Marketing in the 21st Century is geared toward resolving problems and appealing to the needs of consumers. This is important – but when your target audience is another business, a different approach will be required.
What is B2B marketing?
B2B is industry shorthand for business-to-business, so B2B marketing involves targeting another business with your marketing plan. Any business that offers its services to another company needs to master the delicate art of B2B marketing.
It’s not always easy, especially if your business previously operated exclusively in a B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing sphere. As we’ll discuss in a moment, the two approaches differ in a variety of ways.
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- Great for startups
- Powerful web page builder
- E-commerce available
- Great for marketing
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- Powerful data intuitive
- No coding skills needed
The rewards can be substantial, though. After all, the spending power of a business will likely exceed all but the most opulent of consumers.
B2B vs B2C marketing – how do they differ?
B2B marketing and B2C marketing are completely different disciplines and need to be treated as such. You should not adopt one, single approach for your business and consumer clients.
This table offers a summary of the three core differences between the two approaches.
|Likely involves a product or service that isn’t personally for use by the purchaser
|Likely involves a product or service which the buyer is buying for their own use or as a gift
|Factual, to-the-point and results-focused
|Seeks to build an emotional connection
|Needs to reach a key decision-maker
|Can be marketed to anybody
|Likely to take some time to see conversions
|Can see immediate sales and profit
Let’s consider each of these differences in a little more detail.
In some respects, the communication style between B2B and B2C is identical. With both approaches, you are ultimately attempting to convince a human being to spend money on your product or service. Regardless of whether this is personal money or from a company account, your marketing strategy needs to convince this individual to open their metaphorical wallet.
How you achieve this endgame, however, differs between the two approaches.
B2C marketing is tailored to resolving a personal pain point for the end user. As a result, it requires a more emotional approach. Successful B2C marketing convinces a consumer that you understand them and that you want to help them.
Whether this is through a service that makes their life easier or simply a shiny trinket that makes them smile depends on your particular offering.
B2B communication is a little different. Ask any business owner to place their hand on their heart and say what they desire most, the answer will invariably be “to see greater profits and to spend less on outgoings.” In B2B marketing, it is your responsibility to convince a decision-maker that your product or service will help them achieve this aim.
That means sticking to the facts and showing tangible evidence of results without beating around the bush. B2B marketing is not about making friends, it’s about making sales.
These differing approaches will also reflect who your marketing strategy should target. In theory, B2C marketing can be aimed at anybody. A business that sells women’s jewellery would likely tailor its marketing strategy to female consumers, but if it reaches the social media feed of a male partner, they may decide to purchase the jewellery as a gift.
With B2B marketing, you’ll need to be more specific. All the compelling sales in the copy in the world means nothing if it is directed at somebody that is not authorised to spend company money. A business that specialises in cleaning apparatus would ideally target their products to a janitor, but such an employee rarely holds the keys to the company accounts.
|A note on market research
|As a result, B2B marketing requires a little more market research. You’ll need to know exactly who authorises spending with your target business. It could be the Managing Director or CEO, it could be Financial Controller, it could be the Office Manager.
Each of these positions will have their hearts and minds swayed by different arguments, so it’s advisable to have a range of marketing strategies up your sleeve. A Financial Controller will likely be primarily concerned with the expense. An overworked Office Manager will be more interested in learning how your product or service can streamline systems and improve efficiency. A business leader will expect evidence of both!
Time to reach conversion
Finally, consider how long it may take to see results from B2B marketing. Let’s return to our example above. You have successfully pitched a software program that logs employee sickness and holiday to an Office Manager, which is much more efficient than the manual Excel spreadsheet they currently use.
|It’s likely that said Office Manager will ask for a trial of the software first, to ensure it is as user-friendly as you claim and that the company IT can cope with the demands. Once this trial is concluded, the Office Manager will discuss the software with the management group and ask for a licence. The Financial Controller may hem and haw, but eventually cede to wishes to allow the purchase.
From here, plenty of due process still needs to be completed. Contracts need to be arranged, a purchase order raised, you’ll need to wait for the next scheduled payment run … it’s a far cry from the simple sales funnel of B2C marketing, whereby your target audience can make an impulse decision and hand over their credit card details on a whim.
This does not need to be a bad thing. After all, successful B2B marketing can lead to an ongoing partnership and relationship that sees substantial financial gain over months and years. Just be aware that B2B marketing will not necessarily provide an immediate boost to your bottom line.
What are the best B2B marketing strategies?
There are five core B2B marketing strategies. This table explains the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.
|Type of B2B marketing
|B2B digital marketing
|✓ Global reach to enhance brand awareness; easier to personalise content for your target audience; cheaper than offline marketing
|✗ The internet is a big place. You’re going to need to dig deep to find the right audience for your product or service
|B2B email marketing
|✓ An affordable way to reach thousands – or even millions – of potential leads; KPIs are easily tracked
|✗ Easy to ignore, even if you avoid the dreaded spam filter; could be marketing to the wrong audience, leading to leading to your business being branded a marketing pest and harming your reputation
|B2B content marketing
|✓ Your business will earn the trust of potential customers; the most effective way to produce evidence-based case studies; helps a business hone its niche
|✗ The most time-consuming marketing technique; can take a long time to see financial results; will still require other marketing approaches used in tandem
|B2B SaaS marketing
|✓ Online demonstrations can be easily arranged; you’ll have a captive audience for future marketing and upselling; feedback can be immediate
|✗ SaaS products can be cancelled at the click of a button unless a contract is agreed; SaaS is a crowded marketplace and it can be tough to stand out
|B2B social media marketing
|✓ Comparatively cost-effective; a great way to use video and visual cues to demonstrate results; possible to target a particular audience
|✗ You’ll need to constantly interact with users to appease the platform; you have no control over comments that people post on your content
It’s not our place to say which is best – it depends on your business model, your target audience and how much you’re willing to spend (more on that in a moment). Find an approach that meets your needs, and above all, improves your bottom line.
