How B2B marketing really works – and 9 simple tips you can use today

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If your job involves marketing, you know that you’re involved in the sales process. After all, nothing really happens until something gets sold.

But how does selling to people in a B2B environment differ from B2C? Humans make the decisions for both, don’t they?

And none of us dump our subconscious at the front door before going to work. We are the same people at work as we are at home.

I’m not talking about management style or patience here. Many of you might have a different personality at work than at home. I’m talking about your wants, desires and things that subconsciously grab your interest.

The reality is that, by and large, the techniques that work for B2B also work for B2C.

But there are some vital differences, which are included in this list. Why not print this out and stick it to your wall for the next time you’re facing a business-to-business communications challenge.

And remember to like this post if you liked this post!

1, Mix your channels: If you use a single marketing communications channel it is unlikely to make a sale by itself.

That’s because most businesses make their purchasing decisions in small groups, typically of around 4 people.

And seldom will all four read the same communications. For instance a finance director might read for insights, trends and news. Whilst a production director, who might have a powerful vote if it’s an industrial purchase, might read technical trade communications.

Others you might need to convince like the managing director or CEO, who’s focus is likely to be on broader firm benefits including cost, might only read things like the Financial Times.

So it might pay you to use several channels with different messages for each.

2, Make it interesting: This might sound obvious but make sure what you are selling is of interest to the person you are speaking with.

For instance, you might be fascinated that your staff size has hit the 200 mark or that you’ve won another award. However, your clients probably won’t give a damn.

But they will be interested in your promise if it helps them solve a problem they are facing.

3, Be specific: No one like generalities or vague statements, but people love facts.

So say how much money your product or service will save your prospect. Or how much time. Or how many percentage points better your product scored in independent tests.

Here’s a classic, and very successful, strapline using facts for cat food that I bet you’re familiar with: “eight out of ten owners said their cat prefers it”.

Here’s another great fact that could be used in communications, but I don’t know if it is: “WordPress was used by more than 23.2% of the top 10 million websites as of August 2013.” If I managed WordPress communications that would feature heavily.

4 Use testimonials: As a rule of thumb any testimonial is better than none, but relevant ones are best of all.

If you want to see a great professional services example of this take a look out the covers in Andy Bounds’ book, The Snowball Effect.

The pick of the bunch for me being: “Andy Bounds recently helped Barclays secure a £2.6billion deal, one of our largest ever.”

Not a bad comment I’m sure you’ll agree!

One of the biggest industry’s in the world, entertainment, uses testimonials to pursued us to spend money. Music, movies, plays and TV shows all rely heavily on them.

And of course there are many websites giving you feedback and reviews on services. From and to and, they all contain testimonials designed to build trust.

5: Demonstrations: If you’re really confident that your product or service is considerably better than that of your competitors, devise a demonstration showing yours as the outright winner.

If it is a simple demonstration that your prospect can quickly do themselves, even better.

A recent example of this was the ‘Bing It On Challenge’ by Microsoft. A campaign designed to go head-to-head with Google to discover which search engine delivered the best results. Take a look here:

6, News: This works really well in business-to-business marketing.

Buyers in businesses are always looking for new products and services to make their lives easier. Or to reduce costs and make more profit.

And when you have news: shout about it.

7, Information: There is a long held myth in communications that people don’t read copy.

This is not true.

People read what is of interest to them and if this happens to be your message, it will be read.

Selling a typical business solution is usually more complicated than selling an FMCG product. After all, there is not too much to say about a deodorant or pasta sauce.

But in business-to-business marketing you have to answer a range of questions including things like: price, performance, delivery, suitability, guarantees, maintenance, support and more.

So it stands to sense that you need to use more words to construct and win your argument.

8, Layouts: Your layouts should be simple, avoiding the ‘lets do something different for the sake of it’ attitudes of far too many designers.

Use images that are interesting to illustrate your message. Don’t try to be clever by making your reader work to understand the link between your image and message. They won’t bother.

When designing for press communications copy the editorial style of the publication. Try to use small images with captions underneath them. Twice as many people will read them as read your body copy.

When designing for email try to use very few images, if any at all.

I’m sure we’ve all seen email with lots of empty blocks where images should be, but your software has not displayed them.

They look a mess. Even worse, people that create such emails usually rely so heavily on the images and not the words, the message is totally lost. And the email hits the bin within seconds.

Many big direct marketers actually use text emails when communicating with suspects, introducing more images as the suspects turn into prospects then clients and repeat purchasers.

The landing page linked to this advert followed the rules on above on layout and style. But one important difference was the number of times the copy asked the reader to take action.

With landing pages, the more you ask the more you get!

9 Headlines: Your headlines are vital.

They get on average 5 times more readers than the rest of your copy. If your headline doesn’t sell, you’re are wasting your money and your time.

Your headline can do many things. It can:

  • promise a benefit;
  • give news;
  • offer a service;
  • offer free content;
  • solve a problem your reader has; or
  • quote one of your happy clients.

But please don’t try to be clever. Or use one word headlines. They probably won’t work. An advertising copywriter I know has made it one of his life’s quests to collect advertising headlines proclaiming “The best just got better”. At last count he was at 112, all for different products / services!

It goes without saying that you should spend most of your time on your headline because if it is ignored, so is the rest of your message.

I hope you found this list useful.




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