Kevin Roberts, CEO with Saatchi & Saatchi is right when he says we should forget B2C and B2B and focus on people to people marketing (CIM The Marketer, Feb 2010). Though we are indeed steaming through the era of permission, engagement and trust marketing on a global scale, significant differences remain in marketing to companies and directly to consumers.
In my main Principles of Marketing series, I start with the customer. The same is true in B2B Marketing, admittedly with an important difference.
In consumer marketing, you can tailor a functional feature to provide an emotional benefit and tie consumers to your brand through a number of rational and irrational benefits. This is more difficult in B2B due to two factors 1/ the buyer is not spending their own money and 2/ there are a number of influencers upon the decisions involved in specifying, selecting and procuring a given product or service.
Do all companies that operate in this environment understand these key differences? I’m not sure most at the SME level actually do. Traditional trade and technical marketing focused on users, and then to some extent specifiers when it became necessary.
This is lazy, outdated and high risk. Companies should proactively go beyond the end user and the guy who writes the cheques, and target everyone who impacts those decisions. Increasingly, procurement managers dictate what is to be purchased and negotiate best price, and there are other camps to swing too. So whether you like it or not, a main challenge in B2B is to differentiate your offering from others, and avoid the commodity trap, and pricing pressures that come with it.
B2B marketers should avoid getting into a commodity pitch by creating advocates on the customer side. A value added sell needs to be positioned to everyone in the chain if you stand a chance of being selected. This means understanding the needs, trigger points, and obstacles of everyone involved in the decision making process.
Effective communication and customer engagement starts with firmly understanding who your customer is, whether they look at your offering from a technical, HR, logistical, sales, data, quality, safety, financial or a board level perspective.
Marketing is ultimately about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time in the right way. So in order to achieve this, understanding how your customer as a business buys products like yours, the people involved and the process used, will allow you to communicate what you offer, and the value partnering with you can add.
Final thought: When was the last time you mapped all the possible customer contacts and influences on your sale within one of your key customers or clients? And do you have a grasp of what each of these people are looking for and what will motivate or encourage them to buy from you?
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