2. Businesses are people too
Some argue that the B2B acronym is a bit of a misnomer or, at the very least, a misrepresentation. Why? Because people, not the businesses they work for, ultimately make the decision about which company to buy from. And that means marketers must connect with business audiences on a human level by making them feel heard.
To achieve this, B2B marketers must demonstrate they’ve taken the time to understand a prospective customer’s company and needs, as well as where that company fits into the larger competitive landscape. When asked why they ultimately chose the winning vendor over others, 70 percent of B2B buyers pointed to the vendor’s “stronger knowledge of the solution area and the business landscape,” and 57 percent cited the vendor’s ability to demonstrate “a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs.”
Merkle’s 2017 research on B2B loyalty reinforces how important it is to treat prospective customers as business decision-makers and as individual consumers. To resonate, B2B messaging must simultaneously be “emotional, personal, product-focused and business-based,” Merkle found. Indeed, when asked whether personal engagement with a brand or preference for a particular brand in their personal life influenced a business-buying decision, B2B respondents indicated the following:
3. Decision-making is a team effort—and a time-consuming one, at that
One of the most important distinctions between B2B and B2C marketing lies in the complexity of the B2B decision-making process. It can take months—or, in some cases, a year or more—to evaluate vendors and commit to a provider, depending on the size of the company in question and the industry in which it operates.
At the root of this complexity is the sheer number of people involved in the process. CEB characterizes it as a “consensus sale,” noting that, on average, 6.8 people are involved in a B2B purchase decision—up from 5.4 in 2015.
Multiple people bringing their emotions—and biases—to the table is a unique challenge for B2B marketers since there’s often one person in the group who functions as a “champion” for the winning vendor, recent research from B2B Marketing shows. Nearly 6 out of 10 times, this champion’s opinions are cited as the biggest influence on the final decision.
And this brings us back to Truth No. 2: Businesses are people too. You can’t forget the humanity of the people making buying decisions for their company. “While companies often form purchase committees to provide a more objective approach, the research proves individuals don’t switch off their emotions when they come together,” says B2B Marketing Deputy Editor Paul Snell. “B2B marketers must engage with the heart if they want to win over the head.”
The number of decision-makers weighing in is only one piece of the puzzle, however.
Also complicating matters is the business customer’s fixation on ROI and simplicity. A growing focus on risk mitigation, as well as pressure to invest only in solutions that will lower costs, increase efficiency or drive higher ROI, forces B2B buyers to scrutinize (and often second-guess) what is and isn’t worth pursuing.
Money and ease of use matter to B2B decision-makers—a lot. Three in 4 buyers said they conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision—up 11 percent from 2016, according to Demand Gen Report’s research. Interestingly, deployment time/ease of use now carries nearly as much weight as the price tag, with 80 percent of B2B buyers calling deployment/ease of use “very important,” compared to 75 percent who ranked pricing as such. Said one survey respondent: “As the company grows and our goals become loftier, each purchase carries more weight, more risk and costs more.”