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What is B2B marketing, these days?

Business to business (B2B) marketing has enough differences from consumer marketing to make the distinction worth recognising. Many businesses are involved in both types, but I suspect most of us are solely involved in the B2B sector alone.

So much more is written about consumer marketing that it can be hard to stop ourselves from being unduly influenced by the more emotional techniques employed there. Sure, we still have to appeal to fellow humans, but the marketing pitch needs to concentrate on more substantial arguments. If for no other reason, getting distracted by emotional sales pitching is a mistake because it’s quite likely that there will be more than a single individual involved in the buying decision.

In B2B marketing, the aim is to get noticed and establish credibility, rather than closing the sale in a single hit. As the sales cycle is going to be days, weeks or months, we need to get in there and give ourselves the chance to cultivate relationships. It’s a harder concept to understand than selling products off the page, and a lot harder than consumer advertising, which often doesn’t even get measured.

Getting noticed is the easy bit – work on your SEO, run some search advertising campaigns, identify good third-party media and attend the right exhibitions. The hard part is providing the backup material that makes the sales pitch effective. This may have to work for a range of prospects from technical experts to financial officers. And many of these people may not contact you to ask for the material – they may want to read or watch it before ever showing their hand.

Many people talk about a trend to more personalised messaging: that might seem to be impossible if you don’t know who the prospects are. However, it works both ways. You can increase the personalisation of the message from the company by highlighting individuals rather than the brand. Businesses have always bought into people. If you’re creating a highly technical message, why not make it one from someone you’re trying to pitch as an authority on the technology? If you’re talking about your support services, or even your purchasing arrangements, there are faces behind these too.

I do agree with those who claim that the pandemic this year is giving business five years’ worth of changes in five months. Look back at the marketing you were doing five or even ten years ago, and the changes you’ve made since then. Try to project a similar sized advance into the future, and that may be where the state of B2B marketing already is.