Marketing July 26, 2011 Last updated July 28th, 2011 1,955 Reads share

Understanding the B2B Customer

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In last month’s post, I discussed the thought process of B2C (Business to Consumer) customers. Today, we’re going to look at how B2B (Business to Business) customers think.

Hands up if you think that the B2B and B2C consumer are the same…
Customers are customers you say?
Well, yes they are, but it may surprise you to find that they both think completely differently when purchasing a product or service.

Making decisions

Jot this one down!
Business decisons are planned and will deal with a business ‘need’ as opposed to a ‘want’.

The DMU for a business is much bigger and broader – enterprises can consist of a researcher,a line manager, a few team members for collaboration, and a senior person or director. That’s a large number of people to please, and each of them will have their own idea of what they want. They will also have different approaches.

What catches the eye of the ‘researcher’ may well be removed as an option by the line manager. When researching a service or product, a reseracher will be given a set of points – It must include XYZ, it must comply with XYZ, it must cost less that XYZ. If it fails on any of these points, it is cast aside. This way of searching is limiting and robotic. It removes the obvious ‘no goes’ and uncovers the first batch of contenders.

As you move along to decision maker, the criteria becomes tighter. What makes you stand out from the last chosen few?

In marketing terms…

Where will they research you – your website, your web presense, the CRO database, Goldenpages, call the office, call your customers, check your Facebook page or Twitter feed, your blogs maybe. They might ask your current or past customers about you.

Make sure all of these platforms and entries are up to date, optimised and promote your business in an honest way.

If you have a website, blog or social media profile – then state what you are offering, plus benefits and a way of contacting you at a glance. If you have a ready presentation, share it! LinkedIn allows you to integrate a Slideshare presentation plus blog.

Your reputation is more imporatant than you know. If you make it past the researcher and line manager, then we’re down to specifics and your unique selling points will come into play here.

Here is where you score extra points :

  • Quick customer response – do you answer calls and emails straight away?
  • Can you organise a salesperson to set up a meeting and forge relations instantly?
  • Have you checked and responded to reviews and negative comments?
  • Do you have a presentation uploaded and ready to share,view or download?
  • Have you highlighted businesses you have worked with?
  • Do you have blog posts to show you have the expertise they need?
  • Have you listed the benefits of your service and why a customer should work with you?


Priorities for businesses are much more practical and tend to concentrate on business benefits, the fuctional aspects, the return on investment and its appeal. A business will rarely buy on a wim or sign an agreement without scoping out all the options and discussing these with other members of staff. Catchy ads and competitions are not as appealing as you might think to businesses.

The basic priorities are cost, time-frame, support and maintence. Depending on the product or service, location and element of risk can also play a role.

In marketing terms…

Know your product or service. Know the capabilities, the technical aspects and most importantly, its usefulness for a business. If you are in sales and the enquirer has a question that is more technical than your own knowledge, then pass on the question to a techical member of staff and relay the response back to the enquirer. Knowledge is powerful and a particular feature could sway the deal.

Be clear on costs and how the product or service needs to be managed or maintained. If it requires support, is there an additional cost? Does the customer need training? Are there legal obligations. A company will worry about these for sure.

Have ROI, graphs and case studies available. Detail what you have achieved for other companies. These are all gold for businesses.


Referrals are usually other businesses and reputable companies or those that the company networks with.

It is not uncommmon for the first or second stage of selection to simply ask others who they use. Bigger companies tend to opt for suppliers who have worked with other larger companies.

In marketing terms…

Keep on top of reviews and any online mention for that matter. Showcase the good AND the bad, and respond to all the negative ones. One negative review can do surprising damage, even if you have over 80% of positive ones.  Include reviews on your website to save people searching for them. Some businesses like these to be included with each product. Others like to distribute across the website. Add Reviews to your Facebook page so fans can read them.


When it comes to cost, the company pays. All costs have to be accounted for and can be much higher than consumer purchases. Because of cost, business decisions have a longer time-frame on the whole. A business would much rather delay a project than make an impulsive choice. That being said, some purchases are neccessary and so a decision pay have to take place with some compromise on both sides.

In marketing terms…

Cost is always a sticky subject. As a supplier or provider, you want as much money as you can get. The business wants to pay as little as possible. Pulling in opposite directions will not help.

Research your competitors and compare what you are offering against what they are offering. Whatever price you choose, it needs to be justified. When a business asks, you can easily provide an answer. Never, never think the customer will not walk away. They will! In a heartbeat if they feel that you are rigid on price. Half the fun is bartering a sale.

The trick I find is to instigate interest. When you have them caught, then ease cost into the equation and watch their reaction. Start slightly high and if they’re not convinced, drop by a %. Do we all not love an offer or a discount? A business is no different. This is called compromise. Don’t drop to a point whereby you are not profiting in some way – be honest, be fair and calculate the lowest figure that you will be satified with.

Any tips for selling/appealing to businesses?
What works for you?

Christina Giliberti

Christina Giliberti

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