Businesses serve different types of customers. Some target people while others serve other businesses and companies. If you are targeting businesses, you’ll need to do business-to-business marketing (also known as B2B marketing) is the promotion of products and services to businesses. What is B2B marketing and how it is different from traditional marketing are the two key areas you must have a clear understanding of to be successful at what you do.
What is B2B Marketing?
B2B (business-to-business) marketing refers to the promotion of products and services to businesses. The target audience in B2B marketing is businesses (and not individual consumers). For example, the target audience of Google Ads is businesses and any marketing that it does is geared towards businesses.
It is the marketing of products and services that are used by other businesses. Here is an example of a B2B marketing:
The product is for businesses and is marketed to businesses with different marketing strategies and techniques.
B2B Marketing Characteristics
So, what makes B2B marketing different and unique from its counterpart (B2C marketing)? And importantly, what makes marketing to businesses different from marketing to a person?
There are multiple unique characteristics of B2B marketing including:
- Purchase goal
- Buying process
- Lack of segmentation
1. Purchase Goals
The goals and purchase intentions of businesses are different from consumers. A business looks for a product from an investment point of view. And this is the key driver in B2B marketing.
If you are marketing a marketing software, the businesses that buy it are investing in a product that they want to use for their business. The purpose of buying a marketing tool might be to improve marketing efficiency, marketing automation, or data analysis.
When you are marketing a product to a business, you need to address factors like ROI, efficiency, effectiveness, long-term maintenance, etc.
B2B marketing is rational. In fact, it is the most rational form of marketing that you’ll ever see.
Businesses don’t make emotional decisions (unlike consumers).
Here is an example of a B2B ad:
It is a simple yet rational ad that tells you why you should invest in it.
Here is an example of a B2C ad:
It is an emotional ad. A lot of people will buy it due to the emotional appeal.
This is a clear difference between B2B and B2C marketing. You can’t persuade a business to buy your product with emotional hooks. This is mainly because businesses make rational decisions and purchases aren’t done by a single person.
Also, businesses rely on numbers when buying a product or service. They aren’t interested in product features rather they’re mostly interested in how your product can solve their issue. The motivation is logical and/or financial in the case of B2B.
3. Complex Buying Process
The B2B buying process is complex.
You can’t sell a product to a business like a chocolate bar. The transaction is rarely this smooth. Businesses have a decision making unit (DMU) that makes the decisions. The DMU itself is complex as it involves a lot of people and it has certain SOPs to follow. The three main types of people involved in a DMU are production people, health and safety staff, and buyers:
The buying process varies from business to business. For example, a small business or a startup will usually have a single person making all the purchase decisions. In a large company, it might have a complex DMU with several individuals from different departments.
In any case, the buying decision falls into one of the four categories that are based on financial value and business risk:
This eventually makes B2B marketing complex. You’ll need to understand your target market very well and must have a clear understanding of its buying process.
Personalization and customization are essential for B2B marketing. It involves all types of customizations ranging from product customization to price flexibility to buying terms and more.
This is for two main reasons:
- There are a limited number of buyers in the B2B market
- The buying process is complex so you have to show some flexibility to generate sales.
There is, however, a level of customization that you can offer to the B2B segment. For example, if you are selling a project management app, you can offer customized features easily to your clients. But if you are selling raw material, the options of customization are negligible.
5. Lack of Segmentation
The options to segment a B2B market are quite limited. There are minimal behavioral and need-based segments that you can create and target. This has a direct impact on B2B marketing strategies that you’ll use.
You’ll have to focus more on mass marketing even if you are using content marketing or email marketing. If you create segments, you’ll have fewer segments such as price-based segments, quality segments, and a few others.
This makes B2B marketing both easy and difficult at the same time as compared to B2C marketing. It is easy as you’ll have limited segments that means you can target and reach your entire market easily with a consistent marketing message. Maintaining consistency across marketing channels in B2B gets easier.
On the other hand, it makes marketing difficult due to a lack of customization and personalization. At the end of the day, buyers (whether businesses on consumers) want to have a personalized product/service.
Marketing to a business is different from marketing a product or service to an individual customer. And this is a reason why B2B marketing is considered different from traditional B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing.
B2B marketing is geared towards businesses and this is one reason why it is extremely demanding and complex. Creating a B2B marketing strategy and executing it is far more difficult than creating and managing a B2C marketing strategy.
Simply knowing what is B2B marketing isn’t enough if you want to win the B2B game. You need to understand the unique dynamics of the market you are serving and must focus on networking as it is the key to success in B2B marketing.
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