Part of the Globe and Mail Shop Talk series:
The majority of the B2B marketing and e-commerce content in this article has been taken from the two-part Shop Talk video series.
B2B business owners still have many hesitations about joining the online world in 2020. A new report suggests that global B2B e-commerce is expected to grow to about $US 6.6 trillion by 2021. Yet, nearly half of Canadian SMBs (small and mid-sized businesses) either have minimal e-commerce functionality or no website at all. While the focus of many marketing strategies are B2C orientated, building a B2B e-commerce experience is still filled with questions and aversions. What B2C strategies can be implemented in a B2B space? How do you build a successful B2B e-commerce experience? Is it truly worth the investment?
In this B2B-focused segment of the two-part Shop Talk series, a panel of industry leaders discussed some of the top questions in B2B marketing and e-commerce.
- Jane Lee, co-founder of Launch Pop
- Lauren Lake, COO and co-founder of Bridgit
- Randy Frisch, CMO and co-founder of Uberflip
- Stacey Cummings, Head of Customer Solutions Marketing at Purolator Inc.
B2B e-commerce marketing: is it really any different from the B2C strategies? [15:50]
On the surface, there are certainly similarities between B2C and B2B marketing strategies. Businesses of all types use social media, email, and video marketing to get people to buy from their business. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, a good marketing strategy generates brand recognition, builds trust, and eventually encourages a purchasing decision. While it’s not cut-and-dry, one of the main differences is the tactics behind the messaging. B2C marketing is likely to be emotionally charged – appealing to a feeling that the audience can relate to. B2B marketing is generally more focused on appealing to logical and rational purchasing decisions – is it a good investment?
It can be argued that the differences don’t lie between B2B and B2C exclusively. Marketing strategies can be influenced greatly by the number of people involved in the decision making. Larger businesses have a much longer buying process, which means more people and content are needed to generate interest among all decision-makers. And the size of a buying committee is on the rise. It’s currently estimated that around 6-10 people are included in the buying journey, from the finance team to the CEO.1
Stacey Cummings, from Purolator, mentioned, “You have to position your message in many different ways to show financial viability, reliability and appeal. Not only to meet the need of the customer but to meet the needs of all the decision-makers as well.”
When developing B2C or small-scale B2B marketing strategies, you’re normally only targeting one or two opinions. Therefore, the decision-making process can be much quicker. The messaging doesn’t need so many layers in this case, but it needs to strongly appeal to that person. The difference is the number of chances you have to win their sale. Consumers who purchase more impulsively can be retargeted through another marketing strategy if they don’t purchase the first time. For B2Bs, a decision is carefully thought through, so it can be harder to capture their attention a second time.
Why should I take my B2B business online? [2:50]
For many well-seasoned B2B businesses, it might seem like creating an online presence is redundant to their customer base. Not long ago, exchanging business cards was the most common form of an introduction. Relationships were formed in-person, and face-to-face meetings occurred throughout the supply chain. But, new clients are now increasingly likely to discover a B2B business online. For this reason, it’s increasingly important to have an online presence.
Beyond this though, what if you’re not looking to grow? Or perhaps you use custom pricing and e-commerce doesn’t seem viable? The panel discussed many reasons why having an online presence can assist with your business holistically – whether or not you choose to sell online.
- Learning about your customer. An online presence allows you to collect data and view trends on your customer base. Through tools like Google Analytics you can take note of what sells well, what pages get viewed the most, and also what doesn’t gain traction at all. With this data, you can make smart B2B marketing decisions based on data that can help you target your customers, learn what content resonates with them and how they are finding your website.An online customer can differ from an offline one. “A lot of people are surprised because the offline customer is very different than the first person to purchase online,” Jane Lee summarized.
- A global audience. If you’re looking to grow, going online expands your reach well beyond your postal code. It takes away many limits of your scalability.
- Personalizing the experience. While some traditional marketers would argue you can’t build a relationship online, it can actually help to personalize their experience. Using a form to collect information before a point-of-contact can dictate the conversation between the prospect and a sales rep.
- Onboarding on your own time. There is no need to spend lots of money getting your business online in one shot. The information and functionalities can be added over time at a pace that is comfortable for you and your team. Assess what’s worth investing time and money in. Use site data and customer feedback to interpret where it makes sense to focus your efforts.
- Recruitment. Something that goes overlooked is capturing the right audience to work for you. Similar to buying habits, people are much more likely to search for jobs online. Not only does this provide visibility to your vacancies – having a website allows you to showcase your company, its goals and values.
What are some of the common mistakes in B2B marketing and e-commerce? [20:50]
To get the most out of investing in a website, it’s important to recognize some of the common mistakes. Here’s some advice from the panel on things to avoid:
- Creating content that lives offsite. EBlogs, videos and other forms of content should live on your own domain. It costs marketing money to get the attention of prospects, so make sure you keep them engaged, and onsite. They’re likely to get distracted if they’re directed to social media pages or YouTube to watch a video.
- Clearly explaining what you sell. Companies that sell services or intangible products such as software sometimes fail to hit the nail on the head with their descriptions. “It’s easier said than done to make a website that’s actually clear, to someone who’s new to it,” explains Lauren Lake. Sometimes you need to be detailed, rather than bold, to be clear.
- Asking for too much info. While you want to get to know a prospect, there’s a fine line when it comes to too many fields in a contact form. Only ask what you really need, to ensure you get the lead or sale.
- Not talking to your customers. It shouldn’t just be customer service or sales reps speaking to your customer base. Reach out to them, or even visit them in person to see how they perceive your business. “It keeps you close to the front line, which is so important in all businesses,” says Jane Lee.
How important is choosing a delivery partner for a B2B business? [10:30]
Choosing the right delivery partner can elevate your business. Carriers manage a It’s important for all businesses to have a trusted and confident relationship with their delivery provider. “I think that’s really the biggest connector for us, is earning the trust of who we work with,” says Stacey Cummings. “We want to say exactly what we are going to do and when and live by that.”
I think that’s really the biggest connector for us, is earning the trust of who we work with, we want to say exactly what we are going to do and when and live by that.
While it’s an obvious service for companies that offer physical products, a great delivery partner can even help when you sell a service. Using ABM (account-based marketing) as a B2B marketing strategy, you can deliver a prospect personalized direct mail to win them over. “There are a lot of considerations that we look at in choosing a vendor and what they’re using from a shipping perspective – so we want to know the moment they get our gift,” explains Randy Frisch. If a delivery partner can inform your business as soon as it’s been signed for, it’s an opportunity for a sales rep to capture their attention further, right at that moment.
Elevate your B2B business with an online presence.
In conclusion, an online presence can help your B2B business from every angle. You can use it to gather qualified leads, increase brand awareness and even recruit new team members. When you’re ready to elevate your e-commerce strategy, keep these tips in mind to help you decide what to do and what to avoid.
Want more B2B tips from the experts? Watch the full video for more tips.