Marketing has always been a core competence in B2C as sales are facilitated through retail and online stores and points of purchase. Discovering information through the Internet, online and off-line customer experience and mass communication are in direct correlation with sales results. The purchase decisions are often based on impulse and marketers leverage that to differentiate their offering through creating experiences for consumers, rather than focusing on the product itself. Experience, not a product is a long lasting consumer marketing mantra.
B2B however, has been traditionally focused on achieving product based differentiation. Because of the nature of long sales cycles, professional sales force is responsible to influence, establish and manage a direct relationship with corporate clients. In this environment, B2B marketing is no more than a tactical support function that manages public relations, generates demand, and provides sales brochures and other collateral materials.
Capturing the existing demand for services and solutions as opposed to creating a demand through advertising or other tactics such as telemarketing, events or PR is a sound strategy, which theoretically enables to bring more results with fewer efforts. That’s the value proposition of inbound marketing. Measurability is by far one of the biggest advantages of Internet marketing over traditional methods.
Online marketing in principle should give the opportunity to smaller companies to compete with the big brands. It’s not a fair competition however, as SMBs are still struggling to get it right with tight budgets, while big companies such as IBM or Amazon, invest millions in AdWords and their online marketing campaigns.
But the advantage comes from the belief that Internet marketing will render branding as a less important factor in the purchasing decision. It was thought that the position on search engine result page (SERP) would carry more significance than the brand itself. If the company cannot be discovered online, then there’s not much branding can do.
Online discoverability is more important than branding in cases where consumers base their purchasing decisions on price. In B2B, this means that such products and services (especially IT services) are highly commoditised and depersonalised.
The principles of trust, integrity, personal relationship and company culture are still an important consideration for the purchase decision, but the buying process nowadays happens before a buyer even contacts sales. Consumers already have a connection with the brand or the service through the online marketing channel, before approaching the sales people.
The Internet has revolutionised the B2B environment through online marketing channels as it has eliminated the need for a physical intermediary between the service provider and the consumer. Sales people are no longer the gate keepers of information, as the Internet provides consumers with access to the information they need to aid them in the purchasing decision. It is for this reason that providing valuable information to prospects is so critical for success nowadays. Buyers are in control and what was once a hands-on, offline experience is rapidly becoming one that is increasingly online and reliant on self-service.♦ End