Jun 11, 2010

The Rise of Consumer Marketing in B2B

Until recently, business-to-business (B2B) companies have relied on traditional sales models – relationships, customer referrals and dedicated sales professionals – to build their businesses.

Times are changing, and the Web has upset the apple cart. B2B companies can’t rely on the old models anymore, because their customers’ expectations have changed. Their customers aren’t sourcing vendors on the golf course or the local chamber of commerce; they’re going online.

Today, sales people play only a small part in the total buying process. Customers leverage the Web to search for vendors, review products and features, read reviews, and compare-and-contrast their options. All of this takes place without ever speaking to a sales person.

Buyers are in control

Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies like Nike and Proctor & Gamble don’t rely on sales people to sell their products to consumers; they don’t have that luxury. Rather, they rely on branding, advertising, promotions and packaging to encourage consumers to select their products.

A similar dynamic is emerging in the B2B category. The Web provides easy access to information, which has empowered customers to direct their own buying efforts. They don’t have to rely on sales people for information; they can get it themselves. This change in buyer behavior is having a profound impact on B2B companies, because they can’t rely on their traditional relationships and referrals to grow their business anymore. B2B companies are being forced to adopt B2C marketing strategies in order to sell their products.

Fulfill your customers’ expectations

B2B customers have very high expectations. They want to buy products or services that are well packaged, have a clear value proposition and fit their needs. That means B2B companies have to step up, and master three key marketing strategies:

  1. Branding. Customers expect a well developed brand with a clear identity, strong value proposition and clear points of differentiation.
  2. Promotion. B2B companies need to proactively promote their products for top-of-mind awareness. They can’t rely on sales people to prospect. They need to be using promotion to grow their sales funnels.
  3. Experiential selling. A major portion of the buying cycle is happening online. That means B2B companies have to extend their sales processes to the Web to allow customers to evaluate their products and services without sales assistance.

B2B companies are figuring this out. They recognize they need a well crafted website and other key marketing strategies to be competitive. Now it is time for B2B companies to take their marketing to the next level and start applying the practices mastered by B2C companies.

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