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Defining Your B2B Go to Market Strategy: 7 Things to Consider

Posted March 23, 2022
Alejandra Slatapolsky

Topics Covered:

  • Deciding on B2B vs B2C vs B2C2B
  • Competing departments can steer ships off-course
  • KPIs and conversion rates
  • B2B buyers are human too
  • Features not solutions

Camela: Alejandra, welcome to the show. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Alejandra: Thank you. It’s great being here. I’m a communications marketing professional who has evolved into a business consultant. I’ve been specializing in marketing communications for financial services for many years. I launched Scalto with a partner, and we help companies scale from a marketing perspective and define their go to market strategy.

B2B vs B2C vs B2C2B…Define the Approach First

Hint: It’s all about your sales process and the functionality of your product.

Camela: I’m so excited to talk through this. We will focus on the pieces that go into a go-to-market strategy. One of the first things–that sounds pretty fundamental but isn’t–is whether or not you have a B2C, B2B, or B2C2B go-to-market strategy. Many companies are finding success with B2C2B or selling an individual license before scaling to the broader enterprise.

What factors do you consider when deciding which go-to-market strategy you’re going with?

Alejandra: That has been a conversation I’ve had with different clients. The other day I was in a strategy session with a CEO I’ve known for many years. Since they’ve launched their product, we’ve had that conversation. Should we go B2B? Should we go B2C?

It’s more about the sales process than the business itself. So first of all, I think that to determine whether you should go B2B or B2C, you have to think about your product first.

Camela: You would think that would be so obvious. Because in the past, we were selling a piece of hardware to a company. That was a no-brainer: it’s a B2B go to market strategy. It’s a lot more complex with cloud-based software and licensing.

Alejandra: Exactly. The technology has made it so that you have that open conversation constantly with the companies. Every single company is moving toward being a technology company, so the scalability is there. You have to decide who to target first.

You’re always going to land on the consumer. And the consumer can be somebody that is using your product as part of their job or as part of their personal lives, but it’s still the consumer.

go to market decision b2b
Then you have the strategy. The conversation I always have with CEOs is: Do I go B2B with my go to market strategy and spend more time in the conversion process, or do I quickly spend more money and do campaigns that directly reach the consumer? And it’s a different answer for each business.

It’s not always the case that B2C requires more money because time is money in the long run.

Again, start with the product first and see who you provide the most value to. Are you adding the most value to the business or the consumer? Most of my clients have two different strategies. They have a B2C strategy and a B2B go to market strategy.

Camela: I feel like we’re still at the point where some products are self-limiting. If the functionality outweighs the usability, we have to take that B2B approach. But if consumers can immediately see the value and it’s simple enough for them to use immediately… Do you see that playing a part in which direction they’re choosing?

Alejandra: Yes. Also, in finance, you have a lot of trust to gain.

Camela: Yes.

Alejandra: When you need to gain trust, there is a need to have a B2B2C approach. For example, I’ve positioned wealth management products, and going B2C is more expensive because you have to build trust directly with the client. Having a middleman, like a financial advisor, introduce the product is much easier. Then, of course, the financial advisor is bombarded with many other products that they want to push. Yeah.

The approach depends on functionality, but it also depends on how hard or how easy the purchase process is.

Camela: That makes a lot of sense.

Alejandra: There are a lot of products that require you to trust the brand and others that are low-engagement products.

Culture Impacts Go to Market Strategy.

C-Suite should foster collaboration, not competition.

Camela: That makes sense. And do you ever see company culture driving the B2B go-to-market strategy? So let’s say you have a sales manager taking charge and driving the approach. Do you see that taking place quite a bit?

Alejandra: Yeah. The tension between sales and marketing is always there. The companies that perform the best are the ones that are collaborating and not competing. I think that comes from the C-Suite. If you have a C-Suite that is not positioning the teams to compete, that’s always the best scenario.

I’ve always viewed marketing as a sales support function, but many marketing professionals are like, “I’m going to compete with the sales team and see how much I can convert without the sales team.”

I think that doesn’t work, especially with technology. The future is technology with a human touch. The companies that work the best–the companies that grow consistently–can integrate technology and human interaction into the customer journey.

Define Clear KPIs

Monitor conversion rates after implementing the B2B go-to market strategy.

Camela: What you’re describing is simply removing friction. And I think conflict can exist between marketing and sales, which perpetuates through the sales funnel. People pick up on that. The other thing I see causing a lot of misalignment is KPIs. For example, when marketing is solely focused on an early funnel metric and not necessarily the pipeline or bookings number. Have you seen that in the market?

