How does Business-to-Business marketing work?
Business-to-business marketing for the most part relies on facts and factors that motivate business decisions. The process of selling business products is not only more complicated than selling to consumers, it also takes longer. No one sees a trade magazine ad for a million dollar product, process, or service and says, “That looks like fun, let’s take one home and find out.” Instead the business sale is a multi-level process that, at best, can take several weeks and sometimes several years.
Think of marketing to business buyers as a funnel: many more potential prospects go in at the top than come out at the bottom. The wide open end of the funnel represents trade advertising, seen by many more than those who will become actual buyers. The next level can be PR and publicity that provides more detail and shows the product or service in the real world. Below that is the collateral material that an interested prospect will want to see. This is typically followed by the need to see what’s being sold in operation. The last stage is the full-blown sales proposal and/or contract in which every detail is included and hopefully, every question is answered. Sometimes, but not often, the prospective buyer may enter in the middle of the process — a mid point in the funnel, but no one ever begins at the bottom.
The real purpose of the initial communication, no matter what form it takes, is to shorten the sales cycle at the open end of the funnel. Advertising and other forms of marketing are used to effectively eliminate prospect questions like, “I’m sorry, WHO are you with?” and “WHAT is it that you think I should be interested in and WHY?” The initial stages of marketing reduce barriers by removing these questions at the beginning of the process. In this way effective B2B marketing makes the sales process faster and simpler.