I’ve not typically been big on the necessity for definitions, but became frustrated recently when a senior marekter threw terms like strategy, tactics around as if they were interchangable. It is not hard to understand what B2B marketing is, nor how it is different from consumer, or B2C marketing.

Let’s start at the top: B2B marketing can be defined as the planning, execution and measurement of the strategy and the tactics needed to sell a product or service to a business.

In this blog, I’ll unpack that just a little, argue why the four P’s is a vague and antiquated notion, and offer a simple alterative. I’ll also distinguish B2B and B2C marketing.

B2B Marketing Strategy

In the context of go-to-market planning, strategy can be articulated by the answers to four simple questions:

  • What are you trying to sell
  • To whom are you planning to sell it
  • Through whom (sales channel) do you plan on reaching those buyers, and
  • Against whom will you compete?

That’s it. There might be all sorts of critical questions like how you plan to be positioned by the market (terms like premium, accessible, proven will often be used to describe your planned position), and how you plan to fund your growth or exit your business, but you can park these for now. Certainly positioning is important, but so are price, packaging and service, so you can put them under the ‘what’ category. To elevate positioning above the fundamental reality of what it is that the business will end up buying is an error made by those academics or marketers who are lost in their own self-importance.

You can read more in an earlier blog about how to define a strategy the team understand.

B2B Marketing Tactics

You ‘do’ tactics, to or for the potential buyer. You do them because they help to shift the buyer from one stage in their journey to the next. For example, if I invite you to an event, my invitation is trying to position my company with you, as well as to get you to show interest. If I run the event itself – which maybe I should given I invited you to it – then my purpose should be to get you troubled about a problem I am uncommonly good at solving. Running the event to position is silly, given the invitation should already have done that – at least in part. My event thereby has a clear purpose.

So, a B2B marketing tactic is anything that you do to help a buyer to move.

B2B Sales Tactics

Same thing, but done by Sales rather than Marketing. A B2B sales tactic is anything the Sales person does to help the buyer move from one stage to the next.

B2B vs B2C Marketing

Two quick background points will help to cement these differences in your mind:

Because with B2B we are marketing to businesses, the average value of a deal is usually much higher, and the journey has more-obvious steps and takes longer. And there is often more than one person involved in the business making the decision. For these reasons, vendors worked out long ago that they need to spend more of their energy and budget on Sales than on Marketing. Sales people are better-equipped to manage a unique and complex buyer’s journey. So the first thing for us to acknowledge is the importance of the Sales force and that Marketing is a piece of the puzzle – usually a smaller piece than Sales.

The second point is about the buyer. When making a decision as a consumer, for most purchases we are informed by a small number of things done well. Advertising, merchandising and product packaging all play a critical role; each must be done well. That same consumer buyer, when at work and making decisions with more stake holders and more at stake, will be informed by a broad array of inputs. Analyst reports, the sales person and their dialogue, support materials, peer opinions, the product itself, the sales proposal. The list goes on. My point is that the inputs are many, and so the B2B marketer must master many tactics, not just a few.

To me, that’s about it. B2B marketers must identify tactics collaboratively with their counterparts from Sales so that the overall process works, and the array of tactics needed to facilitate a long buyer’s journey will be larger than for their B2C counterparts.