By understanding the complexities of the B2B marketplace, individuals, brands and entire organizations can experience greater results. B2Bs operate under a significantly different mindset than consumer-based organizations. Although B2B is very relationship driven and it’s true that “people do business with people” and not corporations, it is important to realize the many factors that influence success.

Specifically, B2B companies have the following traits:

  • Channels of distribution: Multiple layers of distribution can add complexity in the value chain, distancing the corporation from the buyer. Knowledge on how to manage brand perceptions through multi-step distribution models is critical. Brand training at all stages ensures consistency of a clear value proposition.
  • Complex sales proposition: Often very technical with layers of detail, the key is to rise above the many features and focus on the primary benefits. Creating a relevant but simplified message can break through the clutter. Becoming understood and remembered are critical elements to becoming preferred.
  • Considered purchase: B2B typically represents a significantly larger financial investment than consumer products. The challenge becomes greater when purchases span the entire enterprise and not just one business location. Because considerable money is at stake, it is critical to establish confidence that your organization will stand behind its products or services.
  • Longer sales cycle: Due to the complexities previously mentioned, B2B sales cycles can last months or even years. Clarity and consistency in delivering the brand’s unique value proposition can help differentiate from the competition and move you into the consideration set. Establishing multiple relationships throughout the organization builds trust and increases the probability of future sales and a long-term customer relationships.
  • High stakes decision making: Final decisions usually involve multiple layers and often require executive-level sign off. Because there is accountability at every level, considerable scrutiny is required before an opportunity is taken up the org chart. If a high level of uncertainty or risk is associated to the proposition, the potential sale is doomed. Remember, corporate decision makers are held accountable –- in addition to delivering a unique solution, your brand and your message must establish confidence and credibility in order to reduce the perceived risk.

A few thoughts on best practices

  • The primary stages in the sales funnel include awareness, consideration, preference and purchase intent. It is important to know at which stage your new business prospect places you. Market research can help clarify perceptions of your brand and your competitors. With this insight, strategic decisions can be made that are more efficient and effective –- saving you time and money.
  • Branded messages must be believable, defendable and relevant to be considered. Rational features are only the start. Emotional benefits must be expertly packaged and delivered in order to break through the clutter.
  • Internal brand alignment is essential –- especially in companies going through a transformational phase. Creating, communicating and delivering upon a new vision is a strategic process that requires an orchestrated effort. Employee pride in where they work is paramount to achieving lasting success. A commitment to training must start at the top and transcend throughout the entire organization.

My final thought
B2B is inherently complex and your corporate reputation is at stake in every phase of the value chain. It is imperative to guide and protect your brand throughout your organization and its channels of distribution. And finally, deliver upon your brand promise and your prospective customer will reward you with a long-term relationship.

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