Business-to-business (B2B) marketing involves the sale of a company's product or service to another company. This occurs when:
- A business is sourcing materials for their production
- A business needs the services of another for their operations
- A business re-sells goods and services produced by another business
B2B is often compared with business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing which refers to the transactions conducted directly between a company and consumers who are the end-users of its products or services. The value of B2B transactions is significantly higher than B2C activity since businesses are more likely to purchase more than consumers would. For example, a car manufacturer will purchase a truckload of tires compared to a regular car owner.
Needless to say, selling to a business is different from selling to an individual. Other differences for B2B from B2C transactions include the following:
- Longer decision-making process – The decision-making process can take days, weeks, even months, before arriving to a purchase decision depending on the size of the order.
- Sometimes requires a bidding process – Business-to-business selling often requires a bidding process by answering to a purchaser’s appeal for proposals.
- Smaller lead pool – Compared to B2C, the B2B landscape involves a smaller pool of prospects. For example, a business that sells clothing has a larger market compared to a business that manufactures flat screens for mobile phones which can only sell the products to a limited number of companies.
- Dealing with executives – B2B selling usually involves business executives. If you are a seller, that means you need to have a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of your product in order to convince executives into buying from you.
- Lengthier business relationship – The B2B model often involves a lengthier business relationship between two parties.
- Requires more effort – Because B2B sales are larger sales, there is a need for the seller to come up with a customized and specialized solution to your client. Therefore, researching about your prospect ahead of time helps a lot in landing a sale.
What is B2B e-Commerce?
The B2B concept has been around for decades, going back to as early as the 1960s and 1970s but the internet took the business model to a whole different level.
B2B e-Commerce is a term has only been in use for about a decade and refers to the selling products or services between businesses through the internet via an online sales portal. In general, it is used to improve efficiency for companies. It is so widely used that more than two-thirds (68%) of B2B buyers now purchase goods online according to a report from the Acquity Group.
E-commerce sale between businesses (B2B) is changing fast. From the value of email marketing in B2B to the importance of social media in B2B, technology has altered the entire industry. But the change is still happening and the world of B2B marketing will still face a lot more changes in the near future. In order to survive in the world of business-to-business e-commerce marketing, one must understand consumers behave online.
Here are some B2B customers buying behavior that are worth looking into:
- The first and third-month mark is a critical point in the decision making
The first three months is an important time in the B2B buying journey according to the 2018 report by Demand Gen. During this time, the majority of the respondents does the following:
- Evaluated which solutions would fit well with existing partners
- Collected preliminary information on pricing
- Accepted outreach from vendors and engaged in calls/demos
- Sought input from peers/existing users in the community
- Developed an informal list of potential providers
The results shows that the seller should always be on alert during this period, as all of the interaction with buyer will eventually drive them to buy or not.
Rebecca Lieb, industry analyst and author stated, “Clearly sales are the literal front line in dealing with prospects. Demonstrating a knowledge of their pain points and sharing thought leadership is critical, particularly in the early stages of the consideration and evaluation phases.”
- B2B buyers take a longer time to make a purchase decision
The respondents of a recent survey by Demand Gen Report strongly agree that they:
- Spend more time researching purchases (45%);
- Use more sources to research and evaluate purchases (45%);
- Have formal buying groups or committees in place to review purchases (44%);
- Conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making final decisions (41%); and
- Often accelerate or put purchases on hold based on changing business needs/priorities (41%).
Because companies are doing more research, this has led to a delay in the purchasing process. In order to tip the buyer scales in your favor, you can provide content that would educate your potential clients reduce their research time.
- More team members are involved in making decisions
Another trend that has emerged in the B2B market landscape is more and more people on the buying team are weighing in on buying decisions. According to the same report, 79% of the respondents said there are between one and six people involved in the purchase process. The higher the number of individuals involved in the process the slower it becomes. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The more collaborative the buying is, the lesser the chance of dissatisfaction.
- Social media plays a huge role
If you are a business owner, social media is inescapable. You just HAVE to be on it in order to compete fairly in your market!
Buyers turn to social media and peer reviews when researching about products. In the Demand Gen Report’s inaugural B2B Buyers Survey in 2012, 20% said they spent more time on social media to research possible solutions. In 2018, that number has grown drastically when a whopping 54% of the respondents stated that they rely on social media to research vendors and solutions. The survey also found out the following:
- More than half (52%) of respondents noted LinkedIn as the top channel that had the biggest impact on their research process
- 42% of respondents rely on blogs when researching about products and services
- 38% ask for suggestions and recommendations from other users on social networks
- Content is still King
Content is King and even more so in the B2B model.
76% of all B2B buyers who participated in the 2018 Demand Gen Report expressed a strong desire for “content that speaks directly to their company.” Additionally, in terms of content and business websites, respondents noted the following as “very important”:
- Easy access to pricing and competitive information (67%);
- Website spoke directly to needs of our industry and expertise in our area (66%);
- Easy access to content (64%); and
- Vendor-focused content (case studies, product data sheets) (62%).
B2B buyers want the sellers to demonstrate their knowledge of their industry through the content they produce. That means you have to publish case studies, industry reports or partner strategies in order to impress them.