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?
You 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.
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.
Before we create a research report, 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 clients' 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?
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.
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Director, Global Field Marketing & Head | Former Director, APAC Marketing