The question might equally be – given the rise of digital and the fact that B2B customers self-direct their own research online – are they really that different?
We think they are. Although the lines between B2B and B2C are increasingly blurred, there remain some critical differences.
- Many more people are involved in the decision-making process, from young researchers up to the C-suite.
- The decision itself is more complex as all these people bring different needs and perspectives to it.
- By the nature of the beast, most B2B products and services are more complex than B2C.
Time is also a point of difference. Many consumer decisions are quick, repetitive or impulsive, whereas B2B decisions take longer and often involve tendering and procurement. So marketing needs to engage with the whole process over time to create mindshare that influences the final decision.
Data is even more critical in B2B: it must be accurate and up to date. There needs to be much greater understanding of the target audience and their drivers, to make sure your communications in strategy and content meets their business needs and requirements.
When it comes to developing B2B creative, this can assume a level of technical / industry knowledge – and this level needs to be right for the target audience to avoid being either incomprehensible or patronising. At the same time, the creative needs to clearly convey all the product / service’s features and benefits, while being interesting and engaging. And it must not be dull; in B2B you’re still talking to a human, not a decision-making machine.
Brand presence is important, but so are personal relationships. The brand helps to tick the ‘trust’ box, but in-person contact does this too, on the phone and in meetings.
And on that topic, it’s vital that your organisational culture embodies your brand values and brand personality… whenever a potential customer speaks to telesales staff or meets someone in sales, finance or customer service, they need to experience your brand promise at every touch point.
These differences explain why a really effective B2B campaign needs clever strategy, strong marketing and targeted and clear messaging.
Returning to our opening point, with the rise of the web and social, there’s also a constantly active question we want to highlight: how can B2B clients gain mindshare earlier in the online researching stage?
We shall return to this issue in another blog.