B2B businesses sell products or services to other companies or organisations. B2B businesses are very different when compared to b2c businesses as the product involved is usually Complex in nature. Companies that buy products and services from other businesses usually use them in their own products and services, use them to support their business operations or functions, or simply resell them.
Business to consumer or b2c marketing is relatively simple where a company sells a product or service to individuals for the individual personal use. B2c marketing involves running campaigns that are able to invoke emotional responses from the individual customers, instead of just focusing on demonstrating the hard value of product or service. The buyer behaviour in B2B purchases is more rational, task oriented and less emotional. The businesses look for a specific product or service which can help them increase productivity, improve quality of their delivery, or improve their bottom line or top line.
For business to business product and services they have to find their own niche within the organisation and demonstrate significant value creation. Business marketing generally involves shorter and direct channels of distribution while on the other hand consumer marketing focuses on large groups through mass media campaigns as well as targeted campaigns. In case of business marketing the relationship between a buyer and seller is more personalized in nature compared to b2c marketing.
In business to business marketing the end customer is usually a group of individuals or a department comprising of a head and his subordinates or a committee who have different roles in evaluating the offered product or service. Since B2B sale is to a business which is an organisation or a firm and since those organisations usually have Complex organisational structures, so B2B sales involves passing through multiple decision makers in the entire process life cycle of product's sale. So the buyer seller relationship in B2B transaction is more engaged and close in nature and usually involves multiple meetings between the buyer and the seller before they can establish a certain degree of trust to conduct the sale.
B2B market is one of the largest markets in the business landscape and exceeds the consumer market by huge margin in dollar value. B2B sales are usually high ticket value in nature which means that the average ticket size of a sale can range from anywhere from thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars. On the other hand b2c sales are usually lower in the range of ticket value, other than luxury goods, cars, homes etc.
The sales cycle in B2B transactions is usually long and can take anywhere from weeks to months. But with the rise of digital channels of business marketing, the sales cycle for b2b products such as SaaS software is shortening and can help businesses get up and running with the seller's products/services in minutes.
Every deal in B2B market is not just a sale but it's actually a partnership and in most cases the success of the seller will depend upon the success achieved by the buyer. And since the ticket size is usually very high in B2B transaction, even few customers can make or break the sellers business. And this is one of the most important reason why in B2B market retention of customers is more important than acquiring new customers. And for the same reason the customer loyalty in B2B transaction is usually higher than consumer goods market.
Perceived risk of purchase is on the higher side for business to business transactions for example a company which is buying $100,000 worth of software is most respectable to the risk as compared to consumer buying a $1 packet of chips. That is why such a strong emphasis is paid on evaluation and the selection process in B2B sales.
So what are some of the channels for business to business marketing ?
There are so many different channels for B2B marketing that is very easy to get overwhelmed and spread yourself very thin trying to focus and optimise on each channel at the same time. It is important to understand that business to business marketing works differently for the different stage/maturity of growth of the company as well as the kind of industry that a product or service is in. So you have to be very careful how you allocate your marketing budget to get higher conversion in your sales funnel.
email marketing has been one of the most effective lead generation tools when it comes to b2B marketing. The key is not to directly reach out to customers through email and try to sell your product right away. You should instead focus on delivering valuable information / content through email to the customers and warm them up before driving them towards your sales funnel. Because of the ubiquity of email is a channel it is also one of the most abused channel and has the maximum amount of spam.
The key for successful email marketing is personalization, targeting and segmentation. Once you have built your email list it is important to split it into different targeted groups and send them only relevant content at the relevant time. For example some customers might like your product and sales updates, while others might only want to hear about your new releases. Others might just simply be interested in your newsletter and your blogs, so having this level of detailed interest based segmentation of your email list and groups is essential to build an engaged community of subscribers.
B2B companies who blog and produce content on a consistent basis are able to increase their brand awareness among the customers, increase their trust sore and search engine rankings which leads to more traffic leading to more leads and which ultimately converts to more sales. Statistics have shown that a company who publishes 16 times or more a month is able to generate 350% more traffic as compared to companies who publish more erratically or less than that particular volume threshold.
There are lot of advantages of having a blog such as it helps you to convey unique voice and connect to your potential customers in a very direct and human way. Blogs are also 24/7 communication channels which keep driving traffic to your website even while you are busy with other things. Products in B2B market are usually complex and need certain amount of hand holding and explaining before the customer can actually make a purchase, blogs can play a very important role to make the customer aware about various aspects of a product and help him in the discovery and evaluation process. Other formats of content include pdfs, ebooks, presentation, videos etc.
Events play a very important role in B2B marketing and can serve as a very good channel to target more higher end enterprise customers. Interacting with the decision makers of bigger companies or smaller/medium sized companies who attend your industry specific events will help to give a face and presence to your company. Events are also great for networking with key industry players which can help you in the sales process at later stages.
Direct sales can be a very good channel for you if your product has high cost or is more complex in nature. Sales process involves directly reaching out to the potential customers or answering the incoming enquiry through leads in order to sell them the product now or in the future. It involves three steps which includes generate the leads which includes profiling and prospecting customers who might be interested in buying a product or service. Second step is to qualify the leads which includes assessing how much value they are deriving from the trial version of the product and pushing them for sale if they are deemed as fit. Close the sale which involves finally making the sale to the end customer.
Business Development includes establishing partnerships or agreements with different companies in order to cross promote and cross sell each other's products or services. For software products it might mean doing an integration between different products or for other types of product it might include doing combined marketing campaign or selling each other's products and services in a combined sales process.
Another smart tactic and channel for B2B marketing can be to leverage existing platforms by embedding your product and service into their the platform ecosystem to drive growth. Very good example of companies leveraging existing platforms for driving the growth is the note taking and productivity company Evernote which was usually among the first app developers whenever a new mobile operating system or new platform ecosystem was launched whether it was iOS, Android, Windows Phone Windows 8 and it kept all of its products updated on those platforms. By embedding your product or service into an existing platform ecosystem helps you leverage the traction of the platform at no additional cost. Paypal leveraged the existing ecosystem of eBay power sellers to drive growth in the early days to its payment processing software.
It is important to understand that it is highly inefficient if you try to focus on multiple channels at one time and it is advisable that you as a company should focus on one channel at a time and put all your energies behind it. Constantly testing different channels will help you figure out which channels work best for you at a given point in time. Once you have identified a channel then all your efforts should be focused on deriving maximum value through it. Analytics will play a very important role for you to measure and test the ROI of channels.
So what are some of the channels that you use in your business to business marketing efforts, let us know in the comments below.