Business-to-business (B2B) companies are those that sell products, services, machinery, or supplies to other businesses. But in the world of marketing, how different is the approach from that of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing? Aren’t you still just selling products and services, showing your offerings in the best light? Don’t both types of businesses have to deal with promotion, advertising, distribution, unique branding, and product development to maintain or grow market share? Well, the answer here is yes and no. Let’s dig into some of the trials of B2B marketing and how it differs from B2C:
Up-front investment is a huge factor here. While a consumer might only be buying one box of breakfast cereal as an initial investment, businesses purchasing goods from other businesses will most likely have to buy a pallet of breakfast cereal as an initial investment. Or perhaps it’s a $200,000 piece of machinery that they will be buying. Or possibly a seven-figure service contract. The up-front information and sales pitch incorporated into your B2B marketing is vital. There has to been a good knowledge of what you’re signing up for first.
Businesses have a specific budget. Most businesses already successfully in operation have gotten there with budgeting, and with suppliers and equipment already in place. There is a much more complex decision-making unit to contend with. You don’t just have to convince the business to use your product or service, you also have to convince them of why they should switch to you, how your benefits can outweigh the cost of bringing you into the business, why they should leave the previous supplier, in some cases even why you are worth breaking a previous contract. This is a big burden on B2B marketing that is very different than B2C marketing. Consider implementing technology in the form of DIY tools and resources that can aid businesses with multiple decision-makers in simplifying a small task, such as calculating waste or reordering cleaning supplies, that gives the business a head start and a favorable opinion of you.
Each industry has specific language, attitudes, jargon, and needs. You may be selling the same product to many different types of people and business, and your marketing needs to reflect an awareness and language that appeals to multiple markets. This is a huge hurdle in B2B marketing that most B2C marketing never comes across, because most consumer marketing is focused on a primary market. Make sure that your marketing either online, in brochures, or via advertisement is general enough to appeal to everyone, or that you spend the time and money catering to different businesses.
B2B products are often service, machinery, or other goods that require a much bigger learning curve for implementation than consumer goods. Proper care of a commercial oven, for example, might need a workshop with all management, food prep and kitchen staff in order to ensure the efficacy of your product. Implementing a new inventory system or HR applicant tracker can require weeks of lead time to switch over data and processes, as well as training the staff that will be using these processes. This needs to be understood by both you and your customers, and included in your marketing plan.