What is B2B marketing? Do B2B companies have to market differently than other types of businesses? What does that look like? And most of all how could this help your business?
Our guide to B2B marketing will help you understand why B2B works differently from general types of marketing AND how you can market for and to B2B companies.
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B2B Marketing Definition
B2B refers to “business to business,” or a type of commercial transaction where one business sells products or services to another business. This happens all the time! For example, many manufacturing companies sell their products to other manufacturers, who use those supplies to create products they sell directly to consumers. Many contractors offer their services to other contractors, and become subcontractors working on the same project…and so on.
In these situations, a representative or manager from one business is typically in charge of examining products and choosing which other business to buy from or create a contract with (the final decision often goes through several authorizations as well). That purchasing representative is in a curious position: They must consider the financial and logistics needs of their company, but they are also still a person, which means they aren’t immune to making decision based on their emotions, instincts,
A B2B marketing definition, then, includes an interesting combination of appealing to the professional side and the personal side of the buyer at the same time. This type of marketing understands that it is trying to sell to a business entity with very specific needs, but also knows that core marketing concepts like trust, first impressions, and appearance still matter.
One of the most famous B2B sellers in the world, IBM excels at combining practical business marketing with humor, entertainment, and design. Their Let’s Put Smart to Work video campaign is a great example. Their smart, brief videos both position IBM as a brand while explaining what their latest smart tech products are intended to accomplish in the world – something some buyers may find confusing.
Salesforce offers a broad suite of customer management tools that businesses around the world depend on. Take a look at their landing page, and you’ll see that they focus on proven increases in sales productivity, free trials to test their products, and a full breakdown of all their services so that people can find exactly what they are interested in. No space is wasted on making you feel good, because they know you want to get down to business.
Trade shows remain a vital channel for B2B marketing, but it can be difficult to showcase how new products or services work in this limited environment. Inmarsat, trying to sell in-flight Wi-Fi systems, took things to a new level with the Bring It On campaign that created an augmented reality experience that guided visitors through a digital flight to Barcelona. This allowed them to show buyers exactly how passengers would benefit from their technology.
Tate & Lyle needed to sell their new syrups to restaurants and shopping markets, but the company was working in a highly competitive industry flooded with free product samples. To stand out, they created a unique campaign that started with handwritten letters and ultimately introduce a video box that included not only samples but a video box that began playing when opened, showing the product benefits of the syrups while potential buyers could take a taste themselves.
B2C and B2B Marketing
B2C marketing stands for “business to consumer” marketing, and refers to all the marketing that happens when businesses try to sell directly to consumers, who in turn are buying products for personal reasons. That’s the basic difference with B2C vs. B2B marketing.
At first glance, you may not think that this matters very much, but it’s actually a very important distinction, because when people buy things for person reasons, they tend to make decisions very differently!
Glance at Instagram, or native advertising on a popular website, or the commercials you see on TV (although these days people tend to skip those): That marketing is rife with energy, dazzling colors, and a whole lot of appeal to emotion. You can see the same messages over and over again – buying this will make you popular! Buying this will make you pretty! Buying this will make you feel powerful, or fix this problem in your life, or make you more like all these awesome people!
All that works, because consumers make their buying decisions for personal reasons just like these. But businesses tend to take more practical approach. “Whoa now,” a business says, “How long will this product last? How do the prices compare to your competitors, anyway? What sort of certifications do you have? What are other buyers saying about you? Can I count on you for years to come?”
Because businesses are interested in this information, they tend to dismiss marketing that’s too flashy or too based on emotion. This has led to B2B marketing to become more focused on the data, on proving the value of creating a relationship with partner or supplier. While B2B companies can and do use many of the same channels as B2C businesses, their marketing is typically more subdued, more focused on facts, and more of an invitation to learn more.
However, it’s also important to notice that the two types of marketing B2B and B2C, do experience overlap, especially in recent years. One big reason this has happened is that the internet has allowed consumers to do more research on their own, and as a whole consumers have realized that yes, they too want to know about peer reviews, and certification, and product testing, and so on.
Meanwhile, on the other side, personal decision making can often bleed into business purchases (we’re all human, after all), which means some appeals to emotion can be effective. This is one reason B2B marketing has begun to embrace social media and other channels once considered to be strictly B2C.
What Are B2B Marketing Strategies
What are effective B2B marketing strategies to reach their buyers? Here are several of the most effective techniques that B2B companies use to reach buyers today, as marketing tactics continue to evolve.
The proof is in the pudding, right? Offer free trials and product samples if you really want to convince a business that you are worth partnering with. Give them a chance to see how things work with no strings attached.
Trade show demonstrations:
Some things are just better in person. Trade shows remain an excellent way to make new contacts and find great leads. It’s also the perfect spot to gives a hands-on demonstration of your product or service. This is particularly useful for construction or manufacturing companies that want to show how durable and handy their offerings can be.
B2B companies are starting to embrace video in a big way. Videos can reach a lot more people than the average trade show, and they can also show demonstrations of how products or services work. Videos are also an excellent way to answer questions about a company, explore current projects, and generally get buyers acquainted with the “face” of a business.
While influencer marketing remains very popular in B2C circles, it’s also quickly on the rise for B2Bs. B2B companies are partnering with bloggers and social media gurus, who develop content for their own audiences that mentions or recommends the B2B brand. Pick the right influencer, establish a good relationship, and you can quickly gain new leads.
B2B companies should try to publish and share their own analysis of the industry, product trends, current pricing trends, and similar issues (LinkedIn is a great place to start). These pieces help establish the company as an expert in their field, which is a big factor when leads are making their decisions.
Email newsletters and updates:
Email remains perennially successful as a B2B marketing tactic: Clients read emails, especially well-designed messages. Newsletters, product announcements, and important sales can reach a lot of people through email, but it’s important to have an entry web form where potential leads can input their email address and choose to sign up for these features.
Every day, more B2B companies are winning sales through the contacts they’ve made on social media. More and more buyers are turning to social media sites to vet potential partners, check out reviews, and connect with other people in their industry. This provides an excellent opportunity to expand contact pools and pick up new leads for today’s companies.
How To Market to Businesses with Your New Company
Are you just starting in the B2B world, and wondering what marketing tactics will serve you best. Check out our tips for new B2B companies that are working on how to market to businesses themselves.
Focus on lead generation:
As a growing B2B, you should focus on lead generation as your highest priority. Build client lists, create new accounts, and gain a target audience that you can use for future marketing analysis. Work on content and calls to action that focus on getting these leads. Today’s marketing automation tools are excellent for low-cost management of numerous leads, so take advantage of them!
One of the hardest challenges for a brand new marketing team is a lack in particular skills that take time and education to build – like photography, SEO management, whitepaper writing, and so on. It’s very useful to assign someone to these specific roles (preferably someone who already has a little experience or passion for that skill) so they can immediately start to grow and learn in that role. Have multiple specialists on the team who can take care of various types of content, and worry about cross-training later.
Start taking part in conversations:
LinkedIn conversations, industry forum discussions, comment sections on important articles…give your brand a voice and weigh in on these important industry discussions as soon as you can. Not only will you learn a lot and improve your brand recognition, but you can also make organic contacts that can lead to future sales – plus, it’s great practice for closing the deal.
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