Consumers are constantly hit with a stream of sophisticated marketing messages via advertising on TV and the web, email and print. But what if your customers are other businesses? Should your approach be the same or different, and if so, how do you tailor your activities to influence your target markets?
All potential purchasers are made up of human beings, but as end users our decisions to buy are often based on emotions, fashions, personal needs and desires, or simply whims. We may consult other family members or friends before making a purchase, but on the whole decisions are relatively quick and made by just one or two people. Even purchases such as a car, can still be influenced by the colour or the finish on the dashboard rather than an in-depth knowledge of the engine mechanics.
Within a business however, purchase decisions are not generally made on a whim. Research is carried out into the best company or product to respond to a specific need and a group of decision makers (the decision making unit) is often involved, possibly ranging from accountants to production to IT, all with a different perspective on what a supplier’s product should deliver.
There is generally far more rational input into a business purchase, although personal relationships should not be forgotten and can often sway a sale. Cost, function and design are key elements, and after sales service, training and delivery all play a crucial role. For the business to business (B-2-B) marketer delivering detailed information should be high on the agenda, whether via the web or printed materials. Training and support may also offer a key differentiator between suppliers. Understanding the client’s decision making unit and addressing the concerns of each person will help to gain trust and make sales.
Consumers provide marketers with an exciting array of target groups, perhaps up to as many as 10, allowing advertisers to tailor their promotions to each in a different way. Communications for the youth market are unlikely to use the same language, imagery and channels as those aimed at ‘silver surfers’ for example.
In B-2-B markets the targets may be more homogenous, but nevertheless your overall client and prospect base can be segmented. It is likely that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers, so knowing who those key accounts are is crucial if you want to keep them happy.
Realistically, segmentation is likely to be determined by a client’s value to your business, but you could also look at the different industry sectors that you serve. Keep an eye on businesses that are expanding and have the potential to become larger. Start with an analysis of your customer database to make sure that you have not been neglecting valuable accounts. Regular phone calls, emails or visits will keep your company on their radar, could generate new sales or prevent competitors from ousting your position.
Packaging in the consumer world has a subtle influence on all of us, whether we find a product’s packaging appealing, useful or wasteful. For businesses, packaging generally takes on a far more practical role, or simply does not exist. Or does it? The way your business handles clients on the phone and the on-going contact you maintain, whether via relationship managers or newsletters, speaks volumes about your business and the way you make clients feel. You can also deliver your products in a different way for different market segments. In effect this is all part of the ‘packaging’ of your products or services.
Branding is another area that has traditionally not necessarily been high on the priority list for B-2-B marketers, and can be a more complex element to control. Every company has values, however, and it is worthwhile taking time to review how your company portrays itself to the outside world. Do your logo and house style represent your business well? Do you use them consistently across all communications? Do all your employees, and particularly the sales team, talk about your company and services knowledgably and effectively? It costs little to find out and internal training can put everyone back on track and improve the external image of your business.
In conclusion, while there are variations in the approach to marketing products to other businesses rather than to consumers, some cross-over certainly exists and it is worth considering and applying elements of consumer marketing techniques to the business world. To discuss these ideas further, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 915 4142.