Are you a B2B company shopping for a digital marketing agency? If so, you may be wondering, “Do I really need an agency specializing in B2B marketing? Marketing is marketing—is B2C really that different?”
The short answer is yes. B2B companies should hire B2B agencies. Here’s why:
We understand the complexities of B2B
While B2B and B2C marketing follow the same general principles, they differ in a number of key ways. Now, to communicate those differences in a simple way, I’ll need to make some generalizations. Okay? Okay.
Generally, compared to B2C, B2B marketing:
- Has longer and more complex buyer journeys, usually involving multiple stakeholders
- Has different messaging–ROI trumps emotional
- Has niche, or smaller audiences
- Is more intertwined with Sales
That said, B2B and B2C marketing sort of exist as two ends of a spectrum. If a purchase comes with a huge price tag and a high level of risk (ie, a Tesla, a luxury appliance, etc.) the more B2B-like the marketing will seem. In this case, a B2C company may look to B2B principles.
With that, let’s dig deeper into the differences.
The B2B buyer journey is longer and (usually) involves more people
In B2B, it’s rare that a single person is making the buying decision. There are usually multiple stakeholders involved, each with a different goal, consideration, and problem. If there is a single decision-maker, they’re usually juggling these conflicting priorities on their own. Each situation calls for a different approach.
When there are multiple stakeholders and one decision-maker, we often take a ‘bottom-up’ approach. Here, we create top-of-funnel content tailored to appeal to the stakeholders and their challenges. Then we provide bottom-of-funnel content tailored to the person making the final decision.
For example, imagine we’re marketing an HR SaaS and an HR manager clicks our ad that promises to improve corporate onboarding experiences. We win them over with testimonials and case studies, so they loop in their boss for approval on the purchase. The problem? Boss doesn’t care about onboarding. She cares about tracking the productivity of her team.
This example illustrates the need to identify and appeal to two stakeholders, but consider the added complexity when dealing with larger groups. As B2B marketers, our approach changes from team to team, from industry to industry. No two companies are alike, just like B2C and B2B approaches to marketing.
Messaging is different
ROI matters to a B2B audience far more than to a B2C audience.
B2B buyers are making purchasing decisions on behalf of a company and these decisions could make or break their careers. These purchases will often be scrutinized in ways a consumer purchase never will. So, ensuring ROI-based content and technical specifications are available at the right time is extremely important.
That said, companies sometimes take this to the extreme. It’s a common assumption that B2B buyers are immune to emotional copy. That they can’t be swayed with beautiful design. We don’t prescribe to that ideology. We believe that B2B buyers can and should be enticed with beautiful design and emotional copy, as long as the ROI is also proven.
And here’s why. A solution that solves challenges at work can be a gamechanger in someone’s day-to-day. Appealing to that desire to “get a win at work” is an emotional thing. Everyone wants to look good in front of their boss, why not tap into that?
At the end of the day, ROI matters most, but great design and a solid emotional appeal are the cherries on top that can help you stand out amongst your competition.
We understand the sales process
Compared to B2C, the B2B sales process is usually longer and involves a salesperson (or sales team) who qualifies leads and facilitates the purchase. In B2B, MQL and SQL are two key terms in our daily vocabulary.
So, understanding how to work with sales teams can be the difference between mediocre results and exceptional results. Developing relationships with Sales and capturing their data can help fill the gaps left by the lack of end-of-funnel data. What’s more, Marketing can provide Sales with the messaging and tools they need to change a lead into a customer.
In B2B, Marketing and Sales are tightly connected in that they make each other better. Marketing improves when it can leverage sales data while Sales can do a better job when they’re dialled into marketing insights. This is why tools like HubSpot present features for both teams in a single platform.
Targeting can be trickier
B2B forces you to think more critically because the audiences are usually very niche. Unlike in B2C, demographics aren’t as effective because the audience pool is a fraction of the size. In B2B, profiling your existing customer list to create audience models of strong prospects is extremely important. For B2B, the shotgun approach rarely works.
B2B and B2C marketing mixes will look quite different because of this. While television ads might work great for an athletics company, they wouldn’t have the same effectiveness for a material handling manufacturer. On the flipside, B2B marketers are willing to pay the premium CPC on LinkedIn to leverage job title targeting, whereas B2C marketers wouldn’t be able to justify the cost.
Comparing the two, B2B marketers have a greater mountain to climb. It’s easy to make contact with audiences watching TV before bed, listening to music at the gym, or simply enjoying their weekend out in the world. Making contact with someone in a work mindset usually happens when they’re at work, where they have meetings to go to, projects to complete, and more.
That said, we haven’t yet come across an audience that can’t be found and engaged with online.
What about industry-specific agencies?
So, if using a B2B-focused agency can deliver better results through specialization, what about going one step further and using an agency that specializes in your industry?
At Stryve, we’ve resisted the urge to specialize and we believe we’re better for it. Here’s why:
We stay up to date on a broader range of digital tactics
By working with different industries and audiences we’re constantly developing new strategies and gaining experience with a larger range of tactics and tools. We’re forced to stay on top of marketing as a whole, rather than focusing on small industry-specific developments. This sets us up for innovation — something that’s tried and true in agriculture could be a breath of fresh air in tech.
If you’re hyper-focused on one audience, it’s easy to recycle plan after plan. It’s tempting to ‘rinse and repeat’. But what happens when your audience grows immune to your strategy? How fast can you turn around something completely new?
We’re digital experts first
You’re the industry expert. We’re the digital experts.
We’ll never know your business and industry quite as intimately as you will. At the same time, digital marketing changes fast. Let us stay on top of it and bring you the most current and effective tactics while you bring the insider industry knowledge and insights. The greatest relationships are always collaborative–let’s combine forces for the best of both worlds.
When to choose an industry-specific agency
While we’re up for any task, sometimes it does make sense to go with a specialist.
For example, pharmaceutical marketing is required to follow strict guidelines set by the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board. One such rule requires the necessary legal copy to be at least 75% of the size of any claim it’s tied to. For companies in this space, you’ll want an agency with experience navigating all the red tape.
Choosing a specialist will also depend on your goals. If you’re looking to develop content that goes deep into technical knowledge and niche industry ideas, a specialist makes sense. But, when it comes to distributing and promoting that content, a generalist agency may provide more innovative solutions.
Other considerations when choosing an agency
There are many, many other factors to consider when evaluating an agency, like speed, responsiveness, track record, and even cash flow, so make sure you’re thoroughly interviewing and vetting each option to find the best fit for your specific needs.
And if you’re in the market for a B2B agency, maybe hit us up.