B2B Marketing: The Biggest Opportunity In 2018

By James Chalmers of CMA's B2B Council

The following is the first in a series of blog posts by various members of the CMA B2B Marketing Council.  The series will discuss all things B2B Marketing and is aimed to educate and inspire you to become a stronger B2B Marketer. Thoughts on this article or suggestions for topics you would like to see covered? Let us know!

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With the new year upon us and great optimism towards a fresh new year, we know you are inundated with endless top (insert number here) lists of trends or things to watch out for in 2018. As the Canadian Marketing Association’s Business to Business (B2B) Council met and set priorities for 2018, the group made up of senior industry leaders overwhelmingly felt that one thing stood out clearly as the biggest opportunity for B2B Marketers as we head into the new year. We did not set out to give you another list, but we have decided to the share what we feel is the biggest opportunity for B2B marketers in 2018.

B2P:  Business 2 People

What is B2P and why does it matter!? Let me rewind and start back at the basics.

When we break it down to its simplest form, B2B marketers are marketing their business’ products and / or services to other businesses. Uniquely different than marketing to consumers directly there is one key attribute that they all share in common. While you may be marketing to a business, you must not lose sight of the fact that what you are really doing is marketing to a person or group of people at those businesses.

Relationships Matter

We have all heard it before, but relationships matter more in 2018 than ever before!  They matter more because of all of the “noise” in the market place. There is no shortage of choice when it comes to sourcing products or services. A global marketplace fueled by technology and innovation has led to tremendous growth in product and service offerings.

The best B2C marketers are very savvy and they get it! They outperform B2B marketers when it comes in connecting with people. They remove or minimize the “transactional” nature of the exchange. In doing so they connect more genuinely and often create advocates and evangelists as a result.

“Advocates will tell you the great things about a company, a product or a service when prompted to… Evangelists will take it upon themselves to tell you about them without being prompted to do so.”

The biggest opportunity for B2B marketers in 2018 is to focus on building relationships and connecting with the people they are marketing to. Being different as a B2B marketer includes focusing on the “people” side of the equation.    

Listen ~ Learn ~ Perform

Listening is an increasingly important talent to master. Like many of you, I am routinely confronted with salespeople telling me why their product or service makes sense for my business. The biggest problem with this approach is that no one knows my business, the challenges and opportunities we face better than… well, me, of course. Appreciating this and asking me about the challenges and opportunities as I see them is a natural first step and is the start of building a relationship.

“From listening, one learns.”

If you take the time ask questions and then to listen, you will find out what keeps that person up at night. As they enter 2018 what are the corporate objectives they are most stressed about delivering on. Can your product or service support their efforts or deliver quantifiable results towards those objectives?

Performance Matters

Building relationships within your market does not mean the importance of performance is at all diminished. At the end of the day, each and every one of us has targets to meet. The importance of building a transparent and open relationship is it ultimately it leads to stronger co-created partnerships between businesses and the consumers of their products or services. At the most basic level this can mean your product or service is more widely used by your customers, or your customer turns to you first when a need arises that your company might be able to deliver on. Where strong personal relationships that are founded on trust become really special is when challenges arise. When mistakes or performance issues arise, attacking them head on with full transparency results in a commitment from all parties to manage through errors. Where you might otherwise have lost a customer, instead you come out on the other side with a stronger relationship.

The Final Bell

In a global marketplace fueled by technology and innovation, there are more choices for product and / or service providers than ever before. Being better than your competitors is simply the cost of admission. The biggest opportunity you have as a B2B marketer is in fact changing gears and focusing on the basics of building relationships with your audience.

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James Chalmers is Group President and CEO at TACK10 Strategy, a premier consultancy focused on delivering results against corporate objectives through integrated partnerships.

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Tags: marketing, b2b, relationships, services, products