If most of your reading so far has covered B2C marketing, you might be pardoned for thinking that B2B marketing will be a tricky business. However, it’s actually much simpler, although the approach you choose will likely be very different. To begin with, targeting is much easier, so before we start looking at ways to actionable marketing tips for B2B business, let’s start with your target audience.
1. Know Your Customers
Instead of marketing to a highly diverse audience, you’re working with a much smaller target audience consisting of business decision-makers. Your business will determine how wide your reach may be. For example, if you sell stationery supplies, your audience consists of office managers across every imaginable type of business. As a contrasting example, if you are an International semi truck dealer, your market is fleet owners and managers, and since not all businesses have semi trucks, your audience is a much smaller one.
When facing a B2B market spanning a wide range of industries, it’s wise to narrow things down. The stationery supplier in our example may, for instance, decide to target legal practices and maybe one or two other types of customer groups. This makes it much easier to identify and reach the decision-makers. Meanwhile, our International semi truck dealer will have an easier task in identifying the companies he or she should target.
Having identified the target markets, gaining access to decision makers to deliver in-person sales pitches will be the next step. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of making a call, but there are also other avenues for raising awareness of your status as a B2B supplier. Local chambers of business, trade shows, and trade publications are additional avenues, but your ultimate goal is to gain an opportunity for an in-person pitch.
2. Know Your Competitors
All businesses are highly competitive, but when working in the B2B space, you need to know that your prospective clients are definitely shopping around. To win their business, you need to be cheaper than your competitors, or better, or both. Don’t take a blinkered approach to competitors. Pretending they aren’t there won’t get you anywhere. Find out how they do business, how they price their products, what their lead times are, and so on.
Obviously, you won’t use this knowledge like a blunt instrument, but it will guide you towards a successful sales pitch. For example, an International semi truck detailer will know that fuel efficiency is important to fleet managers and may therefore present information showing that International trucks are known for their fuel efficiency. A stationery supplier may have noted that its competitors are slow to deliver and promise speedy deliveries and shorter lead times. Getting to know the competition helps you to identify the ways in which your business can offer an advantage, and once you know what that may be, you have a competitive edge to exploit and benefit from.
3. Highlight the Most Applicable Features and Benefits
Features and benefits are important elements in all types of marketing, but in B2B marketing, the points you highlight will have a very practical focus. Your task will be to persuade your customers that your product or service will help them to run their businesses more efficiently, or that they will incur lower costs by choosing you, or make more sales, for example. The better you know the business to which you are trying to sell, the more likely you will be to hit the sweet spot that gains you the sale.
Although marketing styles aimed at playing on emotions and personal aspirations are often very effective in the retail space, they are generally less applicable here. Your prospective buyers will need a compelling reason to support your business over existing suppliers, and you will have to offer advantages with strong practical motivations.
In general, your marketing will target pragmatism over things like status – but there are a few exceptions. Be aware of your positioning and motivate decision-makers to choose you by using the most applicable benefits for leverage. Remember, you’re talking to busy people, so make your marketing communications short, punchy, and to-the point.
4. Leverage Prestigious Affiliations
While practicality, pricing, and reliability are very important to B2B clients, it’s still possible to impress them with affiliations indicating prestige. If your business can be associated with a famous brand which has a great reputation, that’s a piece of information you should use. Our International semi truck dealer may not be the company that produces International trucks, but he or she stands to benefit from the International brand name and its associations with practicality, reliability, and reasonable running costs.
Meanwhile, our stationery supplier may not carry brands with the same amount of power, but if it already serves a well-known company, it can use that business’s name to demonstrate that it’s a serious player. That’s why we often see companies displaying logos belonging to other businesses on their websites. The implied message is “we are associated with this famous business, so we’re pretty good at what we do. You should try us too.”
Affiliations to industry bodies can also add a degree of proof or assurance that your B2B business should be taken seriously. For example, a construction company with ties to the Master Builders’ Association will definitely advertise the fact.
5. If You Didn’t Convert the Customer, Ask Why Not
Because you’re dealing with a much smaller audience, and one that doesn’t make impulsive decisions, you can be pretty sure that anyone who enquired about your offering was genuinely interested to start with. If they didn’t buy, there will be a reason, and you need to know it to make your future marketing pitches more effective. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll change the way you work, but if more than half of your B2B prospects fail to buy because your prices are too high, you might just have a problem and discover a need to go back to the drawing board.
Will you offer products at lower prices? Or is it just a matter of making a more convincing argument to prove that using your (more expensive) product will offer benefits that more than justify their higher cost? Needless to say, you wouldn’t even be asking these questions if you didn’t keep track of the reasons why prospective customers who expressed their interest failed to seal the deal.
An “Easier” Market, but it Takes Time
In many senses, B2B marketing is easier, and even a relatively low conversion rate will lead to lucrative deals being made. However, because purchasing decisions are made with greater caution, it often takes longer to achieve conversion.
Fortunately, there are many factors working in your favour, particularly that you are able to do very precise targeting for your marketing communications. If you are active within specific industries, your business will soon become a familiar face, increasing your chances of being given a chance.
With patience, product knowledge, industry knowledge and marketing savvy, there is much you can achieve within a smaller budget than you’d need to obtain similar results in a B2C environment.