Everyone recognizes that B2B internet marketing and sales is quite different from B2C in lots of ways. Both have changed dramatically with the Internet and the shift in the buyer’s process. Buyers have so much information now before they get to the final stages of their purchase. Still, emotion and relationships play a big part in most purchases across all markets, a strong B2C component. So what are the Big 5 Key Things that make B2B so much different in Internet Marketing?
The overall huge difference is the complexity of the sale, on average. There are bigger teams buying, longer sales cycles, more technical information needed, and a long list of other complexity drivers. There are typically four buying stages and at least four buyers on a purchasing team. This means you may have up to 24 permutations of approaching the content needed to cover all the possibilities. Multiply that by 10 products and you have a lot of complexity and a lot of content writing.
B2B companies are going to find their audience in vastly different places that for B2C companies. Most of the targeting work of “big data” today is focused on B2C. This can be a huge help in this for larger B2C companies, but little help to most B2B companies. Getting down to real tactics, we find more B2B buyers use Google search and LinkedIn for their business networking social platform. Though mobile is growing in B2B, most of our clients still see between 5% and 20% of their traffic from mobile devices, much lower than B2C. To integrate your marketing efforts in B2B, you have to follow your audience to trade shows and industry magazines, vs. retail stores and cable TV. Lastly, in B2B there is not the large online distribution systems of Amazon and eBay so each company is a lot more on their own for online sales, making that a lot more difficult.
In most companies, teams make purchasing decisions. There is a “user-buyer” who is going to put your product or service into use. You have to convince this buyer that it will solve the need they have. Then there is the “financial buyer” who is controlling the money. This buyer needs to know that your product is a good value and in some cases that bids have been obtained. They are also making sure the budget supports the purchase. The “technical buyer” is making sure that they purchase fits with all the other processes, software, and equipment in the company. They are making sure you don’t buy a new software solution that can’t be hosted on the company’s servers. And over everyone is the “strategic buyer”, that executive who actually has the ability to say YES for the purchase. In smaller B2B companies, these four can be one person, but in most cases there are at least 3 or 4 buyers you have to sell to.
Features and Logic
As marketers, we get trained to focus on “benefits” not features. However, in B2B sales and particularly that early research information that buyers need, they demand knowing about the features and the logic of buying your product or services. Benefits are needed too, they just don’t have the selling power in B2B that they bring to a smaller B2C purchase. More in-depth technical information is usually needed up front in the buyer’s journey to give you credibility and to give them the information they need to be a smart buyer. B2B buyers appreciate more detailed content and demand that you not insult them with platitudes of benefits and a “trust us” mentality.
Long Sales Cycles
Few B2C purchases involve a long sales cycle. Buying a home may take a while, but on average that’s only a few weeks once people have decided to buy. The average B2B sale may take months or in the worst case, years. There is next year’s budget to plan for, extensive ROI calculations and internal justification. Teams of people with a better idea of how to get things done. Selling in B2B takes patience, perseverance, and stamina. More nurturing is required over many months so the buyer keeps you “top of mind”. This is at the heart of Marketing Automation, using personalized yet automated emails to nurture your prospects until they are “sales-ready”. In all this time, the buyer moves from one stage of the buyers cycle to the next. You have to see that change and respond with the content they need for the next phase. For example, as a buyer moves from the research phase to the decision phase, you have to provide pricing and details on warranty; things the buyer doesn’t care about early on. At the same time, competitors are changing, technology changes, and the buyer’s needs change. You have to keep up with all this or you will lose the sale.
It does take a different approach to be successful in B2B internet marketing and sales. Adding Internet Marketing to the mix means your digital partner has to be B2B savvy, not an easy thing to do.
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