Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is increasingly focused on understanding buyers. According to recent marketing research completed by ITSMA (Lexington, MA), this trend is now becoming the primary focus of B2B marketers. The trend is occurring at the expense of brand and positioning (B&P), which have been the primary marketing focus areas in B2B.
Before: Brand and Positioning
Brand and positioning have long been the best strategic focus areas available to B2B marketers. These focus areas have been the “tools” that have given marketers control. Marketers implement a strategy according to a plan that aligns brand and positioning with organizational goals.
There is a downside to brand and positioning and that is that these strategies usually require that the marketer cram a lot of information together, trusting that the customers, prospects, salespeople and influencers will sort through and discover the specific information pertinent to them. Some variables can be broken out into smaller bundles, such as by language and country. But by and large, a B&P focus ends up with broad categories of products, services and solutions.
Forcing buyers to sort through broad categories and wide product selections can be arduous for the buyer. In the worst cases, sellers essentially post a catalog online, and depend on the buyer to have a product number or the exact right description of a product or service. Many have minimal or no visual clues to help navigate.
Now: Focus on Buyers
The new trend is buyer-focused. Getting to know the customer has always made sense, but it has been hard to do well in practice. In businesses with lots of buyers, there may be great diversity in buyer behavior, motivations, knowledge levels, and specific needs. It’s now becoming possible to capture some of that information efficiently.
For large purchases and recurring purchases, it may be the salespeople, who have a relationship and knowledge of the buyers. So the salespeople hold key customer knowledge. Valuable knowledge-of-buyer may consist of institutional knowledge, product/service needs, motivations, etc. It’s important that this knowledge gets channeled back to the marketing department. Otherwise that knowledge may not be acted on organizationally.
For smaller purchases across a diversity of buyer personas, it helps a lot to give the buyer the power to self-select some of his or her segmentation variables. The marketer now has information that is useful for predicting buyer preferences in real time. This can easily be done online with data to support at the back end.
Market research and competitive intelligence still add value. By planning ahead, and using the right tools, marketers can truly focus on buyers and by doing so, improve results, whether they be measured in revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, or some other metric.
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