Business-to-business marketing is one of the most overlooked segments of business, particularly within companies that also have a consumer base as well. Never make the mistake that what works for direct-customer sales will work for your B2B interactions – marketing right to businesses takes a different approach and a different mindset to work, especially in today’s age of social media and blurred professional boundaries.
Here are a few rules to live by in the sometimes confusing, sometimes confounding world of B2B marketing.
Rule 1: Build relationships, not just impressions.
The biggest mistake marketers make when selling directly to businesses is wasting money and time on high-volume, low-impact marketing tactics. Sure, building brand recognition and making “impressions” can work for consumer sales; effective B2B relationships take a more cultivated approach. Stop wasting effort on mass emails or direct marketing materials. Learn which businesses (or business segments) you want to target and start going after them, one by one. Of course, this method takes more time and commitment but in B2B marketing relationships are far more valuable than impressions.
Rule 2: Know their business better than they do.
The cardinal rule of business is that objective opinions are worth their weight in gold. It’s the reason consultants exist! When selling yourself or your products to a business, know exactly why they need you. The more hard data you can put behind your pitch the better, and the more time you spend learning about their business the better you’ll be able to rebut any concerns they have. Tools such as BizShark.com are excellent resources for researching a company. Businesses notice when you spend time getting to know them before marketing yourself. It’s the difference in being at a cocktail party talking to someone who doesn’t ask a thing about you and talking to someone who seems genuinely interested in getting to know you better.
Rule 3: Don’t be too single-focused.
Your product and/or services are great. This business needs them, sure. But if you meet with resistance don’t think your own product is all you have to offer. Just like content marketing works by building your reputation as an expert in your field, good B2B marketing does too. If a potential client’s not buying, offer them solutions or contacts within your network for what they do want to buy. Maybe it’s not your product today, but it could be tomorrow. Perhaps they’ll learn to trust you as a business contact and come to you later, or better yet refer you to someone else who wants to buy today.
Rule 4: Don’t be Obnoxious, Be persistent
Sometimes a business just isn’t ready to buy. Maybe they don’t have the cash or maybe you haven’t built your case well enough. Whatever the reason, “no” doesn’t usually mean “never.” Follow up often and using different means (i.e. phone call, email, drop off samples by the office, etc.) but keep the visits sporadic. Your business and the client will dictate how often to be in touch but every 1-2 months is a good general rule. If you sense the business is getting annoyed with you, back off for a while. Persistence never hurts long term and can lead to a contract with the potential client and at the very least, a referral.
Knowing the business you’re pitching is half the battle when it comes to effective B2B marketing. Never assume your product or service is so good it will sell itself. If they knew they needed you, marketing wouldn’t be an issue! Great business-to-business relationships usually build slowly, over time, and whatever you do – always stay professional!
Guest Post by Ryan, Product Manager at Biz Shark, with 5 years experience in online marketing and product development.