We have seen so many “marketing gurus” bombard our founder friends with marketing advice for their B2B businesses. They preach about how essential Facebook marketing is, as well as how metrics such as engagement and Facebook referral traffic reflect how well their companies are doing.
Yet, these “gurus” are usually examining traffic from a B2C perspective. Yes, in the world of B2C, traffic does reign supreme. A higher traffic volume usually means more transactions made, which in turn means higher revenues. That’s why these big B2C players usually reserve so much of their war chests on the marketing front– and so many are investing in content or super app strategies to get organic traffic.
But the world of B2B is different. Their decision makers face entirely different considerations, which means that traffic is not only harder to attract, but also might not even translate to more transactions (that easily).
Caveat: here we talk about real businesses, not freelancers, dropshippers or small retail businesses, where usually only one person makes the decision, and decisions are highly transactional.
Different expectations in B2C and B2B
In B2C, consumers generally make low-stake purchases. Whether it’s shopping on ecommerce sites or ordering food delivery services, we tend to spend only a fraction of our income. Even when larger expenditure is involved, our transactions remain one-off in nature, since we don’t expect ourselves to maintain a relationship with the seller after completing the sale.
Because of this temporary buyer-seller relationship, as well as the low-stakes nature of the purchase, consumers can afford to make spontaneous, emotionally-driven choices.
On the other hand, B2B transactions are complex. B2B solutions tend to involve many parts of a business’s operations, requiring stakeholders to factor in more variables when comparing such solutions. Furthermore, as these transactions also occur over a longer cycle, even a less-than-perfect decision can translate into time and resources wasted or worse, workflow disrupted.
Every transaction made in the B2B world, therefore, involves a careful calculation of costs and benefits. Decision makers cannot risk making any impulsive or emotionally driven choices. Even when careful calculation does not lead to optimal outcomes, decision makers will still need to deliberate.
Another unique aspect of B2B is business continuity. Businesses that are working with B2B companies often want to maintain a long-term working relationship; it allows them to better optimize their workflows by eliminating a degree of uncertainty. To work towards this long-term relationship, B2B companies need to consistently show the reliability of their offerings. Trust is key.
Traffic ≠ Transactions
Since decision makers involved in B2B are more level-headed, online advertisements, which usually appeal to our emotions, are unlikely to be effective (especially when compared to B2C).
Though these marketing campaigns can rely on impressive statistics to woo clients, it will still struggle to cultivate the trust needed by businesses involved in B2B. Furthermore, given the relationships that these businesses have already developed with their B2B partners, they will also be more resistant towards switching their existing solutions.
Any form of B2B marketing will face such constraints, which is why it is challenging for B2B marketing to draw traffic. Think about it– have you ever actually opened any of the sponsored content that intrudes into your LinkedIn messages?
Even if a B2B company manages to overcome these hurdles with its marketing strategy and draw eyeballs to its website, its traffic may not translate into transactions. Again, the inertia of these decision makers is difficult to overcome.
The ROI for performance marketing for B2B is, therefore, usually low. Rather than burn their cash on click campaigns, B2B companies might be better off investing their cash flow into generating word of mouth.
One of Slack’s most “viral” YouTube videos, this advertisement currently draws around 480 000 viewers– around less than 5% of Slack’s total daily active users.
That’s pretty much why the big names in B2B do not channel too much resources into their marketing efforts as well. After all, when was the last time Slack and Jira bugged us with an earsome ad like Shopee or Lazada?
Even on the rare occasions when these companies do engage in large scale marketing, they probably intend to reinforce their brand reputation, as opposed to drawing traffic.
Ultimately, B2B is about streamlining a complex process that involves multiple stakeholders, as opposed to consuming a final product. With more people’s lives affected, and more factors to consider, decision makers will approach B2B transactions with greater hesitation.
Traffic is harder to draw– and it might not be even worth attracting in the first place. In the end, the B2B companies with high traffic may have few clients, and the B2B companies with low traffic may be dominating their markets.