One of the most important factors in the planning or launch of any new business or product is whether you will be marketing to only businesses (B2B), only consumers (B2C), or both.
This factor will not only determine your marketing strategy, but a host of other relationships from supply chain management to corporate structure. But let’s talk about marketing.
For B2B, you should be able to identify with some certainty potential customers. It might be as easy as pulling out an industry directory, or attending a major trade show, such as the Consumer Electronics Show. Your B2B customers will be much more knowledgable about the product area than we could expect from consumers: they will want to know about the product’s operational features, how it meshes with their business, what kind of ongoing (think service) relationship you‘ll be entering into and they may even want to know about your financial and corporate situation, to give them confidence that they won’t be left in the lurch. In many ways, you’ll be selling you as much as you’re selling a product. In other words, you’ll be selling the steak. Customers are unlikely to care about the box it comes in or your celebrity spokesperson. Your PR strategy is as much or more likely to rely on public relations–hiring someone to raise your profile and influence what others think of you–than advertising. The ultimate goal would be a profile in the Wall Street Journal or corresponding business or trade journal in the industry. Speaking engagements at trade shows, conferences, and other B2B gatherings are recommended.
The Steak and the Sizzle
For B2C, it’s virtually impossible to identify with specificity your potential customer. Accordingly, you will be marketing to demographic groups. They may not know, or want to know, much about the internal operation of the product, and beyond the standard warranty, they may not be contemplating an ongoing relationship with your firm. I can buy Apple’s products without a relationship with Apple, though if I can make the consumers believe they have some relationship with the company, it’s the icing on the cake. But, for the most part, you’ll be selling the product than than yourself, and public relations will take a back seat to advertising, the use of words and images to create an image (and desire) in the consumer’s mind. You’ll still be selling the steak, but you’ll also be selling the sizzle.
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Of course, it could be that you’re selling to both B2B and B2C audiences. Think about companies like Cisco that have both enterprise (B2B) and consumer products. In this case, you’ll need an “umbrella” strategy that’s useful for both audiences. The advertising appeal is likely to be more general in nature. Cisco’s is “Welcome to the Human Network,” which unfairly challenges consumers–and businesses too–to figure out what’s human about Cisco’s network. Better luck next time.
This is the reason that many firms–whether B2B, B2C, or both–have embraced “cause marketing” as a way to develop common ground. The Cone Cause Evolution Study indicates 88 percent of Americans say it is acceptable for companies to involve a cause or issue in their marketing, 85 percent of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about, and 90 percent of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes.
Obviously, cause marketing is more of a lever for consumers, but could also be an important part of a B2B public relations campaign.