Are B2B brands approaching sales and marketing in the wrong way?
Our eyes are often exposed to a medley of advertisements desperate to grab our attention through riveting stories, beautifully designed visuals and captivating protagonists. We sometimes laugh, we sometimes cry, and we sometimes take a snapshot and forward it to our friends. B2C (business to consumer) brands have mastered the art of catching the attention of consumers and encouraging them to engage with their brands and purchase their products. However, when it comes to B2B (business to business) brands, there has been a gap in successfully leveraging sales and marketing to win more leads. Our aim is to debunk three myths about B2B sales and marketing that might be holding your company back.
Myth 01: B2B buyers are rational
When considering the B2B market, one can often fall into the trap of believing that it is a rational and logical space. Purchases are transactions. In the words of The Godfather, 'It's not personal. It's only business.’ However, this myth can take our focus away from the humans purchasing the transaction itself. Although it is ‘business’, the purchases are still conducted by people and therefore one must consider some of the realities B2B buyers face in comparison to their B2C counterparts:
B2B buyers have a lot more at stake. B2B buyers take on a lot more risk when buying a service or a product than B2C buyers. For example, it is a lot easier to cut your losses if one buys a bad t-shirt or meal than convincing your company to invest £100,000 towards a retainer. If the service falls short of the promised experience then the blame could fall on the employee/er who signed off on the project. Therefore, we need to understand that B2B buyers have more risk added to their own position than just the state of the company’s bank account.
B2B buyers are more emotionally driven. Because of the above reason, B2B buyers are likely to carry more emotions when making a B2B decision. B2B sales are often an investment for the greater good of a company - solving a problem or alleviating a particular need. Buyers are likely to hold very different risk appetites depending on the amount they are looking to invest. Ultimately, these decisions can place risk on the employee/ers position in the company if the purchase turns out to be a failure. WARC states that “B2B purchases are often more emotionally driven than B2C purchases… if you make a bad decision, you could lose money for your business, be passed over for promotion, or risk your career being knocked off track. There's far more at stake in B2B decisions, and that fires up the risk-averse parts of our brains.” This is where empathy and the acknowledgement of one’s risks, can go a long way. It is best to come into any intent to purchase by considering the following questions:
What personal and company risk is the buyer taking on if they make this purchase?
What can I do as the seller to help mitigate those risks for the buyer?
What (if any) additional material can I provide to the buyer if they need to get sign off from their internal decision-makers?
Myth 02: B2B brands need to take a product-led approach to marketing
Before breaking down this myth, let us define the difference between product-let marketing and brand-led marketing.
Product-led marketing: Leading with the service or product within your marketing material.
Brand-led marketing: Leading with your brand values and the unique experience you offer.
In the age of market saturation, there are an infinite number of other companies offering a similar service, and therefore the ask has shifted from ‘who can do it?’ to ‘why are they the best choice?’. Thus B2B marketing has to adapt to the changing needs of the market - shifting from a product-led approach towards a brand-led approach. This is where creativity and emotion can play an important role particularly through the art of storytelling. Most stories are embedded with values, and therefore they work as excellent tools to carry the mission and values of any B2B brand trying to connect with their contemporary audiences. Storytelling can creatively share a myriad of information that remains memorable in the mind of its audiences. By sharing stories, we are also speaking to the emotional needs of the humans we are trying to connect with.
Myth 03: B2B brands should be target-specific in their marketing
The B2B Institute, in their B2B Effectiveness Code summarised that, ‘B2B marketing currently skews heavily towards short-term, rational and tightly targeted campaigns that seek to drive immediate sales effects. And that the use of long-term campaigning, broad targeting and emotional creative work is largely absent from B2B marketing.’ They concluded that B2B brands should also harness aspects of marketing that B2C tend to do a lot more of. Below are some of the key components that B2B brands can use to amplify their brand awareness in the market.
Get Creative. The study states that “Creativity, emotion and fame are all tools that B2B marketers should be using to amplify the engagement and ROI they see from their communications efforts, and indeed to increase the value of marketing in their organisations.”. Storytelling is often the best instrument to harness the power of all three tools. Jonah Berger the author of the book Contagious states, ‘“Information travels under the guise of what seems like idle chatter.” Stories are powerful initiators of emotion that drive people into action.
Go Broad. By targeting a specific group, one only focuses on finding current buyers in the market. This strategy only serves the seller’s and current buyer’s immediate short-term needs. By broadening your audience you are able to establish a strategy that addresses short-term and long-term needs in a way that specific, targeted marketing cannot. It offers B2B brands a competitive advantage by targeting a diverse network of current buyers, referralists (those who may not buy but can refer your product) as well as future buyers within the market - keeping your brand front of mind for both immediate and future needs. (Pro Tip!) The added benefit to this approach is that you are likely to make your marketing a lot more inclusive by considering the wider audience you're speaking to.
Go Big, Aim Long. These two points are strategically aimed at building brand awareness; keeping your brand front of mind for any current and future buyers in the market. By going ‘big’ the aim is to push your marketing campaign across as many (digital and print media) channels as possible. By saturating these platforms with a consistent brand message helps build trust with your audience. That trust is further established by running your campaign over a longer period of time. A consistent message, across every touch point, goes a long way in building the trust you need from your future B2B buyers.
By shifting our focus away from business and product, we have the opportunity to discover and meet the needs of people. Ultimately, the business-to-business experience comes down to one important message – harnessing human connection. It is about reaching people who deal with risk, carry a myriad of emotions and are looking to find brands that they can connect and collaborate with. In the wise words of Herb Kelleher, ‘The business of business is people, yesterday, today and forever.’
Oddigy is a culture-aware creative studio designing brands, strategies and campaigns. To hear more about what we do please email firstname.lastname@example.org