Digital marketing is considered the bloodline for most of the modern day organisations that have a high dependency on information technology. The main reason for the popularity of digital marketing is the perception that it delivers a high Return on Investment vis-à-vis the cost of marketing. However, generalising this fact and considering it apt for every situation is the biggest fallacy, which has led to disastrous results for businesses, especially in the B2B segment. There are numerous reasons why digital marketing advices do not work for the B2B businesses, which are discussed here, along with the potential solution in the form of Account Based Marketing.
The biggest fallacy of digital marketing for Business-to-Business marketing is that it lacks a clear focus when it comes to marketing segmentation and positioning by vaguely defining the target markets. This method is volume-driven, which means its focus is to reach as many customers as possible, as soon as possible. While this might work for retail or B2C businesses, it fails to deliver any real value to the B2B marketing efforts.
The four most commonly used digital marketing techniques are digital e-commerce, social media, mobile, and analytics. All of these are focused on driving numbers and disseminating the information to large sets of customers. However, it also means a low conversion level. For digital and mobile advertisements, the click through rate is just 0.11 percent. Likewise, even for the paid social media marketing, the click through rate is 0.11 percent (St. Clair, 2014). When it comes to B2B marketing, the targeted market segments do not consist of such huge volumes of potential clients that a conversion of a mere 0.11 percent suffices the purpose. Where the potential clients are less than a few hundred, this conversion rate would mean zero or very low acquisition.
B2B marketing requires carefully planning and execution. Every part of it needs a great attention to detail and efficient implementation. Thus, there is a clear need to have the right people working on the right strategies and execution. This is usually not the case with digital marketing that focuses on generating the highest ROI with the lowest investment. In B2C marketing, it makes sense to reduce the cost per conversion of lead and reducing the cost of acquisition by spending less on sales funnel. However, B2B marketing is a different turf altogether where the number of customers is specific and conversion time is more than that in the case of B2C marketing. It means that the marketing activities for B2B entail more than just methods such as SEO, PPC, etc.
The marketing process here is complex and the sales cycles might even span across several months and sales. In contrast, almost all the digital marketing advices are focused on transactional type selling, which is suitable for quantity based B2C businesses. In comparison, B2B is more about identifying the quality customers, which can only be achieved by specialised persons handling each task of the marketing activities in an effective manner.
Another major drawback when it comes to digital marketing advices for B2B marketing is that almost all of these advices involving copy pasting the B2C tactics for B2B customers. Offering a 10 percent discount to the first 50 customers could be an excellent method to drive the business for B2C companies, replicating this technique for a B2B company will be the biggest fallacy, especially if the segmented clients are low in number and the sales completion process cycle is much larger than a B2C sales cycle. An ‘early bird” discount would not work in case of B2B as the clients in this segment are more interested in value rather than few percentage point discounts.
Another reason why a B2C digital marketing tactic will not work for a B2B marketing campaign is because of the non-linearity of the B2B buying cycle. B2B buying process is fairly simple and linear. It involves creating an awareness about the product or service among the customers, arousing their interest, converting their interest into desire, and ultimately encouraging them to take action in the form of a purchase decision. Contrarily, a B2B process is vastly different because of the high ticket size of the product or service. Such high-cost deals often get started, again go back to the negotiation stage, reinitiated, renegotiated, and the cycle continues until the time the actual sale happens. Every cycle in the B2B segment is different as each buyer follows a different process. A B2C strategy of sending automated emails or displaying advertisement banners on Facebook will be rendered ineffectual for B2B.
The solution to the low output of digital marketing for B2B businesses lie in Account Based Marketing. Account Based Marketing is a viable solution for B2B businesses which involves identification of few but key customers and then channelizing the marketing resources in closely managing these key set of customers rather than initiating a volume based marketing strategy. The crux of Account Based Marketing is that it works with named or identified customer accounts rather than a vague and vast target group. An account based marketing strategy concentrates on existing or prospective individual accounts and framing strategies suitable to each account. The efficiency of the account in comparison with general digital marketing methods can be gauged from the fact that in 2015, there has been an increase of 21 percent in the number of companies that deploy account based marketing strategies (Zantal-Wiener, 2016). B2B marketers are realising the importance of account based marketing, which is evident from its increasing implementation.
Digital marketing advices which are available on millions of websites and blogs hold value for B2C marketing. But, when it comes to B2B marketing, they fall several miles short of delivering the right solution while also draining the resources of the companies implementing them. A feasible alternative is account based marketing which concentrates the marketing efforts and resources on specific target customers and helps plan strategies that suit each one of them by adopting a subjective approach, rather than a generalised marketing approach followed by digital marketing.