People e finally beginning toar sit up and notice the business-to-business (B2B) marketing movement. More companies are turning to specialist B2B agencies for strategic advice, marketing ideas, and creative services to reach and woo C-suite clients.
In Asia, the distinction between consumer marketing and B2B marketing is less clear. Many marketing directors and corporate communications managers are still outsourcing various marketing support projects on a piecemeal basis to advertising, event, or public relations agencies for example, instead of seeking the services of dedicated full-service B2B agencies.
Is it surprising then that these companies feel their marketing needs are not optimally met? Many traditional agencies have their roots in consumer marketing and do not have the experience needed to develop comprehensive B2B marketing programs. A few important characteristics distinguish B2B marketing from mass marketing and can make all the difference to any B2B marketing effort.
The power of many
In consumer marketing, your target is an individual. In B2B marketing, you could be targeting any number of people along the decision-making chain, some of whom may not even be located in the same country as you! It is always useful to find out who is the ‘real’ decision-maker. Is the purchasing or sourcing manager as important as the business-planning manager or the chief financial officer? In some companies, the human resources manager commissions services that have traditionally been the mandate of the office manager and vice versa.
Many B2B marketing professionals simply target the ‘C-suite’ but fail to realize that sometimes, it’s the CEO’s secretary who makes the ultimate decision on whether or not they should order products or services from your company. Either that or he/she could be the ‘gatekeeper’ who foils any number of your marketing and sales attempts.
When the buying decision affects several departments such as IT, operations and finance for example, you should be looking at different ways to present your company’s credentials to a group of people, each with different concerns and expectations!
Being able to identify different groups and their interests, and combining them with tailored communications and a powerful database system, can result in a much higher rate of return.
The power of one
Every one of your employees that comes in contact with your customer is your “brand”, whether you are selling multi-million dollar commercial warehouses or consultancy services. So it is crucial that your walking-talking brand ambassadors believe in your corporate values and what you are selling. Get your agency to give them customer-centric brand messages and sales tools to use, and ensure they are trained to make each customer feel as if they are the most important customer ever.
On the flip side, B2B companies must ensure that their corporate brands are strong enough that their customers don’t leave when their brand ambassadors do.
Target the head, not the heart
Validating and even quantifying one’s value proposition is crucial for any B2B company. Unlike B2C marketing, it is always about appealing to the head, and not to the heart (or eyes or ears, for that matter). Your B2B marketing agency should help you answer tough customer questions such as, “Tell me why I should choose your company over your competitor? What value can you add to my bottom line or business plans? How much do you understand about my company’s needs? How will your products or services help our company get ahead?”