Evolution Of B2B Marketing

“Integrated marketing communications is a way of looking at the whole marketing process from the view point of the customer.” – Philip Kotler 

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has evolved from simply having good product collaterals to having a “story” to tell. It is now all about knowing – What to position, How to position, When, Where and Whom to position it to! The total approach is quite different from B2C marketing where the stakes are all about having the right “instincts” about the customer needs and the right “timing” and “channels”. In B2B marketing, we should already know our customers and what they want – if you don’t, your boss is probably finding a replacement for you! The key then is to come up with just the right value argumentation that works for that particular customer at that time! In that sense, B2B marketing is quite challenging as it requires a much more customized approach. For a particular customer – “cost” arguments would work and for another “quality” might be key. Hence the need to get smart about positioning in the evolved B2B marketing world!

So, what are the metrics for measuring success in a B2B marketing role – Is it just about getting new customers? The paradigm has evolved much here. The success is increasingly measured by how much upsell & cross-sell is enabled with existing customers through marketing programs, and how much more value is derived from each upsell. So, in the evolved B2B marketing context, marketers are measured by how much premium they can help the sales teams win through the right marketing messaging and positioning and how much more they can sell to the same customer. While new customer acquisition and brand management are still important metrics of success, the proudest cherry now belongs to those marketers who create leads to up-sell, cross-sell and sell profitably.

We all witness the outcomes of some inspiring B2C campaigns on a daily basis. The biggest similarity between a consumer marketing campaign and a B2B marketing campaign is focus on ‘Customer’. If there were a synonym for the word “marketing”, it would be “customer”. The fundamental difference however between B2B and B2C marketing is the level of direct customer relationship and the role of trust. B2C marketers on one hand are coming closer to their customers through social media and interactive marketing channels, B2B marketers on the other hand are evolving towards the “segment of one” – where they can nearly begin to look at each customer differently. Of course, not literally so, but the approach used to create these customer segments is aligned with the paradigm of farming existing customer base rather than only hunting for more. So, typically the customers who generate the maximum revenues find themselves as being treated almost exclusively from a marketing perspective. And the long tail of customers would then have lesser resourcing and funds available to be served. Another aspect is trust – and in the evolved B2B marketing landscape, trust has a higher role to play than ever. The marketing messages are increasingly based on “demonstrated trust” and proven results in the past rather than only on future unproven benefits. This means that B2B marketers increasingly need to be aware of the quality and performance of their products and solutions and of the experience of their customers. They also need to invest more in building trust through regular contact, valuable information sharing, honesty, and a level of personalization.

SC Note: If you are a Bootstrapped startup, then this post on Branding For Bootstrapped Startups by Xavier Prabhu is perfect for you: http://www.strategycentral.in/branding-for-bootstrapped-startups/

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Kanika Atri

Kanika is the Head of Marketing and Communications for Nokia Siemens Networks – India. She has notably contributed to strategic programs for 2G and 3G readiness and continuously proves her holistic approach to manage strategic marketing using one of her core skills – the ability to simplify technology in a language that can be understood by one and all.

3 Comments

  1. Kanika Good Article…but could you tell me why in B2B Marketing the sales cycle is long and possibility of landing an order is always not certain because there is often not one Decision Maker and keeping this in mind, is this not true that B2C Marketing may result in immediate result ?

    Rgds,

    Barath Surendran
    http://www.techemate.com

    • admin says:

      Hi Barath,

      This is correct that B2C delivers faster results, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they deliver more ‘successful’ results. In fact the ‘failure rate’ of products in B2C is much more than that in B2B. However this is one area where B2B marketers can learn from the B2C world, ie how to fail fast and fail safe, because it is important to keep trying new products without wasting too much time, money and efforts on things that are not delivering results quickly. On the other hand, B2C marketers can learn more from B2B world about how to increase their success rate. You will observe that the longevity and repeatability of B2B products is much more than that of B2C, which is primarily because the processes/feedback loops/market trial mechanisms for introducing new products are more robust in B2B. Having said that, there is only a limit to how quickly B2B can innovate and introduce products to the market such as a the B2C world. This is because usually the B2B products/solutions are related to hi-tech industry/highly engineered products (infrastructure, machinery etc), which requires sufficient planning, design and customization and of course, as you said, it requires -the sales engine (both deal makers and technical sales) to map to various decision makers in the customer organization. But surely, there is scope to improve overall time to market in the B2B world.

      Regards

      Kanika

  2. djbalodi says:

    Interesting question Bharat, although it is premised on the assumption that B2C marketing shows immediate results. I am presuming by B2C marketing you mean ‘sales process/ time to make a sale’? If yes, that’s correct. I guess, three reasons make B2B sales cycles longer:
    1. Typically, high value, high involvement purchase done for business needs as against individual needs.
    2. Multiple decision makers involved in influencing, evaluating, recommending and approving purchase decisions. The bureaucracy of it all…
    3. Higher element of risk in getting purchase decisions wrong. This risk can manifest in many ways such as poor product performance, poor ROI, lack of after-sales support, technology obsolescence, higher maintenance overheads etc.,
    Kanika, w.r.t your comment on B2C marketers having a lesser success rate viz B2B, is there any research data that supports your contention? If yes, could you kindly share?

    Dhananjay