The world of Business-to-Business (B2B) promotions is very different to the end-user Business-to-Customers (B2C) marketing. You might get big revenues, but it is not achieved through many small orders, but it is a targeted process aiming at one single sales agreement that lasts over longer period and it takes one, maximum several people, to convince. Usually it is the purchasing or project manager that is the gatekeeper here.

The sales cycle is much longer in B2B marketing too. While daily purchases of us all are often driven by instinctive feelings, emotions and many times subconscious tendencies, B2B marketing is more about fact-based rational decisions. Yet, it needs to remain attractive and stand out, a simple price quotation is not enough anymore. Sales cycle of B2B might evolve over 3-6 months or more (so in marketing tend to think 6 months ahead) from the initial need for product or service.

B2B Sales Cycle Stages include:

  • Searching for potential suppliers (referrals, online)
  • Acquiring necessary information about suppliers (web, social media, online and offline reputation)
  • Acquiring price quotations from potential suppliers (get the price right)
  • Decision process on several levels (from local to global management)
  • Contracting the supplier (without slowing down the overall process)
  • Regular re-evaluation of the mutual relationship benefits (satisfaction leads to renewal)

A B2B customer is on search when contracts are expiring and are being re-evaluated, often due to dissatisfaction with existing supplier, or when new projects start. But one thing is for sure – the long sales cycle returns through a long-lasting contractual period in the end.

So, in order to understand your B2B purchaser, take a moment thinking about Four Tips for Marketing Yourself to a Purchaser:

1. Get on the Supplier List
This is the starting point. By far the best way to get there in B2B is recommendations. Thus, your reputation counts. Having previous employees/customers as ambassadors is vital. Apart from that, you might handle this difficult “hello world” part by e-newsletters, direct emailing, conference and industry associations attendance and presentations, industry magazines advertising, media relations (offer experts’ opinions) and underlining all of this is a solid online presence – from your website to social media. Also, content marketing and filling your online presence with information that is useful to your target group is a good way of getting remembered and liked.

2. Don’t Just Sell Products or Services, Consult and Offer Solutions
As cliché as is sounds, it takes a second though to realize what this really means. Get in the purchasers’ shoes for a while. Apart from your product and/or solution, the purchaser sees you just as a piece of a big puzzle. So look at it as a holistic doctor. Understand that purchaser must deal with applying your solution so that perfectly fits all other pieces of purchasing machine. If you are flexible enough to adjust what you offer to your customers’ needs, your solution will be hard to replace. It takes some adjustments and modifications, but hey, R.I.P one-size-fits-all.

3. Offer Sufficient, not Redundant Information
The decision process of vendor selection usually includes more people. We all like making informed decisions and every person needs a specific type of information. Things that work in B2B marketing is case studies, demos, samples, success stories, real usage presentations… all of this helps ensuring that you are the best contractor. The merrier the better might not be the winning formula though. Ballast is only welcomed on railtracks and even if you supply ballast for railroads, don’t take information as ballast – ever. Keep just relevant information in, do not try to use high words, we are all humans anyway. Stay professional, use industry-relevant abbreviations and slang too (especially in blogs and more personalized content such as social media posts), yet do not just throw the information out there on one pile. Information should be logically organized, structured. Provide a comprehensive summary, well connected and unfolding. Our minds work in stories, try to correlate with a story at all times, to stay remembered.

4. Be There in Person – in All Phases
Be ready to get in the game in all the potential vendor selection stages. At the beginning, introduce your company by a brief in a form of pdf, or a website. Establish a personal approach and find a balance between being remembered and being annoying. Too many calls, being too eager, too nosey sets people off. Consult, don’t sell. Listen a lot, ask logical questions, suggest things as if you were advising a friend – sometimes a hint from uninterested person might trigger best solutions in other areas, strengthening the relationship. This balance of being in touch and being forgotten is very thin and depends on a personality. But eventually, you will get from introduction to case studies, samples, demos, success stories and then to a price quotation. Work well with quotes too, make sure they are visually comprehensive, explanatory, provide alternative solutions to show your out of box thinking.

Making It or Breaking It

Human element plays a significant role in B2B too. A purchaser, a project manager or a specialist might be a well-experienced personality and might know exactly what he or she wants and needs. Facts, straight to point items, structured and simple is a winning formula here. Yet, with an unexperienced purchaser, explanatory approach, educational and active attitude is very much needed. “Let’s work on this together” might get you the contract more probably than a “hold my beer, I will show you, greenhorn” approach though.
It never hurts to know what type of professional sits on the opposite side. Technical purchaser might get impressed by the features of product or solution, while economical sees the payment conditions and financials instead. The user-purchaser looks at operational ratio, maintenance, daily execution of tasks. Offering wrong features to a wrong personality can make a difference between making it or breaking it.

Tiptoeing Around

With end-user buying a single low-value product or service in B2C sales cycle, losing one customer is not a tragedy. Yet, in B2B losing a customer can shake a whole company. It requires well-skilled consultants, who build personal relationships with customers (purchasers or project managers) and more of tiptoeing around them is expected. Why? Well they still sit on your pot of gold… And your own media, being it website, social media, or printed and online distributed content, cannot lag behind. They are all vital ingredients for closing good deals that take long time to acquire.