Keeley Lee, Business Director at BJL, argues that the complexity of B2B businesses shouldn’t stunt the power of their marketing. Quite the opposite, in fact.
To the uninitiated, B2B might feel like a space where a marketer is, in fact, rather ‘powerless’. Partly this is down to perceptions, and the idea that glossy ad campaigns and bold brand statements are the preserve of consumer businesses – not their lesser known cousins in the B2B world.
It’s certainly the case that many B2B brands still lack the kind of sophisticated marketing machinery that consumer businesses take for granted. Not only that, the complexity of a B2B business – in terms of both its products and processes – can leave marketers feeling unsure about how they can develop clear and effective marketing strategies that actually make an impact.
These notions need to be flipped on their head. In reality, B2B marketers can be truly powerful with the right approach.
For any marketer, it should start with getting under the skin of a business to truly understand what it does. B2B is much more multifaceted than the consumer world, where the relationship between the brand and consumer tends to be more linear, direct and often transactional. In B2B by contrast, there’s usually a multitude of stakeholders, relationships, product variants and routes to market. In order to exercise any marketing power amid all this complexity, marketers must immerse themselves in this B2B world and get to grips with its internal workings. That’s certainly been BJL’s experience when working with B2B clients such as glass maker Pilkington or the agricultural chemical division of BASF. In the latter case, the business aims to reach not just the end user (farmers), but a range of other stakeholders who advise and service the agriculture industry.
Its products are highly technical and ever-evolving due to scientific and environmental changes, and its different global markets are diverse. Only by getting to know the business inside out have we been able to turn all this complexity into powerful marketing strategies. That involves talking to as many people as possible internally within the business, not just those with responsibility for marketing.
B2B marketers must also be unafraid to ask the questions that haven’t yet been asked. By encouraging new ways of thinking, and new routes to creativity, marketers will find they gain more power to shape strategies and bring people together across the business.
Some of our best insights have come from developing close ties with the internal sales team, which after all is the department that is continually having conversations with customers, developing relationships and driving the business forward. This is also vitally important when it comes to developing set guidelines for how a B2B business will talk about itself to the outside world.
These insights can help B2B marketers to identify the levers for driving further growth. Not only that, by getting the sales team onside, marketers can start to implement that much-needed brand consistency in all customer-facing communications.
From there it’s about measurement, and tracking marketing effectiveness so that B2B marketing teams are further empowered within the business. We’ve done this with our clients by bringing in management dashboards which home in on the effectiveness of different marketing channels and collate the data with key performance indicators across the business.
This focus on marketing effectiveness can make a real difference to a B2B company that may have become preoccupied with top-line business metrics at the expense of other growth levers. In particular, it helps to bring the complexity of a B2B business to life, showing how one marketing action can influence another, and how different audiences and stakeholders influence each other.
So don’t listen to the naysayers when it comes to B2B marketing. The power is undoubtedly there to create real impact – but marketers must claim that power and use it in the right way.