B2B marketing from a B2C perspective.
Stream Companies started as a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing agency over 25 years ago. We’ve used insights from our background in B2C to master Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing from a unique angle! Our B2B strategy may be exactly what you need to help your products compete—and come out on top.
At the end of the day, B2B buyers are very much like consumers. There is still a human being at the other end of that transaction, and we know how to help you market to them!
What is B2B marketing?
B2B marketing encompasses all marketing strategies and content intended to sell products or services to businesses and organizations rather than consumers on an individual level. Still, the people buying are individuals.
B2B marketing targets the people within an organization who are making purchases or purchase decisions on behalf of the entire business. Yes, the organization is the target. But good B2B marketing lasers in on those decision makers and speaks to them as individuals.
This is the secret to successful marketing in the B2B realm, and it’s why Stream stands out from the pack. Our B2C experience has given us unique insights that shape and strengthen our spin on B2B.
What marketing relationships are considered B2B?
B2B is an umbrella term. There are actually four major types of B2B customers. We’ll dive into how each of these types is defined in a moment, but they include:
- Private companies
- Government agencies
- Nonprofit or for-profit institutions
Many B2B customers are companies selling to other companies. They may help these companies run operations more efficiently or increase production—even improve customer satisfaction in some way. Somehow, they provide value.
These companies usually don’t directly interact with consumers, even though the services they provide often enhance the consumer experience.
The single biggest spender on goods and services in the world is the USA. The United States government buys all sorts of products and services, from technology and medical services to aircraft and weapons. And it’s far from alone.
State, local, and foreign governments have similar expenditures. However, none of these entities have a centralized department to purchase goods and services. Rather, various government agencies make the purchases.
These transactions are often referred to as business-to-government (B2G), but they still fall under the broader B2B umbrella.
Wholesalers (AKA “Resellers”)
Wholesalers are the middlemen. These companies resell services or products produced by other companies without changing them in any material way.
Many wholesalers have a lot of power in the market and can be the make-or-break factor for a business’s products. A nationwide wholesaler can put a company’s products in front of the eyes of many customers, so it’s in these companies’ interests to partner with relevant wholesalers.
Earning those partnerships often requires a bit of marketing! Companies need solid B2B marketing strategies to convince wholesalers to buy their products or services, and that’s where a B2B marketing agency can come into play.
Nonprofit & For-Profit Institutions
Many companies promote and sell their products and services to nonprofit or for-profit institutions. But what makes an organization an institution and not a company? Institutions have a civic or public interest and may include:
- Charitable organizations
- Religious organizations
- Colleges and universities
- Civic clubs
So, what’s the primary driver of nonprofit organizations choosing a particular company’s products or services? In many cases, that driver (or at least one of them) is affordability. Nonprofits often face budget concerns and challenges.
The lower the costs, the more impact they can make where it really matters. Companies marketing their products to nonprofits must consider this as they develop their B2B marketing plans.
We answer one simple question to market B2B
So, what are the most crucial considerations when it comes to B2B marketing? You need to make it easy for someone to recommend a given solution to his or her boss—and so on and so on, up the chain of command.
To succeed as a B2B marketer, you don’t need to appeal to your buyer’s personal tastes and desires. You just have to help them answer one question: How can I justify this to my boss? If you can’t come up with a good answer, they won’t buy from you!
You need to know why your product is truly the best fit—as a statement of fact. Know the problem your buyer has and how your product can solve it in a cost-efficient way. And know your specific buyer, so you can target audiences that will drive long-term growth.
B2B vs B2C: How B2B can be different
Companies involved with B2B sales need an agency that understands how B2B marketing can be different from B2C marketing. Let’s explore these possible differences so you can better understand the principles that should guide your B2B marketing strategy.
B2B and B2C marketing needs to be well targeted to have a chance of success. How, then, is B2B different from B2C in this respect? Essentially, it involves targeting a smaller audience.
B2C marketing focuses on a large audience of individuals. B2B marketing, by contrast, narrows its target to include only the decision-makers. This could be one person, a couple of people, or a small group of people.
Think of it this way: It doesn’t matter if everyone in the office needs higher-quality computer monitors. Only a high-level decision-maker can make the call to replace monitors in the office, and so their concerns must be central to the marketing strategy.
Motivation behind the purchase
Think of ads directed at individual consumers. They’re driven by more immediate desires, emotions, and benefits. Well, B2B ads are different.
The decision-makers need to understand how your product or service makes good business sense for their company. Is it financially viable? Will characteristics of the product or service boost the company’s bottom line and return on investment?
