I have always been puzzled at to why typically Business to Consumer (B2C) organisations are Marketing-led, while most Business to Business (B2B) ones are usually Sales-led or Product-led.
Strategically, Marketing is equally as important for both, yet the importance of Marketing and Marketers are much less valued in the B2B world. Business leaders and the culture within B2B, perceive Marketing as an add on function and are often reluctant to invest time, budget, and resources.
Since March 2020, the way we live and work, socialise and exercise, in fact everything, has undergone a transformation courtesy of COVID-19. The pandemic has forced Companies of all shapes and sizes to re-evaluate the way they work and operate, and how they communicate with employees and customers.
Just as businesses are reimagining work-life balance and the role of offices, now is the ideal time for companies to revaluate the important role and necessity of Marketing. By taking the time to plan, invest and future proof their business for the new normal.
Leading me to pose the question, will the effects of the pandemic and emerging trends help shift this belief and mindset in the world of B2B once and for all?
Business Marketing pre COVID
The one question that always springs to mind is that a CEO wouldn’t choose to hand over a Senior Accountant role to ‘just anyone’ in the business, so why give Marketing to ‘just anyone’?
Over the last 20 years’, I have witnessed (first-hand) and seen how Marketing has been pushed to the side. From start-ups to medium sized Tech Companies, and large Corporate Organisations, many Businesses see Marketing as the least important function compared to HR, Finance, Procurement, Sales and Business Development.
Many Business Leaders and colleagues typically undervalue the skills of Marketers and make jokes about the Marketing Function being ‘the colouring in’ Team.
Only a few years ago, I recall a Senior Director of a London Tech Company who happily bragged how the business had survived for 15 years without Branding and a Marketing Strategy, making it clear he had no interest in Marketing or Marketer’s skills. Needless to say, this particular business handed over Marketing to their Sales Team and perceived Marketing as ‘getting a sale.’
One of the main issues Senior Managers seem to have had with Marketing is that they want and expect results over night. They see the Sales Team get instant results, make a sale, bring a new customer onboard; generating income that the business can see and understand, i.e. what profit they will make and how the team contributes to the business.
With Marketing it isn’t as straight forward. Marketing isn’t a physical, tangible asset you can show and say here it is straight away! Implementing a Marketing Strategy is a long-term strategical approach – building long-term relationships, resonating with the target audience, creating brand awareness, and brand loyalty. It takes time to test the strategy and refine it to get the results for business.
Once you get Marketing right, the results speak for themselves. Just look at brands like Apple (yes this is consumer led) but Steve Jobs put in the hard work in terms of Marketing and now their brand awareness is so high, they barely have to advertise and have life-long, repeat customers. I am not suggesting that Businesses should have a huge budget or try to replicate Apple, it is more about the time, strategy, planning, and patience to get the desired results.
In larger organisations Marketing, Business Development, Sales and Lead Generation all complement each other however, it really is a common misapprehension that either one of these teams can do all of these functions successfully by themselves (without the other).
The best thing any business can do is appreciate and value each employee and function for their expertise, specialist skills and knowledge. Realistically, budgets do of course affect resources but there are ways around this, with outsourcing, freelancing to fill in the gaps on a short-term or temporary basis.
Start-ups and smaller businesses may not be able to afford inhouse Marketing resource at the start, therefore it’s worth investing in a Marketing freelance or consultant to put together a Strategy and Plan for you to help you start and which you can continue to implement yourself. This way, your business will have a robust plan to follow and ensure your business is positioned accordingly and stand out against your competitors.
Click here to see my tips on How to Keep your Marketing on Track.
The effects of Social Media
A common misapprehension about Marketing (through no fault of its own) is that social media is now all that Marketing involves, and a task that anyone in the business can do.
I have had many conversations with business leaders of all shapes and sizes, and when I have asked what type of Marketing activities you are currently doing, the response has often been social media and nothing else.
The rise and popularity of social media has led many people and businesses to forget that there is more to Marketing than just ‘Social’ and is only one element of Digital Marketing. For this reason, many people see themselves as ‘Marketing Experts’ because they use social media or have taken a free online course.
I have witnessed Senior Managers try and take ownership of social media, posting ad-hoc on top of their day job; while others have got their PA to post whenever they have a spare minute. Other companies made the mistake of handing over Marketing to Sales, HR, or Business Development Teams.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can gain a lot of experience and learn from trial and error using your own personal Instagram or Facebook accounts; however, in comparison to Marketing a commercial Business or Service it is quite different.
it ‘s too easy to forget that Social Media is just one element of Digital Marketing and that the Marketing landscape is much wider. Whilst Social is important for building relationships and brand awareness, depending on the type of business or service offering, it may be that Social isn’t the be all and end all for your business. For example, investing in content marketing and SEO strategy if you’re positioning your brand as a thought leader. Ideally an Integrated Marketing Communications strategy will be more beneficial as opposed to solely focusing on one Marketing method in isolation.
There are many other Marketing and Brand Strategies to support business growth available which are sadly never explored.
Changing attitudes on the role of Digital Marketing
Overall, it is hard to judge if Business Leaders now appreciate Marketing any more than before the Pandemic hit. Prior to the first lockdown, it was too easy to forget that social media is just one element of Digital Marketing and that the Marketing landscape is much wider.
It’s clear that during lockdown, companies relied heavily on digital Marketing Communications, from video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, to running virtual visits, tours, seminars, training, interviews, and live events; Marketing has played a key function and kept businesses and brands afloat.
Now that we have started the ‘destination unknown journey’ into the post-covid world, it’s most likely that routines, techniques, and communications during this time will define ‘the new normal.’ Customers are now used to carrying out daily business meetings online, and companies must be prepared to fully adapt for the long-term future to ensure a seamless integrated digital experience for their customers.
Regardless of whether a company fits into the B2B or B2C space, the Pandemic has changed many aspects of what businesses understood about Marketing and Communications.
As mentioned earlier, COVID has blurred and blended the way our Society lives and work in terms of working from home, online meetings, and training etc. As effective Marketing is reliant on understanding your audience, it is no wonder Business Marketers are shifting towards People Marketing (B2P).
This approach, B2P is nothing new as I have been banging on about it for many years! In fact, it’s a simple as forgetting B2B and B2C and acknowledging that the ultimate purchasing and business decision lies with human beings.
COVID has reinforced the fact that some businesses can no longer hide, ignore Marketing or remain a faceless organisation; and have had to find new ways of communicating digitally with all stakeholders.
Just as a business wants customers and employees to resonate with its values. It’s equally as important for businesses to renew and align corporate values, culture, and expectations with its customers, employees, and suppliers. Authenticity, transparency, and humility are key and essential to incorporate into brand tone of voice and communications.
As consumers, people choose to buy into brands that are strongly related to their identity and resonate with themselves and personal values. Equally as our own personal values come into renewed focus, have been impacted and changed by the pandemic, it makes sense that potential customers would choose to do business with brands and organisations that align to both their own personal values, and corporate values.
Summarised by Marketing-Schools.org. “Those who engage in B2P marketing approach their business customers not as mere organizations, but as individual people with unique wants, expectations, and tastes.”
So, will the effects of the pandemic and emerging trends help shift this belief and mindset in the world of B2B once and for all? I believe it already is and I am excited to see how the positive effects for both businesses and Marketers.
If you agree, disagree, or have a totally different outlook and experience, I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below or Get in touch