What exactly is marketing in a B2B company?
Marketing may be a major business function, but it isn’t very well understood in the B2B environment. There are lots of academic definitions, but often they only make sense to those who already understand marketing. The definitions also tend to focus on B2C, rather than B2B, marketing.
I have a definition that comes from practical experience. It might not make the cut for Webster’s, but for most people, it helps clarify what B2B marketing is and what it does: B2B marketing is everything a company does in order to identify, generate, and support the securing of revenue opportunities
What’s the difference between Sales and Marketing in B2B?
There’s often debate about what differentiates sales from marketing in B2B companies. Sales and marketing are incredibly intertwined and it can be difficult to draw a line between the two. There’s increasing use of the term demand generation, which is particularly useful in early-stage B2B companies. It combines sales and marketing acknowledging the overlap between activities that are segregated at some companies.
For most companies, there does need to be a defining line between sales activities and marketing activities—particularly as the business grows and salespeople become too busy to engage in marketing. The description in the previous chapter starts the discussion about what differentiates the responsibilities of marketing and sales. Not every company follows these guideposts nor should they
How do B2B and B2C (consumer) marketing differ?
When you hear “marketing”, what do you think of? Most people think of consumer marketing, the domain of Coke and Disney, Apple and Ford. Consumer marketing (Business to Consumer or B2C) is dominated by splashy, creative advertisements and massive budgets. During the Super Bowl, companies spend millions of dollars to grab the attention of viewers for just 30 seconds. That is B2C marketing
Unfortunately, people’s familiarity with B2C marketing leads to confusion and frustration with B2B marketing. While there are important consistencies between the two, there are significant differences
B2B marketing is less about the show (grabbing the buyer’s attention in whatever way works) and more about tell (why is your product or service better than a competitor’s?). It is vital for B2B companies to establish credibility in the eyes of target buyers. This is because B2B decisions generally carry more risk than B2C decisions. For example, if I buy a new laptop and it doesn’t meet my needs, I (and I alone) bear the consequences of that decision. If I make a similar decision when buying laptops for my workplace, my colleagues and I both have to live with the consequences. And if that decision is extremely bad, not only will my colleagues be upset, but my job may be at risk or my business may suffer
Why is marketing tough for B2B companies?
One of the most common questions I hear from CEOs of small and mid-size B2B companies is, “Marketing hasn’t been a priority for us because of the resources required—so where do we even start?
Their question reveals the challenges of B2B marketing. Many CEOs understand that marketing is important for their businesses, but they haven’t been able to tackle it effectively. They know they should be doing it better, and they want to do it better, but they don’t know-how. That’s understandable because there are some significant challenges for B2B companies when it comes to marketing.
The main challenge is a resource gap. For B2B companies, marketing is rarely a core competence. In small and mid-size B2B companies, marketing is typically a small function that doesn’t warrant its own executive or team. So the Head of Marketing is often someone who has another job—the CEO, the COO, or the VP of Business Development. The problem is that these executives have other priorities. If there is a problem in the plant, the COO isn’t going to stop writing a press release. If there is a new sales opportunity, the VP of Sales isn’t going to film a video case study. Because their other responsibilities are prioritized, marketing activities are put on hold whenever the executive has pulled away to another area, which happens frequently