The complexity of business-to-business (B2B) sales often leaves wholesalers lagging behind the simplified world of business-to-consumer (B2C) branding and digital marketing. It makes sense. B2C relationships are built on transactions and much of their digital marketing removes human interaction to keep costs low. B2B companies, on the other hand, rely heavily on the expertise of their profession within specific industries and use several channels to fulfill orders.
Picture the difference between buying a new rug online over your lunch break versus a professional contractor researching and working with a sales rep to order specialized equipment for a major construction job on a specified timeline. Of course, marketing is less straightforward for B2B companies.
Even though it may be more complex, according to McKinsey, “Buyers no longer are willing to accept less from their professional experience as B2B purchasers than they are accustomed to getting from their personal experience as consumers.”
B2B Companies Can Learn Marketing Innovation from B2C
Consider a B2B company like a family-owned distribution business that’s been around for decades. They likely have long-established, interconnected methods for working with customers. It’s easy for these B2B pros to get stuck in their traditional methods of reaching out to existing customers and miss opportunities to do rigorous research to understand current customers and target new ones.
Despite their more technical complex products, B2B companies would do well take some tips from their B2C counterparts:
1. Prioritize Segmenting Markets and Customers
Marketing 101 outlines B2C segmentation models with customer personas and sales market segmentation. This can be trickier for B2B marketers as their buyers not only represent themselves, but their companies.
This only makes effective segmentation more important – right down to segmenting decision-makers within a single company they serve. How must the messaging change when speaking to the purchasing department versus the CEO versus the sales teams? Just as B2B companies use multichannel sales techniques, they must also develop multichannel marketing techniques.
2. Target the Right Audience
According to Sagefrog’s 2020 B2B Marketing Mix Report, Account-Based Marketing will become a major trend in 2021, with B2B companies leveraging features like LinkedIn InMail to reach out to personnel in key accounts.
Email and SEO only go so far but implementing effective targeted advertising technology can capture the attention of decision-makers within high-value accounts. It extends blanket short-term marketing efforts into long-term strategies that deeply engage through a well-considered approach of a handful of accounts.
3. Embrace Personalization
People purchasing on behalf of businesses are often perceived as making purchases with complete logic and restraint – but they are human.
In fact, because businesses do rely more on extensive research and the expertise of their distributors, B2B branding standards are even more important than in B2C. A 2019 study found that effective B2B marketing spends 60% of their resources on long-term branding over short-term sales because of the longer sales cycles and multiple decision-makers.
The principles of human and story-based messaging that B2C relies on so heavily including the social proof of testimonials, reviews and case studies are still applicable in B2B. And because the stakes (and financial investment) are often higher, it’s even more critical to connect on a personal level.
4. Befriend Social Media
While influencer marketing remains in the realm of B2C channels, social media platforms like LinkedIn are a friend to the B2B marketer with “record levels of engagement” in 2020 according to Microsoft reports.
There is plenty of space for B2B marketers on social platforms to share their stories, thoughtful content and unique value propositions. Platforms like MarketingProfs offer tips to engage your customers on LinkedIn in 2021 including curating long-form content, enlisting employees, and investing in LinkedIn ads. Some creative B2B marketers are even learning how to leverage Instagram to garner attention and generate leads.
The world of B2C marketing offers a blueprint B2B companies should reference when developing marketing strategies for their customers. At the end of the day, even the most technical engineer is a human who responds to connection, story and meaning. The principles in the more straightforward B2C industry should guide B2B in a clear direction toward their end-users.