Why B-to-B Marketing Is More Fun than B-to-C

Multiple Buyers, Complex Sales Cycles and Customer Journey Add to Intrigue

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About six years into my marketing career, I migrated from consumer marketing to b-to-b, and I immediately loved it. Why? It's more complex, it's richer, it's broader and it's more difficult than consumer marketing. All in all, for me, it's simply more fun.

Consider the situation. Business buyers make fewer than 7% of purchase decisions on their own, according to a report by Global Spec. The business buying process is likely to be long and slow and involve multiple parties. There are influencers, specifiers, gatekeepers and purchasing agents -- not to mention the ultimate decision-makers -- in the mix. These parties have their own interests and needs for information about the product, its features and its benefits. This means that your messages need to be customized, personalized and targeted to a level unheard of in the consumer world. That's fun.

Even more fun is figuring out how to motivate these parties. Self-interest is there -- business buyers are human, after all -- but business need will be a stronger driver than, say, an incentive offer. The business buyer must justify the purchase internally. So marketers need to provide proof points. Motivational offers are best if they have some kind of business value. A white paper, for example, or an ebook with tips on how to solve the business problem, can be positioned as free incentive offers while concurrently supporting the sales cycle.

The next intriguing angle is the economics. Business purchases are typically large, high-ticket and high-value. The universe of targeted prospects tends to be small. Products change regularly, with new models, features, pricing and terms. Campaigns are usually about leads, with low volumes and high CPMs. Most campaigns are structured as one-offs. That's why agencies, once they get the hang of it, tend to fall in love with b-to-b.

Then there is the business data. There are millions of businesses in the U.S. But within each business, there are multiple players who need to be contacted -- the gatekeepers, influencers and specifiers mentioned above. Furthermore, these folks are always changing their titles, their phone numbers, their mail stops. But each contact might be worth millions of dollars. So b-to-b marketers will invest heavily in data hygiene, such as calling top accounts twice a year to update their records. With economics like this, it pays to make sure you can access every account in your target.

Finally, b-to-b is fun because it is multitouch and omnichannel. Zillions of touches, online and offline. An integrated mixture, managed by a team of sales and marketing professionals who go to market together, understanding the customer's buying process, and setting up sales and marketing strategies to help customers move along the process in their favor. What could be more efficient, challenging and fun?

The upshot of this complexity is that b-to-b marketing can be difficult to measure. Consider the challenges of digital marketing attribution, when the customer journey involves multiple individuals under a single account. Plus, marketing efforts are part of a larger process, involving field sales, inside sales and distribution channel partners, with each participant rightly claiming credit. As I said -- fun.

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