B2B marketing Beginner Marketing Marketing basics Marketing definition

What is B2B Marketing ?

B2C, B2B or BtoB, B2B2B, B2B2C, just an extract from an acronyms list to leave the dummies outside of the expert’s discussion. That’s bad !
Like many other domains, the marketing and his folks have an incredible list of acronyms and expert vocabularies to protect their private backyard.
There’s nothing better than the usage of acronyms when you want to loose your non-expert audience.
I hate acronyms ! So, let’s kill them !

B2C ?

B2C stands for “Business to Consumers“. Therefore, B2C marketing is about the activities I described in a previous article, that target consumers as customers. marketing?
Basically you or me into our daily life, buying and using goods : from food to smartphone, from water to membership of fitness club…
I may write later about B2C, but the main subject of this article is B2B marketing , let’s speak about it.

Companies as customers
Photo by Rodney Minter-Brown on Unsplash


Our key question, what is B2B marketing ?
B2B stands for “Business to Business” .
Then it’s about the marketing activities that target companies as customer.
Let’s list a few examples :
. Rolls Royce selling engines to Boeing, that’s Business to Business.
. Foxconn manufacturing iPhone for Apple, that’s Business to Business.
. SalesForce selling services and software, that’s Business to Business.

Business to Business is a huge market, covering many fields , from raw material to machinery and tools , from stand alone software to services, from energy generation to waste treatments. We speak of trillions US dollars.

Like Business to Consumers, Business to Business marketing starts and ends with customers.
It is  targeting your most relevant market segments, discovering and learning about the customers, creating and delivering values.

Who are the customers in Business to Business marketing ?

The customer is always the one who decides that the value your deliver is really a value for him or her.
The customer will buy, or will influence the decision-maker to buy.
Human beings involved in companies decision process are exactly the same who are  buying consumer goods.
If their behavior varies upon their role ( I mean as actor into an enterprise, or as a individual consumer) , their expectations are unconsciously cross-influenced by their two experiences.
The border between B2C and B2B can easily be drawn :  target is consumers on one side , target is companies on the other side. But customers are human beings and they cross this border all the time.

Market Segmentation in Business-to-Business.

What is targeting in B2B marketing ?
Photo by Simeon Jacobson on Unsplash

Business-to-Consumers market segments are usually done by  definition of social and cultural groups , impacted by level of education, age, receptivity to social media, income categories …. And you can put each and every individual in one of your defined box : the market segments.

Business-to-Business market segments are usually defined using other dimensions :
 – the category of industry type ( such as mining, electronic, automotive, chemicals ….),
 – the activity ( such as machine builder for segment/application X, building and structures for segment/application X, integrator for segment/application X, and much more).
You can always create your market segmentation by using very standards categories such those of NAICS : (one more acronyms to keep away ignorant) North American Industry Classification System.
Above all, be lazy ! No need to re-invent the wheel , use what is already available and adapt it to your own need.

The good market segmentation is the one that is useful for your organization

It’s not necessarily the academic one.
Useful for your organization, that’s common good sense : your peers understand the way you define each segment and it gives you powerful data to select the most attractive and achievable targets.
Your good segmentation is your foundation to target your winning battle-fields.

A classical mistake 

The mistake I always see : Marketer in Business-to-Business are defining their segments with industry classification.
However they always skip or disregards the social and cultural criteria.
After that, no wonder if a product that perfectly fits an industry in Europe, will never raise in the same industry in China !
I did make the mistake. I have to admit that I had to live several years in China to understand and take the cultural criteria into account
These social and cultural criteria can be strong differentiation and added values when creating new offers.

Understand who’s who.

who are the customers ?

More than in Business-to-Consumers, Business-to-Business marketing must take care of the people involved with your offers. I would say, impacted by your offer !
Marketers often tend to mix their targeted customers with a limited number of people, those they can easily interact.
You should never skip the guys who will implement , set, maintain or use daily the product.
Above all, customers-as-personas are one of the most valuable knowledge in Business-to-Business marketing,
You must always dig deeper and know who is doing what,how and why.
Therefore, you must take the necessary time to understand each and every persona concerned directly or indirectly by your offer.

Business-to-Business marketing is : dealing with people.

who is the real use of your product ?
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Coming back to the basics : the foundations of every organization are people.
Organization being often structure in a pyramidal way , it makes easy to list each sub-function and then categorize and describe the personas that marketers must understand.
Do not forget also to understand the customer of your customer !
Sometimes named as the end-users.
The values you create and deliver must address this end-user’s real needs and pains !
In our Cartesian logic education, we would build our personas-understanding from the top of the pyramid. From the C-levels, down the base of the pyramid : the workers or the end-user.
As a result, the understanding of the real user , or end-user, is influenced by what we discover and learn from the above levels. And our final picture is not the real one.

