In “a recent survey”:http://www.mindbranch.com/products/R203-221.html sponsored by the CMO Council, BtoB Magazine, and USA Today, the vast majority of B2B marketers said digital marketing was most valuable as a lead-generation tool. Other goals defined in the survey were traffic generation, customer education, content distribution and partner/channel education.
While these goals are important, they are not the primary goals of these marketing objectives. The ultimate objective for all marketing is to increase revenue – to sell. To be successful in business-to-business marketing, we all must remember a simple thought: B2B marketing is not the same as marketing to consumers.
So, why do we continue to see these same marketing practices aimed at large business customers?
As many of us road-weary B2B marketers have learned through experimentation, business markets are very different than consumer markets. Consumer market have large numbers of buyers with similar wants, transactions are usually small in value, products are mass-produced, consumers’ perceptions determine products’ value, and companies focus on managing brands. By comparison, business markets have fewer customers and transactions tend to be larger. Customers frequently need product and price customization, and the diverse need for the product or service in the organization generally determines its value. Finally, brands do not carry the same importance to many business customers. Functional benefits and price rule the transaction.
This comparison suggests an important point of differentiation – consumer markets can be effectively managed through customer segmentation. This is where marketers group similar people with similar needs and behaviours. Business markets cannot be managed in the same manner. Instead, I have found that large business customers must be managed individually.
Business customers have specific needs and problems that must be met by the successful vendor. Providing direct value to both the buyers and the organization are key. Typically, buyers are looking for a solution that fulfills their needs: What’s in it for me personally? They are also looking to fulfill the needs of the organization: What’s in it for the company? These criteria are driven by job responsibilities, internal politics, and aspirations to succeed and be promoted or recognized. So, business people tend to be more sophisticated buyers and have both their own interests and the interests of the enterprise in mind.
Because direct marketing in a B2B environment often involves a multi-step buying process and multiple purchase influencers, closing the deal can be more complicated. To truly know the business customer, we need to understand such factors as occupation type, technical competency, spending power, needs, and aspirations. The data you collect will help to complete the view of our customers and to ensure we meet their individual business needs. Then, and only then, will we have addressed their collective needs and be confident in making a sale.
I have seen very effective B2B direct marketing initiatives for large businesses where the selling company has executed a multi-channel, multi-step process using direct mail, B2B discussion forums, email, and personalized micro-sites that are specific to the needs of individuals within the purchasing committee. These marketing activities have focused on the identified needs of each member in the purchase committee and have addressed both their personal needs as well as the needs of the business. The goal, then, is to ensure all personnel that influence the sale are engaged in the marketing process.
B2B marketing is about traffic generation, customer education, content distribution, and partner/channel education, but most importantly it’s about making the sale. By fundamentally understanding the business market and customer needs, you can develop a successful integrated marketing program that will close new business.
For all the marketers that responded to the survey, keep your focus on lead generation and education while the rest of us focus on increasing our bottom lines.