Unicorns like Uber, Airbnb, and Etsy have one key lesson that marketers in the B2B space can (and should) pick up. These tech brands have managed to adeptly pivot and scale their customer acquisition efforts as their business evolved.
For these three companies, winning their first 1,000 customers was vastly different from growing their customer base to 1,000,000 paying users. As their customer count expanded, their growth goals and challenges shifted, which required a corresponding change in their customer acquisition strategies.
Word-of-mouth had proven to be very effective during their early stages, but all three companies began relying on more traditional acquisition tactics as they steadily hit one growth milestone after another.
That’s the power of having the right customer acquisition strategy, and it works the same way for B2B organizations as it does with consumer-focused companies.
In today’s post, we’ll take a deep dive into 10 real-world examples of B2B customer acquisition campaigns that actually produced proven results in terms of deals won and revenues generated.
The examples cover a wide range of B2B scenarios—from SMBs to enterprises, single channel to multi-channel strategies, and digital to traditional marketing. Anyway, let’s get started.
The Ideal B2B Customer Acquisition Process
Before we dissect these ten customer acquisition examples, let’s first answer the question: what does an effective B2B customer acquisition strategy look like? Four key ingredients need to be present in order to create a solid customer acquisition program:
- Relevant: Buyers make a purchase based on how a brand fits their needs at the moment.
- Diversified: Customers come from different sources and respond to different tactics.
- Persistent: Customer acquisition is a continuous process, not just a single campaign.
- Scalable: The process for generating new business must be able to keep up with growth.
- Flexible: Customer acquisition also needs to evolve with how potential customers buy.
We’ll now see how each of these characteristics translates into actual customer acquisition processes.
B2B Customer Acquisition Examples
When writing this post, I came across numerous case studies and whitepapers on real-world B2B customer acquisition programs.
But I chose the ones that really stood out in terms of sales results and new business acquired. Plus, I also wanted to cover as much ground in this post, so I went for a diverse set of customer acquisition strategies, different levels of business maturity and various industries.
1. Intronis (multi-channel direct mail marketing)
Cloud-based data security provider Intronis has more than 50,000 customers. It primarily sells to a network of MSPs that offer Intronis-branded backup, security, and data protection solutions.
The company wants to focus on acquiring small- to medium-sized MSPs partners and generate at least a majority of new accounts from this segment.
The main target prospects for this effort are owners and IT directors, which Intronis says are typically difficult to reach via traditional channels.
Intronis decided to use a unique strategy which they had never tried out before: a multi-channel campaign centered around direct mail. The marketing team’s research indicated that the usual tactics probably wouldn’t be very effective with the target prospects. So they chose a whole new path:
- Send out two direct mail pieces to target prospects in order to land a 30-minute meeting
- Follow up via email after each piece
- Include a classic Atari video game replicator and other gaming consoles to incentivize response
- 35% conversion rate
- 700% ROI
- 11 new customers
2. Optum (integrated marketing strategy)
Optum is a $37-billion healthcare tech company that provides healthcare analytics, healthcare management, revenue cycle management, and compliance solutions.
To promote a newly-launched product line, Optum carried out demand generation and thought leadership initiatives. But this required tying the different activities together into a coherent customer acquisition process.
Achieving this goal meant the company needed to plan and execute an integrated marketing campaign. The strategy they came up with combined:
- Display ads
- Direct mail
- Campaign website
- 5,100% ROI
- $52 million in new business
3. PR Newswire (accelerated sales cycle)
PR Newswire is one of the world’s leading news distribution, audience targeting, and content marketing service providers. Having already been in business for more than 60 years, the company is starting to notice the huge shift in how potential customers buy their solutions.
Customers now have greater control of the buying process, so PR Newswire understands that they need to move past product-centric messaging and focus on what buyers care about.
But to deliver the right message at the right time to the right person in a crowd of 25,000 prospects and customers, the company’s approach at acquiring new business also needs to scale.
PR Newswire rolled out a customer acquisition program that enabled the company to engage prospects with relevant content:
- Automating touches as much as possible
- Targeting and segmenting prospects using granular data
- Providing what prospects expect at each stage of the sales cycle
- Engaging prospects through multiple channels
- 8% growth in SQLs handed to sales
- 7% increase in number of won deals
- 30% shorter sales cycle
4. RewardMe (startup winning its first high-value account)
RewardMe is a customer loyalty platform for restaurants and retailers. During its early days, the company pursued its first big deal with one of the largest franchises in the United States.
Jun Loayza, RewardMe’s co-founder, was introduced to a key person in the franchise by a mutual acquaintance. The main challenge was to leverage the referral and turn it into a very favorable business outcome.
According to Jun Loayza, his approach at winning the high-value deal consisted of:
- Scheduling a discovery call to ask crucial preliminary questions
- Personalizing the solution to match the client
- Finding out how RewardMe stacks up against the competition
- Preparing a 30-minute presentation (20 minutes for the pitch and 10 minutes for Q&A)
- Never sounding too eager or too desperate to close the deal
- Setting a definite deadline for the prospect to make a decision
Just two days after their face-to-face meeting, RewardMe locked in a 12-month contract with the large franchise. RewardMe continues to apply the strategy to close other large deals, which has so far produced consistent results.
