Proteus B2B is a marketing consulting firm specializing in repositioning B2B companies and their brands through positioning strategy, content marketing, B2B social media, B2B SEO, and B2B email marketing

What Makes Business-to-Business Marketing Different?

B2B Marketers Experience Longer Sales Cycles

The B2B purchase cycle is an extended process, often lasting several months or longer. Marketing to B2B prospects requires different actions, depending on what stage of the buying cycle your prospect is in.

B2B Products and Services are More Complex

B2B products and services are typically complex and sophisticated, with many of the benefits or detriments not readily apparent. B2B marketing needs to take the technical, the subtle, the intricate, and make it clear, understandable, and persuasive.

B2B Selling Propositions are More Complex

B2B selling propositions are complex propositions that must present value-based differentiated solutions that support rational buying decisions. Fluff may get attention, but it’s not going to sway the purchasing decision. Complex differences must be articulated and delivered through intelligent and compelling communication strategies.

There are Fewer Identifiable Buyers

B2C marketers know they can put their product in front of millions and that a sizeable percentage of that market are potential purchasers of that product. There are far fewer potential buyers of B2B products—and they’re harder to find. Sure, you may find a company you think needs your product or service, but you may spend the better part of a year trying to find the right people to influence within that company.

B2B Pricing is Different

The pricing of B2C products doesn’t change very much from store to store. Pricing of B2B products, however, are often different for every buyer and every sale. Products in the B2B world are less standardized, and pricing can be very dependent on just who the buyer is. The price is determined on the basis of numerous factors and specifications, all of which take significant time to calculate and add greatly to selling costs.

B2B Marketing Must Speak to a Different Set of Buying Emotions

B2B marketing is not “emotionless.” While B2B prospects are generally not moved by common B2C motivators, like impulse or status, different individual emotional motivators apply. For example, the fear of making the wrong decision, the level of confidence in the forecasted ROI, the level of trust established in the seller’s people—all of these are very real emotional motivators in the B2B world. Nike’s Just do it wouldn’t play too well in the B2B world.

Corporate Brands are Usually More Important

Corporate brands are usually more important to B2B buyers than product brands. While practical purchase criteria drive product selection, (i.e. product performance, capabilities, price), the value B2B buyers place on the corporate brand drives and completes the actual purchase decision. “Can I believe in this company? Can I trust them? Will they deliver what they promise?

B2B Prospects Conduct More Research

The risks and implications of making or failing to make the appropriate purchase decision are usually high for B2B buyers. Therefore, B2B prospects conduct more research, seek more information, evaluate references, and research alternative products, manufacturers, solutions, and providers. They do this not only for personal benefit, but because they also need to “sell” the recommended purchase to others.

B2B Marketers Have Less Research Data

If you’re Proctor & Gamble, you don’t put a product on the shelf until you’ve spent millions to know that it will be successful. Few B2B companies have that luxury. Sure, a lot of money may go into product research and development, but little gets spent on market research. This makes success a lot more dependent on the experience and savvy of the B2B marketer.

More People are Involved in the B2B Purchase-Decision Process

Most business purchases have multiple parties in the purchasing organization influencing the decision-making process. Therefore, you must identify and reach multiple parties in multiple tiers within the prospect’s organization with messaging that resonates to each individual’s interests and concerns—for example, the "economic buyer" concerned with ROI, the "technology buyer" concerned with performance, and the “end-user” concerned with ease of operation.

B2B Requires Different Channel Strategies

For many B2B organizations, the “seller-to-end-user” relationship is not exclusive or direct. Complex networks of key publics require different channel strategies relevant and appropriate to each channel member’s level of involvement. In addition to end-users, many B2B companies must also market to distributors, dealers, independent representatives, outside consultants, specifiers, and supply-chain partners, to name just a few.

B2B Sales Rely Heavily on Personal Interactions

Unlike sales to consumers, B2B marketing doesn’t happen through tightly controlled, highly crafted communications vehicles like television commercials or other mass media. One-to-one customer relationship building, through personal interaction, demands sophisticated sales management and an educated, knowledgeable, trained staff whose words and actions are aligned with corporate brand objectives.

B2B Marketing Starts on the Inside

Most people working within a B2C company have little, if any, actual contact with the customer. In B2B, countless people within the company, not just marketing folks, have access to and interact with the customer. All of those people need to understand the brand, live the brand, and deliver the brand every day. Therefore, the B2B marketer’s first job is to market internally and align others in order to create brand ambassadors.

Multiple People from the Seller’s Organization are Typically Involved

Sales of complex, technical, or sophisticated B2B products and services often include the expertise and involvement of multiple people from the selling organization. Sales and marketing may be joined by representatives from executive management, design, engineering, manufacturing, customer service—all of whom have the ability to influence the sale. All of these people need to be aligned with the brand to maximize selling success.

Third Parties have Greater Influence in the Buying Process

B2B purchasers often look to third party influencers for opinions, insight, consultation, or referrals. B2B sellers must market to and through industry experts, trade organizations, trade shows, trade publications, peer organizations, and other third party channels. B2B purchasers use information from these sources to support and help sell their purchase recommendations.

B2B Marketing Resources

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About Proteus B2B Marketing

Proteus B2B is a marketing consulting firm specializing in repositioning business-to-business companies and their brands. We help companies identify and migrate to positions of market leadership where their brands have few credible substitutes in the marketplace.