Effective B2B Marketing
B2B marketing is often perceived to be more boring and less creative when compared to B2C, but the opposite is true. The stakes in B2B are much higher, which makes it so much more exciting.
Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing focuses on marketing products or services to other businesses or corporations while Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing focuses on marketing to consumers as individuals. In B2B marketing you have to be creative and capable of striking multi-million-dollar, multi-year engagements. The energy and sophistication you have to put in is equal to that of B2C and sometimes even more. You need to tailor your message to a small audience that comprises of senior decision makers.
While there is a clear distinction between B2B and B2C marketing, at the end of the day both of them involve marketing to individuals that often make buying decisions based on emotions. While many organisations have buying centres that use analytics, criteria lists, and are doing research before making a decision, the core decision is still made by humans who are guided by emotions.
With today’s advancements in technology, big companies can now interact directly with individual consumers through Instagram or Facebook. As a result, one to one marketing is becoming more critical in B2C, but it’s something that B2B marketers have been doing for decades. Today almost all B2C companies target and directly interact with individuals or small subsets within their audience. This is where B2B marketing skills are becoming more sought after.
So what types of channels do B2B marketers use if their target audience are businesses?
“There’s no witchcraft or a huge well-kept secret channel.”
Use the channels that work for your company. B2B marketers these days are using similar tools to B2C marketers. Emails work well in both B2B and B2C. Depending on your market, webinars and online events can also work quite well especially further down the funnel when potential customers want to interact more closely with your company.
Contrary to popular belief, social media is essential for B2B marketing because B2B buyers use social media for both their private and business life. At the end of the day, these decision makers are individuals that would be drawn to creative and exciting prospects, and social media gives you the space to make it more creative and exciting.
While B2C marketers tend to use Facebook more and B2B marketers tend to use LinkedIn more, overall, similar tools need to be used. It’s vital that you learn how to use them all, at least on a fundamental level.
Apart from using the appropriate channels for your company, how can you convince senior decision makers? Create an emotional connection with them.
Emotional Decision Makers
Many marketers treat corporate buyers as rational decision makers, and while that may sometimes be true, especially for government contracts, many miss out on the emotional element of it. Senior decision makers are still emotional people who will be more swayed by an emotional connection.
Sending and packing the information to suit what matters to them is crucial. If they have a good connection with the salesperson, that would be a great bonus. Don’t underestimate this emotional connection portion of B2B marketing.
Many B2B marketers are failing because they are not listening to their clients. Some are so convinced that they have the product or solution that everyone wants to buy, but that isn’t usually the case. You need to listen to the client’s problems and learn how you can meet their needs while connecting with them.
“Lead with their needs, not your products.”
Before we create a research report or whitepaper, we ask our consultants what the biggest concerns among the senior decision makers in our client organisations are. You need to get into the habit of leading with the issues that are on the client’s minds. You want to be addressing anything that keeps them up at night either because they need to fix it for the company to survive or to keep their jobs. You come in with a solution that helps them to do just that. So, you’re catering to their emotional needs and fixing their problems, rather than ticking boxes that you think would help you.
Always start with the client issue and think about how to solve it with your company’s offerings. Never lead with the products you have because you fall into the trap of leading with features which may not be relevant to your target audience. Once you know the client’s issue, it’s easy to think about the messaging you want to put out there because you know how to help them.
For example, if you know that the banks in Australia are currently having problems with staff retention, then you need to start finding out - who is most affected? Is it the CEO or the CHRO? What would be the top issues they are facing in this area? You then craft out the right messaging and get the talent acquisition or sales team to reach out to the potential buyer.
How do you find out the issues?
Listen to What Your Sneakers are Saying
If you’re in B2C and your company is selling sneakers you will not get feedback on customer needs from your products – usually sneakers don’t talk back at you. However, in corporate services more often than not, your consultants are your product. You are selling them. Unlike the sneakers, your consultants do talk back to you and tell you what the clients want and how they react to your marketing efforts. While this can be challenging and annoying at times, there is a real opportunity and advantage. Your ‘products’ give you real feedback on your markets. Our consultants are talking to senior leaders about their issues every day and they come back and tell us what these clients understand, what they don’t understand and what they feel that they need. We use this information to better tailor our messages.
