Using B2C tactics to make sense of B2B challenges
A quick search on Google using the search terms ‘B2B marketing' brought up a whole host of workshop and seminar listings proclaiming to offer marketers all the tools and cheat sheets to improving their business-to-business return on investment. With terms such as insight, exposure, lead generation and so on strewn liberally around, it seems every seminar organiser has the secret manual to B2B marketing success but marketers just don't.
Perhaps marketers get distracted by the fact that they are targeting large organisations bogged down by layers of bureaucracy and thus the decision-maker buying your goods or services is imagined to be a penny-pinching old fogey who won't give anyone the time of day.
Or perhaps even finding out who in the massive organisation is the relevant decision-maker is a mammoth task in itself. After all, how can you tailor your marketing if you don't know who you're talking to? For all you know, it could be the CIO's secretary who really holds the purse strings...
Whatever the case, some marketers have found discovered that the glitzy world of consumer marketing, involving fancy press launches, red carpets, celebrity endorsements, delicate hors' dourves served in porcelain spoons, lavish sponsorship deals, massive advertising campaigns and holiday giveaways, are also extremely relevant to the B2B world.
"Whatever ideas you have in the B2C environment doesn't mean you can't make work in a B2B environment. A lot of the things we do in some ways really is B2C and not so much B2B. Be creative and look at things you have internally that can help you with the marketing," Jacqueline Cheong, VP of marketing communications for DHL, once said at a Marketing magazine Peer Briefing event.
Events and forums, for one, are highly preferred channels through which to reach top decision-makers, as they tend to be highly skeptical about advertising and rely heavily on peer recommendations when making purchases.
Enticing a target decision-maker to attend your event or forum is only the first step in winning a long-drawn battle for their bucks. Your event has to deliver - so whether you're demonstrating your new technology to partners and customers or simply interacting with them, voice and data networking solutions giant 3Com's vice president of corporate marketing John Vincenzo swears by having face-to-face contact with a prospect.
However, in an interview with Marketing in 2007, he also said integrated marketing is most important - some mechanisms will give you visibility and others will give you credibility, and you need a little mix of both, not just one or the other. The other thing is clarity - telling a clear story that is understandable to anybody who hears it and getting to the underneath of how we're going to solve any problems, from a technology standing point.
While much of B2C marketing talks to high volume, low value consumers, the budgets that line B2C marketers' coffers are sometimes more well padded than that of B2B ones, even though B2B marketers' clients themselves command corporate budgets of millions of dollars.
So the impetus for B2B marketers to make the most of their budgets and rise above the noise is even greater, in a way.
"Businesses today have to react more quickly but there's not a lot of funds available," Jim Fisher, VP for marketing, CA, told Marketing. "From a marketing point of view, to create a [new] category, you could throw a billion dollars at it, create a lot of advertising, but it's not very practical.
"Luckily for us, we're an enterprise brand and we talk to large companies with complex IT management issues so we know who we're talking to. It is a message they already understand because it's what they're asking for."
On the topic of costs, StrategiCom's principal consultant Wilson Chew in a 2006 article wrote that one of the many considerations of a huge corporate buy is the level of investment, and financial loss if the product bought encounters malfunctions.
He advises B2B marketers to take a keen and educated stance in building their brands to a stage where "if a client decides awarding a contract to you", he will "perceivably face huge financial risks" as the winning company may not own your brand values of reliability and superior technology.
Before you put your messages out
We've spoken about events and forums to meet corporate decision makers, but mass media remains a strong channel for which to get your message out.
The latest BE:Asia 2008 (formally ABRS) readership survey from Ipsos Media - a biennial survey of the region's top 0.2% of management executives' media habits - ranked the Wall Street Journal Asia (WSJA) as the most read international daily newspaper in Asia, as well as the one with the widest coverage. It also retains its position, as in each of the nine previous surveys, as "the most important business reading" among the international dailies.
[Box out 1]
The Journal again ranks No. 1 among international daily newspapers:
- Most important for "current affairs reading."
- Among readers with annual income and net worth of more than US$200,000 (S$272,340) and US$1 million (S$1.36 million) respectively
- In reaching C-suite executives and senior executives involved in international business
- In reaching:
- First class/business-class travelers (short and long haul)
- Travellers making more than 20 business trips a year
- Travellers making more than six leisure trips a year
- In reaching executives responsible for the largest business-expenditure budgets, that is, of US$1.5 million (S$20.4 million) and above
- In reaching luxury consumers
- In reaching holders of private banking accounts
- In reaching owners of revenue-generating property
[end Box out 1]
Time magazine too, saw positive results from the survey, topping the list of business magazines read by Asia's elite. It leads Newsweek and Businessweek in the ranking.
On the international monthlies front, lead the ranks by far, with 23% of respondents surveyed reading it. Reader's Digest is close in second with 21% but the percentage for third place drops dramatically to 11% for CFO Asia.
The survey also discovered which industries' business decision-makers read international titles - business services executives lead with 62% reading them, 55% of IT executives, and 43% of telecommunications executives do.
