B-to-B Insights : Then and Now
What's different about B-to-B marketing todayMarch 2014 By Bob Bly
B-to-B marketing is fundamentally different today than it was in years past, such as when I entered the field in 1979. Let me contrast then and now to show you the major differences and how it affects your work.
In 20th century B-to-B marketing, prospects would learn about you either through an ad in a trade journal or by finding you in an industrial directory, like Thomas Register. Prospects would respond to the ad, and you would send them a brochure in the mail. Your sales rep then would follow up and the selling cycle—driven by the salesperson—would begin.
But today, B-to-B marketing methodology is very different, and I asked Joan Damico, a successful high-tech copywriter, to explain it. The big deal in B-to-B currently is most buyers do a fair amount of research on their own prior to involving a sales rep. Hence, content marketing—which does a lot of the work that reps used to do—has become popular, says Damico. Some numbers suggest buyers go through nearly 60 percent of the buy cycle before contacting a rep.
"In contrast, back in the day, the brochure usually accompanied or was preceded by a rep visit. The content would whet the appetite and the rep filled in all the details," says Damico.
"Now, B-to-B buyers are getting all the details from the content we've created for each stage of the buy cycle. So while the concept of communicating your product or service unique selling proposition (USP) hasn't changed, it's morphed into numerous fragments of information delivered across numerous channels and in various formats.
"You still have your overarching message, or 'story' as it's now being referred to. The story is packaged into blogs, whitepapers, apps, social posts and videos—shorter, but more frequent sound bites of info that piece together the message."
GlobalSpec reports that buyers' top three sources of product information online are search engines, vendor websites and online catalogs. Shocking to me was in this supposed era of content marketing, whitepapers were only No. 11 on the list.
"Keep in mind that the above scenario is quite common in tech buying and large considered purchases," continues Damico. "However, there are still some B-to-B pockets in various industrial market segments that aren't quite as 'social,' and where the above scenario is not entirely accurate."