B2B marketing (short for business-to-business marketing) involves the sale of a company’s product or service to another company. The main focus of this business marketing strategy is to meet the needs of other businesses, and is a big part of the value chain that culminates in the end product sold to clients. B2B marketing strategies vary from advertising in trade journals, conventions and conferences, to the more recent digital marketing strategies such as online shops, websites with search engine optimised content and mass emails.
B2B marketing techniques are based on the basic principles of B2C marketing (business-to-consumer marketing), with the only difference being its unique way of execution. When it comes to purchases, consumers generally decide based on price, brand familiarity, quality and other emotional triggers, but for B2B buyers, the decision to purchase is made by considering solely the price and profit potential. Good business relationships are of utmost importance to companies involved in B2B marketing, its main goal being to secure returning customers – a key imperative for any company, big or small.
The simplest example of a B2B company would be Dropbox. It’s a storage service that is also used to share documents. Dropbox services are used by individual consumers globally, but businesses also make up a big part of its clientele. There were 500 million Dropbox users as of 2016, an impressive milestone for a company that was founded only nine years ago. To capture a bigger market share, Dropbox officially entered into the B2B marketing sphere in 2011, successfully blurring the lines between B2B and B2C markets. This brand marketing strategy brought great gains to the business. Its evolution into Dropbox Business in 2013 and the launch of its new offering, Dropbox Enterprise, two years later, was well received. It now boasts more than 8 million business users, with 150,000 businesses subscribing to the premium service. Its widespread adoption has been phenomenal, and this successful streak is expected to continue with more than 20,000 corporate customers signing up each quarter.
The customer DNA of B2B companies
B2B marketing strategies are generally targeted at the following groups:
- companies that use their products, e.g. A clothing manufacturer who buys cotton to produce clothing
- governments, whose procurement contracts can net big profits for a B2B company
- institutions such as hospitals, which need a constant supply of health equipment
- brokers and wholesalers.
B2B companies would do well to understand the needs of their clients to ensure that any marketing strategy employed produces the right results. Being a specialised area of business, B2B companies must ensure that their pricing, products and promotion tactics are tailored to the clients’ image and specific needs.
Embracing electronic platforms
Many B2B marketing models now employ new business marketing strategies by trading their legacy systems, which use EDI (electronic data interchange, i.e. computer-to-computer automated processing), for more cost-effective and efficient online platforms, where buyers and sellers can conduct business transactions from where they are based globally, via the Internet. This marked the shift from the traditional ‘one-to-many’ model, where one business worked with multiple suppliers using EDIs, to the ‘many-to-many’ model, where businesses assimilate their marketing strategies with e-procurement firms and online B2B retailers to enable online purchases.
More and more B2B companies are also maintaining company websites to allow for more connectivity between businesses. Company websites are gateways to an exclusive domain for clients or registered site users, and can also function as an intranet for internal use. Many B2B companies sell their products through their company websites, while other B2B companies offer software for developing B2B websites, making it a B2B for B2Bs. Apart from transaction capabilities, this site-building software also provides site-building tools and templates and database management methods.
B2B marketing commands the largest market share compared to all other markets, far exceeding the consumer market in dollar value. In the eCommerce sphere, China leads the pack – bolstered in no small part by e Commerce giant, Alibaba – and is anticipated to become the largest online B2B market with an estimated worth of US$2.1 trillion by 2020. With its effective brand marketing strategy, Alibaba has grown by leaps and bounds in the B2B marketplace. Research from business consultancy Frost & Sullivan finds that Alibaba’s gross merchandise value is expected to grow to US$6.7 trillion in by 2020, consequently making the B2B eCommerce market twice as big as the B2C market (worth approximately US$3.2 trillion as of end-2014) within that timeframe.
Jumping on the social media bandwagon
These days, it would not be surprising to find B2B players that have social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter. Based on a study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 87% of B2B companies currently use social media platforms to enhance their brand marketing strategies. Social media platforms are the new mediums to foster good business relationships, and have opened the avenue for a two-way dialogue between businesses. The B2B model is essentially rooted in providing a service across companies, and to ensure increased revenues and maintain the loyalty of customers, relationships are everything. Social media platforms are excellent communication tools that could be used to keep your clients informed and appreciated. A survey conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate found that businesses are more likely to buy from companies they track through social media.
A great example of how social media benefits B2B players is General Electric’s Facebook campaign, which has proved to be a great business marketing strategy. The tagline for GE’s Facebook page states: “We love science, technology innovation and hearing from you! So, say hello.” This simple yet effective marketing strategy resulted in nearly 1.5 million likes for the page. Its method of interacting with its business clients and consumers through videos, questionnaires and contests gave the company broader outreach and strong brand recognition.
Technology continues to disrupt the way B2B marketing brings in clients and has effectively pushed B2B companies to embrace new age business marketing strategies that will make their targeted client segment sit up and take notice. The future of B2B marketing needs to see companies developing persuasive content for clients, strengthening and building solid client relationships, and delivering on the promise of quality.
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