5. SAP (account-based marketing)
With 77% of the world’s transaction revenue passing through an SAP system, SAP is a clear market leader in the enterprise software space.
SAP America wanted to cross-sell other solutions in its product portfolio to the top customers in the region. The problem was that its current marketing activities weren’t personalized or targeted enough to generate the response SAP expected.
In its messaging, it wasn’t very clear that SAP knew exactly which product its most strategic customers were already using.
The SAP team felt the best way to deliver a dedicated campaign to each of its top accounts was through an ABM program. The company then took the following steps:
- Consulted with experts on building an ABM model
- Acquired internal buy-in for the proposed ABM program
- Started with a few accounts (5) as test case
- Do a deep research on each target account and used acquired insights as guide
Within two years after the start of the program, SAP’s ABM initiative was able to produce:
- 55 high-value target accounts
- $27 million in new pipeline opportunities
- $57 million in revenues
6. Volvo Construction Equipment (CRM-driven multi-channel marketing)
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) is an international manufacturer of premium construction equipment. With more than 14,000 employees, It’s one of the largest companies in its industry.
Volvo CE faced the challenge of nurturing and converting more prospects from their SEO and social media efforts. With B2B buyers increasingly in control, it’s very hard for organizations like Volvo CE to pinpoint which channel leads will interact with the brand.
SEO and social media drive traffic to Volvo CE’s website, where they’re converted into leads by asking them to subscribe to the company’s newsletters.
Volvo CE extensively relies on its CRM tool to collect data and extract insights helpful in lead nurturing and conversion:
- Once leads are generated, their data is stored in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
- The company’s ESP is integrated with Volvo CE’s CRM and website.
- Leads receive a series of emails which are relevant to their needs based on data pulled from the CRM tool.
- These are determined based on pages viewed, products purchased, etc.
With its personalized lead nurturing program made possible by the effective use of CRM data, Volvo CE has seen the following results:
- Increased their email open rates from 15% to 20% in 18 months
- Generated $100 million in revenues from digital marketing activities
7. Thomson Reuters (marketing automation)
Thomson Reuters bills itself as “one of the world’s top sources of answers” providing news, information, data, analysis, etc. for businesses and professionals in various fields. But when it comes to marketing automation, the company had a lot of questions.
For years, Thomson Reuters followed a spray-and-pray approach at email marketing. Its marketing team hadn’t clearly defined what their ideal leads looked like and therefore tended to leak out at different points in their funnel.
The chief reason why the company hadn’t followed a precise lead definition was a lack of alignment between sales and marketing.
In order to fix this, the company needed to overhaul its marketing automation process and platform, which also led them to:
- Adopt a common lead definition that sales and marketing agree on
- Standardize the sales process
- Implement a lead scoring system
- 175% increase in revenue attributed to MQLs
- 23% jump in total leads generated
- 72% reduction in lead conversion time
8. G Suite (referral marketing)
For the uninitiated, G Suite is Google’s collection of productivity and collaboration tools that you and I use every day. It now has a user base of more than 5 million paying businesses.
But when it was released in 2006, G Suite (originally Google Apps for Your Domain) needed some clever referral marketing in order to gain traction with users.
Google incentivized signups by paying program participants cash for each new user they bring onboard:
- Referral links and coupon codes were provided to program participants.
- A participant gets $15 for every qualified new user that signs up through his/her link.
As of year-end 2018, 5 million paying businesses use G Suite, and it’s also one of the most widely-used software products today.
9. Zoho Mail (targeted referral strategy)
Like G Suite, Zoho Mail was also launched amid a great deal of referral buzz back in 2013. But Zoho’s referral program appeared to be a little more targeted than Google’s.
The campaign was aimed at SMBs, which were the target market for Zoho’s hosted email mail solution. Everything about the program was tweaked to reflect the needs and preferences of this audience.
The referral program gave existing users up to 20 free accounts for simply bringing in new signups:
- A referral page provided an online hub for the signup and work-of-mouth process.
- The page simplified registrations and sending out invites, using minimal form fields.
Since the referral program began, Zoho Mail has signed up over 10 million business accounts.
10. MSP Company (multi-touch, multi-channel marketing)
The company is a managed IT provider, and is one of our long-term customers. I just wanted to share how this MSP firm’s customer acquisition process is as close to ideal as it gets.
This client has two headquarters, one in the United States and the other in Australia. We’ve been working with this customer for years now and have helped them reached key business milestones.
In one of the campaigns we managed for this MSP, they won new contracts that helped them reach their quarterly numbers.
This MSP company already had a well-defined customer acquisition program, so it was easy to integrate our strategy into their process:
- Identified and profiled key IT decision makers in the target companies
- Carried out multi-channel outreach with phone, email, and LinkedIn
- Nurtured and converted prospects through personalized, one-on-one touches
- $150,000 in new contracts
- 90 qualified sales appointments
If we compare all 10 examples of B2B customer acquisition campaigns we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that much of the success in generating new business boils down to engaging and connecting with your audience, as well as adapting strategies that are relevant to your target prospects at a given moment.