Business-to-business (B2B) marketers have one of the most difficult and underappreciated jobs on the planet. Their mission is to create memorable brands out of some downright "unsexy" products. (Have you ever tried making software, manufacturing widgets, or chemicals look interesting?)
B2B marketers must educate extremely smart potential buyers, ensure that influencers are knowledgeable about their products, and ultimately convince people they should bet their jobs on choosing their products over those of competitors. Moreover, even while sticking to a limited marketing budget, B2B marketers must provide a hungry sales team with enough qualified leads to keep their pipelines full and their families fed.
How do they do it? The best B2B marketers are successful because they start with building a brand. In other words, the best B2B marketers think like business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers.
Think Like a B2C Marketer
The first step toward thinking like a B2C marketer is to create great brand recall. Let's say you're thirsty and you walk into a store that carries Coke and DMG-Cola. You immediately reach for the Coke because you know exactly how it will taste; it is the safe choice. However, if earlier that day you'd seen a banner ad that said "DMG-Cola—Tastes Like Coke, but 100% Organic!" you may well have tried the DMG-Cola. The DMG marketer who bought that banner ad had a simple goal—not to drive someone to make an immediate purchase but, rather, to create brand recall that would influence purchase decisions in the future.
Of course, applying this method to B2B marketing is more challenging, but it can work. First, to illustrate how much more complex the B2B marketer's challenge is, let's use the same example—but in a B2B context.
Your boss asked you to buy soda for a company party, so you go to the store and spot Coke and DMG-Cola on the shelf. Even if you had seen the banner ad marketing DMG-Cola, you'd still choose the Coke. Why? Simply because Coke is the less risky decision, and many purchase decisions in a business environment are made with the goal of minimizing risk. Nobody ever ruined a party by buying Coke, but if you showed up with DMG-Cola and your coworkers didn't like it, you'd take the blame for making a poor decision that had a negative impact on the company party.
So, what would the DMG marketer have to do to convince you, as the business buyer, to choose DMG-Cola instead of Coke?
- First, she would have to build awareness of the DMG-Cola brand as in the above example.
- Then, she would have to provide examples and testimonials of others who had thrown successful company parties with DMG-Cola. She might create whitepapers and host webinars highlighting the advantages of DMG-Cola vs. Coke and other competitors.
- She would also have to influence executives at your company and your trusted peers outside the company, so they would recommend DMG-Cola around the water cooler.
- Finally, she would have to ensure this information stayed top of mind, so you wouldn't fall back on the "safer path" of reaching for Coke next time you were tasked with planning a company party.
Smart B2B Marketing = B2C With a Twist
Of course, the previous example is simplistic, but that is essentially how B2B products are marketed and purchased every day.
The best B2B marketers think like B2C marketers—but with a twist. They understand building a memorable brand perception is critical, but they also understand...
- Exactly who the buyer is and who or what influences the buyer
- The key elements of a purchase decision and how to create messaging that addresses those elements
- The content, best-practices, and case studies necessary to remove the risk of the decision
- How to distribute messages and content to targeted decision makers, influencers, and peers with enough frequency to move the needle
And they do all that while staying within budget.
What tips can B2B marketers follow to start thinking more like their B2C colleagues? Here are five strategies B2B marketers can implement right away.
1. Create great brand recall
The first step in any B2B marketing campaign is to create brand messages and campaigns that will "stick with" potential buyers long after they see the ads or marketing messages. Get creative and try new messages and slogans to make your brand stand out from the crowd and target them specifically to your audiences. Finally, always be branding! Creating brand recall isn't a single campaign—it's an always-on tactic.
2. Know your audience
Thinking like a B2C marketer doesn't mean treating your audience like general consumers. Your audience is made up of business professionals looking to make the most economical, risk-averse, and high-value purchases for their companies. Always keep their needs and risks in mind when considering marketing strategies.
3. Use visuals to sell your product
People remember images long after they remember words. Make sure your campaigns are splashy, memorable, and interactive. Try using interactive banners, social ads, or videos to tell your brand story.
4. Maintain creative consistency
Trying new creative ideas is fine, but make sure they're consistent across all your marketing campaigns, including paid ads, social media, sales sheets, webinars, whitepapers, and your website. Synch your messaging across all media activities as you move buyers down the marketing funnel.
5. Be human
Your audience may be businesspeople, but that doesn't mean they are automatons who don't enjoy a good laugh or a personal touch. Make sure all your marketing materials speak to the human side of the business world. In a world where most B2B campaigns are boring, a more human touch will make your campaigns stand out.
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So, next time you meet with your B2B marketer, give him or her a hug and say "I get it now!" B2B marketers have a rich, complex, and high-pressure job to do in a very dynamic and noisy world. Those who do it well are rewarded with outsized growth and shareholder value gains.
(Image courtesy of Bigstock: Child heads with gears)