Unlike consumer goods, B2B services and solutions can’t easily be returned for a refund if the client is not happy. Extricating a business from a poor choice of supplier is costly and stressful. As a B2B marketing agency, we know only too well that good decisions are more important than quick decisions.
While the methods of reaching a B2B audience do not differ greatly from B2C, it’s important to bear in mind how the two audiences approach a purchase.
Business-to-consumer marketing – quick decisions, purchase based on emotion and how product will make them feel.
Business-to-business marketing – slower to decide, purchase based on logic and value of the solution in increasing profitability, reducing costs.
What this means to us as a B2B marketing agency is that efforts must be focused on the long game, on the slowly but surely work of giving the customer the information they need, when they need it, and on supporting them throughout what is undoubtedly a more involved decision-making process.
Broadly speaking, there are three steps in the decision-making process of a B2B sale. The length and intricacy of the decision-making process depends very much on the level of investment required as well as the consequences of the solution failing, as any of our B2B clients will attest.
Business buyers are looking for solutions which will support profitability and deliver competitive advantage. They have a high interest in the problems a product or service solves, even if they do not yet know a) what the solution is and b) why your company is the right solutions provider.
What they need: information and education.
There are two aspects of marketing which come into play at this stage – brand awareness and thought leadership. Brand awareness is important in order to bring your company to the attention of its target audience, though it thought leadership – in which you demonstrate your expertise in your field – enables you to engage your audience and stand out against the competition.
As a thought leader, you’ll help your buyer make a logical decision by sharing your knowledge and expertise to improve their understanding through the use of content marketing. This entails creating high quality content (blogs, articles, guides, slides, podcasts, infographics etc) to share information and demonstrate that your organisation can help prospective customers.
Unfortunately, too many companies skip this step and get straight to the detail of their solution, even though the customer isn’t ready for that level of engagement yet. That’s why so many companies have lots of marketing activity, but little tangible result.
Once the buyer is clear on the problem and aware of your organisation, they will want to understand how you can help them, and they won’t give you the time of day if you don’t look like you know what you’re talking about.
What they need: detailed information about how your products and services can support their goals.
It’s now about detail – about helping prospects to understand the solutions you offer and the choices available. It’s insufficient to focus simply on features and benefits of your product/service. This is where it’s important to get your messaging right.
Making it clear to customers that you understand the questions that are going through their mind as they work towards a solution will help you ease them towards the decision stage. B2B audiences need to work with partners they know, like and trust, so the support you give at this stage is crucial to a successful outcome.
The final step is for the customer to feel confident that they are choosing the right supplier.
What they need: is to feel confident in your organisation.
Now is the time for your marketing to ramp up the signals which reinforce your company’s credibility.
Case studies and testimonials, industry certifications, clear information about the on-boarding process and what it’s like to be a customer of your company will all help to give the right trust signals before the customer takes their final step.
When you invest in specialist B2B marketing agency expertise, it’s no surprise to us that you want to see a return on investment as quickly as possible.
However, it’s wise to get clear on the three stages of the buying process and to understand what your prospects need at each stage before forging ahead in order to get the best results from your marketing efforts. We can help you do this, usually through one or a series of in-depth discussions.
Once you have this clarity, we can use it to inform what sort of marketing will work best for your organisation, and what messages you need to convey at what point in the buying journey.
If you would like help in making your B2B marketing more effective, please get in touch.