Archive for the ‘B2C’ Category
Nick Hague this week delves into the world of social media to determine its relevance for B2B marketers.
When our IT Manager spoke to me back in 2005 about Web 2.0 and the way it was going to change not only how we did business at B2B International but also how we communicate to our customers, my eyes glazed over as I was lost in hi-tech babble.
However, I duly took a lot of what was said on board and we implemented our blog that has not only played a major role in our brand building and positioning but also has been a key element in our continued SEO push. Throughout the last 5 years we have concentrated our efforts on delivering new and fresh content with the end result now being a repository that holds a massive amount of information including podcasts, e-books, videos and white papers. However, that was then and this is now (back then there was no such things as tweeting).
With many businesses these days venturing into the ‘Wild West’ of social media, trying their hand at Twitter and creating a company profile on Facebook, I felt it worthwhile diving back into the world of social media to see if there are other learnings we B2B marketers can take from our consumer cousins.
Firstly I did some digging into the Twitter phenomenon to see if this truly was something for us to look into, since our main foray into the world of social media had principally been blogging. I found from a recent study with B2B marketers that Twitter didn’t transpire to be the groundbreaking trend that I had been led to believe. So much so that nearly a half of the 400 people surveyed stated they were dissatisfied with their return on tweets and four out of five couldn’t directly attribute any increase in revenue from their Twitter activity. ‘Hold on a minute’ I thought, ‘are these consumer marketers or B2B marketers?’ (After all, this was meant to be a study of B2B marketers.)
Do they not know that the sales cycle for B2B products is not instantaneous and is often a very long process involving numerous decision makers from financial and operative through to production and technical? When was the last time you spent $500,000 on a new software platform without some serious consideration from multiple parties? B2C marketing is all about ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ – just look at the number of celebrities that are using Twitter to bolster their waning status.
B2B marketing is very much more about a relationship lifecycle that numbers years, not months, but this is where I think B2B companies can take advantage of social media more so than consumer companies. Twitter is just part of the armoury at our disposal that contributes to building brand awareness and engaging in the many continuous touch-points we look to generate; we shouldn’t ignore the tried and tested methods of direct mail. By way of example, one of my colleagues recently received an e-mail from a previous client with whom we hadn’t done business for over 5 years but had continued to communicate with through a mixture of direct marketing:
Subject: direct mails from B2B Hi Paul, hope all is well. Just received this afternoon one of the almost legendary direct mails from B2B – unfortunately the Belgium team did not make it to South-Africa… Nevertheless, I hope to get in touch with you soon regarding picking up brand awareness survey again (that’s five years ago!) cheers w.
Subject: direct mails from B2B
Hi Paul, hope all is well.
Just received this afternoon one of the almost legendary direct mails from B2B – unfortunately the Belgium team did not make it to South-Africa…
Nevertheless, I hope to get in touch with you soon regarding picking up brand awareness survey again (that’s five years ago!)
It is true to say that, at the moment, social media is definitely still in its infancy when relating to B2C marketing, but I believe that social media usage within a B2B market can actually deliver greater rewards; especially because B2B marketers address a much smaller number of customers who spend larger amounts of money, and personal relationships are of much more importance than in B2C markets – we just need to be clever with it.
The first thing to understand is that social media for B2B markets is more about education, facilitating word of mouth referrals and driving traffic to your website as well as thought leadership, and therefore requires deeper layers of interaction. For example, concentrate on company blogs and communities rather than Facebook; place more effort on relationship marketing through Linkedin rather than Twittering away; and deliver useful, relevant podcasts rather than spouting lyrical about anything and everything on YouTube.
And that brings me to my final point on social media. On the same day last week, one of my colleagues sent through an amusing link to the BP spills coffee video on YouTube whilst a ‘loose friend’ on Facebook sent me a request to join the group ‘I hate BP’. The video is very funny and I recommend you search it out as it will definitely make you laugh. This then triggered me to view the ‘I hate BP’ page on Facebook and saw that 9,009 people had already joined this crusade. It made me realise the power of the internet and social media that can very quickly either work in your favour or dramatically against you, as in BP’s case.
How your business is perceived in the Web 2.0 world will affect your reputation and your ability to connect with customers, associates and potential customers (just look at the BP example). If you are a B2B company just about to take the plunge into the creation of your social media blog, first of all determine if you have or can produce enough relevant content for the media and customers to justify the development in the first place. Content is king!
Secondly, make sure it looks good. Branding, design and user experience matter when you are interacting with social media and the main objective is to deliver relevant information, quickly.
Finally, make sure it is up-to-date. Social media is the first step in content marketing. The value of the content lies in being able to aggregate information in one place that helps build search traffic while serving as a clearing house for information relevant to the media, customers and employees. For social media to have value you have to have more than news releases to post; you need other information such as images, video and social links that provide an added layer of information and perspective about the organisation. Remember, who wants to commission a company that can’t even manage an engaging, thought-provoking blog?
Ethnography research is a technique that is being used more and more in business to business markets and in the last month B2B International has carried out numerous ethnographic projects looking at getting into the mind of the trade (both plumbers and builders).
Ethnographic research must surely be among the most misunderstood, misrepresented and misused of the currently used qualitative research techniques, and this is true whether it is within a B2B or a B2C context. This article below by Neil McPhee and taken from this month’s BIG Times spreads some light on the technique.
What is Ethnography?
Ethnography is a research process that is rooted in the anthropological and sociological traditions of understanding that places a researcher within the context of the research setting they are studying. Through the process of first hand observation and participation in people’s lives, a process known as cultural immersion, we are able to gain a deeper understanding of individuals and their cultural belief systems. Ethnography represents more than mere observation, it involves direct participation into the lives and the culture of people. Its strength is its attempt to get at the underlying meanings of actions and beliefs within the context of a cultural group/ setting. In order to leverage ethnography to generate new insights, commercial research organisations have uniquely adapted ethnography to fit the needs of commercial business practice.
