Skip to main content

The 8 Layers of a B2B Web Marketing Plan

One way to think about designing a B2B technology web marketing plan is as a series of layers, like an onion. At the core is SEO—simply making your website "findable" through organic search to buyers who are looking for what you offer. Working out from the center are concentric layers of additional investment and sophistication.

Small companies and start-ups with modest budgets will focus most of their efforts on the inner layers or rings, which are primarily designed for lead generation. As the company and its marketing budget grow, efforts can be expanded to the outer layers, which are aimed more at branding but support lead generation efforts. Ideally, a company eventually reaches the outer layer where pure branding activities (such as print advertising) help to maximize the effectiveness of lead generation programs (such as SEM) near the center of the circle.

This diagram shows how different types of web marketing programs can be prioritized in order to maximize the return from any size B2B technology company online marketing budget. (It also shows why I don't try to make a living as a graphic artist.)

Starting from the center and working out, a phased web marketing plan can be developed:

Layer 1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Since (ballpark figures) 75% of b2b buyers use search engines to research vendors when making a purchase decision, and 75% of clicks are on organic search results rather than paid links, SEO alone has the potential to expose your company to half of all sales prospects. That makes SEO—keyword research, meta tag and content optimization, and link building—the logical starting point for web marketing.

Level 2: Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Using the figures from the paragraph above, running text ads on search engines offers potential exposure to roughly another 20% of buyers. Since Google is the dominant search engine, it's AdWords search program is the place to start. Once the program is fine-tuned and results are maximized there, SEM efforts can be expanded to the AdWords content network, then progressively to Yahoo Search Marketing, Yahoo's content network, MSN AdCenter, and finally to Microsoft's content network.

Level 3. IndustryBrains

B2c marketers have a wide variety of ad networks to choose from, but for technology-focused b2b vendors, IndustryBrains (recently folded into Marchex Adhere) is far and away the leader. This networks enables you to run text and print ads across popular technology websites like PC Magazine, Network World, PC World, Intelligent Enterprise, InformationWeek and InfoWorld with a single buy.

Level 4. White Paper Syndication and Guaranteed Lead Generation Programs

Guaranteed lead gen programs generally promise X leads for Y dollars, and are offered by individual publications as well as aggregators such as ITtoolbox, TechTarget, and NetLine. These are also referred to as white paper syndication programs as white papers are most commonly used as the incentive for response (though other assets including case studies, reports, even podcasts and recorded webcasts with some media outlets, are also used.)

Though primarily used for lead gen (as the name implies), these programs provide some branding benefit as well. The quality of the leads tends to improve as more targeted media are used.

Level 5: Banner Advertising

Unlike search marketing and targeted network ads, which are priced on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, banner advertising is sold on a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis. While network buys are common in b2c marketing, b2b banner advertising is generally purchased directly from media publishers.

Because of the low click-through rate of banner ads, they are generally viewed as primarily branding, secondarily lead generation. Again, however, this varies with the publisher: broad titles such as InformationWeek are mostly for branding, while banners on narrowly-targted sites like Wall Street & Technology are reasonably effective at lead generation (though this particular publication may not be the best choice at the moment).

Level 6: Email Marketing

Email marketing comes in two varieties: enewsletter advertising and email blasts to targeted, purchased (or rented) lists. Enewsletter advertising is generally the less expensive alternative, on a CPM basis since your ad is "sharing" space with editorial content and, in most cases, with other advertisers. However, these ads may also be better for branding as they are seen as less intrusive and your company benefits from the association with the publication and surrounding content.

Email blasts are more targeted as you can send to only a selected subset of the publisher's overall subscriber base, filtered by title, company size, industry vertical, geographic location and/or other criteria. In addition, your ad isn't competing with any other content in the email message.

Because the effective cost per click tends to be much higher than search engine marketing (often by a factor of 10 or more), the value of email marketing is generally viewed as primarily branding with a lead gen component.

Level 7: Webinar Sponsorships

Many publications sell "turnkey" webinar sponsorship packages where the publisher provides most (or all) of the content, promotes the webinar and delivers it; sponsoring vendors are then provided with contact information for all registrants and attendees. Although webinar sponsorship is primarily a lead generation activity, it is in an outer layer of the web marketing bullseye because of the level of investment required: programs generally range from $20,000-$30,000 for a single webinar.

Level 8: Print Advertising

Although various types of "print-to-web" programs are offered, and some publications offer print advertisers comparable space in their digital editions at no extra charge, the value of print advertising is almost strictly branding. Because companies willing to invest in print advertising are often perceived as industry leaders, this activity definitely supports online advertising and other lead generation efforts. However, costs are high and benefits difficult to measure with any precision.

Summing It Up

A "well-dressed" web marketing plan starts with solid SEO, then works outward from direct lead generation programs to more expensive and beneficial-but-difficult-to-measure branding activities. Vendors with limited budgets necessarily begin with core activities that provide easily measurable, short-term payback. As budgets increase, branding activities in the outer layers can be added to enhance the performance of core lead gen programs.

Interactive PR and social media engagement also provide branding benefit by increasing awareness and credibility for vendors. Like outer-layer web marketing programs, these activities have little direct lead generation value but can increase the return on SEM and other lead gen expenditures.


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom


Thanks for explaining each and every layer of Bb2 web marketing. Great analysis for Bb2 web marketing.

Keep sharing....
Tom Pick said…
No problem. However, this post is five years old and this blog has been inactive for three years.
Dunitz Sandrino said…
Thanks for explaining in depth on B2B websites' marketing plan! Very useful information.

