Selling to Both Businesses and Consumers
by Alan Weber
Business-to-business marketing and business-to-consumer marketing are very different. Communications are different, databases are different and sales methods are different. Most companies consider themselves to be one or the other. But the division between the two markets isn't absolute.
Many consumer marketers also sell to businesses, whether they recognize it or not. It is not uncommon to begin a marketing database analysis comparing consumers based on demographic data, and find the biggest customers aren't private consumers at all.
In most cases where a company sells to both, the database, communication efforts and selling efforts are geared toward consumers. This often means the best, most profitable customers (businesses) are being treated like consumers—and sales are likely to be lost.
Where Unexpected Business Customers Come From
Businesses buy food, clothing, art, gifts and all kinds of items consumers buy. Businesses are not limited to buying office supplies, industrial equipment and business travel. Consumers have jobs, and if they see a good offer for their employer, they can take it to work.
It isn't uncommon to find businesses buying for the first time through consumer-oriented direct mail, space advertising and general media advertising. If businesses can be enticed to buy through efforts not geared toward them, imagine what could be done with the right offer!
Acquisition Cost and Lifetime Value
One of the reasons business-to-consumer marketers shy away from selling to businesses is that prospecting is more difficult. When advertising cost is compared to sales by individual prospecting effort, it usually costs less to acquire consumers than businesses. As a result, many marketers don't try to acquire businesses at all.
Minimizing acquisition cost of business customers requires making offers that appeal to business clients and having the right business audience. Finding the right audience can be a challenge if all previous efforts were directed at consumers. Profiling existing business customers is a good way to find the best places to begin testing business-to-business prospecting efforts.