Pippa Highfield of Brainwork Marketing talks us through some of the key differences of B2B marketing and consumer marketing.

We are all consumers so most of us find it easy to relate to consumer marketing with its use of mass media (TV, press, social media etc) to reach multi-million audiences. As consumers we make purchase decisions everyday without even noticing! In contrast business marketing, also known as business to business, or B2B, marketing, can sometimes seem complex and baffling with its own set of rules and nuances. If you sell your products or service to other businesses it is important that you are aware of the key differences.

Here are a few of the key features to think about when you are planning your marketing strategy in a business to business arena:

  • The buying decision can be more complex. Often a group of people will be involved in a business purchase and it is your job to work out the different personalities, interests and needs. If you sell to the same company on an ongoing basis it is important to recognise that the group and their needs may change over time.

Never assume you know who is making the decisions. Take time to identify the role of each individual in the group and understand where their interests and influence lie.

  • The motivation to buy is different. Business purchase behaviour is generally more predictable than personal purchases and relies less on impulse and more a logical structure. Often decisions are motivated by the need to save costs or generate revenue and your product or service will be judged on a complex set of criteria.

Emotions however, still play a part in business decisions as the need to make the right purchase is an extremely powerful motivator. This means that your buyer will seek reassurance and will look to mitigate any risk involved in choosing your product.

  • A high level of expertise is expected. Often business products and services are of a specialist nature and a high degree of product knowledge, technical knowledge and even market knowledge will be needed to make a credible pitch.

If your product is particularly technical, the back up service you offer will often be as important as the product itself. On the upside this could mean that you are able to premium price your product, just as long as you have the service to match.

  • Personal relationships are important. Face to face sales and negotiations are often an important part of the marketing mix in the business arena. The relationships formed during the initial sales process, as well as after sales support and ongoing account management, are vitally important.

Marketing spend in the B2B arena is skewed towards people and relationship management with less reliance on promotions and advertising.

  • Markets can be specialist. Often B2B businesses operate in small specialist niches. Whilst this can make marketing easier, it often leads to having a small number of large key clients. In principle this isn’t a problem, though it can pose a risk to the business if one significant client is lost, goes bust or simply becomes too dominant. 
  • Don’t ignore branding. Often branding is seen as less important in the B2B arena. Whilst it’s fair to say that large scale multi-branding is the reserve of the big fmcg companies, businesses should look to develop a simple and strong brand with a clear ethos and vision whatever their market.

There is no reason why B2B marketing need be any more complicated than consumer marketing; you do however, need to be aware of the differences when formulating your sales and marketing strategy.

For more marketing tips and to find out how Pippa can help you develop your B2B marketing plan go to www.brainwork.co.uk