At their core, all businesses sell to people - not to other businesses. Whether your expertise is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) products or services, the approach to customers is becoming more and more similar. Why? Because people buy from people, not companies. The trick is getting your message to the right people, at the right time and in the right way.
Best-selling marketing author, Seth Godin, once said, “The secret is in understanding that the people who are buying from you are still people... the one big difference is they are spending someone else’s money and your job is to give them (buyers) a story they can tell their boss.”
This is true in all B2B companies, especially manufacturers.
Seth goes on to add, “If you can’t, then the only story that is available to tell the boss is either ‘I bought what I bought last time’ or ‘I bought the cheaper one’ - and if you’re not the cheaper one then you need to bring them a story about status and affiliation - a story they can tell their boss (to persuade them to go with your offering).”
B2C companies have always sold what people want, not necessarily what they need. New cars, clothes, sports equipment etc. Most people do not want or need a commercial-grade freezer, packaging equipment or custom plastic extruder. But many B2B companies do!
For B2B companies, the challenge is often convincing buyers that you have the thing they need, versus something they want. Your product could save time, reduce costs or make a job easier, but before anyone considers a purchase they need to understand your offering and know the story about how your product will help them. This requires careful thought, straightforward language and in many cases, repetition across various channels.
There was a time when B2B companies were notorious for sharing only business-forward and very technical material for a very specific audience and only by request. They shared brochures, price sheets, product specifications and demonstration opportunities. Some experimented with developing short videos or opened social media accounts, but these were focused on their company and their products. Rarely, did they mention customers or what their customers actually wanted or needed.
Today, B2B companies and manufacturers, in particular, have opened their eyes to the interest and engagement they can create by taking a few tips from B2C businesses. Consumer marketing takes risks and does whatever it takes to get noticed by potential customers. For B2B companies, these same risks can feel particularly dangerous, but they can also pay off well if done strategically.
A while ago, we shared a whitepaper with tips and insights B2B marketers, especially in manufacturing businesses, can adopt to help them stand apart from their competition who are often still doing the same things, in the same old ways. The advice we shared then, is still relevant today. People want to be treated as people, not numbers or accounts. To be successful, manufacturing marketing today must evolve to humanize and intrigue buyers of very technical offerings.
By adapting tried and true B2B marketing practices to connect with today’s buyers in new ways, businesses create opportunities not only to build their brand but also to connect with customers and maximize sales.
How are B2B marketing and consumer marketing different?
They have different sales processes.
The B2B sales process is longer, the market size is smaller and the purchase amounts are often significantly higher. As a result, the marketing approach is more niche-oriented, refined and focused, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring.
B2B buying decisions are based on business value.
Quantitative analysis and ROI are essential in the B2B world and buyers are educated and very focused on their company’s needs. They buy products/services to help their company stay profitable, competitive and successful. As a result, B2B marketing often reflects these requirements and provides the specific material requested - but a little more.
B2B and manufacturing companies often have multiple decision-makers.
Whether you’re appealing to the technical buyer, the economic buyer or the end-user buyer, it’s always a challenge to educate everyone about your products and address their specific pain points. This is why offering various educational and awareness-building marketing activities is crucial and expected in the current market.
When sales cycles are long, and buying is motivated by business goals, budgets, relationships and more, manufacturing marketers must find new ways to reach all potential audiences - in the places they want to be reached.
So, how can manufacturing and B2B companies, in general, get ahead?
By focusing on the right strategy.
More than ever, business strategy is a critical element of solid manufacturing marketing. It’s more important than the creative side of the equation. Understanding the difference between business strategy and marketing strategy can set your efforts apart. Your business strategy is essential to organizing your operations and to setting and achieving your goals. Once you have a business strategy in place, then you can build your marketing strategy to support it.
By building awareness and increasing loyalty among customers with strategy, manufacturers can generate more solid leads and, by supporting the sales process, they will ultimately generate revenue and profit. Sales generation is the bottom line.
B2B marketers have many audiences and must target multiple decision-makers rather than a single persona. Great B2B marketers understand their company’s financial model and make investment decisions based on which types of channels and tactics best fulfill the business objectives and increase profitability.
Our advice gives manufacturing companies the opportunity to rethink who their customers are and how to interact with them. Our whitepaper shared 10 tactics B2B and manufacturing companies can use to broaden their reach and get noticed. We see all of these tactics regularly used by B2C marketers and they can be easily adopted by any B2B company.