You need a marketing partner that is diligent about answering these questions in content and advertisements. Identifying and making these logical selling points clear is the first (and most important) step of successful B2B marketing.
B2C customers tend to make purchase decisions faster, and sometimes almost immediately. Because emotion is often a major driving factor—most consumer purchases are for personal enjoyment or consumption/use—less thought goes into the decision.
Much more due diligence goes into B2B purchases. Decision-makers will often compare competing products/services and read through professional reviews. Some B2B purchases take as long as 24 months, so these aren’t spur-of-the-moment decisions!
Alongside the decision-making process is the purchase process, which often looks different for B2B compared to B2C. Not only is it likely to be longer, as we’ve already mentioned, but it also involves more unique customer cultivation efforts.
Here’s what we mean: Buyers in the B2B space generally prefer to deal with sales reps and account managers rather than marketing teams as they learn about your product or service. They want the people who speak in facts, not hype and empty buzzwords.
Regular consumers usually don’t have to consult with anyone else before making a purchase. Aside from informal family discussions, the purchase process itself is quick in relative terms. In B2B, you have to contend with a formal decision process, and multiple decision-makers must be catered to.
Type of content
Web content is an essential pillar of your digital marketing strategy. You’ll need it as you look to expand your organic presence on the search engine results pages (SERPs), and that’s true whether you’re in the B2C or B2B marketing world.
But—and this is a big but—content can be different where B2B is involved. While consumers tend to prefer more “entertaining” content, like videos and blog posts or even the attention-grabbing power of mobile apps, B2B can be more buttoned up.
B2B buyers want to be thoroughly educated on the product or service you offer before they recommend it for their companies. They often turn to more detailed content, including:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Online tutorials
They may look for information on your product or service in a major industry publication—say, a magazine. Your B2B strategy may involve reaching out to relevant publications to educate their readers with reviews and other content.
When consumers buy a product, they’re generally looking for an experience or a sense of enjoyment. As a result, B2C marketing is often primarily focused on being engaging—on making the product resonate emotionally with the consumer.
B2B buyers have different end goals in mind. They focus on factors like efficacy, expertise, and most importantly, return on investment. They need to know this is a sound business decision that will yield long-term results.
B2B vs B2C: Bridging a gap that doesn’t exist (and never did)
Marketing depends on its audience. It’s all about particulars, and for that reason, understanding marketing as a B2B vs. B2C dichotomy may have certain flaws.
As we’ve already pointed out, the best B2B marketing shares traits with B2C marketing. And at the same time, not every piece of B2B marketing (or, for that matter, B2C marketing) is the same. The specific audience informs the strategy, the tactics, and the final form that marketing campaign(s) take.
B2B vs. B2C is what is known as a Wittgenstein’s Ladder—a language or explanation used to help non-experts more easily understand a complicated topic, even though the language or explanation is technically wrong.
In reality, B2B and B2C are not separate and distinct. In a show of the natural yin-yang dynamic of marketing, each carries the seeds of the other.
“He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
The terms themselves and their definitions are useful. But if you want to reach the next level of marketing understanding, you need to “throw away the ladder” after you’ve climbed it, to use Wittgenstein’s words. Allow us to help!
Myth: B2B is all head, and B2C is all heart
Have you heard this before? It sounds like it would be true—and it’s a useful distinction to make. It can offer marketers and businesses a solid starting point as they map out their marketing strategies. Too bad it isn’t true!
Sure, the general assumptions behind it are sound, broadly speaking. Consumers just want to hear about the positive end-state and the benefits that your product or service will bring them, right? What will this do for me?
Meanwhile, we’re told businesses just want to focus on the logic of the product and its features. B2B typically sells technology, software, and services that are more intangible and difficult to connect emotionally with. A B2B transaction may take up to 24 months or more to complete, and the buyer will do heavy research over that period.
Those are partial truths—but they’re not absolutes. Only wayward marketers deal in absolutes. Trust us (and Obi-Wan Kenobi, for that matter)—no one wants that!
The yin-yang of B2B and B2C
Sure, successful B2C brands tend to be those that lead with the heart. But at the same time, think about how much data goes into crafting that human appeal. A brand like Netflix or Facebook uses an insane amount of customer data to deliver content that will appeal to their users.
Even when you’re selling to consumers, it pays to harness the strategies of, say, a technology growth company in the B2B realm if you want to compete and succeed in the digital world.
Meanwhile, the most successful B2B brands have learned how to push the envelope with emotional appeals. Think about brands like Zoom or Mailchimp. Both have websites that look beautiful and sound human—and they clearly lead with an emotional impact that favors benefits over endless product detail.
