Business markets are strikingly different than consumer markets.
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In consumer markets there are a large number of customers with very similar wants and needs. The marketing mix is pretty general and the value of the product is conveyed via mass media. Personal selling is more of a rarity and the means by which the firm raises product awareness is pretty cheap. Newspapers, radio ads and television are some of the cheaper ways to advertise a product.
Business to business markets, on the other hand, are not so simple.
In almost every business to business transaction something is customized; whether it is the shipping method, the product, the add-ons, the pricing, or any other variety of things.
Personal selling becomes more important and the relationship is more valuable. Some of the products that industrial companies purchase are virtually indistinguishable. Think of brick, mortar, cement or lumber; there are very few attributes of these products that create value. Most suppliers can offer identical commodity products to customers. In these cases, pricing and shipping are the most important aspects of the sale.
Why then, do firms continue to apply consumer marketing techniques to business to business relationships? It is very difficult to determine why firms continue to do so, but the fact is that it shouldn't be done.
There are several ways to make sure you are marketing in a business to business context.
Focus on your customers individually
The mass media approach to marketing will not work in a b-to-b context (or B2B as it is sometimes called). As a result, the marketing mix must be targeted to each individual customer. Since each b-to-b customer is much larger than the average consumer, the incremental cost is non consequential.
Focus on their needs and make sure to pay attention to needs they may not even know about yet. Building relationships with businesses is important in business to business, and firms that do so successfully can experience fast growth in market share.
Communicate benefits to each customer
Sometimes firms focus more on trying to create value in their products than letting businesses know about it.
Without value awareness, the value is not realized to the fullest extent. Thus, the communication that showcases value creation is as important as actually creating value in your product.
Target the people with purchasing power
This is a more subtle aspect of business to business marketing. In consumer marketing, the target audience is the same as the purchasing audience. However, in business to business, sometimes the people listening to the sales pitch will not have the ability to make a purchase decision.
It is therefore very important to target the person with the power to make those decisions or the message will not have an impact.
Distinguish types of customers
Some customers deserve extra attention and some do not. Some may need it, while some may not. It all depends on the type of customer you are dealing with.
Determine whether they even want extra attention and give them that attention without being overbearing. There is nothing worse than an annoying sales call to an already content customer. There is a fine line in business to business marketing between successful personal selling and annoying over the top sales schemes.