There are some definite differences between business to business (B2B) marketing campaigns and business to consumer (B2C) ones, but they do also share similarities and common principles. I personally believe that there are emotional elements and creative aspects that you find in B2C campaigns that could also be used effectively in B2B ones. But there are also some important differences and basic principles that as marketeers we need to recognise and understand if we are to ensure that our B2B customers are getting true value for their advertising pound.
Let me begin by saying that many people think B2B advertising budgets are spent less effectively than B2C ones. One of the reasons for this is B2B budgets are much smaller, so there is rarely enough money left over to carry out research. This contributes to the difficult task of gauging how effective these campaigns really are. In a B2C environment, you normally have the budget for in-depth qualitative and quantitative, pre and post campaign research. This gives you a thorough understanding of your target audience and how they interact with your campaign; in B2B you rarely have this luxury. In addition, B2C target markets are larger, meaning you have enough subjects to carry out surveys, focus groups and all sorts of studies. With this information it is easier to create a strategy that is well backed by data.
So what happens when there is not enough budget for in-depth research?
First and foremost, if these is sufficient budget then use it, even if that means sacrificing some profit. Collecting qualified data will always be a great investment as it adds credibility and effectiveness to your campaign. But when there is no budget for face to face surveys or focus groups, you need to explore more affordable alternative solutions such as on-line or telephone surveys. However, even when you have the necessary budget, collecting this type of information from a niche market, as you often find in B2B, can be difficult. There is a smaller pool to pick potential subjects from, and they tend to be geographically scattered. For example, if you had to conduct a focus group where you needed 8 subjects, there would have to be a local population of 50 companies to sample from in order to make the results relevant. Often it is impossible to get these numbers, and you find that what was once the affordable alternative is now the only option.
However you decide to do it, the point I’m making is that you need to try and get the most in depth knowledge about your target market available. Once you know your target market like the back of your hand you will have the tools necessary to create a great campaign.
For example, a better knowledge of your target markets’ media consumption patterns will allow you to choose your communication channels more effectively; to go where your audience is. If your target audience is heavy on their digital media consumption, plan a targeted digital campaign. If they spend a lot of time commuting on public transport, use a creative out of home approach. Make sure that you are reaching the right people at the right time with the right message. The best ideas are wasted if they don’t reach the right ears when they are most receptive.
Include social media in your media mix. If done properly, social media can be an amazing tool. Do keep in mind the decision making unit (DMU) of your target market when thinking of social media, though. The standard decision maker in your target industry is not an individual. When proposing a social media strategy to your client, your proposed ROI should be based on engagement and lead generation instead of direct sales.
If you know your client well you can craft a message that targets their specific values, needs and expectations and you can create a clear call to action that appeals to them. You have spent time and money profiling your target audience, so use this information and ensure that what you are saying resonates with them. When developing your message, keep in mind that you are addressing a unique target audience, one that could be composed of several individuals (the ever present DMU). While you might interact with only one person there will be a few individuals behind the scenes, each with individual needs that need to be addressed.
Make your message clear and compelling; people are busy and you have precious few seconds to engage with them. The average human attention span has dropped to below 9 seconds, compared with 12 in 2000. According to Nielsen, a website has under 10 seconds to attract someone’s attention; if you don’t make your point quickly and clearly, people will not engage. If your message is too simple you will be overlooked; too complex and people will be overwhelmed, diluting your key message in the process. Time has become the most precious asset for everyone and you only have a couple of seconds to retain a potential buyers attention.
Perhaps the important element of your campaign is the strategy. It sounds obvious but I have seen many great ideas fail because the people spearheading them decide to take an almost organic approach, without having a clear and complete strategy in place. Define your goals and match them to your plan of action; don’t forget to add success measures and a reasonable schedule. This will keep you organised and ensure you stay on budget, and will help with the consistent delivery of your message, allowing you to make timely changes should you so need. With regards to setting goals, make sure they are realistic. The link between advertising and sales is often tenuous in B2B as the buying process can take long time, so keep this in mind when creating your schedule in reference to your success benchmarks.
One last point; make sure you can deliver on your promise. False claims or promises that are too good to be true are easily spotted and, unfortunately, rarely forgotten. This includes promises made through inference. You have one chance to make a first impression; make sure it is the correct one. We can certainly romanticise things, but there is a clear distinction between embellishment and lying. Remember that the DMU is different and if one person overlooks a false promise, chances are that other members of the DMU won’t. The moment you over promise and under deliver, the word will spread like wild fire! Social media is indeed a double-edged sword.
So next time you are putting together a marketing plan for your B2B client remember: get to know your audience, craft a clear effective message and identify the most effective channels of communication. Have a solid strategy in place and always deliver on your promise. There are many other things that will contribute to the success of your campaign, but if you can get these few things right, you will have an amazing head-start.