Article as part of the series: is B2B communication doomed to Be2Boring?
Conducting B2B communications is only sometimes the dream of PR professionals. Building long-term relationships in the business community, reports, analysis, or trendbooks will not all fall into the sexy category. And yet, at Planet Partners, we found this very type of communication exciting, and we took up the challenge: we are one of the few agencies on the Polish market specializing in Business to Business communication. And we are not bored at all. Today we will talk about the basics of B2B communication and the most common mistakes that brands make in this area.
Can you adapt the form of communication to the product?
It’s worth making things clear. If a company provides office cleaning services, uncomplicated service in demand, communication should be as simple as possible and use the most prominent communication channels. Buying committees will be looking for the services they need, so the marketer’s job is to make it easy for them to find the information they need and to present it in an attractive, transparent, and understandable way. Although one may be tempted to prepare a fun campaign referring to consumer campaigns, is it worth it?
All the fun begins when you are dealing with a technologically advanced, innovative product or service that is incomprehensible to the recipient. The fun also begins when potential customers need to learn that they might need the services we communicate. Ba, they don’t even know of their existence. The following subsections will help in communicating such B2B services/products!
Do you appreciate the importance of brand awareness?
A common mistake that B2B marketers make is underestimating the role of brand awareness
and managing its reputation in making business decisions. Such companies focus on service and product excellence, competitive pricing, customer service, and accessibility… However, if we look at brands that place as much emphasis on communicating with business as with consumers, we see powerhouses such as Microsoft, Siemens, and General Electric. Some brands have built a strong position and awareness only in the business world: IBM, SAP, Goldman Sachs, and Thomson Reuters. It is estimated that the combined value of these companies is $100 trillion. Would they have built their power without communications? Reports by research firm McKinsey show a correlation between a company’s revenue and the strength of its brand. BusinessBusiness clients, like consumers, are willing to pay more to boost their reputation by working with an established logistics provider or an award-winning PR agency.
Do you know what your business customers care about most?
WAccording to research (again by McKinsey), B2B customers value the expertise and integrity of contractors. This simple information can be the clue to your B2B communications adventure – it’s worth investing in specialized content. Content marketing influences brand awareness, increased sales, and increased engagement… Hubspot reports that as many as 66% of marketing departments planned to improve their content budgets in 2022, and more than 60% measure the success of a content strategy through sales metrics (yes, communication supports sales!).
So, is B2B doomed to B2B boring? At Planet Partners, the opposite of the word boring is informative: educating, giving knowledge. B2B communication should be based on providing knowledge – the kind that our target audience is looking for and the type that suggests new solutions.
In the communications of technology companies, which make up the bulk of our clients, in addition to strictly industry-specific communications, we also focus on explaining innovations in an accessible, human way. Innovators sometimes need to remember that only some who seek and need their solutions will… understand them. Their problem is often a need for more ability to tell stories in simple language.
What can be a trap when creating B2B content is the impression that the target audience is homogeneous… Nothing could be further from the truth! The buying process in 2015 involved an average of 5 people, and in 2020 that number was already as high as eight people… (per Harvard Business Review).
Are you moving communications to the web?
Moving B2B communications from the offline world, meetings, trade shows, and conferences to digital was undoubtedly slower than in consumer campaigns. However, 2020 left no choice – to not lose customers, B2B marketing departments had to use e-commerce and digital channels more often, more intensively, and effectively. According to Deloitte, between January 2020 and August 2020, B2B orders placed through e-commerce solutions increased by 44%. Leaders who could have done better, hoping for a quick return of conferences and in-person relationship building, may lose their position. Meetings have returned, but this has not (and is unlikely to) slowed down the pace of digitization in communications and entire organizations. It is also of great importance where buyers will find this delivered expertise…
Are you adequately defining the Buyer Persona?
So we already know that creating effective content requires an in-depth understanding of your target audience’s needs, problems, and challenges, as well as an excellent knowledge of which ones your service or product will address. Creating a buyer persona will help discover these needs, but here comes one. The buyer persona is not the traditional persona or profile of the ideal customer that we know from consumer communications.
A well-defined buyer persona will provide us with knowledge about the following:
- who is buying,
- what his buying process looks like,
- what criteria he uses to make a purchase,
- what his current problems are,
- and what are the long-term challenges…
HR departments, sales departments, marketing departments, and IT department management may have different goals and priorities and pay attention to other factors. Who makes a choice? Who is the ultimate decision maker? Sometimes we can determine this decision-maker, and the first step would be to verify what kind of organizational culture we are dealing with: it will be different in a multinational corporation and other in a start-up. Remember – such attempts to establish decision-making can be difficult, and it is easy to fall under the illusion that “after all, we know who is making a choice”! With internal insight, we may know, for example, that the CEO makes all the decisions – even what the company roll-up should look like.
To create a buyer persona, we should conduct in-depth interviews with our customers – we need to talk, ask, talk and talk again… This will enable the sales department to create an excellent and personalized sales funnel, which an adequately designed communication strategy should later support.
Do you work with the sales department and… the service department?
Do communications work with salespeople? That’s right. Our clients – usually communications or marketing departments, are often surprised when we ask to meet with the sales department. Why is that? After all, no agency has ever asked that.On the other hand, more and more informed clients are communicating with us – yes, we can think of one thing or another. Still, supporting the business is most important on our communications radar. Sales departments know best the target group, its needs, and the value of the products they sell, so they should participate in creating the communication strategy and its implementation.
On the other hand, customer service must be very familiar with the offerings proposed by the sales department and all the brand’s communication channels. The service must keep reporting customer pains or new problems that have been successfully solved. Sales and communications should also know what promises the service department needs help to fulfill. It is worth knowing that 89% of CMOs surveyed by Gartner expect that soon, the main area of competition for their brands will be none other than customer experience.
Separating these three areas, which should form one inseparable organism, is a severe mistake for many organizations.
Does your audience feel that you are addressing them specifically and responding to their needs?
The topic of personalization, by the way, is very complex and deserves a separate article. Marketers collect demographic data and purchase histories. However, this data does not provide insight into customers’ needs. According to Salesforce, 72% of buyers expect B2B companies to communicate with them in a personalized way. After all, everyone had encountered the most primitive form of re-marketing when, for example, they were chased by ads for products they had previously clicked on once or by accident. B2B clients are raising the bar, expecting more personal communication involvement.
Communications departments (in collaboration with sales and customer service departments – but we already know that) must learn to observe and appropriately analyze other data and combine behavioral patterns and activities to relate to the needs and motivations of a specific buyer.
Effective personalized B2B communications should, therefore:
- Serve an informational function – suggesting solutions that the recipient himself will not find;
- Speak at a time when the recipient has the time and opportunity to listen;
- Omni-channel, i.e., maintain consistency of communication at all contact points with the recipient. The recipient gets the same impression of the brand at every encounter with the brand and can get the same information;
- Reminiscing at the most opportune moments – for example, moments before a contract expires;
- Show the value that the recipient is looking for and needs.