The anatomy of a business to business customer

If you’re new to the B2B marketing world and have previously worked in B2C, you may be adjusting to a number of differences between consumers in these spaces. You may have also noticed the continued blurred lines between the two practices as we had previously discussed, however, B2B has generally remained the more studious sibling to the impulsive B2C. 

The B2B market - (which was worth $5.7 Trillion dollars in just the US alone) - is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.5% from 2020 to 2027. With this explosive growth and a wealth of opportunity available, it’s important to try to understand the motivations of B2B customers in order to target them and get your message across. So what are the needs of a typical B2B customer? 

They Value Education

Education, education, education. This is key from a B2B buyers point of view. The responsibility of purchasing within a business environment is so much greater than if they were a B2C consumer. B2B buyers want to know everything there is to know about your product and service so that they can convince other people in the business that it’s the right solution for their problem.

For many B2B businesses, providing moments of education through CPD (continued professional development), guides, blog posts, seminars and events is the core marketing strategy. Not only do they provide a great touchpoint to get in contact with existing customers, educating them on new features and services that they may not have been aware of, new potential customers can learn as much as they can about whether your business is the correct fit.

Don’t be afraid to take it offline. Your customer will be looking to absorb all that you can offer, but they may not have time to meet, go to your webinar or read your frequent emails, so even sending a physical information pack to their office is a valid and frequently overlooked touchpoint. Typically a second or third quotation would be required before a solid decision could be made so in which case, having a hard copy of the information to hand on the desk could certainly provide an edge in terms of visibility. While certainly beneficial in everyday office life, emails are not so obvious or readily visible for the customer to look back on when they want to take a 5-minute breather with their coffee.

Given that B2B deals often involve many stakeholders, be it a departmental team of end-users or the Director’s board, they must show knowledge and full understanding of the B2B service and perhaps more importantly, why they’re suggesting that your service is the answer. The customer will almost be fighting your corner when it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase. So it’s that customer you need to arm!

The anatomy of a business to business customer

Given that B2B deals often involve many stakeholders, be it a departmental team of end-users or the Director’s board, they must show knowledge and full understanding of the B2B service and perhaps more importantly, why they’re suggesting that your service is the answer. The customer will almost be fighting your corner when it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase. So it’s that customer you need to arm!

The responsibility of purchasing within a business environment is so much greater than if they were a B2C consumer”

They Value Personal Relationships 

Relationship building with B2B customers is just as important as offering education. Whilst B2C customers may very rarely have interaction with individuals other than at a physical store or if they’re engaging with your customer service, your contact at a B2B service provider should be in constant contact to build a mutually beneficial relationship over time. 

B2B customers want to feel valued and looked after and that they’re receiving a tailored service. They want to know that their account manager is available for emergencies or advice, almost as if they are their trusted advisor. 

It is not unusual for most B2B industries to employ BDMs, Business Development Managers or account managers. To hone in on the customers need to feel looked after, and when this is done well, it can be invaluable to your business's sales strategy and open up many opportunities for upselling. 

Aim for the head 

Regardless of how good a relationship you may have, the customer will typically be ruled by their head when closing a deal. 

As we’ve already mentioned, there is often great responsibility involved on the customer’s part, and that means statistics, service level agreements, and product or service features flexibilities specific to their needs. 

In essence, you’ll need to make sure that the product or service is right for them. It doesn;t have to tick all the boxes as you’ll often find that B2B solutions do one thing really well which makes up the shortfall in other areas. However, ensure your service or product offering is the very best it can be - and that this is well communicated through your marketing material so there can be few objections. 

But don't forget the heart 

All that said, if they love your brand thanks to prior experience or referrals etc, the heart will always be a factor in B2B sale. We wrote previously about the importance of building a B2B brand here.  It’s true that when well-structured and executed, branding is a vital weapon in the arsenal of any B2B organisation – this has the potential to gain an advantage over a competing brand.

Remember that building a strong brand has value in its own right and can win you sales based solely on loyalty referrals and recommendations. 

They take it Slow and Steady 

As a customer, a typical B2B customer will need you to be patient. More often than not, the B2B sales lead time is not a quick one.  Often, deals and contracts can take weeks, months, or even years to fix into place. The last thing they want is to be bugged or pushed into a sudden ‘special offer’ that’s popped up. No one likes a hard sell, and customers can see this tactic a mile off.

Your prospective client will expect you to understand and remember that when it comes to B2B sales, decisions usually involve several stakeholders within the business. With this in mind, whilst customers don't want to be forgotten about during the time it may take to close the deal, they also don’t want to be pestered because the chances are, it’s out of their hands. Aim to strike the right balance.

In a Nutshell

So, in summary, focus on the information you can provide your customer, make sure it’s of value, and instigate a level of intrigue about where else you could potentially fit or help out. Educate yourself on your customer; build that relationship, and become their trusted advisor whilst working on your brand messaging and ensuring that your solution is the very best it can be.