Who to Start with ?

When digging in customer’s need, please start by the bottom of the organizations.
Then you must start by the end : the end-users. The end is the beginning !
Start with the real user of your product.
Then learn from other levels to understand better the decisions processes and indirect needs that your offer must answer to.
Even if this looks like a linear process, from bottom to top, it’s not!
You must challenge your learning and knowledge’s : always come back to your personas end-user to check and value what you may have discovered. 

Real life vs objectives

Ideally, every companies would like their marketers to follow a timely defined process.
In a very summarized steps approach :
1- describe customer needs
2- create values
3- monetize the values

But the reality is quite different:
The marketers must discover and learn about their customer’s personas every day.
Each interaction with a customer is a unique and priceless moment. The unique moment to learn more about who is doing what, how and why.

Projects to create new offers, as well as to maintain and evolve existing offers, must be fed by marketing knowledge.
This knowledge is acquired along years of customer’s experience. Therefore, the marketing knowledge can not only be fed by  short campaign of interviews or customer-interest-check meetings.
What is B2B marketing : Business-to-Business marketing is dealing with people, interacting with the personas of your targeted segments.

Marketing needs time.

The activities I describe TAKES TIME.
But it’s the only  way to get robust offer requirements.
Marketing is delivering business opportunities from customer understanding ; those marketing facts are the trigger of offer creation and offer evolution.
Marketing facts are also the triggers for design thinking and co-creation.

Business-to-Business delivers values

Finally, marketing must deliver the values : Show and Tell .
The tools and media used can be very similar to those of Business-to-Consumers. But the how to
“show&Tell ” must take into account that Business-to-Business customers have a different behavior.
They don’t buy your product because of the product.
In fact they don’t care about your product!
They care that your created value is solving one or several of their needs or pain points.
The list can be long and embraces topics such as productivity, safety, return on investments, easiness, robustness ….
Therefore , your Show&Tell must speak more about customer than product.

Long-term but short-time ?

Business-to-Business customers are usually loyal and long-term customer, and remember : they don’t buy , they invest.
Therefore their decision can take time. Sometimes months, even years.
You must never skip those key facts when delivering your values to your Business-to-Business customers.
Messages must tell about how their issue is solved and communication Campaigns must last. Targeted media must be those your customers-as-personas are used to get … and have time to go through.

That’s a paradox in Business-to-Business Marketing :
Excited by the tremendous successes from brands acting in Business-to-Consumer, companies managers ask to copy/paste those successes in Business-to-Business. Awaiting for short-terms business results.
Business-to-Business marketer’s roles and responsibilities are to create the future , but the paradox is that they struggle under pressure for immediate actions and short-term results.

In a nutshell.

What is B2B marketing ?
Business to Business marketing is :
understand the needs then create and deliver values, to the various and complex organizations of companies, and to their own customers : other companies and sometimes consumers.
Therefore, Business-to-Business marketer’s value stands in their abilities and skills to listen and understand the real needs of the various personas along the decision chain, from the real end-user up to the c-level of the targeted customer segments.
It takes time.


B2B marketing Beginner Marketing Marketing basics Marketing definition

What is Marketing ?

Marketing is often misunderstand. The real roles, responsibilities and actions of marketer are most of the time, wrongly seen. From outside point of view, people do not get the crucial importance of Marketing and its army of marketers.

I want here to give the basics understanding of marketing .


Preconceived ideas

What is marketing ?

When I was working as a marketer, my friends , families and even co-workers had a lot of preconceived ideas.
My friends thought i was travelling around the world, meeting other marketers and having funny meetings and events with them. What a wonderful dream job ! Being paid to travel and get fun time with others people , also paid to travel and get fun. Wrong ! 
My family was believing that my job consists in  doing marketing tricks, convincing customers to buy some products they don’t really need. Designing promotion campaigns , nice leaflets and ads , ultimately distributing coupons to convince people about incredible opportunity to buy. Wrong !
My bosses and co-workers were convinced that my job is about interviews, surveys and PowerPoint. Unfortunately, many of them are still believing that’s the roles and responsibilities of marketers are only about quantitative data.
They believe that most of my energy is focusing on collect customer’s opinion and satisfaction level, through preset interviews templates, simply by ticking the right box in a Q&A form. Wrong !
Many of my colleagues are convinced that I browse the web and some boring financial reports to collect figures and quantified achievements. Excel spreadsheets are therefore the law books to show the past … and to forecast the future. As a result, decisions are taken because of the past figures, which is exactly the same as driving your car forward by looking in the back mirror. Wrong !
And finally, another common  belief is that marketing people are kind of expert to do PowerPoint files for amazing presentations an meetings. Transforming the Excel data in nice graphics and pictures, displaying on large screens some un-readable huge quantities of figures.Wrong!
Instead of being tools , Excel and PowerPoint have become the killers of marketers.

