In our last article, we examined what digital marketing means, various digital marketing channels startups can maximise and simple goals and objectives a lean marketing team can focus on. By the end of this blog post, you’ll understand what b2b marketing means, its difference from b2c marketing, and how to develop effective b2b marketing strategies.
What does b2b marketing mean?
Hubspot defines it as any marketing strategy or content that is geared towards a business or organization. So, companies that sell products or services to other businesses use b2b marketing strategies. B2b marketing exists for different purposes - brand awareness, lead generation, etc. Like other forms of marketing, the ultimate goal of b2b marketing is to make sales and increase income. The most effective marketing strategies focused on business buyers are always based on these 3 principles; to increase sales, reduce costs and meet government regulations / avoid negative PR. One major mistake startups make when it comes to b2b marketing is shifting the basis of their marketing away from quality features and service to price. B2b startups must ensure that they do not make this mistake when it comes to selling to other businesses. The key task of b2b marketing is not to be overly concerned with creating new technology, plans or systems but to find out what customers really want and to invest resources towards ensuring that the value wanted, is delivered.
Having established that the aim of b2b marketing is to discover what customers want and deliver on it, there is a need to look into the difference between business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing since both are reliant on the same principle; giving customers what they want. Here are some key differences between the both as proposed by Alan Zimmerman and Jim Blythe;
1. Internal to company: In this, it is impossible for one department alone to develop or make a change in an offering and gain the approval of a large number of customer
- Interdependence of departments
- Differences in product management responsibilities
- Marketing strategy=corporate strategy
2. Customer/ Marketing: Although emotion plays some role in the purchasing decision, generally, buyer decisions are more rational in non-consumer markets.
- More rational decision
- Narrower customer base
- More buying influences and location
- Different segmentation
- More markets and channels
- Personal customer contact is more important
3. Environment: For b2b marketing, the technology used should have significant effects on the financial result.
- Derive demand
- Less end-user info
When it comes to b2b marketing, it is worth noting that rarely does one person make the final buying decision regardless of the size of the business; startups, multinationals and even SMEs. Oftentimes, a number of people will influence or make inputs on the purchase decision. Due to this, the decision-making process largely becomes formalized, with different people taking on different roles and responsibilities. One person may be in charge of research and scouting, another may take charge of the competitor analysis and negotiations, etc. In 1972, Webster and Wind in their book, Organisational buying behaviour, listed the people in this decision-making unit. They include;
- the initiator (the one who first recognizes the problem
- the gatekeeper (the person who controls the flow of knowledge either by being proactive in collecting information or filtering it)
- the buyer (the individual responsible for sourcing suppliers and negotiating the final deal)
- the deciders (maybe senior managers or specialists who make the final decision)
- and the users (the people who’ll be using the product or service purchased. Most often, their feedback will be sought).
Why does this matter and how does it affect your marketing strategy?
When working on your marketing strategy, it is important to keep the ‘members of the decision-making unit’ in mind as it guides your process, your tone, and voice, the content type you use and your overall digital sales strategy.
Take, for instance, the initiator. How best do you present the solution your product/ service offers as relating to the problem? Do you use social media to enlighten them on the damages the problem can cause to their finances, etc? How do you make this message appeal to them? How about the gatekeeper who collects information; will you maximize blogging, product-demo videos or other marketing tactics to share more information on how your offering can be a huge relief to the problem they’re looking to solve? How about the users, the ones who make final use of the product? What is the best way to engage them? You might have to think of their persona (age, gender, etc) when crafting your marketing strategy. For example, you might have FAQs on your website that addresses common problems they’re likely to encounter when using your product/service bearing in mind that their overall satisfaction affects your business. If they find your product complex and relay this information to the decision makers, this may affect your business. So in your strategy, you want to ensure that the tone, voice, content and messaging appeal to them, that your marketing resources provide solutions to common problems they might experience, etc.
How to develop a b2b marketing strategy
When creating a marketing strategy for a business-to-business startup, it is pertinent to ask these important questions- what is our business? Who is our customer? What does value mean to this customer? These questions will help you in determining how to position your business (how you want to be perceived by the customer), the businesses that your solution will cater to (industries that need your product, how they make typical product decisions etc), and the value each business should be getting from your product or service (will your product reduce their overhead cost, improve efficiency etc?). Jumping into just crafting a generic strategy is recipe for disaster. Keep in mind that this strategy will affect the marketing tools and channels you’ll use. Do not be in a hurry to craft a strategy and just begin marketing when you haven’t taken time out to consider the questions listed above. A good strategy makes all the difference.
For the next article, we will look into market research for b2b marketing, and how to utilise different marketing channels when targeting b2b brands.