Most of the advice you get online on digital marketing is centred on B2C businesses. The advertisement banners on Facebook shouting out a huge discount or a pay per click Google Adwords campaign are effective techniques for business to customer transactions, involving large sales volume and simple sales cycle. But, B2B marketing is conceptually different and requires an entirely different strategy, not only efficient sales conversion but also client retention.
What works for B2C is not suitable for B2B business due to the inherent differences between the two models. These differences and consequent failure of digital marketing for B2B businesses are discussed here followed by an evaluation of Account Based Marketing as a more suitable solution.
Inherent Differences Between B2C and B2B Marketing
B2C marketing is based on identifying a large number of potential customers that have a common need and offering them affordable products or services. Most of the customers of B2C companies place significant importance to cost as the most crucial factor in their buying decision. B2B marketing clients prefer value more than cost. They place a great importance on the value their business would derive from the products or services since these solutions act as the inputs for their products or services.
Thus, the value they gain from their purchases contributes directly towards increasing the value of their offerings to their customers. In other words, most of the B2C customers are end users and hence, give more importance to cost.
In comparison, most of the B2B customers use the products and services they have bought to generate other solutions for their customers, which means the cost is just one of the factors with other factors playing a more crucial role in their purchase decision. Also, in most of the B2C cases, the customers buy products just once or a few times. Therefore, customers seek instant gratification and when they see a cost efficient product positioned to them through digital marketing methods, they are attracted towards it.
B2B sales involve more repeat sales, which means that customers look for a long term relationship and a supplier of products and services with the capacity to service their needs. Thus, their preference is to opt for a supplier that provides them specific and bespoke solutions. Since B2B clients require specificity, a generalised and volume based digital marketing strategy is not the right way to approach and serve them.
Lack of Compatibility
Due to the inherent differences in the B2B and B2C models, most of the B2B sellers fail to incorporate a workable digital marketing solution. The incompatibility of digital marketing with B2B businesses is the reason for failed implementation. Only 16 percent B2B marketers have reported a positive impact on their revenue from
These low success rates corroborate the fact that digital marketing lacks compatibility with the B2B business model. Another reason why digital marketing lacks compatibility with B2B is that 80 percent of corporate customers make decisions regarding finalising a supplier based on an in-depth analysis of the seller rather than relying on advertisements (Pick, 2015). Hence, digital marketing advices are inefficient when it comes to B2B.
Difference in Sales Methodology and Cycle
B2C sales are transactional type selling where techniques such as Search Engine Optimisation, Pay per click advertisements, content marketing, and social media marketing focus on drawing the attention of a large volume of customers. Thus, there is a linear sales process that begins with creating awareness among the potential customers followed by efforts to make them interested in the product or the service, converting this interest into a desire to buy the product, and motivating them to take action to buy the product through activities such as offering discounts or other methods.
B2B, on the other hand, involves a highly complex sales cycle which is based on multiple rounds of negotiations between the seller and the buyer. Rather, every sales cycle in the B2B segment is different from the other. The situation is made more complicated due to the involvement of multiple decision makers in B2B. This makes the sales cycle more complex as even after a sale is initiated, it can go back to the negotiation stage, back to changing product specifications, revisions in requirements, etc., thereby prolonging the sales cycle by months and even years.
Account Based Marketing as the Potential Solution
From the above discussion, it is evident that digital marketing advices do not work for B2B marketers. Account Based Marketing is an alternative that holds the potential to deliver a superior marketing output for B2B businesses. It involves identifying the key customer accounts and serving them in a focused manner. It allows the sellers of the products and services to dedicate their resources to specific customer accounts, which enables them with the optimisation of their marketing efforts by implementing and executing strategies suitable for each account.
This increases the suitability of the respective strategies for the particular accounts. Thus, account based marketing refrains from the “one size fits all” method of digital marketing.
According to a study from Altera Group, account based marketing delivers higher ROI than other forms of marketing including digital marketing in 97 percent cases. Another survey concluded that 75 percent of B2B customers prefer personalised or customised solutions which can only be delivered through actively engaging with these customer accounts (Marketo, 2017).
B2B businesses can thrive by avoiding wasting their marketing resources on target customer segments that are vaguely defined and instead focusing on specific customer accounts.
Digital marketing advices do not meet the requirements of B2B services. They are suited to B2C, while B2B is a completely different business structure. It is the reason why B2B businesses have failed to derive any meaningful output from digital marketing initiatives. Account based marketing is a step in the right direction for B2B companies as it truly complements the business model of B2B companies.