When I’m asked to explain what is marketing , I use to quote Philip Kotler :  he defines marketing as
the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”
Everything is in this sentence.


target : attractive and accessible

Marketing is responsible to define a target. Not by chance, not by feeling . But using tools such as BCG* matrix to help in decision making.
Marketing is having tools ? Yes , and they must be used to help building pictures and help in decision making. I mean the tool or the method does not give you the absolute best answer, but help you to decide what are the most attractive and the most accessible (with your weapons) market segments.
You may dream of targeting a lot of customer categories, on the principle that if you can move mountains you can move molehills. As far as targeting market segments is concerned, too much targets will lead you to miss all of them.
This introduces the concept of market segments, which i will explain in detail in another post.

Treasure Hunter

Exploring intends to give you an understanding of your customers needs and pains. That’s where the science and art of marketing stand.
You don’t want to provide the very same product as your competitor. You want to create the so-called competitive advantages that later, will become values of differentiation and money.
Then knowing exactly your customers real needs is of marketing’s responsibility.
There’s no magic behind this marketing activity , it’s to be a treasure hunter. Listen and observe your targeted customers, be curious about your surroundings, be curious about remarkable event in other markets, observe mega trends that may impact your business field, observe evolution of social behaviors, be curious towards new technologies, look outside your business… be CURIOUS !.

a Marketer is treasure hunter

It’s also about quantifying. Quantify , measure, even estimations are worthwhile. You have to size your market, measure or estimate its total value, measure the accessible and available value for you. Be CURIOUS to collect your financial data. Be CURIOUS to read financial reports, company news and market surveys .
Along this treasure hunt journey, you have to start writing down a list of all your weaknesses. Everything you miss to address the total value of the targeted market. This can go from brand recognition to available and trained sales force. Then you’ll get a first picture of the accessible part of your targeted market. As well as a first list of potential actions and investments to grow your business.
I really want to insist : be a treasure hunter and stay curious of everything, ever.
This will drive you to build your market understanding and, your customer understanding.
Keep in mind that it’s not a linear process, neither a recipe with a starting point and arrival. You are told that the market is changing fast, very fast. You and your customers are drown in a flow of permanent information. We are information eater , and we change on-the-go. Like it or not, Internet and its tremendous of data influences us.
Everything you discover and learn today may be false tomorrow. Then you must always challenge your market understanding. Be opened to listen to new inputs , stay curious and ready to change. Being a marketer means that you are highly adaptable to market changes. Training daily to stay curious will give the power to anticipate changes.


Value creation

real customer value is priceless

Doing so, you can define and create new values that will really be the answers to customers needs and pains.Neither simply the easy but wrong answer to what customer wants , nor what your noisy colleagues know and believe.
In other words, your robust knowledge makes you the customer voice in offer creation projects. Your proposal of new values to create will become the potential new business.
Creating is transforming the robust requirements into a business object. As a marketer, you have to collaborate with many others functions in your organisation. Designers, programmers, purchasers, …. each of them bringing their knowledge and expertise.
Great moments to see your new offer coming to life. Exciting !
You should however remain alert :
– the target is to deliver the needed value , not to deliver the most amazing and new technology.
– your market is still moving during value creation. Stay curious and opened to influence and convince your peers when you see major changes in your targeted market.


Show and tell

What about a new offer, product, service or solution, that fits perfectly your targeted customer needs , solve most of their pains, is innovative and affordable … but stays on your shelves, awaiting desperately to be sold and delivered.
Yes, the created value must be delivered.
A product, as good as it is, doesn’t sell itself.
The benefits it provides must be shown and told.
This may be the most visible part of the marketing roles and responsibilities. SHOW and TELL, those actions give the feeling that marketing is all about communications and only communications. From lead generations to customer retention and engagement , that’s when the marketing is noisy. Creating promotional tools, sales tools , training tools, is the way that marketing is delivering the values.
The marketing is not selling ?
NO, marketing is not selling, goals and actions are totally different.

in conclusion, what is to be a marketer ?

I always value marketing folks who master the art of asking question and always challenge their knowledge.
Be curious.
Shut up to listen and observe.
Give room to silence.
Be humble and challenge your knowledge.
Enjoy the surprise of discovering something new , learning with pleasure in every interaction.
Be a watcher more than a speaker .
Whatever the role you have in a marketing organization, strategy, offer management, or communication, never forget that the marketing starts and ends with your targeted customers.

* BCG : Boston Consulting Group.