Thursday, September 08, 2005

B2B and IT: Need for a different approach to marketing, PR and communication

From PR Influences...

Recent public relations and marketing graduates who have started working for an IT or B2B company may find the reality of their job a little different from what they were taught at university. This is because most university courses deal more with addressing consumer markets than business markets – and there are some significant differences.

Some of these are:

  1. They’re not buying – you’re selling- Most consumer products are bought by people who visit a store or order by phone, fax or email. - Most B2B sales are effected in quite the opposite way with the vendor visiting the customer.
  2. You’re selling to individuals – not a demographic- In consumer marketing the customer is often just a number – just one of many in a demographic. - In B2B, customers are real organisations/people who can be individually identified and profiled.
  3. The decision-making process of your customer is different- With the exception of large items for the family, most consumer sales involve just one decision-maker. - B2B sales can have a myriad of decision makers, especially in IT where you may need to address the IT Manager, the CIO, the CFO and/or the CEO.
  4. You probably have a limited marketing budget- In consumer marketing it’s likely you will have a reasonably sized budget, an advertising agency and the freedom to pursue some major marketing and communication initiatives. - Mostly in B2B you are likely to have a limited marketing budget, with the majority of it already committed to collateral materials and what you might regard as sales support rather than textbook marketing.
  5. The corporate message is more relevant - Mostly in consumer, the emphasis is on marketing the benefits of a brand or product with the corporate name often irrelevant, or even deliberately omitted. - In B2B, corporate and brand/product need to be carefully balanced. For many B2B or IT marketers you are selling the company first and the product or service second
  6. Marketing is often not understood or appreciated- In companies with a consumer focus marketing is normally a recognised function, with a Marketing Director and clearly defined brand and product responsibilities. - With B2B companies, marketing is often perceived as merely an extension of the sales function and it can be difficult to get marketing properly understood and appreciated by senior management.

So what does this mean about how you are going to have to plan and execute your various communication activities? Principally, it means that you should be:

Building relationships as a leverage tool
If your own resources and/or budgets are limited your key strategy should be to leverage what you have by building relationships with those who have the power to reach and influence your target market.

Principally, this covers two key audiences:

  • Media. B2B and IT customers are heavy readers of magazines and online media.

You need to understand:

  • which media are most relevant to your key audiences
  • how you can encourage the media to cover your company and its products

  • Analysts. Especially in IT the influence of analysts on buyer behaviour can be substantial.

You need to understand:

  • which analysts are the most relevant to your marketplace
  • how to introduce a local perspective to what is often an internationally driven agenda

Using information to gain share of voice
In B2B and IT the key to communicating is information and education. If you can’t buy share of voice through advertising (and even if you can it’s often not the best tool to use) your best alternative is to try and achieve significant editorial coverage in the trade and technical media that your existing and potential customers are reading.

Many consumer brands keep in the news by continually launching new products or product variants. Most B2B brands don’t have this luxury. This means that PR needs to be carefully planned so that coverage can still be gained on a regular basis – even though the product may not have altered significantly in the last six to 12 months.

Tactics here include:

  • Becoming an available spokesperson to comment on industry trends and developments
  • Writing opinion piece for media
  • Releasing customer win stories
  • Writing, and placing, case studies that show your products in action
  • Preparing white papers


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