As I teach my marketing courses at the local university, I often hear myself differentiating between the worlds of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) branding. They are drastically different undertakings, after all.
B2C mostly deals with the “now” of marketing. It’s often very promotion-based, with sales and offers and high-pressure tactics. It’s tempting to measure B2C results immediately, because so many of the metrics we watch are impacted right away – sales lift, store traffic, coupon redemption, etc. When you advertise a new kind of deodorant, your hope is that the target audience will pick up your product the next time they are at Walmart – which might be the same day.
Here at Anchor, we specialize in B2B strategy and communication, and at first glance, it can seem much more challenging. Why is that? The lion’s share of the folks who read this blog are business people (many in management). If that’s true for you, consider the last time you advocated a purchase at work. You likely had to make a request to another department to buy the product on your behalf. If it was a sizable purchase, there were (unfortunately) committees involved.
In some companies, buying printer paper takes weeks. In most companies, buying a new computer system takes months, if not years. Even when the buying decision is made in a timely manner, the build-up to that decision (identifying a need, discussing it, monitoring performance, etc.) can be a long process.
B2B communication isn’t just hard because it’s so difficult to efficiently reach decision makers, it’s hard because decisions take so much time even if you do. There is no such thing as instant gratification in B2B. It takes skill, experience and most of all, patience.
At Anchor, if we create a super-targeted campaign aimed at business owners in a certain industry (using tactics like remarketing, geo-fencing, search marketing, LinkedIn, etc.), it’s only the beginning of the process. Once a lead is identified (via the website, a phone call or a meeting at a trade show, for example), that lead needs to be nurtured by the sales team. Then the purchasing department gets involved, and the legal department, and the engineering department (etc., etc.).
It takes time, and the stakes are high. In B2B, if a purchaser makes the wrong decision, they may lose their job (and everything that goes with it). That’s why the process is so slow. That’s why the decision makers are so careful. That’s why building a long-term brand in B2B takes so much concentration.
B2B is difficult because you must play the long game to make an impact.
You have to commit to a brand message that is consistent over long periods of time and through a wide variety of constantly-changing media. You need to develop a strong relationship with your target audience because purchases are so important.
It’s all worth it in the end, of course. B2B marketing isn’t just a one-and-done proposition. Once you build trust, the relationships you foster can last for a lifetime. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.