The vast majority of all business can be distilled down to two categories: Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C). Simply put, B2B companies sell their products and services to other businesses. On the other hand, B2C companies sell directly to the consumer. B2B companies can be anywhere along the supply chain. They may be the direct source for raw materials for products, one layer of the manufacturing process, or the distributor that sells wholesale items to retailers. The volume of transactions is much higher in B2B, but as consumers we aren’t really involved in that process. We’re left with the B2C transactions where we physically or digitally purchase a product.
As such, B2B and B2C companies are very different in respect to their strategy, operations, and management. Startups and small businesses that are B2Bs will look and act differently than a B2C startup. Your marketing should reflect that. We know that marketing is not a one size fits all type of endeavor. What works for one company may be disastrous for another.
Building a Marketing Strategy
Building out your marketing strategy requires that you have a strong understanding of who you are as a company, as a brand, and the value that you provide to your customers. Marketing should communicate this value in a way that resonates authentically with audiences, and ultimately drives customers to purchase your product. At the end of the day, the Return on Investment (ROI) on marketing needs to be revenue driven by sales, not the number of digital impressions acquired.
B2B Marketing is Changing
Recently, we’ve been seeing more and more B2B companies moving into the marketing spaces that are traditionally associated with B2Cs, namely digital. B2B companies such as IBM and Raytheon are using Twitter to establish a social media presence. Novartis and Cisco are on Instagram, a platform we wouldn’t necessarily associate B2Bs with.
As a result, B2B marketing has become more visual and content rich than it ever has been in the past. The days of bland catalogs filled with white pages and stark images of products are not gone yet, but they’re being phased out as B2B marketers are taking advantage of digital capabilities to enhance production quality. Digital content can be cheaper and more cost efficient than print, and B2B companies are aware of that.
Revitalizing your website as a B2B company will drive sales, especially through online ordering channels. Building in optimized SEO is essential to making sure that the right people come across your website, and that your brand is visible. Linking media channels through your website can also drive traffic, as social media users can travel to your website and vice versa.
Using targeted marketing strategies is also imperative. Ads for your products and services can be placed in industry publications and websites, and retargeting through the use of website cookies allow you to track your viewers’ habits. Cookies have a wealth of information in them.
Parsing through that data and establishing trends will allow you to place your ads in the websites that will be the most effective for driving sales. For instance, if you find that the majority of your website viewers also use a professional platform such as LinkedIn, you can move to execute a strategy that allows you to advertise on LinkedIn.
B2B Challenges in the New Age of Marketing
The challenge with establishing a digital presence, especially on a social media platform driven by visual content, such as Instagram, is that B2Bs do not always have a product they can feature. For example, take Salesforce’s use of Instagram. Salesforce is primarily an online customer relationship management (CRM) platform. That’s not as easy to visually represent as something like a audio speaker or a tennis shoe. But Salesforce has over 35,000 followers. Why? They don’t have a product that directly lends itself to the visual heavy Instagram platform, but they excel at creating a space that represents their company values as well as the services they provide in an accessible way for Instagram’s primary audience.
This touches back to the idea that you need to take what you’re good at and lead with it. Use your company culture as a way to represent your B2B brand in a way that still raises brand awareness while lending itself to a visual social media platform. Photos of employee engagement projects, volunteer opportunities, or happy employees enjoying their Fridays can provide you with initial posts.
B2B’s Should Pay Closer Attention to Market Research
B2B audiences tend to be more niche than B2C markets, which try to appeal to the largest market share possible. This needs to be reflected in the marketing strategies for each. B2C corporations want to use their marketing to appeal to the largest potential buyer share possible as a way to drive sales.
On the other hand, B2B companies know that there are a select number of companies that have the need and buying potential for their products, which are typically much more expensive than B2C retail products. As such, B2B marketers need to use carefully tailored market research to ensure that their advertising is doing what they intend for it to do.
Reputation Is Crucial for B2B and B2C Companies
Both B2B and B2C companies rely on a strong brand reputation to drive sales. B2B companies place a higher emphasis on company referrals and repeat business, since the likelihood of repeat or add-on sales from the same customer is generally higher than it is at a comparable B2C level.
B2C companies, especially those in the retail and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) space, rely on word of mouth referrals to drive sales. Simply put, both types of businesses need to develop a strong reputation for providing a quality product that delivers value to their customers.
Marketing is a highly individualized process. As social media opens up greater amounts of traceable data, I anticipate seeing a higher value being placed on data analytics and professionals who can consolidate and interpret this information as a way to strategize. Finding the right marketing professional who can do that for your business is a great place to start!