Marketers who deploy the basics and best practices of direct marketing will be the ones to achieve success in establishing and maintaining long-term, profitable B2B relationships.
Posted Oct 18, 2004
Succeeding in B2B marketing can be a tricky business. This is particularly so in an environment that demands every effort to demonstrate a measurable ROI.
Traditionally, customer acquisition is five times more costly than customer retention, so profitability depends largely on grooming satisfied customers. How is a B2B marketer ever to achieve such loyalty?
The fact remains that those marketers who deploy the basics and best practices of direct marketing will be the ones to achieve success in establishing and maintaining long-term, profitable B2B relationships. One key is to deploy a data-driven strategy towards understanding the wants, needs, and desires of the target audience. It may sound somewhat rudimentary, but the value of demographics, and data collection and analysis cannot be overemphasized.
In getting to know the audience remember that as a rule business consumers have specific business-related needs they are looking to meet, or defined problems they're required to solve--let's say for example, cost-effectively networking the computers of a remote sales staff. As a group business people tend to be more sophisticated and have both their own self-interest and the interests of the enterprise in mind. So one not only has to address the WIIFM--what's in it for me?--but also the WIIFMB--what's in it for my business--question as well.
Because direct marketing in a B2B environment often involves a multistep buying process and multiple purchase influencers, closing the deal can be more complicated. To truly know the business customer, it is beneficial to consider such factors as occupation type, technical competency, spending power, needs, and aspirations. The data will serve to complete the view of the audience as a marketing organization strives to meet individual business needs.
It is also essential to consider the unique dynamics of each business enterprise and how it makes purchase decisions. Will the communication be directed to the highest-level managers that gather and filter information to others, or will the communication be targeted directly to the line manager--a key influencer whose job it is to gather information and push it upwards? Who in the business customer's organization makes the final call? How many people, if any, have a say? Are they all being consulted, and engaged in the marketing process?
A few words about the role of influencers--those silent partners who may not be able to be the direct purchaser, but who have a clear say in the purchase decision. It's important to find out as much as one can about what makes the target's influencers motivated. For instance, at what level do they influence purchases? What is the relationship between the influencer and the decision-maker? Is it a casual peer-to-peer relationship? Or is the relationship more formal, such as between a direct report and supervisor? Learn about these relationships and their impact on the purchase of a given product or service. Then, develop a tone and message that is appropriate and persuasive.
Consider that a loyalty strategy must not only feed on data to meet customer needs, it must also be data-generating: This means that every contact or interaction with a customer--regardless of channel--affords an opportunity to collect data that will help in the crafting of tailored offers and messaging. This is unfortunately the place where many marketers--those focused on B2B and consumer audiences alike--falter, and therefore, where they fail to deliver benefit.
Achieving B2B loyalty is a worthy objective, and one that can be reached with direct marketing basics and best practices as a guide.
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