Some marketers think there is a big difference between B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business) marketing, but the fact is, there are facets of both that have similar qualities. Because of this, B2B marketers can employ many “traditional” B2C strategies of marketing into their own campaigns.
In a previous post, I’ve discussed how B2B marketing is different from B2C, with some of the main differences being audience, voice, longer sales cycle (for B2B) and regulatory challenges. However, some of the challenges specific to B2B can be tackled with some of the most successful ways that B2C companies reach their audience.
Through tactics like video, multi-platform advertising, and better audience research, it’s possible to reach more of your B2B audience without reinventing the same old tactics, like direct mail or tradeshows, that haven’t been working for you. Below are some of the ways you can better target your B2B prospects through B2C tactics.
Target Users Where They Hang Out
Even if your target audience isn’t using social media platforms like Facebook for their work activities or research, they are likely using it for their own personal use. According to 2016 data from Pew Research Center, almost 80 percent of adults in the United States use Facebook, with Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn sitting around 30 percent. Yet surprisingly, many B2B companies still think that having a presence on Facebook or even running promotions or ads is a waste of time.
Having a presence on Facebook can widen your online presence in a variety of ways—you can collect reviews, own more of your exact match search results, and post updates and news that your audience can see when they are using the site.
Facebook reviews are becoming a more mainstream way to evaluate businesses. There are other review sites, like Google Plus, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, but Facebook reviews have continued to skyrocket in popularity because so many adults already have an account on the site. Why create a new account on Yelp or Google Plus when you are already logged into Facebook?
Adoption of reviews has been widespread, but those other review sites shouldn’t be automatically discounted either. They still garner millions of page views monthly and it’s important for businesses to get listed there as well. If you aren’t sure what sites your company is listed on, try a local review site service that lets you check and edit multiple listings at once, like Moz Local. This ensures your information is kept up to date on multiple platforms and you have a presence where your audience might be searching for you.
Exact Match Search Results
Because Facebook is one of the most popular internet sites in the world, Google and other search engines regularly rank their pages and profiles higher than other sites. Having a Facebook page for your business allows you to (usually) get another first page result in exact match searches for your business. The same is usually true for Yelp and other top review sites.
In this example for my new business name, you’ll see that my Yelp listing actually ranks higher than my own website:
Even though this will likely swap over time since I just changed my business name, it speaks to the power of review sites in search engine result pages (SERPs).
Posting News and Updates
No matter the industry, lots of internet users have been conditioned to check Facebook for company news and updates, sometimes before going to a company’s own website. Facebook is usually faster to update than a website, making it an easy way to notify customers about office closures, product announcements, or other news they may be interested in. While this information is good to have on your own website, having it on another platform like Facebook makes it easier for your audience to stay in contact with you.
Appeal to Your Audience as Individual People
Staying in regular, deep contact with your audience is crucial to digital marketing success. Unfortunately, a lot of the B2B industries get caught up in the nuances of their own products or services, and as a result, forget to look at their target audience as separate individuals with their own thoughts, goals, and opinions. This is one thing that the B2C industry does really well.
At the end of the day, the companies you are trying to target aren’t large conglomerations that use a hive mind to make decisions; the decision-making is often left up to one or two professionals whose job it is to find the best solution for their needs.
Create Marketing Personas
By narrowing down your research and messaging to these individuals, instead of thinking about the company goals and background as a whole, you have a higher likelihood of being able to convey that your company provides the solution they need.
Build personas using worksheets like the ones from B2BMarketing.net and Integrate to get a better idea of what these individuals look like and the best way to target them. Some businesses also interview actual point of contact people at their clients to understand more about why they chose the company, what they look for, and the way they evaluate solutions.
Once you have outlined more about your target customers, all of the messaging and marketing content can be better focused toward individuals, instead of seemingly attempting to reach everyone at an entire corporation.
For example, let’s say your company sells large copy machines. A brief persona for the person you are trying to target could be something like:
Maria is a middle-aged director of procurement and supply chain management at Acme Industrial Inc. She oversees all of the purchasing decisions for internal use, as well as the supplies needed for Acme’s external contracts. Because she has to read and approve so many RFPs and proposals, Maria appreciates brief, to-the-point proposals that clearly state the bottom line and what her expectations should be. She is an avid Facebook and LinkedIn user, and uses social media to relax and research companies.
So while your old messaging about your copy machines might have been something like:
We offer high-quality copy machines for office use. All our copiers come with a 10-year guarantee and are the best for businesses who are looking for reliability, ease-of-use, and affordable copies, consistently.
