How to Perfect Your Message for the Elusive B2B Buyer
It’s harder than ever to engage with consumers in today’s fast-paced digital economy. Thanks to the proliferation of technology, the balance of power between consumers and brands has caused a monumental shift in the traditional purchase funnel. Consumers have become extremely savvy and often dictate when, where, and how they want to interact with brands. At the same time, they’ve grown very skeptical of advertising, which makes it difficult for brands to attract and retain customers. It’s even harder when you’re targeting not only an individual consumer but multiple decision-makers at once. That’s the challenge facing B2B marketers when trying to reach and engage their audience.
There’s been a ton of debate about how significant the differences are between B2B and B2C advertising. For one, we’re all consumers. We routinely make purchases, and if you’re like my wife, you make a lot of them. Whether relaxing at home on the couch or sitting at a desk staring at a laptop, we all recognize compelling – or get turned off by annoying – advertising when we see it. At the end of the day, after we leave the office and rejoin the ranks of the buying public, we’re constantly exposed to and affected by the same B2C messaging and tactics.
However, while purchase expectations of B2B organizations are indeed heavily influenced by consumer experiences, the buying dynamic in each world isn’t the same at all. This disparity is rooted in the complexity of the interactions that take place across the multiple stakeholders involved in a buying decision at a B2B company.
Although consumers are influenced by their surrounding social sphere, the decision-making power lies primarily with one person. As a result, B2C marketers tend to segment customers by their age, income, gender, and other personally defining characteristics. This highly personal buying dynamic in the B2C scenario can be juxtaposed with the “interpersonal” B2B buying dynamic. B2B buying decisions heavily depend on how complex relationships within the organization will be affected by a decision. Layer competing corporate or functional goals on top of that, and the result is significant pressure on members of the decision-making committee to vet vendors and reach agreement.
Differences In B2C & B2B Buying Dynamics
The B2B purchase funnel includes stakeholders who might sit in different groups within an organization, with multiple goals, competing performance metrics, and differing budgets. And while the average number of decision-makers involved in a B2B purchase is 5.4 according to CEB Global/Gartner, this number can vary depending on the size and complexity of organizational structures and the price of the offering. Furthermore, with B2B decisions sometimes taking over 12 months, staying top of mind becomes that much more important for the seller to build appeal and drive action.
One of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C comes down to the decision-making process. Compare a single consumer deciding to buy an ordinary household item to 10 business people deciding to buy a six-figure service. There’s simply more on the line for B2B decision-makers. As a result, there is enormous pressure on them from the top. They must consider a number of factors that could ultimately affect their role within the organization.
B2B Purchase Considerations
It’s tempting to employ strategies that have proven to work in B2C, B2B is a different beast. Sure, funny or emotional messages can resonate, but what B2B buyers really want is assurance about the value of a product or service. While those personal considerations are certainly on decision-makers’ minds, they’re not what really moves them.
According to a recent Dun & Bradstreet study, here are the top factors that help influence B2B buyers’ purchase decisions: the brand’s ability to showcase the features/benefits of a product, the seller being sufficiently knowledgeable about buyers’ challenges, and the seller delivering a personalized experience and sharing customer testimonials. It’s important that B2B messaging takes these factors into account and that you consider B2B’s unique dynamic when planning your advertising strategy.
And also remember…
Programmatic Media Buying Has Become the Standard
According to Adweek, two-thirds of B2B marketers said they plan to increase their spending on programmatic, with 18 percent planning to increase it by more than 25 percent. The efficiency of execution, combined with the opportunities for optimization made available through programmatic technologies, is ushering in radical changes to the way budgets are allocated and managed and to the way marketing initiatives are carried out. The B2C world has led this change, but the B2B industry is fast trying to avail itself of the same benefits.
B2C Rules Are Not Ideal in the B2B Context
An individual’s need in the B2C context is an expression of the general need of the target market, but in the B2B context, it’s a specific need deriving from the organization that person is a part of. This means that an effective B2B marketing campaign needs to identify the appropriate target organization and then identify the decision-maker(s) within an organization, showing an understanding of their needs.
Scarcity of Quality Data Makes Programmatic B2B Difficult
Programmatic marketing is – at its core – driven by data. In the B2C context, this could be the behavioral attributes exhibited by the user, the keywords present on the page, the technographic or geographic data exposed by the browser, or some such data point that helps the programmatic system decide the execution plan of the campaign. In the B2C world this data is available in abundance.
When we switch to B2B, roadblocks start to appear. The key decisioning criteria in B2B begin with the organization you want to market to, but information about organizations is (a) not easily available and (b) very difficult to make actionable in programmatic channels. Check out five keys to unlocking the promise of B2B programmatic.
Deterministic Data is the Solution
Providers in the B2B space have tried to address the need for data by using proxies to feed into programmatic systems. Whether it is intent inferred through content consumption on the internet or location determined by translating IP addresses, not-necessarily-accurate web browsing behavior is what these data providers use as the basis for creating models to define a targetable user for a marketing campaign. This method for data generation, called the “probabilistic” method, suffers from an inherent flaw: The conclusions are drawn based on an assumption that may itself be untrue.
Deterministic third-party data, on the other hand, is highly valuable due to its quality and accuracy. This is data like demographics – data gathered from verified sources and vetted for quality. It’s not derived using models and assumptions; it is real user information sourced from real people, collected, aggregated, edited, and verified.