This article provides a practical explanation of B2B marketing. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful marketing discipline.
What is B2B marketing?
B2B marketing, or business-to-business marketing, refers to the marketing activities of one organisation towards another. Alternatively, B2C marketing, or business-to-consumer marketing, focuses on the consumer. B2B companies are more or less businesses supporting other businesses, offering them everything they need in order to operate and grow. This may range from pay-out systems for payroll workers, but also supply of large industrial machines or office supplies.
B2B marketing focuses on the marketing processes of a business when directly selling and supplying other businesses or organisations. Although B2B marketing techniques are based on the same principle as B2C marketing, there are slight differences in terms of their implementation. After all, consumers base their decisions on different aspects than businesses. Whereas consumers are tempted by emotional triggers such as popularity, B2B buyers often make decisions purely based on profit potential. However, just like B2C marketing, B2B marketing campaigns are aimed at people; more specifically the people who influence the purchasing decisions of a business.
Although B2B marketing is no more complex or complicated than other marketing techniques, a number of differences must be taken into account. For instance, the stakes are greater when a business tries to bring in another business as customer than when a business tries to lure a single consumer as a customer. The goal of many B2B businesses is to establish positive and sustainable customer relationships. For this reason, price negotiations are often a lot more intensive, and much attention is paid to after-sales services.
Characteristics of B2B Marketing
Generally speaking, it is said that a business purchasing from another business is better informed than when a consumer makes a purchase. It is therefore crucial that the B2B marketer gives sufficient evidence of a high level of knowledge and expertise in the interactions with its potential customer. They must have sufficient product knowledge, but also technical and social knowledge that stimulates a sustainable relationship with the customer.
Buyers at a business often do this according to strict guidelines. This is why these buyers are believed to act more rationally in their buying behaviour than regular consumers. Products acquired by businesses require thorough and expert research. Naturally, an aircraft manufacturer does not choose which aircraft engines it wants based on colour alone. Their decision will depend on a series of technical requirements, productivity issues, and safety aspects. Consumers are often less interested in technical aspects. For example, they want to know how fast their new car can go, and are less interested about the technical workings behind this.
The size and value of different B2B customers may also vary greatly. As a result, marketing techniques are adapted accordingly. In absolute numbers, there are far fewer customers in B2B marketing than in B2C marketing, and thus fewer people or businesses that can be approached. The size of orders, on the other hand, is many times larger than in the consumer market. Negotiations about price and conditions are also a lot more common in the B2B marketplace than in the B2C marketplace.
Although often taken for granted, many customers leave an organisation due to a lack of customer contact or assistance. Achieving a high level of loyalty with customers is crucial to getting them back as regular customers. Generally speaking, customer relations in B2B marketing are comparable to those in B2C marketing. The selling organisation will often offer various tools, such as a FAQ, helpline, or mobile applications that provide important information.
Communication with the customer is very important here. Customer contact takes place at several moments. For example, there is often a meeting following the very first contact. This meeting summarises the initial talks and agreements. This is subsequently followed by a period in which a potential deal is concluded. Customer contact is highly important during this period. Customers must be able to contact the supplier if they have questions. Even when the deal has been concluded, contact is often maintained. The customer is thanked for their pleasant cooperation and various ways of continuing the partnership in the future are suggested. Moreover, businesses often send their customers a message during holidays.
B2B customer relations are complex. A constant flow of communication and mutual trust and respect is important. Naturally, this requires a lot of effort and honesty. If the seller makes a mistake, he must openly admit this and not wait until the last moment. It is also important that the seller doesn’t make empty promises or exaggerates the specifications of his product or service.
B2B Marketing Types and Channels
There are many approaches to B2B marketing. The most effective ones differ per industry. For example, whereas a certain communication channel may be effective in one industry, it may fail in others. There is some overlap here with the concept of Digital Marketing.
B2B marketing also often involves the use of content marketing. Various studies have shown that publishing certain content generates more traffic towards the selling organisation. In addition to blogs, videos, articles, and info-graphics are also often used.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is still considered one of the best B2B marketing channels. B2B marketers use SEO to attract consumers who use the Internet to search for information related to a certain product or service. Since the first five results of an online search engine generate the most clicks, it is important to rank high in a search engine’s algorithm.
Although social media isn’t often used as a direct channel for communication, it can certainly help organisations stimulate more consumer involvement. For instance, social media can be used to observe customers. Subsequently, various customer needs and requirements can be derived from this.
Although less popular nowadays, email is still widely used. In fact, companies invest a lot of money in high-quality email marketing strategies. In online rankings, this form of marketing performs best in almost all industries. It generates the most income, especially for companies in production or logistics.
Events are a fairly traditional way of approaching potential customers. However, in technical industries they are still very important. For example, during physical demonstrations of advanced technical equipment, all details and specifications can be addressed in the direct presence of interested consumers.
Now it’s your turn
What do you think? Are you familiar with the explanation of B2B marketing? Have you ever implemented B2B marketing yourself? What do you believe are alternative ways in which companies can find or approach each other? Do you agree with the above, or do you have anything to add?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Brennan, R., & Croft, R. (2012). The use of social media in B2B marketing and branding: An exploratory study. Journal of Customer Behaviour, 11(2), 101-115.
- Hadjikhani, A., & LaPlaca, P. (2013). Development of B2B marketing theory. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(3), 294-305.
- Hutt, M. D., & Speh, T. W. (2003). & Edition: Business Marketing Management. South-Western Publishing Company.
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