Conversely, your new messaging with Maria in mind might look like:
Our copy machines have a 10-year warranty and are easy to use. Our ink is 25% cheaper than our competitors and our machines consistently last two times longer.
See the difference? Both basically say the same thing, but by appealing to your target audience (Maria) by using straightforward data and sticking to the facts, you are much more likely to keep her fleeting attention.
Offer Incentives or Specials
Another way you can grab prospects’ attention is by offering incentives or specials. Often due to wholesale pricing for product-based companies or the caliber of time needed for offered services, B2B companies don’t offer incentives or specials. However, this is something that’s done by B2C companies quite regularly, and can often increase profits and encourage repeat customers.
Advance Purchases Instead of Gift Cards
While it may be harder to offer gift cards in the B2B market, it could be done with some companies, depending on what they offer. If that won’t work for your business, you may be able to offer discounted advance purchasing options.
For instance, if you offer HVAC bi-annual maintenance, why not offer a five-year deal to businesses for a 10-25 percent discount? They save money by buying in advance, and you get additional revenue upfront that can be used to better regulate cash flow. Think about what you can offer in an advance purchase package that would entice your customers to buy.
The more traditional route of incentives or promotions is seasonal sales. Why not use the holiday season or the New Year to promote what you have to offer? For many B2B companies, the end of the year can either be slower or more hectic, but you can use either to your advantage.
Get more business now by offering a discount, or start booking ahead into the New Year to secure more steady work after the holiday season is over. Experiment with formats (percentage off, set dollar amount off, free product, etc.) to see what best works for your customers. You can also go back to your marketing personas to see what would appeal most to your target audience.
Another common promotion tactic I see from both B2B and B2C companies are “calendar fill-ups.” These convey a sense of urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out) because they make it clear the offer is only available for a certain amount of time, or in limited supply. For this type of promotion, you can convey that your company only has X number of spots or product availability left before a specific deadline. You can also pair this with a seasonal sale or advance purchase offer to make it more enticing.
Here’s an example: “The Acme Sales private training calendar is filling up fast! We are now accepting two more businesses into our sales development calendar for the first half of 2018. Act now before December 31, 2017 and you can get training for your entire sales team for only $5,000, a discount of 25 percent off our regular training costs.” Keep the number intentionally low to convey the exclusivity of the offer.
Utilize Email and Paid Social Ads
Another way to promote your products and services, whether they are on special or not, is through marketing on different platforms than what you’re accustomed to. Many B2B companies have an email list (or even a Facebook page and Twitter profile), but they aren’t using any of them to their fullest potential. By focusing more on your paid social media and email marketing strategy this year, you can drive more revenue, get more engagement, and you’ll often see lower cost-per-click than you may be receiving through PPC on search engine ad campaigns. Additionally, costs may be lower than direct mail, cold calling, or other initiatives you’ve tried in the past.
B2B Email Marketing
According to 2017 data gathered by Wordstream, email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders. Additionally, CTRs are 47 percent higher for B2B email campaigns than B2C email campaigns.
These numbers tell a story: Email still has serious influence over B2B decision-makers. The difference is knowing how to write the best campaigns and build the most enticing funnels that gets your mailing list recipients curious and ready to learn more.
Research some of the best tactics in B2C email marketing, such as sending email on a Tuesday (which the above Wordstream article points out is shown by at least 10 different studies as the best day to send email), testing headlines, and using mass personalization to better cater to customer interests. Buffer also recommends testing sending email during the weekends and at night so it’s the first thing to appear in inboxes in otherwise “down” times of email.
B2B Paid Social Media Ads
Social media ads are a great new angle for B2B marketers to try because they focus more on audience demographics, background, and interests instead of what phrases they are searching for like search PPC campaigns do.
On Facebook, for example, you can segment an audience based on user location, age, interest, job title, and even employer industry. By using a combination of these factors, you can create an extremely targeted audience that reaches the exact people you want to see your ads. Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn also offer varying degrees of targeting to create better audiences that have a higher chance of converting.
According to eMarketer, 67 percent of B2B marketers surveyed said they allocate B2B budget to social media ads and have found that Facebook and LinkedIn give them the best return on investment.
If you haven’t started upping your game with ad budget allocation or better email marketing, consider taking some of your budget and focusing more on these initiatives that have demonstrated great results for both B2B and B2C marketers.
By better allocating your budget, time, and attention to different strategies that can work for B2B as well as they do for B2C marketers, you may find that you’ll earn higher ROI, better engagement, and a larger online presence. These factors can lead to increased sales and move the needle toward consistent growth.
Screenshot taken November 2017. Featured image via Pexels.