Either you agree or not with the Gartner curve , this article reminds you one of my repeated sentence : it starts with customer and ends with customers. If not, you will fail. Discover more in this interesting post on Medium:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.