There are many issues that add to the complexity of B2B marketing including the project driven nature of many B2B markets and servicing the needs of a large decision making team. This post offers some guidance on how these challenges may be addressed.
There are a number of reasons why B2B marketing is much more complex and challenging than B2C including.
- Purchasing decisions made by a group rather than a single person.
- Long buying cycles requiring ongoing delivery of appropriate information.
- Project driven – changes and delays in the final project causing design changes, delays, objections and more competition.
- Lower number of prospects increases the importance of each lead.
- Relationships, at many different levels within a potential customer, are key. The more people in the decision making team the more chance of a poor relationship with one or more of those decision makers.
- Product complexity leads to more objections and more information requests.
The traditional methods of dealing with this complexity were to have sales people able to identify the key decision makers and develop strong ongoing relationships with each of them. The sales process involved understanding needs, delivering information and dealing with objections on an ongoing basis until an opportunity arose to close the sale.
In many B2B organisations the same set of sales people were responsible for generating leads (with or without a marketing department) as were responsible for developing the sales process as discussed above. A more effective operation was based on splitting sales responsibilities between those responsible for generating leads, qualifying leads and establishing initial relationships (with the help of marketing) and those responsible for developing a sale to close.
Push marketing was used to promote a business and its products or services. Generally this involved delivering promotional messages on what a business offered, what made it different and why customers should buy via channels such as advertising, direct mail and telemarketing. Today, various studies show that push channels are less and less effective leading to a rise in the popularity of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is based on pull rather than push and, when delivered correctly, is a perfect process to address customer information requirements at various points in the sales process (see list of B2B marketing challenges above). Content marketing represents a large part of the inbound marketing process and is based on delivering useful, engaging, information to prospects via the most appropriate channel and at the correct point in the sales process.
Unlike push marketing the information delivered is not promotional in any way but simply services the information requirements of various members of the decision making team at appropriate points in the sales process. How this non promotional information material may be converted to sales opportunities will be the subject for a future post.
Content marketing then services the information needs of a diverse group of decision makers; it raises the credibility of the potential supplier and keeps them front of mind. Content may be delivered over an extended sales process and address objections and product complexity issues before they arise. Ongoing delivery of appropriate information also maintains relationships over the long term, reduces the cost and improves the effectiveness of the sales process. Today, Personal relationships are still of importance but are most effective when combined with an inbound marketing process.
The project driven nature of many B2B markets adds further complexity. It is all too easy to be well placed with one customer only to find that another potential customer wins the contract and all the hard work is wasted. Often many sub contractors (each a potential customer) bid for a single major project. It is important to cover each of these potential customers (sub contractors) and their decision making teams to avoid missed opportunities and wasted resources. A project tracking system, linked into the content marketing and sales process is one solution. How these may be constructed will be covered in a future post.
To be successful in B2B markets requires a well structured sales organisation and effective marketing. A specific type of marketer is required with industry knowledge, long term experience of the traditional B2B marketing process and knowledge of how to integrate what is best from the traditional approach with the latest best practice inbound marketing techniques.
Should you want to know more about the project tracking process then please get in touch.