The B2B buyer is also human – but their journey is just a little more complicated…and scarier.

by | 15 May, 2018 |

We recently held a webinar on B2B (business to business) marketing trends hosted by Frederik Borestrom at LinkedIn. It was a superb session that resonated well with the audience and triggered a lengthy Q&A from the attendees.

During our session it became evident to me that when it comes to a B2B marketing discussion, the market often tends to get a bit misty, blank and sometimes nervous about the subject. My view is that we tend to pigeon hole it in another marketing silo – almost wishing it was someone else’s responsibility and leaving it be neglected. Is it because B2B marketing is just not sexy enough or are that they are just wary? Trade marketing certainly doesn’t sound sexy at all as a career and although B2B gets attention, its usually left to the end of the communication objectives agenda. It really shouldn’t.

After listening to Frederik I realised that the journey we find ourselves in when it comes to B2B is actually very similar to the funnels and graphs we plot for B2C. The only difference being that the B2B journey is a lot riskier and damn scarier. Consider this: If as a consumer I buy a pair of sneakers that fall apart after the first month – its disappointing and frustrating, but i’ll get over it. However, if I buy a cloud solution for $500,000 and my data goes missing or if the new fleet of vehicles for my logistics business turns out to have non compliant carbon emissions, its career suicide!

Yet the time, investment and effort devoted to B2B communication strategy is sub standard. This makes no sense given the size of the prize in a B2B sale/ contract/ relationship and its matched in how the B2B buying community feel:

Clearly we aren’t getting it right in what is relevant to B2B buyers. If we understand that building a relevant conversation over time helps build knowledge, and that if it resonates well with the audience then it cold be a successful campaign. However with only 3% of buyers agreeing to being served relevant content there is a lot of work to be done in this area.

So where do we start and do the audit? Here are 5 takeouts we found worth considering:

  1. As Borestrom explains – it should Begin with the who. In business, the buyer journey involves more than one decision maker and a fair amount of risk. Usually it involves a buying committee that can share the journey from initial researching through to the final executive sign off. The committee can comprise of junior talent through middle and senior management before it heads to the executive team itself – many touch points. And from varying divisional departments like procurement, finance, marketing, IT and sales -each with their own relevant nudging and attention needed.

So if this is the case its pretty crucial to plan your interaction with the target committee carefully and comprehensively. Make your communication relevant to ‘committee’ nurturing their needs to trigger the outcome you’re aiming for. Make sure you know what is relevant to them.

2. Be first to mind – not first to market. There is a strong correlation between brands with high market share and high brand awareness. Makes logical sense if you think about it. If I am exposed to a brand over time consistently, it is likely I will think of that brand when in a buying situation.

3. You don’t have to be a pioneer searching for your unique selling proposition, trying to be original and different from your competitors. Be consistent and distinctive. Chances are if you were unique your competitors would figure out how to mimic you very quickly. Being recognised and familiar should take up your time while catering for your target groups interests. Don’t make it hard for your target audience to know who you are! Borestrom refers to the disastrous re-brand of Tropicana in the USA when they redesigned the carton and the campaign failed dismally. When a strong brand is not recognised, the implications can be disastrous. For Tropicana it was a market share slaying!

4. Beware where you advertise. The environment where you showcase your brand has a strong alliance with the quality of your brand. If its a premium brand, it needs to be in a premium environment. If its a business to business solution, it should be in the best business to business channels. Apple do this particularly well by aligning the communication channel they choose with the Apple brand value proposition. Food and grocery retailers often align product and price with press media, iconic fashion brands with high end glossy magazines.

5.Be Evergreen with your content. It’s going to be difficult creating unique fresh content every week, month and year. Stick to something that you can own and be built to lastWe often look to the biggest volume producers of content like newspaper publishers as the content kings but their models suggest not so given the tremendous pressure they face. The team at LinkedIn argue that we should rather look at content publishers like Disney that Build lifetime content value very successfully – less volume more value. They take similar stories and rebuild carefully and cleverly, over time consistently but adapting to the audience needs. B2B content creators should learn and think carefully about their story – and then craft a calendar that maps out a consistent, insightful and entertaining message to market. Borestrom refers to this as the Lindy Effect: The most valuable ideas live forever. “the longer something has been around, the longer it will be around”!

If you want more detail you can watch the webinar we held as well as previous events here:


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