What is B2B Marketing in 4 key principles
In the last 5 years or more, it became very usual to hear of "B2B Marketing", compared to B2C Marketing among others. It even sometimes now looks like a specific part of the Marketing field. But what is B2B Marketing exactly? Is it so different from other Marketing environments?
In this blog post, you will get some actionable clues about the characteristics of B2B Marketing to make your Marketing more accurate and more successful.
What is B2B Marketing in one definition?
The technical definition of what means B2B in marketing
To the question, "What is B2B Marketing?" we can answer:
B2B Marketing is the Marketing strategies and initiatives executed by a business toward another one to sell a product or a service.
This is the "technical" definition of Business-to-Business Marketing. It focuses on the profile of the seller and the one of the buyer. In both cases, they are professionals (compared to private people, for instance).
However, the specificities and differences of B2B vs B2C Marketing are much more exciting than the definition itself.
Ready to explore the particularities of Business-to-Business Marketing?
The richness of what is B2B in daily business
The B2B environment influences directly the Marketing communication, meaning the messaging style and the content, as well as the decision regarding the Marketing channels. This leads to what we call B2B Marketing.
According to my marketing experience, Marketing in a B2B context is recognizable through 4 main characteristics. These principles are the fruit of my observations working with professionals as well as end customers, but also of my numerous talks with partners, especially in the SaaS sector, and other Marketing specialists. They are for me the essential principles of what B2B Marketing truly is.
I identified the four following fundamental principles of B2B Marketing:
In B2B Marketing, the buyer is usually not the user.
B2B Marketing needs endurance because of the duration of the sales cycle.
The B2B Marketing communication tends to remain factual (and not much emotional).
B2B Marketing relies a lot on free trials rather than on cheap products.
Sharing of thoughts about what is B2B Marketing for you in the comment section is more than welcomed!
For now, let's have a detailed look at these four critical principles about B2B Marketing.
1> What is B2B Marketing from the customer perspective
The B2B Marketer, the buyer and the user
In a B2B environment (compared to a B2C one), the most original aspect is that the buyer is usually not the user. In most cases, the buyer persona in the company is the one having the budget: it can be a team manager, a VP, or a C-Level, with the possible collaboration of buying specialists, all depending on the size and regulations of the company. Anyhow, the person who gives his approval (and his budget) won't use the product at all. The actual user will work with the product or service but he usually has the role of influencer in the purchasing process too: first, bringing his needs to the table and afterwards, recommending possible products.
Of course, the smallest the company is, the more exceptions you will find, especially with very small businesses and freelancers. But, besides these cases (which may be very relevant, depending on your sector and target group), it means that if you are working in a B2B Marketing context:
You need a differentiation in your Marketing communication and channels according to the profile and the role of your contact person in the Customer Journey.
The impact of B2B on your marketing
As a result of this diversity in the profile of your contact people, there are two main types of Marketing communications in B2B Marketing: the purchase decider and the end-user. Indeed, you cannot communicate with a CFO deciding the ordering of a new Marketing software like you speak with the Marketing Manager who will use the tool daily. With the CFO, you will insist on the financial and productivity benefits, for example, on the monthly and fixed costs, on the contract that he can stop every 12 months, on the 25% time saved by the users, on further expenses can be reduced as the tools A and B are not needed anymore, etc. With the Marketer user, you will focus on his daily pain points and show him how he could work more efficiently and generate more impact. Depending on the product, the UX may be a very relevant aspect of the conversation too. As the end-user is an influencer, B2B seller sometimes provides some content to the end-user to help convince his hierarchy more easily. For example, I saw often on the registration page for B2B events some tips on how to convince your manager to let you go to the event.
B2B Marketing is differentiating the channels too, not only the Marketing communication. The goal is to reach a higher relevance and increase the chances of closing the deal. Keeping my example of Marketing software: the CFO may be influenced by word-of-mouth coming from peers; in this case, leveraging Linkedin or events to target the CFO may work. On the user side, Social media, in general, may be relevant, as well as product reviews done by specialists and visibility on podcasts for Marketing managers. Just to name some possibilities.
2 > B2B Marketing is endurance
In a B2B context, the purchase cycle can be long (several months, or more...), depending on the cost of the product or service, but also the technical, commercial and legal complexity in the background. If you, as a business, decide to buy a new accounting tool, you will for example need to check how you can integrate the possible products with others you have in place, like a CRM. The size of the companies, especially on the buying side, may play a role too: the more significant is the business, and the slower can become the purchasing process.
In B2B Marketing, nurturing the prospects is key. Because people won't buy your product or service right away; they will need time and talks with you but also internally to take a decision. This is natural. Respect this.
One of the challenges then becomes creating and orchestrating a diversified communication, so you continue delighting your prospects along their journey. As a B2B marketer (or B2B Sales), if you get dull or insistent because you always use the same approach, your contact person may be annoyed and, therefore, not continue with you. Finding the right tempo, the right tone, and the right message is priceless. B2B Lead generation is definitively a fantastic added value in this context. This is is not a coincidence if the most successful B2B companies are using it. Indeed, collecting and nurturing leads allow marketers and sales managers to keep an eye on potential customers and follow up (and feed) their interest in a product or service.
3 > What is the influence of B2B on your Marketing communication
In B2B Marketing, you have to keep in mind that the product or service purchased has to be helpful and solves a concrete challenge. It may sound evident, but it is not when you compare it with B2C Marketing, where Marketers can rely on unconscious desires (like adopting this product means reaching a certain status). Very few businesses will buy a product or a service for subjective reasons because the company relies on a commercial mindset focusing on generating value for a specific investment and because the approval process follows rationals. However, indirect emotional thoughts can be the cherry on the cake. For example, knowing that another great brand uses a service may let me think that my brand has the same ambition. But nobody will recognize it. It doesn't mean that it doesn't play a role in the decision process; it is just very hidden, in the dark side of the customer's brain.
As a consequence, the communication in B2B Marketing remains entirely factual. For example, white papers, technical specifications lists, and tests reports are common Marketing assets. But there is an additional reason for this.
The most the buyer speaks the language of the client business, the most he is considered as his equal and as a trusted partner.
4 > B2B Marketing relies on free trials rather than on cheap products
In B2B Marketing, the value for money ratio is usually more crucial than the price. Indeed, businesses are not interested in cheap products or services: they are looking for products or services at the right price depending on their needs. If a company wants a product to improve a process or a use case and pre-selects 3 vendors, it will rarely select the cheapest one. And if it does, in most of the situations, it won't be because it is the cheapest but because the product or the service perfectly matches the business need. In a B2B environment, cheap is quite suspect.
However, giving access to a product through a free trial or a demo is crucial, especially in the Cloud or SaaS industry. Why are free trials so important in B2B Marketing? From the business user point of view, it is a way of getting a first feeling of the performance of the tool, but also the level of integration and its UX. For the Salesperson, the goal is that B2B Marketing initiatives generate this very first access that will be transformed into a purchase later, usually with the powerful help of Lead generation, depending on the customer segmentation.
Another key principle for B2B Marketing to add? Questions? Remarks? Feel free to join the conversation using the comment section below.
Thanks for your interest and contribution!