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By Mike Cacicio

How consumer tactics can make you a better BtoB marketer

As BtoB marketers, we´ve adopted a sort of unspoken "business elitism"–focusing on BtoB resources, publications and targeting our prospects in their business environments. What we´ve forgotten, when trying to convince our clients that BtoB marketing is the best strategy, is that first and foremost BtoB prospects and customers are consumers.

This doesn´t suggest that I recommend throwing out our tried and true marketing techniques, but rather, by blending consumer strategies and mainstream media into our business-to-business efforts we can become better marketers. I´ve listed a few ways that the industry might approach this in the sections below.

Advertising

Let´s face it. Consumers—business and otherwise— don´t live in a trade publication vacuum. They´re reading The Wall Street Journal and Time and Newsweek and maybe even Maxim or Vogue. And they watch CNN and the Today Show and probably the Cartoon Network—with or without their kids. The stories they read and the ads they see influence the decisions they make, both in their personal and business lives.

As marketers, we have the ability to reach people in their comfort zone—not at work, but in their preferred space. But in order to do this we have to focus less on the channel we use and more on the consumers we´re trying to reach. It means expanding outside the BtoB bubble and reaching people in their living rooms, bedrooms and airplanes en route to vacation. If we want BtoB prospects to buy our products or services, don´t we owe them the courtesy of speaking to them where they live—when they´re off the clock?

I´ve often wondered why most BtoB marketing is so conservative and without personality. After all, the purchasing managers in hospitals and electronics distributors still need to be stopped by an ad´s creative, compelled to read the copy and driven to take action. Why wouldn´t a colorful, personal and emotional ad entice them to buy their work-related items and services the same way they do to buy soft drinks or automobiles?

Public Relations

Public relations is a great way to integrate consumer outreach into a business-to-business marketing campaign.

In a perfect world every client would have the budget to do a yearlong, full-page ad campaign, but in reality most businesses only designate a small budget to BtoB marketing. Public relations can be an antidote to this problem. With a relatively small budget and a sound, strategic plan, public relations can enable a company to tell its story in the most respected and credible consumer publications.

Internet Marketing

The most powerful and leverageable aspect of the Internet is its inherent two-way capabilities. Not only is the Internet the most immediate and ongoing resource for feedback and research for customers, it also affords marketers the ability to create an organized, normative database of information to quickly determine which techniques are working and which are not. Coupling Internet marketing in consumer channels with more traditional BtoB print marketing is an effective way to target business prospects.

If you´re considering online advertising, a little research can go a long way. It´s easy to find out which Web sites your prospects are visiting. Sales representatives often have demographics of both print and Web sites, which serve as a great roadmap for marketers looking to reach specific people.

Keep in mind e-mail marketing is a great tool when used as a component to an integrated marketing program. In your message, be concise, to the point, drive them to your Web site for the details and include an opt-out option to avoid receiving future emails. Spamming a prospect, and sufficiently annoying them, is a surefire way to lose a sale.

Direct Marketing

Perhaps the reason direct marketing has withstood the test of time and technology is its effectiveness. But consumers, business-people in particular, are victims of information overload. With dozens of email and junk mail in their inboxes, business-to-business marketers need to get creative to separate their direct mail from the trash.

Consumer marketers discovered long ago that consumers want to feel special. Little things like hand stamps, rather than bulk mailing, hand written letters and addresses, incentives and different-looking, three-dimensional packages are more interesting to and more likely to be opened than a standard, pre-paid postcard or flat business envelope.

A Challenge

Marketing to business targets is marketing to a sum of individuals, each with different influencing points. The better we reach and affect these individuals, the more likely we will achieve the desired affect on the whole. Thus we must consider all channels that influence a business-to-business prospect—trade and consumer.

And so I offer this challenge.

Try to integrate consumer thinking into your BtoB marketing plans. Reach out to your business audience by talking to them not just where they work but also where they live. In the end, it´s really about BtoP—business-to-people—marketing.

Article courtesey of Family Business Strategies.

About the author: Mike Cacicio can be reached at http://www.slackbarshinger.com. Mike Cacicio is a partner in Slack Barshinger, Chicago.

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