Conventional wisdom has it that marketing skills needed for the business-to-business (B2B) segment are different from those for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. We are taught at B-schools that the complexities of each are different in terms of segmentation, media selection, pricing and selling process. However, new technologies in the virtual space are making these complexities a lot similar—it is simplifying things at some levels but is also complicating them.
Technology has made it easier for marketers to access customer data and reach out to them at a lower cost. In B2B marketing, it is a finite number, so reaching out to them several times with different content at lower costs is indeed very attractive.
What has become complicated is perhaps the lack of understanding of the virtual media as a whole, its behaviour and use.
B2B and B2C marketers have not fully understood how best to measure the media in meaningful ways. They tend to measure it based on TRPs, which is used to measure another media altogether. You cannot use the same measures you use for traditional media for virtual media as well.
B2B and B2C marketing seem to be converging in more ways than one when it comes to virtual media. B2B marketers can learn a lot from the email marketing mantras that their B2C counterparts swear by.
B2B email marketing programmes have always lagged behind B2C marketing. I am going to list a few ways in which B2B marketers can bring themselves almost at par with B2C marketers in virtual media marketing with a focus on email marketing, especially when most small and medium enterprises (SMEs) tend to be in the B2B space.
Strategy is everything
It is not about acquiring email addresses or customer data but it is about what strategy you will follow for your email-marketing programme.
In today’s business environment, email addresses are easy to get. Some firms sell you bulk email IDs for almost nothing. Curated ones cost more.
For a B2B, it is not quantity but the quality of emails and also the clear plan for email marketing. Is it meant for acquiring new customers? Or new business? Or just maintaining relationships? Or building the brand with customer case studies?
What should be your plan for inviting prospects, showing them what you have on offer and narrating your brand promise? That way your email-marketing programme has a better success ratio.
Size is not everything
In email marketing, it is not about the size of your database or email content. What is critical is what you do with it. Unlike in a B2C scenario, the quality of the database in B2B is always better and this should be maintained that way.
The list should be frequently updated, used with utmost caution and privacy must be respected. Permission-based marketing is critical in B2B, as you cannot alienate a potential person in the decision-making chain.
Test before launch
Just as B2C companies do testing of their products and marketing content, B2B companies, too, should do testing of the campaign before launching it. You must first have your strategy clear, then set up a proper schedule of mailing and then drive it.
If you do not measure or know what worked and what did not, you will never be able to manage it well. And, you just might not get a second chance.
Metrics do matter
Measurement is critical just as in B2C to optimise your resources in B2B marketing. The measures will tell you all about your email marketing strategy whether it is successful or not. Measurement once decided should be stuck to for a considered period. Therefore, it is important to think and discuss the right measures. Testing is also important from that aspect. It is not good to change measures frequently.
Make it stick
There is a lot one can say about communication. Seven times and seven different ways is the mantra. Stories are another. Whatever you decide to do, based on your target audience, make sure that you understand their needs well and deliver what they want to hear and not what you want to tell them.
Before embarking on the mass mailing, it is important to have all stakeholders on the same page in terms of the purpose of the campaign and what call to action is being planned. This should be unambiguous.
The attention span of your readers will not be more than 10 seconds. So your message should be clear for them. So develop the content based on the purpose decided.
Automation is ok but personal is better
Even if you use automated email delivery, do ensure that it is personalised as much as possible. Automation should be used to customise based on the interactions your customers have with you. It is almost like writing the name of the customer by hand and signing the letter in the real world.
B2B marketers need to be a lot more creative than they are today. One should learn from B2C folks here. Creativity can give a booster dose to your brand even in B2B. It need not be dull and uninspiring as it is today.
If anyone in your organisation thinks that content and not creativity is important in your business, your organisation will soon see diminishing responses to your emails.