1. Provide product and pricing information
B2B marketers shouldn’t be afraid to provide as much product information as they can on their website and in marketing collateral. The current buyer’s journey is now predominantly digital, so it’s important to share all the information a buyer might be interested in upfront without them having to ask for it.
2. Use customer reviews and testimonials
Help customers feel confident in their buying decisions by offering reviews, testimonials and case studies to illustrate challenges customers have faced, how your product or service has addressed these challenges and the results achieved.
3. Simplify the buying process
Make the buying process as easy as possible and your business could increase sales. If you can’t make the process as easy as the click of a button, consider featuring comparisons and evaluation templates that move customers from the research phase to the buying phase without the need for lengthy demonstrations or sales calls. When buyers can do the bulk of their research online from the comfort of wherever they are, they are likely to enjoy the process more and take action.
4. Give something away
Build buzz and credibility by offering something for free. Consider free trials or free consulting to encourage prospects to try out your product or service. A satisfied trial often ends in a solid relationship and purchase(s).
5. Provide content in smaller segments
Very few have the time or interest to read all your long-form content. Customers are looking for quick hits of information. Grab their attention with short videos, infographics, top 10 lists, fun facts, blogs and FAQs. These smaller and easier-to-digest bits of information will open the door when a prospect is ready to consider a purchase.
6. Engage and be relatable
Focusing on the benefits of your product rather than just the functionality will help you connect with customers on a human level. Where appropriate, try using industry humour that your customers can identify with. Above all, connect and inform customers with relevant information that provides genuine value.
7. Get visual
People remember pictures. Especially nice ones, with people in them. B2B marketers are starting to prioritize imagery in their content. Here are 4 Reasons Why You Need To Hire A Photographer.
8. Embrace video
Today, web and social media users expect short, informative videos to highlight new products and the expertise of a company. Learn more about why and when to use videos and the 4 steps to create them.
9. Use social media
The point here is to actively use the social media accounts your company has. Not using them is a huge wasted opportunity. Here are 3 myths that keep manufacturers from using social media. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.
10. Upcycle your content to reach more customers
If your marketing strategy utilizes content marketing and you’ve been disciplined about regularly writing blogs, articles and other types of content, you should have quite an archive of old pieces - many hidden content gems. Take a page from B2C marketers and rework and reuse that content in different ways and on different platforms. An article or presentation could become multiple blog posts, blog posts could become social media posts. You get the idea.
Recently, Marketing Profs shared an article that echos the sentiments behind these tactics. The article, Three Things B2B Marketers Can Learn From B2C Marketing Strategies, speaks to the continued need for B2B companies to find ways to connect with current and potential customers in more human ways.
Specifically, they mention these three strategies that piggyback nicely with our original list.
1. Increased personalization
Prospects are human and expect and appreciate a more personal approach. B2B companies can create simple opportunities to show their human side by customizing more than just "first name" or "company name" in emails and other material. Try something different. Business messaging doesn't have to be boring.
2. Digital Touchpoints
B2B companies can successfully establish and cultivate long-term relationships with their customers with tactics such as marketing emails and text message marketing.
3. Relevant content
It’s easier than ever for marketers to analyze what content is being consumed. It may be the most downloaded content, the number of views, or social engagement for specific messages. Following up with relevant, helpful materials can provide value while earning the customer's gratitude and respect, and earning a potential current or future sale.
Marketing is constantly evolving, and there’s a lot to keep up with. Whether you’re new to manufacturer marketing or a seasoned veteran, everyone has something to learn from B2C marketing about how to effectively interact with customers.
People buy and sell from other people, and they don’t want to be treated like a number. Show some humanity and try something new, even if it scares your business leaders a little.
Download 10 Tactics B2B Marketers Should Steal from B2C to help you get started.
Are you interested in learning more about how to effectively market your manufacturing business? Contact us today.
Mezzanine B2B Growth Agents specializes in B2B demand and lead generation for companies that have complex sales such as manufacturers. It’s all we do, so we have the depth and breadth of experience to help your manufacturing company continue to grow. Get to know Mezzanine B2B Growth Agents and learn how we can help your manufacturing company.
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Originally published in 2019, this post has been updated to add new guidance and more information that was not included in the original post.