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Business-to business marketing, or B2B marketing, involves one company marketing its products and services to another. Business-to-consumer marketing, or B2C marketing, refers to a company marketing its services and products to a consumer audience. Consumers tend to base buying decisions upon price and various emotional triggers, such as status and popularity. A B2B customer, however, considers only profits or profit potential when making a buying decision. B2C marketing might also depend far more upon a consumer making a buying decision in the moment. For instance, a person might buy a t-shirt upon seeing it. In contrast, B2B marketing takes far more time and relies far more heavily upon building a strong business relationship between the seller and buyer.
B2C marketing might feature advertisements for products and services over the internet, radio, and on TV. B2B marketing, on the other hand, works to build your company and brand’s reputation, so you become a staple of your industry. In this way, you then become viewed as a problem solver and solution provider.
B2B customers might include companies that need your products and services, hospitals and schools, and government agencies. You might even sell to other companies that are brokers and wholesalers looking to resell your products. B2C targets the general public as its customer base. This often means that B2C marketing must brand itself very broadly, whereas B2B can be far more specific in its advertising.
Is B2B marketing really that different from B2C marketing? After all, B2B marketers have many of the same concerns as their B2C counterparts. Both groups must deal with product development, distribution, branding, and promotion. And the line between B2C and B2B often blurs. Many companies, one such example being Dell Computers, will market successfully to both audiences.
But there are real differences, especially when the product or service being promoted has a high price tag. One main difference is that B2B involves purchases with a far longer sales process and products and services that require putting more thought into a buying decision. For example, instead of promoting a bar of soap, toothbrush, or food product that consumers buy in a supermarket, B2B marketers can find themselves selling industrial machinery that costs US$100,000 or a service contract worth US$1,000,000. Before a buyer will make that kind of investment, they need to be sure that the product will actually help their business increase revenue or reduce costs.
B2B products and services often require a more significant investment, are often more complex, and come with a steeper learning curve. The B2B evaluation process can be quite extensive and might include a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ), both of which require large amounts of work unto themselves. When dealing with B2B marketing, the purchasing decision often involves multiple individuals from different departments and levels in the organization. B2B marketers must also take into account that each industry they work with will have unique jargon, thought leaders, and cultural conventions in order to market to them.
Before the rise of the internet and social media, the B2B marketer’s job was simpler. More often than not, marketing simply involved providing branding and sales collateral, PR, advertising, and running trade events. For the most part, the sales team found and developed their own marketing leads—through connections, perhaps on the golf course, or by cold calling into target accounts. For high-ticket items, a well-compensated local salesperson would spend months educating the buyer and developing the case for the purchase. They understood that they had to develop a relationship of trust and provide the right information at the right time within the buying process.
With the advent of the internet, the behavior of buyers—how they identify, understand, evaluate, and buy products has fundamentally changed. This change has led to a revolution in B2B marketing tactics, which has actually made the B2B marketing function much more important to the B2B sales process. In fact, digital marketers have taken responsibility for much of the relationship building that salespeople used to do face-to-face. They’re tracking Digital Body Language and using data-driven methods to identify qualified leads, provide information they need, and then determine the exact moment to pass each lead over to sales. Only then will a salesperson engage with the prospect and close the sale.
Nowadays, businesses need a blog and a web presence. Potential customers have to be able to find your company online to be able to learn what your business is about and what you offer. Social media is crucial in engaging consumers as is contacting with them via email. Marketers also have to consider mobile in their strategies, given how dependent people have become on their phones and mobile devices. Businesses have no choice but to keep pace with digital advances or they risk falling behind the competition
B2B marketing starts with the sales funnel (or funnels if your business is targeting multiple industries and you are personalizing a funnel for each one). Mapping out your sales cycle and how it relates to your customers’ journey informs your strategy. Where customers are in the sales cycles will dictate how to engage with them. Properly targeting those who might be interested in your products and services requires research and understanding that potential customer’s mindset. What keeps them awake at night? What could ease their frustrations? And how do you capture and keep their attention? The answers to those questions come down to two things: data and content.
Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes. What would make their jobs easier? What problems do they encounter? Understanding this requires a deep dive into their industries and the common obstacles they face. How can you help? How can your services offer a workable solution? When marketing to them, you should also consider your customers’ preferences and interests. For instance, how might you tailor your marketing to someone who is a visual learner and likes videos as opposed to someone who prefers to read? Perhaps a video rather than an ebook?
Only by knowing what is going on in each industry can you speak to potential customers on their level and pique their interest. The more information you have about your customers and the more specific it is can only aid in crafting a more personalized sales funnel to attract and intrigue them.
B2B marketing includes a plethora of content types that you can work with, including but not limited to: emails, websites, social media, videos, podcasts, webcasts, webinars, ebooks, case studies, white papers, how-to guides, and blogs.
Content gives you the chance to introduce customers to your company and its business, explain how you can help solve their problems, and potentially begin a relationship between you and the customer. It does not always have to be a hard sell. Your content can be informational or simply an announcement or news of some kind. When to sell and when to inform can change from industry to industry and even customer to customer.
There is no defined or absolute strategy for what content to use, how much, and when. It changes from business to business and campaign to campaign. Your needs will dictate your strategy. For example, you might build up your thought leadership presence by publishing white papers and putting information up on websites. Customers seeking information can discover you there. They might then subscribe to your email list or follow you on social media. You can follow up by providing them with newsletters, emails, and blogs to further engage them. Case studies and how-to guides might next play a role in influencing them to buy, as they can see how your solutions worked and their results.
Regardless of your content marketing strategy, realize that you have your customer’s attention and that you cannot waste it. Your content, regardless of its type, must be concise, sharp, and to the point. It must be easy to read, view, understand, and digest. It should please the eye and engage the customer. Most importantly, your content must provide value. Customers must get something out of it. This could be an offer, some type of announcement or news pertinent to them, a tip, insight, or a nugget of useful information. Your content represents you, and you want to make the best impression possible. Offering value helps build your reputation up to your customers and makes it easier to move them closer to wanting to make a purchase.
With the advent of mobile and digital, it has become increasingly important to properly target potential customers and engage them in the sales cycle as early as possible. Holding their attention might prove challenging, but if you have an ample amount of data about what they need and content that is alluring and valuable, you have a more-than-decent chance. You know what customers are interested in, what problems and frustrations they encounter, and how you can help. You simply need to show them. Due to social media, thought leadership, and a strong web presence, much of the time, customers will even find you. Then that is your chance to put your best foot forward content-wise to bring them through the sales cycle so that your company’s sales representatives can take over and close the deal. Getting customers to that point should be the focus of a marketer’s job.
However, it has become a new world for B2B marketing. Technology offers a large amount of options and opportunities for marketers to reach and connect with customers. Still, you must remember to engage your customers on every step of their journey. You are telling your story to them via thought leadership, blogs, emails, social media, and more, but you have to ensure the story is being properly told. Think of your B2B marketing efforts as a conversation between you and your customers. You want to be clear, engaging, and able to sway them to your point of view. To help with this, you might consider these tips:
Remember that the sales cycle does not end after the sale. You have built a relationship with a customer, and there is no reason it cannot go on. Customers might be interested in add-ons and other products and services that you offer. Thus, you need to keep in touch with them. They will be on your email lists and might also follow you on social media. Continue to provide them with useful content targeted to their needs.
If you continue a successful relationship with customers, they can even become your advocates. When they had a problem, they turned to you and you solved it for them. When somebody that they work with has a similar problem, they will recommend you. Word of mouth and a good reputation can still work wonders, even in this day and age.