By James Myers, Head of Strategy for Business to Business

Specialisms not specialism.

No one would suggest automotive, pharmaceutical and travel are similar sectors. They are very different markets, with different dynamics, with different demands placed on marketing. Technically they may all be B2C but no one would ever talk about them that way. There isn’t a B2C marketing conference. However the opposite is true for B2B, for the most part we are eager to describe it all as ‘B2B marketing’, the implication being that the key thing to understand is what makes B2B different from B2C.

I am not so sure.

B2B is indeed different to B2C. You may well have seen the presentations that talk about multiple decision makers being the norm, buying cycles that can last for ever and a day and defensive decision making.

However B2B is not one single homogenous mass. Not all B2B markets work the same way. Some markets display purchase decisions that are more impulsive. Some products and services are indeed bought ‘off the page’. So just because we recognise that B2B is different to B2C it doesn’t naturally mean all B2B is the same. Intuitively most of us know this.

Think about SMEs and business broadband purchases.

Broadband to a business is a commodity. What businesses tend to want is the cheapest reliable product. The purchase will take a couple of days at most. They may buy off the page, they may respond to a promotion, even put it on their credit card. The prospect might offer you a few clues that they are in the market, search behaviour, reading reviews but not much else. The trick for a telco company is to establish contract dates, maximise retention and probably most importantly sell added value services to maximise CLV and differentiate themselves. 

The purchase of a supply chain management solution or advisory services are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Buyers will have limited knowledge of the market place, but more importantly they will spend considerable time working out what the brief is, what problem their business is trying to solve. This will mean consulting with all the key stakeholders, 40 would not be uncommon, to outline a specification. Something they may or may not need help with from a vendor. The role of marketing is to try and ensure the supplier gets on the tender list. Going from long-list to short-list. Events are important but difficult to measure, content has multiple roles and sales need not just collateral but support nurturing prospects and their network of stakeholders along the buyer journey.

o, next time you get asked about B2B best practice or how B2B markets you can offer the universal response to any question strategic. 

It depends ... on the category.