Marketing Your B2B Startup: Creating Engagement Without a Track Record

April 10, 2024

If you're a startup leader launching a new B2B solution, you face the unenviable challenge of building a brand without relying on case histories or testimonials.

In a world where social proof is more powerful than scientific papers, this puts you at a legitimate disadvantage against proven solutions.

To overcome it, you’ll need to be on top of your game when it comes to marketing strategy and execution.

In this post, we’ll walk through some effective strategies for marketing your business, even before the early adopters are talking-up your value.


If You Snooze, You Lose

The first and most important step is simply to get started.

Although you don’t yet have all the ingredients you will need for a fully-fledged marketing strategy, you can—and indeed, must—begin building with what you’ve got.

It takes a long time to grow an audience, so the sooner you start, the better.

It takes many encounters between a prospect and your brand for them to pay attention, develop trust, and include you in their consideration set for a purchase.

You should be thinking in terms of 6-8 quarters (not months!) for your marketing to begin to bear real fruit, assuming you invest steadily—and significantly—starting now.


The Power of First Impressions: Your Company Website

Your website is often the first interaction potential customers have with your brand and your product.

Without testimonials to do the talking, your focus should be on clarity, user experience, and value proposition.

Clearly describe the problem your solution tackles, how it works, and how it is different from other solutions in the market. Use layman's terms and avoid jargon unless it’s widely understood by your audience.

Use a simple, intuitive design that guides visitors to the information that’s most important for them. This will include what your solution does for them, the value they can expect to realize, why they should trust your team, and how to contact you.

Make the site visually appealing and memorable. In the absence of photos showing your solution in action, use graphics and animated videos to explain your product's functionality and benefits.

Highlight your team and their expertise to partially substitute for the lack of testimonials. Explain how your team's background allows them to create the novel solution you’re marketing—emphasizing past successes and relevant industry experience.

At the end of their visit, a prospect should feel confident that you can deliver what you promise and have a clear idea of how your solution can help them achieve their goals.


Blogging: Establishing Your Voice in the Industry

A blog can be a powerful tool for building credibility while your nascent solution is earning its stripes in the field.

It can serve multiple purposes, including educating your audience, driving traffic to your website, and showcasing domain expertise.

Lean on your team’s experiences to teach your audience about the industry, the challenges they’re facing, different ways of solving those challenges, and how to compare alternative solutions. This demonstrates your technical credibility and your willingness to share information with potential customers, which begins to build trust.

Regularly publish high quality content to improve your website's SEO performance and drive more traffic to the site via organic search. Focus on satisfying the search algorithm’s appetite for EEAT: experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

You can also share insights into your product's development process, highlighting innovation and novel approaches. However, be sure to check with your legal team first to ensure any intellectual property has been registered and to avoid inadvertently disclosing trade secrets.

In general, when creating content for your blog, choose topics that deliver value to your potential customers. Be relevant, helpful, and informative on topics about which they care to learn, not just topics you like to write about.


Thought leadership helps you establish trust and domain authority

Thought Leadership and Authority Building

People buy from businesses they trust and from people they respect.

So, before you can win a customer’s business, you must establish trust and authority.

This is where customer testimonials are enormously helpful because prospects respect their peers’ opinions more than whatever vendors might say about themselves.

In the absence of testimonials, the next most powerful approach is to demonstrate thought leadership.

Speaking at industry events—whether in person or virtual—puts your expertise on display. This applies to anyone with domain expertise who is proficient at public speaking, so don’t only roll out the CEO; consider having your CTO and other subject matter experts give talks as well.

Webinars and podcasts are another great opportunity to share your knowledge on platforms that your target audience frequents. They don’t always attract the same level of credibility as prestigious industry events, but they can be easier to access—especially if you employ a booking service to identify and contact relevant hosts.

And, while you may not yet have any case histories in the traditional sense, you can still publish white papers discussing industry challenges, proprietary research, test programs, and even hypothetical solutions, provided you back up your assertions with data.

Remember, however, that thought leadership isn't just about what you know. It's about sharing what you know in ways that are of benefit to your audience.


Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Marketing on social media can be a double-edged sword for new B2B businesses.

While it offers the potential for reaching a much larger audience than other channels, getting seen by the right people requires meticulous strategy and consistency.

Get it right, and you can build a brand that projects itself several sizes larger than is really the case.

Get it wrong, and you will look like the noob that you are, which can be a turn-off for some prospects.

Much like blogging, you should focus on educational content, which can include snippets from your blogs, industry news, and other insights.

Another popular approach, if it makes sense in your circumstances, is to provide a behind-the-scenes peek into your company culture and “how the sausage is made”. Use visual content—preferably video—to maximize the impact. This can be especially powerful if you’re recruiting talent (which most early-stage businesses are).

To help boost your authority and reach, follow and engage regularly with industry leaders and influencers. This engagement can have a halo effect, lending some of their existing credibility to your emerging brand.

With only limited resources at your disposal, you can’t be everywhere at once. Pick one platform where your target audience is most active—whether that’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or even TikTok—and focus on building a presence there before you expand to other channels.


Highlight Your Team

I want to emphasize a point we discussed when thinking about your website: A standout team can be just as compelling as a solid product.

While waiting for field results that “speak for themselves”, take every opportunity to highlight your team's expertise, experience, and their passion for the industry.

Share past successes, lessons learned from failures, and your vision for the future.

The more personal and authentic you can make this, the stronger the connection you will build with your audience.


The Bottom Line: Building Blocks of Trust

Launching a B2B solution without case histories or testimonials is challenging, but not insurmountable.

By creating an effective website, starting a thoughtful blog, proactively engaging in thought leadership, employing a savvy social media strategy, and relentlessly highlighting your team's expertise, you can build trust and authority in your industry.

Remember, the goal isn't just to sell a product but to establish a brand that resonates with your target audience.

Trust is the foundation of any successful B2B relationship, and by following these strategies, you will be laying the groundwork for long-term success.


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Image credits: Adobe Stock

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