Trends and Challenges for B2B Marketers – Part II


Trends and Challenges B2B Marketers Pt 2

If you didn’t have a chance to read the initial responses from Ralph Oliva, executive director at the Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) and FWD:B2B Conference speaker, check out Part I first. Here is Part II, highlighting our final question around the unique nature of B2B marketing:

There is a section of The B2B Agenda where you discuss the importance of this B2B-specific study stating, “In many cases, potentially useful B2B Insights disappear from or get buried deep within marketing-focused publications, or the B2B and B2C findings become so intermingled that the results are rendered virtually meaningless to B2B firms.” With the recent folding of BtoB Magazine into Ad Age, many in the industry (including us at Godfrey) have voiced thoughts and opinions around how different B2B and B2C marketing can be. In your opinion, what makes B2B marketing particularly unique?

From my point of view there’s a category of people who think B-to-B and B-to-C marketing are coming closer together. They’re called B-to-C marketers.

B-to-B Marketing has always been – and always will be quite different from B-to-C – but it’s changing in a way that adds to this confusion.

Today’s B-to-B marketer – no matter how far they are up the value chain, needs to be able to look all the way down to the end of the value chain – right down to where their offering is either recycled, goes into the ground, or reaches its final resting place.

For this reason more B-to-B marketers are having to understand B-to-C techniques, what’s going on at retail, what’s going on in recycling and sustainability efforts – they need to look all the way to the end of the chain. They need to, in many cases, to have a comprehensive understanding of what goes on in the B-to-C marketplace.

But… that doesn’t make B-to-B and B-to-C the same. Up higher in the value chain, things are as different as ever. Organizational buying behavior is undergoing rapid change, and managing the total “customer experience in B-to-B” is becoming more trying than ever. Our next ISBM Members Meeting – coming up February 19-20, 2014 we’ll be addressing this issue – how do you navigate today’s rapidly changing organizational buying behavior through better management of the B-to-B customer experience.

In addition, folks in B-to-B also have to deal with the myriad of influences, decision-makers, approvers, gatekeepers - the whole buying center which has always made things more complex than B-to-C,  – and we have to navigate the “derived demand” coming up from the end of the value chain.

You’ve referred to several sections of the ISBM “B-to-B Agenda” as you framed these questions. Another outcome of ISBM through the beginning of 2013 is the ISBM “Handbook of Business-to-Business Marketing”. This reference work for academics and forward looking marketers outlines many of the ways that B-to-B is – has been – and fundamentally always will be different from B-to-C.

It’s regrettable that B2B Magazine is folding into "Advertising Age." We recognize the print versions of trade magazines are under a lot of pressure. It’s unfortunate that Rance Crain cited the reason for folding B2B into AdAge was because the two practices are becoming more alike. I’m an avid reader of both publications and have been for a long while. The two publications are as different as night and day – for good reasons. They serve different communities, addressing different problems, with different tools and techniques, different timeframes, different offers – many differences. There’s a place in the world for both of them – and when you read them both together, you can see clearly the contrast, and the points of connection when they exist.

But – to get to the heart of your question what makes B-to-B marketing particularly unique – beyond all of the “jazz” on today’s ever changing “new to the world media” B-to-B marketing is about face-to-face relationships. Friendships. People you can count on.  A small number of customers with whom you build a deep connection.

That is the quintessential difference of B-to-B and B-to-C in my view. In B-to-C you never really get to know more than a small sample of customers personally. Up close. Face to face. You may get to do that in a focus group, but when you have millions and millions of customers you’re largely dealing with statistical samples.

In my past life, working with Texas Instruments we only had a couple hundred of customers, and believe me, the ones that were most important to us – our teacher customers – we knew through deep personal friendships. We knew their kids' birthdays.

To me that’s still important. LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and the very latest thing that will be obsolete 20 minutes from now can help these relationships along and keep them vibrant through distance. But to me business-to-business will always be – and if you look at the current marketing budgets of most all business-to-business firms – still is – about face–to-face.

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