There is a fundamental difference between companies who sell to businesses (B2B) and companies who sell to individual consumers (B2C). Your approach is different, your tools are different (or at least they should be), and processes are often different as well. To paraphrase our friends at the leading business software comparison site G2 Crowd, "Treating B2B and B2C like they're the same is a recipe for disappointment".
Speaking of G2 Crowd, they recently put together a fantastic B2B Marketing Guide - if you are in marketing, sales, or even customer service at a business to business organization, we highly recommend this guide. Aside from the great marketing tips, we were most interested in the vast array of similarities in B2B marketing and B2B support. We both deal with the same issues, challenges, and differences, because at the end of the day working with other businesses is, well - different. Read on to see the list of 8 ways marketing and support are different for B2B.
1) B2B products and services tend to be more complex than those designed for consumers
B2B solutions are intended to handle business processes and bottlenecks, so they are often quite complex and more complicated than products designed for consumers. This also means that issues encountered in business are often more difficult and take longer to resolve.
2) Developing long-term relationships is critical
While consumer purchases are often short-term sales and tend to be motivated by personal wishes (think a new pair of shoes or candy bar), business purchases impact the business itself. Some examples include accounting software or consulting services. As a result, the relationship a vendor and business customer build is essential to customer satisfaction and retention.
3) B2B purchases usually carry a high price tag
In the business to business world it's not just the initial purchase price, it's the cost for maintenance or renewal, and the indirect costs of the product or service on the business output. It goes without saying that when you pay more, you expect more.
4) B2B interactions carry a higher level of commitment
Because there is a higher level of complexity and a longer selling cycle in B2B, when businesses make a purchase, it's typically a major commitment. This can include a contract, a long training/implementation period, or a change in how they do business. When a company makes a purchase decision they usually don't expect to repeat the process any time soon,
Want to better understand the difference in B2B customer support? Click here to read our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to B2B Customer Support!
5) There may be multiple decision-makers involved in the process
Many factors go into B2B purchases, and often many people and/or departments are involved. For example, when a company purchases customer support software there could be decision makers from customer support, operations, and even finance involved. Managing this process is much more difficult than with a single consumer decision maker.
6) When working with a B2B customer, you have to remember that you're affecting a professional's busy work day
Whether it's a product update email, a request for an "account review", or a support request, every interaction you have with a B2B customer takes time from their day (and their to-do list!). Be respectful of that, and work to provide value in exchange for their time.
7) B2B buyers are influenced by their experiences as B2C consumers
Despite all of the differences in B2B vs B2C, every business buyer/customer is also a consumer in their personal lives. This means that the experiences they have in their personal life, both in marketing and customer service interactions, will impact their expectations of the interactions they have in their business life.
8) Departmental "silos" are bad for both customers and businesses
Of course we saved the best for last - collaboration is king! As noted in G2 Crowd's guide, "Now more than ever, B2B teams are working together to create unforgettable customer experiences and make more sales". There is power in collaboration - you get to draw on the wisdom and experience of many people and as a result you can provide better, faster, more enjoyable customer experiences that can differentiate you against your competitors.
As you can see, marketing and customer support are the same in many ways when it comes to the B2B industry. Value your customer's time and understand that they have expectations influenced by both colleagues and factors outside of the business world. Do a great job at this and you'll have awesome relationships with your business customers!