but the vast majority of us agree that you need to spend at least as much money, time, and effort to promote your content as you spent producing it. Most of us say you need to spend more! I’m a fan of a 60/40 split, but some even suggest 80/20.

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You need to have next steps in mind for those who engage with your online marketing campaign. Some kind of workflow or sequence is a must.

If you use tools for marketing automation – like an email marketing platform or other product – you should set up an automated workflow for following up with these leads. Again, you don’t want to run afoul of anti-spam laws, but you can make sure they got the offer, ask if they have any questions, or provide them with additional related information. (And if you don’t use tools, this can be done manually as well.)

Ideally, your goal is to drive leads further down the funnel by nurturing them and getting them to engage with your mid-funnel content. Depending on your sales process, nurturing them could even mean adding them to a sales workflow so that they get a personal email or a call from one of your business development team or an account representative.

Regardless of what your workflow looks like, you want to make sure engagement with your lead doesn’t just drop off of the map. They were interested enough to download your offer, so you should be interested enough to see if they’re a qualified lead.

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The Next Offer

Unless you have a very, very narrow business focus, there should be plenty more pain points, personas, offerings, and more that you can explore via another top of the funnel offer. And unless your sales cycle is super short, you probably still need a mid-funnel offer to attract leads at that stage of the buyer’s journey (the consideration stage) and to continue to nurture the leads you gained from your first top of funnel offer.

So start brainstorming ASAP! Your next B2B online marketing campaign isn’t going to create itself!

Author Bio

Julie Ewald

Julie Ewald thought she was going to be a poet and professor. Instead Julie is a driven digital marketer who specializes in content strategy and creation for personal brands, consultancies, and unique tech companies. She is also the digital nomad at the helm of Impressa Solutions, the all-remote marketing agency she founded in 2012.

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