Not all clients would articulate or even know the solution that they need. Some of the solutions they are asking for may not even help them, so we have to give them more of what they truly need and connect with them emotionally so that they would see that we’re looking out for their best interests.
Stand Out as a Marketer
To get hired as a marketer, you usually need to have some kind of marketing background so that you can hit the ground running. If you don’t have a background in marketing, companies have to spend time trying to train you which makes you a less attractive prospect. In today’s fast-moving business environment, companies are usually looking for individuals to add value from day one.
You most likely won’t have the exact experience that’s required, but if you are willing to learn and are relatively well rounded, then you have a higher chance of succeeding at work. The faster you can pick things up, the better the outcomes you produce. You have to be a jack of all trades to some degree. You don’t need to be a Zen master in one area like digital unless your role is digital specific, but you would need to be aware of the overall topics and areas within digital marketing. To have a good chance at succeeding, it is beneficial if you have done a little bit of everything.
It also helps if you’re a good writer, depending on the organisation and the type of product or service you are marketing. In professional services it tends to be more writing oriented as it is more report focused as compared to B2C.
Be Open to Learning
To stand out as a marketer, you need to be someone who is genuinely interested in learning. You can’t be set in your ways. Don’t carry the mindset of having been there and done that. Even if you worked in one organisation and excelled, it doesn’t mean it will be the same in this company. You have to keep up with the changes of the world and stay relevant. By staying relevant, you can more easily find out the problems or key issues of discussion and then adjust your marketing according to that.
If you are open to learning and are willing to challenge convention and question things so that the company can be more innovative, you become more valuable to your company.
B2B is about being creative and doing sophisticated campaigns. If you expect to work with the Ogilvy’s of the world and spend millions of dollars on Above-the-Line campaigns, then you might be disappointed because many B2B companies don’t work with such large budgets. You have to do a lot of little things by yourself, but that also means you have a lot of control, get to see the campaign through and really see the fruits of your labour.
Influence without Authority
Finally, the most critical skill you need to master is the art of influencing without authority. You almost never have authority over people who are more senior than you, but you need to influence them. Without these senior people’s buy-in, nothing will happen so we need to get them on board. If you struggle with that and don’t like that part of your role, then you can’t do B2B marketing. You have to come into this with your eyes open.
Some stakeholders get marketing while others don’t. Stakeholder management is a considerable part of B2B marketing. It is crucial that you connect with stakeholders to get their buy-in and work well with them.
When it comes to working with consultants, you want to spend as much time as needed and as little time as possible with them. Essentially, you want to maximise the time you spend with them, but it’s costly as it might be costing the company as much as $1000 per hour as their time is taken away from working with clients, so you don’t want to spend too many hours doing this. Get as much information as you need, especially what products should be pushed and what the big client issues are in the market. Build a good working relationship with your consultants. Be respectful but also make it clear what kind of value you’re bringing to the table.
One to one marketing sometimes tends to blur the lines between sales and marketing. While the two naturally have to come hand in hand, the scopes are separate. The marketing team provides the sales teams with the right messages, factsheets and content to present to the client. The marketing team stays in contact with clients regularly through newsletters and emails. It thus supports the sales teams or account managers because they can’t keep in touch with clients every day, so this is one way that we help them to stay connected. In some ways, the marketing team provides the sales team with an excuse to call their clients to provide updates, insights and other such information.
You have to establish the relationship in a way that you are an expert in marketing, and they are the experts in sales. If you don’t establish this, they will ask you for a shiny brochure with whatever content they want. You have to set the right expectations and demonstrate the impact of what you do. It’s important that you show them the success of what you do, like the marketing ROI.
Steps to Take in 24 Hours
- Assess Yourself
Is B2B marketing something you want to consider? What are some skills or experience that can help you in this role? Think about where you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years and how you want to progress. Having a clear vision of this will help you prioritise and know if this is an area you really want to be focusing on.
- Get a Mentor
Look for a mentor or someone who can help you guide your career. You need a sounding board who is in or was once in the company you want to enter. It would help if you have someone who can be honest with you and someone who will help you sharpen your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.
- Talk to Others
It’s tempting to sit in the office all the time but make an effort to go out of the office and talk to people in and out of your industry and field. This will help you with your perspective, solutions and creativity.