The human factor, B2B

Over the past few years, new technology has changed the rules of B2B marketing and communication beyond recognition. And not just the technology; these days marketing seminars and social media are filled to the brim with more or less insightful marketing concepts, models and checklists for "the digital era”.

Everybody seems to know exactly what’s going on and what needs to be done. So, why do so few of us seem to get it right? One reason may be that we make it more complicated than it really is. Or that we are so impressed with our powerful new tools that we underestimate fundamental human issues.

How do you, for example, know which individuals and companies are most likely to recognize the potential benefits of your ideas, products and services? What are their major interests and driving forces – personal and professional? And what has kept them from taking the first step? Lack of budgets, personal engagement or confidence? Internal resistance or conflicts? Personal risk avoidance? Deep-rooted bonds with other suppliers?

Or is it about you? Is your company recognized as knowledgeable and trustworthy? Do they see you as a competent but arrogant market leader or a humble, hardworking, service minded runner-up? Do they expect you to share valuable and useful experience? Would they trust you to provide a coherent context, indicating where their business is heading?

A major buying decision in a B2B-selling company is typically also influenced by 15–20 people or more. Most of these individuals are not even considered in your media strategy. Your advertising or PR agency knows very little about their varied reasons to support or destroy your business proposal. And your key account managers may not even know who all of them are. 

Referring to the concept of P2P as in “people-to-people communication”, many marketing and advertising people severely underestimate the crucial differences between B2C and B2B: The ongoing internal dialogues, the often complex, extended buying process, the different mind-sets of decision-makers, financial and technical specialists, users… Professional relations and responsibilities, personal pride, fears, loyalties and career considerations. People issues.

Your best sales people already know all that. Conversely, the advertising agencies that you work with may be more invested in positioning strategies and “creativity” than in down-to-earth realities and research findings.

Therefore, the smart marketing manager spends more time with the company's own sales team – they are simply closer to reality. And, sooner or later, marketing and sales should really embrace the idea of total, mutual alignment of customer and market intelligence, objectives, strategies, activities and follow-up.

And what about our own shortcomings, like wishful thinking? When our resources are being cut we do not really want to lower our goals and objectives, do we? Or, to avoid trouble, we might knowingly accept a business plan that is not really in tune with our marketing resources. And invest in corporate campaigns that may look good on paper but are spread too thin to make a real difference on the bottom line. It would be far more rewarding to focus your painfully limited resources on the few accounts that you could really win or develop further, and today there are techniques to do exactly that.

We also tend to overestimate our customers’ readiness to digest complex information. If they've got a problem, they simply want an easy-to-grasp way out. And, if they are not fully aware of the problem, don’t expect them to care about the solution.

Furthermore, research indicates that human beings forget things very fast. After one month we remember around three (3!) percent of what we have read or seen. So, whenever your dream customer is about to make a buying decision, make sure to remind them, again and again.

To summarize, today's marketers have got the most amazing technology and methods to work more effectively, from business intelligence and strategy, through content creation, distribution and analysis. But, to get it right, we must also consider the human factor every step of the way. Because marketing is, more than anything, a behavioural science.

Rolf Andersson
Senior Writer & Strategist at Freya News

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