People who have never taken part in business to business transactions may not fully appreciate the differences between a business marketing to another business, and a business marketing to consumers. Some of those differences may appear subtle, but most of them are actually dramatically huge.
B2B buyers are always more demanding
The first and most important difference between business to business marketing and business to consumer marketing is this: B2B buyers are more demanding. When you market to another business, you cannot afford to make mistakes, whether in terms of quality or in the way you deliver your service. After all, you wouldn’t want to commit the same mistakes that co-founder of KissMetrics and CrazyEgg Neil Patel shared during his talk at the Seattle Interactive Conference:
There are a lot of reasons for this. First, the employee who makes the decision to buy from you cannot afford to make mistakes; getting the decision right could affect their livelihood. They will not take risks just because you wowed them with a presentation, as they are making the decision on behalf of the company they work for. That’s another reason: they are probably experts in the field and can identify good quality, professional services and products when they see it. They are spending the company’s money and need to feel confident in their purchase as they will need to account for it with their superiors. Lastly, they expect to have an active role in interacting with their purchase, which means they only want the best.
The decision is hardly ever made by one person alone
The most junior member of your team probably has the least important responsibility, like making sure there’s pizza in every meeting. That person has yet to earn the responsibility of being included in a unit of big decision makers. The same is true about your customers when it comes to B2B marketing. The decision to buy from you is a collective one, made by a unit of people who know what they are doing in terms of purchasing what you offer and putting that purchase to work for them.
This is exactly what Rand Fishkin said:
Best way to sell something – don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, & trust of those who might buy.
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) February 4, 2015
So think about it this way: those staff members may come and go. For example, if you are dealing with a unit of VPs who decide which of your offerings they want to buy, that means you have to appeal to all of them. And after some time, some or all of those VPs may be replaced. Now you have to deal with a different set of VPs. That’s how complex it is to do business to business sales.
With a B2C setup, you only have to appeal to one decision maker who decides whether they want to buy your products. If you’re selling washing machines, then maybe that customer will share the decision with a spouse or grownup children. Still, they are not experts at this and will probably base their purchase decision on things like color or shape.
When it’s business to business marketing, the dice roll another way. If you’re selling machines, the contractor buying a machine from you will not make the decision alone. Moreover, the decision-making unit will not decide on the purchase based on something as trivial as the color of the machine. It is always quality, longevity, cost to maintain, and many other factors that play a role in the decision.
It is always quality, longevity, cost to maintain, and many other factors that play a role in the decision.
Companies involved in business to business deals do their marketing very differently from their business to consumer counterparts. What the two have in common, though, is that they need to know how to market.
Here are some of the critical steps you should remember before marketing for B2B companies.
1. Market segmentation is important in business to business relationships.
This is another way of saying, know your niche and market heavily to that niche. Segmentation does wonders for business owners who know and respect it. Research into what kind of customers you have, and customize your services and products to their needs.
2. Appeal to reason.
You will always hear marketing professionals exalting the idea of appealing to customers’ emotions. But that applies more to B2C relationships than to B2B. When you’re selling to another business, appeal to reason. The companies you’re dealing with are less likely to be swayed by emotional come-ons because they make the decision as a unit, and they care about rationality rather than emotional value.
3. Make your marketing personal.
A customer who walks into a department store doesn’t care much about whether you make a connection with them. They will buy what they need and leave the store. If their purchase breaks, you’ll probably get a call—that’s it. But when you’re dealing with business managers or owners, or the representative of the decision-making unit, they expect you to nurture a personal relationship with them. They want your honesty, and you need their trust. Without a personal relationship, they will see you as distant and will doubt if they can trust you with such a big and expensive need.
4. Hard-selling isn’t always needed.
Follow the G.E. YouTube channel and you will see that G.E. is hardly ever mentioned in the videos. But, you will find that the videos are incredibly convincing. This simply shows that selling your own name is not always important. But if you make the business/client realize how you play the game to give them a good advantage, they will appreciate it and possibly reward you with their business.
Generating leads for your business to business setup requires marketing of the highest caliber, specialized for people who do not make those decisions lightly. This goes beyond marketing to individuals who can change their minds without worrying about the consequences of a decision.
When you market to another business, remember these tips, fashion your marketing programs accordingly, and nurture the relationships you build with your customers.