The UK’s B2B market, estimated at £96.5bn by the Office for National Statistics, is a dynamic sector playing a fundamental role in the UK economy. The sector is composed of both large and small businesses selling both products and services in the UK and abroad.
It is obvious that both small and large B2B business are struggling to adapt to the new digital economy, which is a shame because of the potential of this sector. Consider this; research by Frost & Sullivan showing that the global B2B sales are expected to make up 30% of the global market by 2021.
With the advent of the internet, specifically B2B e-commerce, the market is about to experience a fundamental restructuring and increased competition, primarily due to businesses’ ability to now compete more effectively across borders. This trend is likely to continue and is being encouraged on a governmental level. To demonstrate; the EU is in the process of finalising the EU Digital Single Market which will result in the standardisation of the online sales processes, tax rates and more to create a secure and efficient Eurozone-wide market for ecommerce businesses to take advantage of.
Key decision makers and buyers are also undertaking more thorough online market research on their options before approaching a businesses for potentially partnerships. In one study Google found that 67% of purchases for multiple industrial manufacturing and pack-and-ship industries were influenced by digital. Unfortunately, due to the majority of B2B business having one foot in the old world of marketing and another in the online work (unfortunately in the shape of a clunky brochure website) they’re missing out on new sales and leads everyday.
Challenges facing the B2B businesses
While B2C ecommerce market has grown steadily over the last decade, with various innovative businesses becoming household names, the B2B market has struggled. Some of the key challenges that we believe are holding B2B business back from success in the digital age include:
- Old-fashioned marketing approach: Businesses in the B2B market often sell products or services which are not the most flashy and as such Marketing Managers often find it difficult to differentiate their products/services from the competition or market appropriately. As a result they’ve become stuck with an outdated marketing strategy focusing too often on print.
- Mismatch between positioning and perception: If in business first impressions are important then establishing a strong, market-relevant online presence is crucial for businesses looking to succeed. Not being found online or being perceived as low-quality supplier or producer when you’re aiming to target the premium market will lead to a mismatch between how your business should be perceived and how it is being perceived.
- Inability to reaching the right people: Key decision makers are much more difficult to get hold of due to the structure of medium and large businesses.
- High product/service value and longer sales cycle: High average sales or order value means the overall sales cycle is longer than in a B2C environment and with multiple stakeholders and decision makers to get buy-in from there is a high chance of sales not closing.
- Generating Sales: There seems to be a lack of clear understanding of the business’ sales funnel and understanding of how to generate leads from multiple channels.
Five tips to instantly improve your B2B marketing strategy
- Know who your customers are. Keep track of your customers’ purchases and details of your customers as this will come in handy when undertaking both offline and online marketing.
- Create a professional, engaging online presence. Have a plan in place for your online presence – make sure you have a modern, mobile responsive website. However, this is only the start of your online journey, just because you own a website doesn’t mean you will receive the right traffic. See the below point.
- Work with an online marketing specialists. A costly mistake B2B businesses make is to work with cheap PPC ‘specialists’ or hire Marketing staff who are not specialists in online marketing to undertake digital marketing for the business. You wouldn’t use a non-qualified Accountant to do your annual accounts, why then would you use a non-qualified individual or agency to undertake your online marketing?
- Have the right system and processes in place. Did you know that the most successful sports coaches have the simplest but well-tried processes in place for their teams which they drill and refine over and over again until it becomes second nature for the players? At the top professional levels its the inconsistent teams that lose more often although they have great players. Review your processes and ensure sales are not falling through the cracks.
- Hire the right people. No matter how good your systems are or how great your marketing, if the people who are working in your business day-to-day don’t understand what you stand for or your products/services then you won’t succeed in the long-term. People are very important but easily overlooked in today’s tech-focused world.