As a man with a distinctly consumer background working for corporate behemoths such as Microsoft and eBay, it has been an intriguing and sometimes frustrating move into the different and yet similar world of business to business (B2B) sales.
The main lesson I’ve learnt is that it doesn’t need to be boring! Feedback from some media agencies is that they are working up B2B media plans thinking of their target audience as consumers. This has led to the expression Human to Human or ‘H2H’ – not saying we need another confusing acronym in our lives, but this does seem to make sense. It also allows us more freedom to be creative in the way we communicate with a business audience.
Having been bombarded with audience segmentation to the point of distraction in my consumer days (who knew there would be so many different kinds of people buying soap powder for so many different reasons), I have been surprised to see several briefs simply asking to target SMEs, a category that makes up 99% of all companies…
And yet the extent to which B2B brands have to educate their target audiences is infinitely more complex than running a branding campaign for a product that everyone already understands and uses (although it is amazing the things soap powders can do these days).
Forrester research shows that 90% of a buyer’s decision making journey may be complete before even speaking to a sales person, which reflects how important it is for any marketing activity to be not just informative, but thought-leading.
There are a few main points that really stand out to me:
Talk to me, not my job title
Speaking to people who work in business as human beings seems to be an obvious way of getting cut through in a market full of jargon! I definitely agree with this sentiment, however by approaching a B2B campaign in a more consumer lead manner, there can be a tendency to ignore the context within which you are speaking to an audience.
A recent example comes to mind, where all B2B publishers were dropped from an advertising campaign with the agency simply wanting to reach a target audience, as opposed to relevant content environments. An audience-led approach makes sense, but it’s worth considering whether somebody really wants to see something heavily business related while they are reading their favourite feature on a consumer site or an email from a friend.
Talk to me when and how I want
This was reflected in our recent SME study that showed how content marketing needs to be tailored to a specific audience, bearing in mind where they are in the company lifecycle and how they like to consume media.
Apparently micro-business owners (one-10 employees) are particularly inclined to do their strategic thinking after work on a mobile device and in a relaxed environment. Surely this means any useful content needs to be presented in a clear manner and as concisely as possible (even the most enthusiastic entrepreneur still needs time for sleep and the odd trip to the pub…).
Talk to me in the right language
Another area of interest that has cropped up is the regional nuances between different parts of the UK and other countries. In an ongoing theme, it’s easy to treat SMEs in the same way regardless of their origin, however in an interesting example I discussed with a technology partner recently, it was clearly found that small businesses in Germany have more of an interest in the environmental effects of the kit they are using. Pushing the same message in the UK didn’t strike the same chord and they found that a more cost-driven rationale worked better.
Overall, there seems to be a craving from the business community for marketers to really help them understand how products and services can make their lives easier, not more complicated. Reaching decision makers across different lines of business is becoming more complicated and markets are becoming more cluttered, that said we are still all real people who want guidance from experts, put in terms we can understand.
Guess it turns out we might be human after all.