Use Consumer Tactics for Better BTB

Business-to-business marketers have adopted a sort of unspoken business elitism – focusing on BTB resources, publications and targeting prospects in their business environments. What we have forgotten, when trying to convince our clients that BTB marketing is the best strategy, is that first and foremost BTB prospects and customers are consumers.

I do not recommend throwing out the tried-and-true marketing techniques. However, by blending consumer strategies and mainstream media into your BTB efforts, you can become a better marketer. The following are a few ways that the industry might approach this:

Advertising. Consumers — business and otherwise — do not live in a trade publication vacuum. They read The Wall Street Journal and Time and Newsweek and maybe even Maxim or Vogue. And they watch CNN and the “Today Show” and probably the Cartoon Network — with or without their children. The stories they read and the advertisements they see influence the decisions they make, both in their personal and business lives.

As a marketer, you have the ability to reach people in their comfort zone — not at work, but in their preferred space. But in order to do this, you must focus less on the channel you use and more on the consumers you are trying to reach.

It means expanding outside the BTB bubble and reaching people in their living rooms, bedrooms and airplanes en route to vacation. If you want BTB prospects to buy your products or services, don't you owe them the courtesy of speaking to them where they live — when they are off the clock?

Ever wonder why most BTB marketing is so conservative and without personality? After all, the purchasing managers in hospitals and electronics distributors still need to be stopped by an ad's creative, compelled to read the copy and driven to take action. Why wouldn't a colorful, personal and emotional ad entice them to buy their work-related items and services the same way they do to buy soft drinks or automobiles?

Public relations. Public relations is a great way to integrate consumer outreach into a BTB marketing campaign.

In a perfect world every client would have the budget to do a yearlong, full-page ad campaign, but in reality most businesses only designate a small budget to BTB marketing. Public relations can be an antidote to this problem. With a relatively small budget and a sound, strategic plan, public relations can enable a company to tell its story in the most respected and credible consumer publications.

Internet marketing. The most powerful and leverageable aspect of the Internet is its inherent two-way capabilities. Not only is the Internet the most immediate and ongoing resource for feedback and research for customers, it also affords marketers the ability to create an organized, normative database of information to quickly determine the techniques that work and those that do not.

Coupling Internet marketing in consumer channels with more traditional BTB print marketing is an effective way to target business prospects.

If you are considering online advertising, a little research can go a long way. It is easy to find out which Web sites your prospects are visiting. Sales representatives often have demographics of both print and Web sites, which serve as a great road map for marketers looking to reach specific people.

Keep in mind e-mail marketing is a great tool when used as a component to an integrated marketing program. In your message be concise, to the point, drive them to your Web site for the details and include an opt-out option to avoid receiving future e-mails. Spamming a prospect, and sufficiently annoying them, is a surefire way to lose a sale.

Direct marketing. Perhaps the reason direct marketing has withstood the test of time and technology is its effectiveness. But consumers, businesspeople in particular, are victims of information overload. With dozens of e-mail and junk mail in their inboxes, BTB marketers need to get creative to separate their direct mail from the trash.

Consumer marketers discovered long ago that consumers want to feel special. Little things like hand stamps, rather than bulk mailing, handwritten letters and addresses, incentives and different looking, three-dimensional packages are more interesting to and more likely to be opened than a standard, prepaid postcard or flat business envelope.

A challenge. Marketing to business targets is marketing to a sum of individuals, each with different influencing points. The better you reach and affect these individuals, the more likely you will achieve the desired affect on the whole. Thus you must consider all channels that influence BTB prospects – trade and consumer.

And so I offer this challenge: Try to integrate consumer thinking into your BTB marketing plans. Reach out to your business audience by talking to them not just where they work but also where they live. In the end, it is really about BTP — business-to-people — marketing.

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