All Time Greats

Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 6

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Social Media Marketing on the Webbiquity blog. ***** technorati tags: online video SEO reputation management social bookmarking social media marketing SEO and reputation management Search Engine Journal Loren Baker Google Video ClipShare PHPmotion 30 largest social bookmarking sites Anything Goes Blog Stuntdubl social media can increase revenue Social Media Today Jacob Morgan increase blog traffic How To Make My Blog Marko Saric what not to do in social media Interactive Insights Group Robin Broitman social media gaffes Target Motrin Starbucks Whole Foods FedEx tags: online video SEO reputation management social bookmarking social media marketing SEO and reputation management Search Engine Journal Loren Baker Google Video ClipShare PHPmotion 30 largest social bookmarking sites Anything Goes Blog Stuntdubl social media can increase revenue Social Media Today Jacob Morgan increa

Best of 2007: Blog Posts on Social Media Marketing

My last post listed several of the best news articles from 2007 on how to effectively use social networking sites for marketing. Here are some of the best blog posts on social networking and social media marketing strategies and tactics. 7 Reasons Why Niche Social Media Outlets are Better Than Digg by AjaxNinja After noting that "Digg has an immense amount of traffic and getting landed on the front page will send a tsunami of new readers to your blog or website, but getting onto the front page is incredibly difficult. Getting onto the front page of a smaller, more appropriate niche portal, by contrast, is much easier, quicker, and ultimately you get a better return on your time/traffic ratio in the short run," this post makes the case for targeting smaller sites. Among the complaints about Digg are its excessively broad audience and categories and the site's lack of transparency. 34 More Ways to Build Your Own Social Network by TechCrunch An excellent and detailed revie

Email Campaign, Newsletter and Banner Ad Click-Through Rates (CTR)

When planning online advertising and email promotion budgets, it's critical to calculate the likely ROI upfront whenever possible, as well as to establish campaign benchmarks. The first step is understanding the average and likely range of CTRs for various programs. The growth in online advertising, the proliferation of enewsletters, the emergence of new forms of information delivery such as RSS and the emergence of social media sites have all affected CTR, so planning based on current data is crucial. It can be challenging to find current statistics, but based on several studies, these are typical CTR ranges for email newsletter ads, email campaigns (blasts or internally-produced enewsletters), and banner ads. Email newsletter advertisements Open rates range from 28-40%, with an average of about 33%—meaning that roughly one-third of the subscriber base is likely to see your ad. The Advertising Is Good For You blog tracks these statistics from DoubleClick . The average CT

Twitter Twaddle, Part 1: What Twitter Is and Why It's Cool

Most Web 2.0 sites fall into one of a few increasingly well-defined categories, such as social bookmarking (Digg,, Searchles), social networking (LinkedIn, Facebook) or file sharing (YouTube, Flickr, podOmatic ). Twitter, however, stands alone. (Okay, there's also Pownce, but Twitter is better.) Self-described as simply a real-time short messaging service and often referred to a microblogging platform , to those new to it, Twitter resembles nothing so much as a giant cocktail party where everyone talks at once and hopes others listen. You can tell who's important by how many "followers" that person has, though that's no guarantee anyone is really paying attention. People (or rather, Tweeple in the Twitter lexicon ) can come and go without really being noticed, just like at a real (very, very large) gathering. Twitter can be difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with it. Jennifer Laycock writes that Twitter is like Post-It notes ; lots of them a

How to Use SEO: Leverage SEO To Be Found Online and Boost Your Online Marketing

All businesses that want to attract customers online, no matter the business size or age, have few options other than Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  SEO In The Box™ by Results Driven Marketing®, LLC There are roughly 1.8 billion websites online, and basic SEO allows Google to find and index or catalog your webpages.  After that, Google serves you up to searchers in the organic section.  The question remains: where they list your site, on page one or page 22 or further back? SEO controls your positioning. Do you want to be found online or not? If your business is online or you want your product or service to be found online, then Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must, and knowing how to use SEO to leverage the power of the internet is vital. Arguably, an effective SEO strategy gets you on the organic results section of the search engine results pages (SERP). Organic traffic is highly valuable and requires high-quality SEO. But even businesses that use l

Google and the Parable of the Turkey

In The Black Swan , Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes about the life of the turkey: for 100 days, the turkey is sheltered, fed and cared for by the farmer. The turkey grows to trust the farmer completely, even perhaps developing a fondness for the farmer (and of course the feed). Then, on the 101st day (with Thanksgiving quickly approaching), the relationship between the turkey and the farmer changes abruptly and permanently. The rationale behind the farmer's apparent benevolence become clear in a final flash before the turkey takes the necessary step preceding de-feathering, vacuum-packing, freezing and shipping off to the market. Taleb's lesson for us from this: don't be a turkey. More succinctly, don't assume that the future will resemble the past, or, in the words of mutual fund prospectuses , "past performance is no guarantee of future results." Also, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Of course, that doesn't take into account the pe

7 Reasons Every Business Needs to Twitter

This post has been moved to 7 Reasons Every Business Needs to be on Twitter on the Webbiquity blog. ***** technorati tags: Twitter Dell Zappos customer service influence-the-influencers market intelligence Tony Hsieh b2b Twitter tags: Twitter Dell Zappos customer service influence-the-influencers market intelligence Tony Hsieh b2b Twitter icerocket tags: Twitter Dell Zappos customer service influence-the-influencers market intelligence Tony Hsieh b2b Twitter Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

PR and Blogging Outreach: Macro Issues

This content has been moved to PR and Blogger Outreach: Macro Issues on the Webbiquity blog. ***** Contact: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom