Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The 7 Key Differences Between Business to Business and Consumer Marketing

by Bob Bly

When asked if he could write an effective direct mail package on a complex electronic control system, a well-known direct response copywriter replied, “No problem. It doesn’t matter what the product is. You are selling to people. And people are pretty much the same.”

He’s wrong.

Yes, there are similarities. But there are also differences in selling to business and professional buyers vs. the general public. In fact, here are six key factors that set business-to-business marketing apart from consumer marketing:

1. The business buyer wants to buy. Most consumer advertising offers people products they might enjoy but don’t really need. How many subscription promotions, for example, sell publications that the reader truly could not live without? If we subscribe, we do so for pleasure – not because the information offered is essential to our day-to-day activity.

But in business-to-business marketing, the situation is different. The business buyer wants to buy. Indeed, all business enterprises must routinely buy products and services that help them stay profitable, competitive, and successful. The proof of this is the existence of the purchasing agent, whose sole function is to purchase things.
2. The business buyer is sophisticated. Business-to-business copy talks to a sophisticated audience. Your typical reader has a high interest in – and understanding of – your product (or at least of the problem it solves).

Importantly, the reader usually knows more about the product and its use than you do. It would be folly, for example, to believe that a few days spent reading about mainframe computers will educate you to the level of your target prospect – a systems analyst with six or seven years experience. (This realization makes business-to-business writers somewhat more humble than their consumer counterparts.)

The sophistication of the reader requires the business-to-business copywriter to do a tremendous amount of research and digging into the market, the product, and its application. The business audience does not respond well to slogans or oversimplification.

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