Ralf HallerRalf Haller January 12, 2012

How B2B marketing works

So what makes B2B marketing different than the better-known consumer and retail marketing, as taught in all marketing classes? To give the answer right away: it is all about the Door Opener, problem-based marketing, to identify what problems customers have, make them aware of it and then provide proof that you have the best solution to solve it. B2B marketing gives answers to the question “Why do I need it?”, whereas consumer and retail marketing addresses the question “Which one should I buy?”.

Why is it that there is such a fundamental difference between B2B and B2C marketing?

In order to answer this one has to look into the history of marketing. During the years of the industrial revolution many new mass products were created. ┬áThese new products were unknown, so marketing at that time had to first explain what it is and why one would need it. This is the same as today’s B2B marketing. Then over time these consumer products were well-known and there was no point in explaining what a fridge or oven or whatever was, and why it is good to have one; people knew that. So marketing shifted away from explaining and moved to differentiation and associating the product with an image such as good feelings or celebrities using it. The age of brand marketing started where people bought brands and less so new – unknown – products.

Marketing literally forgot about problem-based marketing as it was not needed. For B2B marketers this is not the case, since there you need to identify and explain the problem/pain first. Often the customers do not even recognize it since they have workarounds, just as people bought ice, and had cool cellars or even ice houses before the refrigerator arrived. Only once you tell them convincingly that there is a problem and that your solution will provide benefits will they be receptive. Consumer marketing would not – I hope – convince a CIO to use a new software across its organization.

Of course companies still try to do that and are surprised when the targets protect themselves from vendors’ pleasantries and approaches. To get decision makers to events you need to address issues, problems that they might also face and then offer solutions. In my experience, the more concretely that is done the better. It then also does not really matter if you have 600 people attending or “only” 60. If among the 600 you have everybody and their son then I highly prefer the 60-people event with very interested people who come to find solutions for current problems they face. So in short its about the quality and not the quantity. Some samples from ads in 1930 I collected below. One ad explains that a fridge allows you to make ice cheaper and more conveniently, another one uses a better can opening mechanism as a differentiator for beer, and one ad for a public rural telephone device says it is easy to use for – even – fruit growers. Back during those times every marketer was a B2B marketer.