Business-to-business marketing is a remarkably different beast than consumer marketing, even though their aims are quite similar. While successfully selling a product or service is the eventual goal of any marketing campaign, the machinations of how you go about that selling are vastly different when you’re selling to other businesses as opposed to individual consumers.
Every supply chain includes a large and reliable amount of business-to-business commerce. From the manufacturing of t-shirts to the manufacturing of flag decals that adorn a world-traveling vehicle, businesses couldn’t be or stay afloat without selling to and buying from other businesses. If you’re looking to do a better job of selling within the supply chain, you need to familiarize yourself with the ways in which marketing to businesses differs from marketing to consumers.
B2B Markets Are More Complicated
When it comes to selling to consumers, the decisions made around purchasing rarely involve more than one or two people. From products for the home to clothing and entertainment, marketing efforts that are targeted at consumers can aim at the individual. Business-to-business markets, on the other hand, usually involve a complex system of individuals, teams and cost-benefit analyses that must all be taken into consideration, and unlike households and individual consumers, the players in that complex B2B system may move in and out of it as people change jobs, get promoted and the like. B2B marketing must appeal to this complicated system and the differing people within it.
B2B Buyers Are Less Whimsical and Emotionally Driven
Consumers often make buying decisions that are impulsive and driven by emotion. It’s why grocery stores put magazines and candy in the checkout lanes. Business-to-business buyers rarely act on the spur of the moment, and hard facts and analyses — not emotions — drive behavior. This difference exists because consumers don’t have to make their purchases pay for themselves in the end, whereas B2B markets rely on profits to stay in business. For the B2B buyer, every purchase has to benefit the bottom line. B2B buyers respond to marketing that’s tied to well-made products and services that will increase their own sales.
B2B Products and Services Are More Complicated
Consumer products and services are usually much simpler than the products and services being purchased in a business-to-business relationship, and even when a consumer does buy a complex product — like a car or computer — very little expertise is required to make the decision or use the product. B2B products and services, on the other hand, are purchased by experts who not only have to fully understand what they’re buying, they also have to understand how it fits into their own companies operations and aims. Your marketing must reflect this complexity.
Personal Relationships Matter More
When a consumer needs a new pair of jeans or a smartphone, she doesn’t rely on a personal relationship with the one selling those items when it’s time to make a purchase. B2B markets, on the other hand, rely heavily on personal relationships that are built over time and mutual success. Not only does this make business-to-business markets more loyal, it also makes the people marketing, selling and buying within them more valuable. Especially in supply chains that involve multiple countries, being able to trust someone with whom you are on a first-name basis that their new product or service is going to work for you is the best marketing money can buy.
B2B Buyers Want to Buy
Consumer marketing is filled with products that people might like to own but that they probably don’t need. To that end, it aims at pleasure, identity, envy and the like in order to makes sales. B2B buyers, by contrast, want to buy and need to buy in order to stay in business, and competition dictates that they do so wisely and regularly. Marketing to B2B buyers then, can assume that the product or service is wanted, all you have to do is convince them that you — and not your competitor — are the one from whom they should buy.
B2B Buyers Are More Knowledgeable
It’s not unusual for B2B buyers to know as much about the product or service you’re selling as you do. In some instances, because they actually use it, they may even know more. Because of that expertise, business-to-business copy has to be research-driven in terms of the product, the markets it’s used for and its applications. Oversimplification, jingles and logos may work on consumers, but they definitely won’t work in B2B marketing situations.
Marketing is only effective when it knows its audience and tailors its efforts accordingly. B2B marketing — because the business buyer differs so widely from the individual consumer — is necessarily most effective when all the needs, knowledge and complexity of its audience is taken into consideration.