My friend and co-tutor, on the ESOMAR Ethnography and Observation workshop, Hy Mariampolski PhD, from the USA, calls it Marketing Ethnography. I tend to call it Research or Commercial Ethnography, but in any event, it has a number of characteristics which make it a very different animal from an interview. Commercial ethnography is a movement away from the study of ‘native cultures’ and a movement towards the study of consumer cultures, this including a B2B context here. The principles are the same: a quest to understand people within the context of their natural environment.
Due to both consumer and business pressures we spend much shorter periods of time than would be ideal with people but our aim is still to participate directly in people’s lives in order to gain access to social situations that help us to better understand their world. We then take this understanding into the realm of business to better design products and services that will in turn better meet the needs of our constituents.
How do we recognize “ethnography?”
There are a number of attributes that constitute its practice.
1. Ethnography: describes the behaviours, values, beliefs, and practices of the participants in a given cultural setting. This is important, as the notion of Culture/Values etc, are prerequisites for “real” ethnography. We need to identify, and then understand,
Most of you reading B2B International’s blog will be marketers of b2b products and services. But how often do you think about those end consumers? They may not be able to buy your products in stores, but there is a school of thought which says that if you do market your business-to-business product or service to consumers, you could create new demand from potential business partners.
So says ‘B-to-B-to-C’, an interesting article in September 30 issue of Marketing News.
The article reminds us that behind the face of many consumer products and services, there’s a business-to-business brand that distinguishes the product from the competition. These b2b ‘ingredient’ brands all help to create the product that the end consumer is ultimately looking for. Some b2b brand managers therefore market to consumers, hoping that if end-users care about their brands, business partners will embrace them and promote them.
If this is a route you wish to go down – and there can be little doubt that this is a bold strategy to adopt – there are no hard and fast rules as to how much of your marketing budget should be allocated to the different business and consumer marketing efforts. Indeed, if not done correctly, marketing your b2b brand directly to consumers can be a very easy way to spend a lot of money with very little return.
A good starting point is – as always – thorough research. Research can demonstrate to you whether your brand possesses a distinct value and whether it could impact positively on a consumer brand’s profile and price point. If this is the case, consumer marketing may be an option for your b2b brand.
Try to convince your b2b client to promote your brand on their product: this will make your b2b ‘ingredient’ matter to consumers. Just make sure that your ingredient brand’s stand-out attribute is clearly explained to the end consumers so you can ultimately encourage them to demand products that possess your brand. To do this, its distinctiveness needs to resonate with end users, so make sure your research shows that consumers see the value of your brand. A segmentation study may, for example, determine which types of consumers would be attracted to your brand offering.
The article finishes with some words of advice for anyone doing B-to-B-to-C marketing: You need to help the consumer products brandishing your ingredient to succeed. Put simply, if they win, you win.
At a time when consumers and businesses alike are watching the purse strings, Carol-Ann Morgan reiterates the importance of understanding what buyers of your products and services really value.
The newspapers tell us today that the recession is subsiding, and that we are fighting back to economic recovery. Times have been hard for businesses and for individuals, and everyone has felt the need to tighten their belts. We find ourselves watching the bank balance, cutting costs, and curbing spending; frugality is in and excess is out (for now at least!). This, in turn, can impact on the pricing strategy adopted by many companies, as some consumers change behaviours of past times; buying less, buying differently, reappraising the value of their purchases. This pattern then impacts down the supply chain, affecting both B2B and B2C companies.
Price has always been a subject of much debate; how to do it, how to value products, competitive pressure, product lifecycle, buyer behaviours, customer loyalty, etc, etc. However, the key element of price is in the value of the product and/or service to the customer, and strategies have to reflect this.
Market segmentation enables companies to better serve the market, developing and marketing products which resound more closely with the intended customer base. Most needs based segmentations will reveal a price driven segment; one where, above all, the price is the major decision making driver. Interestingly, it is usually a much smaller segment than people suppose. Of course, price always has a role in decision making, and it is important to establish how and where it is positioned for our customers and potential customers.
I see several typologies for price positioning, based on the relationship between price and perceived value. These four, in particular, are common and easily recognisable…
The question now is whether or not the global frugality has made us all more price conscious than we were previously. Thus, the way in which the price and the product are valued needs to be understood in depth in order to accurately evaluate the position of price in the mind of our target customers. This is especially the case for B2B companies where the value of an order or longer-term supply relationship can be critical to business survival.
Is business-to-business marketing really that different from business-to-consumer marketing? As business-to-business market research specialists, managing hundreds of b2b projects every year, we certainly think so.
Our latest white paper, ‘Why is business-to-business marketing special?’, recognises the many differences between the business and consumer disciplines, highlighting the implications of these differences when it comes to implementing a business-to-business marketing strategy.
B2b marketing is about meeting the needs of other businesses, though ultimately the demand for the products made by these businesses is likely to be driven by consumers. When acting as consumers, we are often less well-informed, less accountable to others and far more susceptible to whims, indulgences, recklessness and showing off than is the case when we are in the workplace. We therefore have a tendency to make purchasing decisions that a rational observer (a business-to-business buyer that has to make a profit each month) would regard as ludicrous. As consumers we are far less likely to ask whether the product we are buying has an ROI. We buy what we want, not what we need. Not so in b2b.
B2b marketing is actually more unique than most people realise; our white paper highlights ten key factors that make b2b markets special and different from consumer markets. To summarise:
The full white paper, which expands on each of the above points and highlights their implications for the business-to-business marketer, can be accessed here.