There are many ways that a business-to-business (B2B) audience and a business-to-consumer (B2C) audience differ. We spend plenty of time discussing consumers, cultural context and changes in behaviour. This often gets related to B2C marketing, despite the fact it’s still humans behind the business! However, we thought it would be useful to share some of our experience specifically in the B2B space, as it is the vast majority of our translation work.
Keep reading to see our top tips for mastering international B2B marketing.
B2B and B2C buyers have different needs
We’ve recently written about how buyer behaviour can vary across cultures. Buyer behaviour is also drastically different between businesses and consumers. B2B buyers are often considered more rational during their buying journey than consumers. This is a theory that may be overworn yet stereotypes frequently have more than a grain of truth in them.
The thinking goes somewhat like this: at work we bring our rational selves to the office (or home office), leaving our emotions aside. For example, you try to keep your emotions hidden from your colleagues if you are going through a personal crisis.
The same person might make completely different decisions when buying for themselves versus their business. A consumer may pay £1,000 for a bicycle when there is an equally serviceable bike for £200 – even if they intend to ride it only on weekends. However, when operating the purse strings for their business, the same individual would take emotion out of the equation. Partly, this comes down to the fact that businesses have budgets to justify and return on investment is always a key determinant in significant purchases.
A key difference between consumers and business buyers is the trade-off between emotion and technical specifications. For the B2B buyer, quantifying the technical dimensions of a product allows them to dispassionately evaluate two options and choose the most suitable for the business.
Market sizes are often much more focused and niche for B2B companies than B2C firms. This means for B2B businesses it is important to forge personal relationships with your buyers. You may end up on a first-name basis and even visit your most important client’s office. This way trust develops, and companies become long-term clients – B2B relationships can last many years.
Personal relations can be particularly important in emerging markets. Countries such as Russia and China limit information, especially on the internet. To win the trust of business buyers in overseas markets, your company may need to invest a lot of hours into nurturing a relationship over time.
The data backs up this assertion. Research from B2B International shows that personalised interactions with sales agents are highly valued. There is a slight generational split with the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations preferring personalised communications with a sales rep over other communication channels. Millennials, on the other hand still value personal relationships, but this only comes in the top three of their preferred communication channels.
Decision Making Structures
B2B products may be more complex than products aimed at consumers. B2B companies, therefore, typically have intricate decision-making structures, while a consumer might only refer to a trusted few friends or family. B2B buyers usually place larger orders than consumers – a consumer may buy a single item while a business could buy hundreds or thousands of units.
Products designed for consumers are often off-the-shelf standardised items, while products meant for business use may be bespoke. So, when designing a new product for a business, various iterations may be required.
Buying a new house or a car for a consumer is a big decision. However, it may not be approached with the same rigour and due diligence that a business would approach buying a similarly priced item. This comes down to emotion again. A consumer may buy a house that’s cheaper than an alternative, but further away from their place of work, which may mean any savings are eliminated by their travel costs. A business, however, will thoroughly weigh up all financial repercussions before making a buying decision.
The business unit involved in the buying process will likely be large and made up of a range of decision-makers with different motivations. It could involve upper management trying to drive change, middle managers looking to protect their jobs and short-term consultants desperate to prove their worth. This structure and the motivations and roles can differ from country to country too.
Also, businesses are constantly changing. Employee turnover means B2B sellers need to win over new decision makers. Because of this, B2B marketers and sales teams must be adaptable and quickly understand the motivations of decision makers. They might have to deal with decision makers looking to cut spending or find new employees looking to make their mark at the business.
Success is more likely when you understand the motivations of your audience and tailor your communications to their needs. This needs assessment and mapping may also change between countries. Outlining technical specifications is paramount as mentioned previously because B2B marketers must be fully immersed in every detail of the product or service they are selling. This can include everything from problem resolution to sales aftercare and relationship management.
Mastering Your Strategy
Hopefully, the above reflections on B2B marketing have helped you gain perspective on not only the differences between B2C and B2B marketing but also given food for thought for how the B2B marketing challenge differs between regions and countries. We know it’s much more complex than a language translation.
We’re here when your business is ready to break into a new market, overhaul your brand materials, or needs a new document translating. Our translation services will ensure your message is not lost, whether you’re communicating in 20 languages or just two. Bubbles’ translators will make certain your message is consistent and convincing, presenting your business at its best around the world. Start today, get in touch with us and our dedicated project managers will come back to you without delay.