It’s been difficult for many B2B companies to make a transition to online marketing – and many B2B businesses are still stuck in the paradigm of sole reliance on cold calls, direct mail, and trade shows. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for these efforts, but given that  85% of B2B customers search the web before making a purchase, it’s high time for B2B companies to build a more effective online marketing engine.

The reason is simple. Your buyers are changing – employees in charge of corporate purchases can conduct their own buying research faster and more efficiently from their desk than they would traveling and meeting with sales teams. According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board, 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed their own independent research — online. This holds true even for the high-dollar, long-sales-cycle purchases.

It’s high time to get on the online wagon. Below, I outline some of the most effective strategies to develop the foundation for your B2B online marketing strategy.

1.) Make sure you have a well-designed, well-written website: According to web credibility research from Stanford, 75% of users admit to judging a company’s credibility based on its website design. Your website should make a positive first impression of your company and offerings. And, it should have educational content that engages and educates your prospects.

2.) Know your target audience: Develop a crystal clear vision of who your content is intended to motivate. When you intimately understand your core audience, you can create website pages and targeted content that are effective and focused. Don’t try to be all things to all people – be an expert for your niche.

3.) Begin blogging: Developing your own content is an online marketing strategy that every business can use. In a crowded marketplace where you are working to get more visibility, blogging is an essential tool to connect you with your buyers, as well people who can be a source of referrals. It helps establish your company as a subject matter authority and make your sales process easier.

4.) Nurture and grow your list: Develop a strategy to capture your website visitors. If someone lands on your website but isn’t ready to buy, it’s important to stay in touch with them. A simple sign-up form on your website and blog can produce great results. Be sure you’re giving people an incentive to sign up so they are willing to give you their contact information. Free assets like checklists or reports can be compelling to your audience. Once they’ve signed up, use an email newsletter service to consistently send educational content to them. This keeps your brand at the top of your audience’s mind so when they are ready to buy, they choose your company.

5.) Get on LinkedIn: LinkedIn can serve as a powerful networking tool. Hubspot research shows it has a three-fold advantage over Facebook and Twitter for B2B lead conversion. Start by making sure that your presence (and that of your key leaders) on LinkedIn is strong and attractive to new connections. That means optimizing your personal profile and company page, as well as actively sharing valuable content with your network.

6.) Always be building new highways to your site: There are a myriad of ways for you to drive traffic to your site. The most basic way is to make sure your website and blog URL are incorporated in your communications materials. That includes your email signature, printed & digital marketing materials, building/vehicle signage, packaging, and published articles. You can also drive people to your site via social media channels.

7.) Target industry publications: Your industry and trade associations are robust publishers of online content – all directed at your prospects and customers. Many of my clients have had great success developing a relationship with the editors of these organizations and offering expert advice to their readership. This can take the form of articles, webinars, podcast interviews, and blog posts. This is a powerful way to establish your authority with your target audience, build your company’s brand recognition, and drive new traffic to your site.

8.) Keep creating content for your site: 90% of consumers find custom content useful and 78% believe that companies that create custom content are interested in building a relationship with them (TMG Custom Media). Content can be used to differentiate your company from competitors, nurture leads, and help prospects make buying decisions. It can also help your website rank better in search engines. The key is to develop a process wherein your are developing fresh content on an ongoing basis – this can be in the form of articles, webinars, videos, white papers, and/or case studies.

The above tactics are the foundational pieces for a robust online B2B presence. Use this as a checklist to build and expand your Internet marketing efforts. Once you’ve successfully implemented these eight items, you’ll see a significant increase in the number of qualified leads to your website. Plus it will make conversion a lot easier for your sales team.

As you move forward, you can branch out into other B2B online marketing platforms. There are a myriad of other Internet channels to reach your target audience such as Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube, and so on. These can be powerful – and, these days, are certainly generating a lot of hype – but must be approached with an eye for strategic opportunity, so that your marketing time and money is spent on what is most effective for your business.