After reading magazines, these decision-makers typically kept them for future reference (41%), used them for more effective business decision making (39%), or quoted them in discussions or presentations (34%).
On the TV front, CNN topped the list of channels with the highest daily reach, gaining 28% of respondents buy-in. Discovery Channel follows with 23% and National Geographic is close with 22%.
After watching TV, elite corporate decision makers quote what they see in discussions and presentations (24%), purchase a product (23%), or use what they've learnt to develop more effective business plans (19%).
For the first time, Marketing reported earlier, Ipsos included online readership trends across business elites in the study. Yahoo news emerged as the frontrunner with a 17% share, followed by Google news at 12%, CNN.com at 7% and BBC news at 4%.
Interestingly, online news portals from Time.com, Newsweek.com, wsj.com and cnbc.com only managed a small share of elite business readers.
"These readers have a voracious appetite for information from a variety of sources," Jenny Armshaw-Heak, business development director Asia for Ipsos Media, said.
"What we are seeing is not the simple substitution of one medium for another but, with usage of all media up across the board, a desire for richer sources of knowledge and business information drawn from print, television and online."
The Economist - making your message relevant
In the competitive landscape that news channels and publications work in, The Economist is one of the most high profile names among media agencies, regularly rolling out award-winning direct marketing pieces to keep them informed of its growing circulation figures.
To communicate that it recently increased its numbers again for the 53rd time, and now appeals to a wider audience it terms The Ideas People, The Economist first sent out a mini wooden massager to agencies, clients and trade media with the copy, ‘Need better circulation'?
The magazine then followed up by sending actual masseuses to the agencies to give them neck and back massages on a Friday afternoon in April. A total of 10 agencies and 81 people were visited in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Microsoft and Intel - the power of brand perception
When IBM created the OS/2 WARP operating system many years ago, wrote StrategiCom's Chew, it was viewed by technology experts around the world as an operating system far superior to Microsoft OS.
Even though IBM had a better product, Microsoft focused on investing in reinforcing its brand awareness amongst users and manufacturers and as a result, IBM got edged out and today the OS/2 has been phased out.
"Build your brand reputation and make it indispensable to an extent that if a customer buys from you, he deems it to be a good technical risk management," Chew wrote.
Another example he noted was that of Intel which introduced its new logo in January of 2006 and incorporated the new motto, ‘Leap Ahead' - the first logo change in 37 years.
The new logo, which was launched in the wake of Intel being ranked as the world's fifth most recognisable brands according to the BusinessWeek Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard, cemented its new position as a leading-edge platform developer rather than just a manufacturer of processers, Chew described.
"This example is a very clear reason why business-to-business companies must focus on building strong brands. It is the baseline and propeller of business direction and sustainability," he said.
Virgin - making customers happy
It was Virgin Atlantic Airways' 8th birthday in China and the carrier wanted to make sure travel agents are actively reinforcing the message that Virgin was still the only daily direct service to London from Shanghai, reported Marketing.
With a tiny budget, agency Rapp Collins cooked up a plan - in four weeks - to send a Virgin-branded eight-inch mouse pad and birthday cards to all the staff in 30 identified travel agencies as well as build an online game which allowed participants to win prizes such as T-shirts, caps, luggage straps and tickets to London.
The campaign, run over eight days, generated 32% higher volume than expected, sold over RMB4 million worth of tickets, and resulted in all 89 agency staff targeted contributing their personal data for future one-to-one relationship building.
"The feedback from the travel agents was excellent. They had all received an 8th birthday card and a gift from Virgin plus with the chance to win prizes everyday. They were saying that they felt like it was their birthday too," Daniel Yang, sales and marketing manager, Virgin Atlantic Airways in China, said.
PR as a B2B tool
Media relations has traditionally been a "given" in any company, with related tasks usually being delegated to the most junior staffer or being left to when the boss is "free".
However, as Siva Subramaniam and Marcus Ng wrote in a Singapore Management University publication, a structured and integrated approach to media relations can reward your organisation with ample press coverage, helping to optimise communications costs.
They said media campaigns are powerful but often underutilised marketing vehicles in the B2B sector and goals are not set early and clearly enough.
Finding out which are the trade publications or online sites relevant to you, finding out who the editors are, developing a relationship with them, and sending them news about your company regularly is perhaps the most obvious media relations strategy any B2B marketer can employ.
Aside from that, marketers can also look to contribute opinion articles to the publications, provide case studies to showcase your companies' triumphs, and even establish yourself or your colleagues as "go-to" people for expert opinion on the industry.
The road ahead
Now and in the future, B2B marketers will have a larger arsenal of media options to work with and the variations in which they can be used are limitless.
While the challenges facing you will also change with time and technology advances, keeping abreast of what is going on in the consumer marketing world will definitely empower and motivate you to get creative about how you reach and speak to organisations.
- BBC World
- Computer Associates Pte Ltd
- Discovery Asia Inc
- Dow Jones
- Singapore Management University
- The Economist Newspaper
- Newsweek International
- Time Inc
- Virgin Atlantic
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