There are many differences between Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing and Business-to-Business (B2B). Understanding how people evaluate a purchase before they buy should frame your marketing plan.
Many people assume that what entices a person to purchase a shirt for themselves is the same thing that drives a person to buy a forklift truck for their company, or what influences you to hire a personal trainer is the same thing that encourages you to appoint a recruitment agency.
The difference is really simple; risk.
If I purchase a car for myself and get it wrong, I will chalk it up to experience and learn from it. If I buy the wrong fleet of vehicles for my company, I could ruin my chances of promotion and possibly lose my job.
We are prepared to accept an element of risk when we purchase for ourselves. In some way, it adds to the excitement of consumer purchases. We buy a holiday online at a very reduced rate and accept it may be too good to be true, but we are prepared to take the risk because it could be a bargain.
We are not prepared to take the same risk when organising an event for our company. So what do buyers do?
Buyers are spreading the risk
There has been much research to show that buying teams are getting bigger. Buyers reduce the risk by getting other executives involved in the purchasing decision. If it all goes wrong, they share the blame.
According to Gartner, the number of people involved in B2B purchasing decisions rose from an average of 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2017. As purchasing decisions become more complex, this figure is likely to rise.
So why does this matter?
Marketing to a team, not an individual
Most marketing and sales departments believe they should be talking to one person; usually, the person that contacted them, or downloaded a document off their website or attends their event.
While this initial contact may be important, we need to appreciate they will want to spread the risk and involve others in the purchasing decision – and the other executives may have a favourite supplier they wish to use (and it may not be you).
So what should you do? Here’s a 3 point plan:
- Map the buying team
Use LinkedIn and telemarketing to identify all the key players and influencers. Get their name, job title and email address.
- Include the buying team in your marketing
Account Based Marketing (ABM) is a new ‘sexy’ term currently being thrown around in marketing. But it’s not all hype. Ensure you include all of the buying team in your email marketing and telemarketing – and invite them all to your events.
- De-risk the sale
Develop a proposition that reduces the risk; offer free trials, money-back guarantees or invite them to meet existing customers. This could help reduce the number of executives needed for the buying team.
Post-sale implications; nurture and recycle
Talking to the buying team should never stop; it continues after the initial sale. There will always be an executive in the group that has been contacted by another supplier, and you need to ensure your client is not persuaded to change their mind.
If you have mapped the original buying team, ensure you stay in contact with all the members. Nurture them. Don’t just send your monthly newsletter to the one individual that always signs the purchase orders, send it to all of the team.
You also need to keep up to date with who has left the company and the new arrivals. Sometimes clients will go cold because the buying team has changed. Recycling cold clients is an easy way to generate sales; you have completed all the paperwork for their Purchasing/Procurement/Finance Departments, so much of the hard work has been done.
B2B messages are different – get serious
If B2B buyers are risk-averse, then your marketing messages need to take that into account. Light-hearted, humorous (or even weird) advertisements may work in B2C marketing, but they will underperform in B2B.
Business buyers want reassurance and a safe pair of hands. Nobody wants to buy from a clown. Get serious and deliver facts, successful case studies and testimonials, as well as free trials if possible, to give B2B buyers confidence.
Too often, people outside of the marketing department will receive a B2C marketing message and believe it can be used or adapted for their organisation’s B2B programme. Avoid making this mistake; remember that what influences a purchase for yourself is different from purchases for your company.
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