The Challenges Of B2B Marketing

The B2B sector is changing. However perceptions of this important area of marketing are often stuck.

Talented young people still want to work on consumer accounts because they perceive them as sexier… But, how can B2B show that, in reality, this is not ALWAYS the case. Could it be by encouraging creativity in the sector? Could it be through the migration to digital and even social media? And will the reduction in budgets across key B2B sectors (construction, automotive, etc) continue to push fresh thinking to react to the constant challenges, in turn, pushing creativity and driving a new age of talent coming through…

B2B International Director, Nick Hague, was recently interviewed by The Drum to get his views and below are the answers to some of the questions

  • THE DRUM: How relevant is Social Media to B2B Marketing?

NH: At the moment, social media is definitely still in its infancy when compared 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. 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 eg private brand blogs/communities rather than Facebook; Linkedin rather than Twitter and podcasts rather than YouTube. Here at B2B International we have embraced social media to play a role in brand building and positioning through the development of our blog since January 2006. Throughout the last 4 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 –

  • THE DRUM: How can the industry tackle the percieved lack of creativity in B2B Marketing?

NH: I think it is purely down to laziness of the industry not carrying out the necessary market research to get into the targets mind to understand what makes them tick. People in business are still human and do make business decisions based on emotion so this shouldn’t be lost in trying to develop a B2B marketing campaign. I think another misconception in B2B marketing is also the fact that too much attention is paid to the product rather than the bigger picture to hone in on people’s needs – has a picture of a new printer ever evoked a stirring need in you to go and order one for your office?

  • THE DRUM: How do you convince talented new recruits that B2B can be just as sexy as consumer accounts?

NH: I think the plain answer is, because of the lack of creativity that has gone before in the industry, it is much easier to make your mark in B2B marketing than maybe it would be in B2C marketing. Also, I believe there is a greater incentive for being a bit riskier in B2B markets as there is so much staid marketing and advertising that goes on with stock images of laptops and handshakes. The bolder the message, the greater reward in the end.

  • THE DRUM: Is B2B marketing now more important than ever?

NH: As Drucker once said “A time of turbulence is a dangerous time, but its greatest danger is a temptation to deny reality. However a time of turbulence is also one great opportunity for those who can understand, accept andexploit the new realities. It is above all a time of opportunity for leadership”. Whatever the marketing strategy being considered, one of the most difficult challenges faced by B2B marketers is convincing senior management of the value of marketing and the need to invest in it, especially in bad times (when budgets have no doubt been cut). Marketing teams need to prove the ROI of their actions at all times so as to obtain buy-in to marketing efforts and acknowledgement of the importance of marketing as a strategic approach to business which will in the end impact on the bottom line.

  • THE DRUM: What are the biggest problems faced by business-to-business marketers?

NH: I think the problems that B2B marketers face today are the same as they have faced historically in the past. Small customer numbers, complex decision making units and complex products and applications throw the emphasis on close targeting and personal relationships, especially in the current economic climate. One of the problems in B2B marketing however is getting across the message that your product or service is different to those of the competition (especially as so many B2B markets are commodities with little differentiation). Therefore being able to truly understand customer needs is the starting point in any successful B2B marketing campaign.

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