B2B marketers will always have to navigate uncharted territory. Combine this with an ever-changing digital landscape and customer mindsets, and it can become extremely difficult to know where to focus your marketing efforts.
Great marketers are experts at bridging the gap between widely acknowledged issues within their field and convenient solutions. Let’s look at some inside knowledge on how to navigate the labyrinth of B2B marketing like a pro.
Separate the human from the business
One of the biggest misconceptions of B2B marketing is that it is seen as a fundamentally different entity than B2C. Most people live under the assumption that B2B sales come from a purely logic based standpoint and nothing else. However, that is not entirely true. At the end of the day, you are marketing to fellow humans. In his book Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success, Dan Hill revealed that the emotional brain processes sensory information in one-fifth of the time the cognitive brain does. In other words, people feel before they think.
While B2B buyers tend to be more rational with purchasing decisions (usually because of the larger sums involved), there are a great deal of under-the-radar emotional aspects that come into play.
For example, little things, like the design of your website or the attitude of a particular salesman, can influence buying decisions. In most cases, when the choice of products available to a buyer isn’t too differentiated in terms of price or functionality, their purchasing decision will come down to emotional factors, like how they were treated by the seller or the simplicity of the buying process.
To be successful, you will need to learn about who your B2B customers are as human beings. A great place to start is with “social listening.” Brandwatch is a “social listening” monitoring tool that provides information on what people are talking about within your industry, as well as what their main issues and concerns are. Such insights help a lot, regardless of whether you have identified leads or even qualified them yet.
With from-the-horse’s-mouth knowledge of their preferences, you will be more prepared to approach potential customers and appeal to their inherent emotions.
Mind the inter-task dependencies
One of the most frequent observations of B2B marketing is that the buying cycle from A to Z can be extremely long. In fact, according to data from SiriusDecisions, today’s B2B sales process takes 22% longer than it did five years ago. Considering the time it takes to build and establish trust in business, these long cycles can not only delay your ROI, but can also create a level of uncertainty as to whether or not the sale will ultimately go through.
Dealing with longer buying cycles can put a lot of stress on everyone involved. Strong communication and collaboration between the Marketing and Sales departments is crucial in guiding customers to a purchase. Nudging a lead along the buyer’s journey requires sustained and concerted teamwork. Goals might overlap across stages and be shared by departments. If you want to put in place, and excel at, a truly closed-loop digital marketing strategy, your product, sales, and customer care teams need to align their efforts very closely.
Keep in mind, nearly every campaign in B2B marketing requires strong management. There will always be inter-task dependencies in areas such as:
- Establishing timelines
- Assigning roles
- Maintaining progress
- Controlling customer interaction
- Assessing risk
- Open communication
While B2C has “collaboration tools” to run campaigns, B2B marketing has to be managed more like a long-term project or an in-house program as opposed to drag-and-drop to-do lists. Tools like WorkZone address each milestone in the process. They also simplify monitoring every step of the buying funnel by identifying dependencies, developing marketing assets, and sharing updates to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
As most B2B marketers know, one small lapse in communication or judgement can result in having to start from scratch when building trust between buyers, or losing a customer altogether.
Appeal to key players
A big obstacle facing B2B marketers is dealing with different people with different mindsets, whereas B2C marketers typically deal with a single customer. For example, if you’re selling a weight loss pill, B2C marketers only need to market to people who are, ideally, trying to lose weight. B2B marketers have to market to multiple types of people.
For a B2B sale, there are generally six types of people who influence the bottom line. As an analogy, let’s say you sell graphic design software. A creative agency is looking to upgrade their program. Here are the different types of people you would most likely be dealing with:
- Initiators – The ones who reach out and start the buying cycle. In this case, it could be a design team lead.
- Users – The people who would actually be using the products. This would be the graphic designers.
- Influencers – People who can impact the buying decision. This could be anyone: a well-known designer, another company currently using the product, or someone who has written a review.
- Deciders – The people who know what the requirements for the purchase are, and who determine what the company actually needs. In this scenario, this role could be filled by the art director.
- Buyers – People with the authority to choose the supplier. This could also be the art director or a partner.
- Gatekeepers – The person or people the seller must go through to pass information to the buyer. This could be an office administrator or executive assistant.
When creating your B2B marketing campaign, ensure you have properly planned out how to appeal to each of these players. While you may not see them all in the sales process, you should be prepared accordingly.
Over to you
That hard truth of B2B marketing is that buyers are simply more demanding. It is their duty to make purchases not just for their own good, but for the good of their entire firm. Additionally, they are typically paying much more than end-consumers and have proportionally higher expectations.
Throughout all of your efforts, keep in mind, you are dealing with domain experts who a) are used to getting what they want and b) can recognize a bad offering when they see one. Customer success means everything. Your strategy should always work to embrace this concept both internally and externally.