The lesson? Success as a B2B brand does not mean strategizing in a way that is separate and distinct from B2C. Labels are not the end-all, be-all. Choose tactics that will reach your particular audience, whether those tactics seem like they would fall under B2B or B2C.
Best practices in B2B marketing for 2021
Marketing is a practice that tends to change quickly. We want to introduce you to the best B2B marketing practices this year. Some of these are new developments and some are best practices that have survived year over year!
Here are some tips for succeeding in the B2B space in 2021 and beyond:
B2B email marketing best practices
- Limit yourself to one call-to-action (CTA) per email. B2B brands tend to deal in product offerings that are complex in the first place. Rather than include three, four, or even ten calls-to-action, limit yourself to just one.
This is a good practice for any email marketing but especially B2B. Don’t add an unnecessary layer of complexity to an already-complex topic. Make it easier for your audience to take one single action.
- Create responsive email designs. Most people nowadays access their emails on their phone. If your email doesn’t display correctly on a mobile device—or takes too long to load—it may be unceremoniously deleted.
Don’t let that happen to you! You have a window of just three seconds to make everything display the way it should before a user deletes the email.
- Segment your emails to reach the most relevant prospects. B2B sales often take place over a much longer period than B2C sales—sometimes up to 24 months. In addition, not every prospect is looking for the same solution.
These factors make it especially important to customize your emails. If your email doesn’t speak to the right solution or the right stage in an extended buyer’s journey, it won’t earn the attention of the audience you need to reach.
- The subject line matters. Yes, even in the data-driven B2B world, a gripping email subject line can make all the difference!
This is a wonderful example of how the gap between B2B and B2C falls away—it was never really there in the first place. An emotionally driven email subject line can compel B2B prospects to click just as easily as B2C prospects.
B2B digital marketing best practices
No modern business can afford to be without a digital presence. Whether B2B or B2C, a combination of paid ads, search engine optimization, a website, and social media presence can form the building blocks of a solid digital strategy.
So, how can you strengthen your B2B digital marketing strategy? Let’s take a look.
Get discovered with SEO. Your website can be as informative and engaging as you like, but if no one can find it, it isn’t serving you well. Take a three-pronged approach to improve your position on the search engine results pages (SERPs):
- On-page SEO and technical SEO. These include all-important elements related to the on-page experience, including page titles, headers, meta descriptions, image alt-text, page URLs, and internal links—plus mobile responsiveness and site speed.
- Off-page SEO. This includes your external linking strategy (i.e., links to other reputable websites in your field) and social sharing—the SEO that takes place off your website.
Run PPC campaigns. PPC (pay-per-click, also known as paid search) is a great way to round out your digital presence. It’s the easiest way to drive your content to the top of the SERPs immediately, while you wait for your organic SEO efforts to bear fruit.
B2B content marketing best practices
We mentioned earlier that B2B customers traditionally focus on the logic of the product. It’s a research-intensive discovery process, and your prospects want to be educated. Sounds like the perfect opportunity for content marketing!
What makes B2B content marketing effective? It uses an inbound methodology to form connections with an audience—connections they are looking for, importantly—and solves problems they already have.
Content marketing supports your SEO efforts, which involves anticipating what your audience is searching for, helping them discover your website or business, and if possible, convert them into customers!
B2B content marketing works best when it’s aligned with various stages of the buyer’s journey. In the awareness phase, for instance, you can use your content to educate your prospects on their pain points.
A niche-driven B2B marketing strategy
In the B2B world, the fastest-growing firms tend to be specialists in a niche—and a carefully chosen one at that. This niche should be an area of the industry that your company understands fully… so fully, it can present itself as an undisputed leader.
Specialization lends itself to successful marketing, too! Notice how it defines exactly what you do and distinguishes you from your competition? That’s a marketing message ready-made to appeal to the buyers most interested in your products or services.
This will require research
From marketplace research to brand research, you’ll need to understand your target audience and your clients more deeply. Put yourself in a position to serve them better—and the multiple decision-makers involved in B2B—and you’ll be better positioned to succeed in your niche.
Firms that perform systematic research on their prospects and clients tend to grow faster and be more profitable. And it’s no wonder. The more you know about the people you want to serve, the better you can tailor your message to them.
Market trust and grow your B2B sales
All marketing is persuasion, and B2B marketers have some of the heaviest lifting to do. It’s not easy to convince someone to trust in your product and recommend it as a game-changer for their business. If they make the wrong decision, they’ve put their neck on the line for nothing!
Above all, you need to market trust and reduce fear. The marketers at Stream Companies can craft the message that does exactly that, so reach out to us and start fueling more B2B sales today.