Many of my B2B clients voice the concern that a B2B organization cannot benefit from the same sales, marketing and ultimately copy writing techniques as a B2C organization. Most are already convinced that this is so.
Lately, I've seen a lot written for copywriters on the subject of the B2B market. It's being pushed as a market that provides a nice, steady source of lower key, lower pressure projects. As if it is a less demanding and easier market well suited to those who can't quite make the grade as a B2C direct response writer.
Having been involved in both B2B and B2C sales, marketing and copywriting for more than 20 years, I have made the following observations:
- The B2B market is different to the B2C market in perception more than in reality. B2B purchasers are still human and are still swayed by human emotions when it comes to making purchasing decisions. The major difference, for the most part, is that B2B organizations have completely underutilized the sales, marketing and copy writing opportunities available to them. They are literally sitting on 'hidden assets'.
- Although the 'packaging' of sales and marketing messages should be different for the B2B market than they are for the B2C market, the same basic underlying principles apply to both as far as crafting messages, offers and motivations is concerned.
- Most marketing opportunities in B2B are overlooked - whereas in B2C, every available opportunity is exploited by strong marketers. For instance, most of my B2B clients, prior to working with me, had never looked at printed collateral such as brochures, white papers, annual reports etc as sales opportunities. They were surprised to discover that these low key items present amazing scope to multi-task as strong sales tools if created with that purpose in mind. In my opinion, nothing that is done by a B2B organization should be left unexplored as a possible opportunity to create an additional marketing tool.
- More B2B sales people resist this type of approach than B2C sales people. For some reason many feel that it threatens their professional image - a fear which is totally unfounded.
- B2B markets are often less volatile than B2C markets and thus results are correspondingly more difficult to track as they may be spread over a far longer time period. Dips and peaks in the economy affect B2B markets after they affect B2C markets in most cases. However, B2B markets may also recover from dips later than the B2C markets. On the upside, sometimes the lag is long enough that the B2B market passes through this period with far less impact overall, especially if they have been diligent in their marketing efforts before a slow-down happens.
My advice to B2B organizations based on my experience with current clients in this economy is:
- Examine everything you do from answering the phones to shipping your product - there are usually many ways to promote hidden in every area of your business. If no one else in your industry is making use of these opportunities it simply means they are stuck in a rut. I often find that once my clients begin adopting a new approach, they're quickly followed by others who suddenly awaken to the opportunity.
- Pay far more attention to staying in touch with, educating and encouraging your customers. Set up an ongoing and consistent communication system immediately. This system can include emails, letters, newsletters, white papers, articles, press releases, interviews and blogs. This list is not finite, there are many other techniques that can be added. My advice is: get one up and running at a time. Make sure it's running smoothly then add the next. Soon you'll have a network of communications strategies working on virtual 'auto pilot'.
- Create a two way communication system that allows you to tap into your customer's mind to discover what motivates them and what could help them meet their challenges. Position your business as an adviser rather than only a supplier. Make opportunities for your customers to tell you about their challenges and their needs - don't assume that you already know what they are.
- Find ways to offer better value - whether it's by improving your the product itself or by offering added-value services or additions to the product. Often bundling a combination of products or products and services can provide the edge you need to both keep your customer engaged and stay ahead of the competition.
Following these simple guidelines will help your business pull out of the doldrums and be well positioned to outperform your competition both immediately and long term.