Marketing to B2B (business-to-business) customers is not the same as marketing to B2C (business-to-consumer) buyers. The drivers affecting the buying decisions of both groups are different, which follows that your strategies must be different for each as well.
While it’s true that it’s people you’re still attempting to win in B2B marketing, there are major distinctions to keep in mind:
- B2B buying involves a lengthier decision-making process. Purchasing and vendor-partnering decisions go through several key people. Getting a “no” from just one of them may mean starting all over again with another company. With B2C, you only deal with the consumer who has an immediate need for your products or services.
- Businesses want longer client-vendor relationships. A fast food brand with multiple branches wants long-term relationships with their meat suppliers, for example. Think about it: Wendy’s or McDonalds changing suppliers every month is a logistical disaster. As such, they expect consistent supply at specific times and locations, and generally at a fixed cost.
- Businesses want a deeper, more technical understanding of your product. Decision-makers in the B2B market expect information and expertise from you, and the ability to nurture long-term relationships before they enter into a partnership.
The basics of B2B marketing
Demand generation is a major focus of B2B marketing. And although the internet has introduced more cost-effective marketing platforms such as social media and the search engines, traditional marketing strategies such as trade shows and direct mail still work.
B2B marketing, therefore, is a combination of a host of approaches that can be boiled down to a few basics:
Businesses buy from companies they trust. As such, the first step towards a successful B2B marketing strategy is ensuring your team has all the materials it needs to build and cultivate trust, such as:
- Professional-looking website that details what and where you are, how you can be reached, and your value proposition
- Content that solves the pain points of your target market
- Persuasive sales scripts for your email and phone campaigns
- Short but punchy product video explainers
- Case studies and white papers that showcase how your offering solved certain companies’ problems
- Client testimonials to serve as social proof
In this hypercompetitive world where it’s extremely difficult to get ahead of the competition without software, ensure you have the technology to manage and simplify your marketing and sales efforts.
Indispensable tools your team must have include CRM software (to store contact information, communicate with prospects, and track the buyer’s journey), email marketing software (to create email campaigns and analyze the results), and social media tools (to schedule social media posts and measure engagement), among many others.
Inbound marketing, in a nutshell, is a multifaceted approach that focuses on attracting businesses to your brand through helpful content.
According to HubSpot, inbound marketing involves four actions to obtain website visitors and eventually convert those visitors into leads, prospects, and customers: attract, convert, close, and delight.
Each action has a corresponding audience and content type. Meaning, businesses already familiar with your brand and what you do will find content that speaks about your product’s value proposition more appealing compared to first-time visitors simply looking around for a solution to their problem.
Strategies you can implement to generate leads via inbound marketing include:
- Onsite and offsite content marketing
- Personal branding
- Search engine optimization
- Influencer marketing
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
Creating content specific to your target audience’s needs is vital to B2B marketing. Here’s a chart from BrainRider.com mapping the different decision stages and content opportunities for your B2B content marketing plan:
Outbound marketing is a traditional form of marketing where a company and its marketers “go out” to initiate conversations with an audience. Examples include TV and radio commercials, newspaper and magazine ads, telemarketing or cold calling, and email blasts (which is both an inbound and outbound marketing tactic).
Other outbound marketing strategies may take the form of press releases, pay-per-click ads in the search engines, direct mail (flyers, brochures, product catalogs, and postcards), and trade shows.
Trade marketing is a B2B marketing approach where companies focus on growing wholesale, distributor and retailer demand, instead of at the consumer level. The objective is to sell your products to companies who will then sell them to their customers.
One common way to go about trade marketing is by identifying the trade associations specific to your industry, where members are your target businesses. When these associations hold trade shows or conferences, become involved as a sponsor, speaker, or exhibitor.
If their website has a good enough following, buy ad space to boost brand awareness. Join their Facebook or LinkedIn groups to participate in discussions. The end goal is to communicate with the associations’ members.
B2B marketing is a discipline that follows best practices distinct from B2C marketing. The above are just some of the basic B2B marketing approaches you can explore.
Two things worth remembering with B2B marketing: 1) ensure you’ve budgeted enough for the activities essential to B2B marketing and 2) it's a process that will have to be optimized from time to time, in that customer needs are constantly evolving, and B2B companies that do well are those with the capacity to quickly adapt.