Inbound B2B marketing vs. outbound B2B marketing – which is better?
As above, we are always reluctant to bestow the word ‘best’ upon any marketing strategy. It depends entirely on your business model, offering and personal preferences. What we can do, however, is discuss the relevant merits of inbound and outbound B2B marketing to help you make an informed decision.
Let’s start by addressing the fundamental difference between inbound and outbound B2B marketing.
|Outbound marketing involves spreading the word about your business to anybody willing to listen (and some that are not). This may involve generic email blasts, cold calling on the telephone or broad advertising campaigns – online and off
|Inbound marketing is centred on tailoring your approach a little more to a particular business or niche. Content marketing is arguably the best example of inbound marketing. If you show that you understand the needs of a business, they will approach you
Ultimately, outbound marketing is proactive, hunting down customers and guiding them through your sales filter accordingly. Inbound marketing is more reactive, as you will be dealing with an audience that is already familiar with you and letting them come to you.
Inbound marketing is more common in the 21st Century. We all exposed to information overload, and it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between one generic and advertisement and the next. With inbound marketing, you have successfully baited the hook. All that’s left is to reel in the catch. There will always be a place for outbound B2B marketing too, especially if you’re looking for faster results. Just use it sparingly and wisely.
How to get started with B2B marketing – a step-by-step guide
Ready to start your B2B marketing journey? Hold your horses – we still have a few finer details that need to be ironed out. Follow these five steps to give your B2B marketing the best chance of success.
How to do B2B marketing
- Create a plan
Before you go any further, draw up a detailed B2B marketing plan and treat this as your bible. What are you trying to achieve? Who are you trying to reach? What KPIs are you measuring to define success? What is your timeframe before you expect to see results? No marketing strategy can succeed if you do not have the answers to these questions.
- Understand your target audience
We have explained how B2B marketing differs from B2C, but the two practices have one thing in common. You need to understand your target audience to reach them and convince them to spend money on your product or service. Perform your due diligence and ensure that your approach is tailored to the right recipients.
- Choose your strategy
Review our overview of the different types of B2B marketing and decide where you’d like to focus most. Is your business better served by an inbound or outbound marketing strategy? Can you keep costs down and stick with an email blast and hope for quick sales, or can you afford to go all-in on content marketing and play the long game?
The time for planning is done – it’s time to hit the big red button and launch your B2B campaign.
- Measure your KPIs
In a perfect world, your B2B marketing strategy will be an immediate hit. You’ll see your bottom line swell substantially, book yourself a holiday in the Caribbean and sip cocktails while your business continues to generate passive income.
In reality, you’re unlikely to see this impact straight away. A B2B marketing strategy is a movable feast, so keep reviewing your KPIs. Learn what is working and, more importantly, what is not. Do more of what is capturing the imagination of your target audience and less of what is not. Eventually, everything will come together.
How much does B2B marketing cost?
The average company spends around 6.8% of their annual turnover on B2B marketing. Your mileage may vary, depending on which techniques you employ. If you hire a marketing agency the expense will be higher – though you could consider this an investment, as you’re likelier to see results.
If we return to the five approaches that we discussed previously, review the table below for average expenditure figures.
|Type of B2B marketing
|B2B digital marketing
|All of the below
|B2B email marketing
|From around £350 per month
|B2B content marketing
|From around £1,000 per month
|B2B SaaS marketing
|Around 15% of the package value
|B2B social media marketing
|From around £500 per month
B2B marketing FAQ
B2B marketing is the approach of strategically targeting businesses with your marketing, as opposed to selling straight to consumers (B2C marketing). As these are radically different target audiences, your approach to B2B marketing will need to differ from B2C.
This depends on which B2B marketing strategy you employ, and whether you take a DIY approach or hire a marketing agency to work on your behalf. Set a budget and stick to it to avoid running into trouble, but do not scrimp and save when it comes to marketing. Businesses can require a little more persuasion to pay for goods and services than consumers, so you’ll need to be persistent.
B2C marketing involves selling a product straight to a consumer, typically for personal use. B2B marketing is hunting bigger game, hoping to build an ongoing partnership with an established business. Your approach will need to differ, as B2B marketing is considerably more factual and resulted-focused than the emotional hook of B2C marketing.
B2B marketing is similar to B2C marketing in that you need to understand your target audience. Attempting to market premium-priced software packages for corporations to an SME is unlikely to see much uptake. Complete due diligence, consider how you’re likeliest to reach a key decision-maker and launch your campaign.
The heart of effective B2B inbound marketing is content. If you create quality, engaging content that is closely affiliated with your product or service and matches the needs and ambitions of a B2B client, you will build a relationship based on trust. It may take time to see results, but the relationship is likely to be sustainable.
If you’d like to know more about B2B marketing, including the services in this area offered by the experts at Creative.onl, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team would love to talk to you – and explain exactly how we can turn your business into a marketing powerhouse.