Alejandra: Completely. I’m not a good marketing person in that sense. All my clients–every single organization–come to you and say, “I need more in the leads.” And 90% of the time, they don’t need leads. They have a conversion problem. So we have to make sure leads aren’t falling through the cracks and have a good onboarding and follow-up process. Unfortunately, the rest of the journey is failing more often than not.

Camela: It’s all about efficiency and the customer’s experience.

Alejandra: Yeah. With CEOs, the best way to convince them not to focus on a lead volume is to tell them each lead will be less expensive. Don’t try to get new leads. Instead, see what you have already in the funnel. I’m sure you have a ton that you haven’t worked on, or they’re ignoring their current clients.

misalignment kpis
Camela: Customer acquisition cost is the way to your CEO’s heart when it comes to your B2B go to market strategy and beyond. Too true.

To some of us, it may be apparent where we think a product sits. What makes it more difficult is when you’re developing the product, and you’re too close to the product. It tends to make everything else fuzzy. What are some things that companies can do to help them solidify their go to market plan?

Make Sure Your Buyers Understand Your Product

Messaging is a crucial but underrated part of your go to market strategy.

Alejandra: I think the best exercise is to sit with four or five different types of buyers. Sit with prospective buyers that you think would buy your product and not sell it, but explain it and see how long it takes for them to get it.

Time how long it takes for them to understand the product.

If they get to the a-ha moment and say they would buy the product, you know to target that group.

If it takes people more than three minutes to understand your product, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Camela: Sometimes, the words the business or marketing is using are out of alignment with how customers think of it. I always think of marketing as this blend of art and science, and the art is figuring out the correct descriptors. Marketers have to tap into how the customer feels about the product. Market research and user interviews are invaluable for marketers. Marketers should be involved in that process, don’t you think?

B2B Buyers Have Emotions Too

Connect solutions to your buyers’ problems in your go-to-market strategy.

Alejandra: Yes. And there are two tricks that I always use to describe products. One is the rational and emotional reasons to connect. So I always explain that people don’t buy for rational reasons.

Camela: No, they don’t. They’ll rationalize their emotional reasons.

Alejandra: Exactly.

So finding those emotional reasons is hard from a product perspective in general. But there’s always some emotional reason that drove someone to create the product. Think of the people you first developed the product for. I always say then make the niche smaller.

I genuinely believe in emotion-driven outreach. Find your niche and find the solution that they would react to.

I keep thinking back to TOMS. It’s a very typical marketing example, but they were the ones that tapped into the need for a philanthropic mission for the first time. Now it’s overused, I feel. But back then, when they started going out and saying, “Hey, we’ll give a pair of shoes to kids in need whenever you buy a pair of shoes.” It tapped into a need in a niche that wasn’t being addressed. It connected emotionally with the people that wanted to make an impact.

Camela: I see a lot of marketers either get into B2B or B2C, and then they stay there. And I think that’s unfortunate because B2C can bring a lot of the emotional flavor that works so well with consumers to the B2B side. What are some of the key differentiators you see between those two sectors in marketing?

Alejandra: In B2B, I truly believe in working through the customer journey. It’s an approach that has always been used in B2C.

In B2B, marketers have to think through how they’re making life easier for someone in an organization they’re selling to. I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek. He said, “It’s not B2B. It’s not B2C. It’s people.”

B2B marketers generally assume that most decisions will be rational and that you cannot reach them where they live. That’s not true anymore. I want B2B marketers to challenge that view.

emotional reason behind product
There’s a lot that B2B can learn from B2C. It goes back to my previous point. It’s important to look for smaller niches of people with emotional needs. If you’ve narrowed your ideal customer profile to soccer moms in California, you need to understand there are subgroups. You can’t compare a soccer mom who works to one who doesn’t. Some have a club membership, some are married, some are single moms, some are on their second marriage, and on and on. They identify themselves differently, and you need to market to them accordingly. Many other things connect humans emotionally that are not just statistics on your social networks.

Camela: I see some B2B brands figuring out how to treat their B2B audience as humans first. I think of Dooly, Scratchpad, and Drift to name a few. They’re incorporating things like humor. I think that’s such a big deal. The transformation from marketing to business entities to humans is slowly happening, but I feel like B2B is always at least five years behind all things.

Alejandra: In B2B finance, sometimes I feel like we’re stuck in the Stone Age.

Camela: Oh my goodness. Yes. And all the graphics are just so… If I see another person sitting in an office, smiling at a computer, I am telling you–

Alejandra: I know, and we’re not even sitting in an office anymore.

Camela: Right. Let’s make things a little bit more relatable.

Focus on Solutions, Not Features

Objections are not just always about the price tag.

Let’s talk about some of the main differences between B2B and B2B (outside the psychology behind the messaging). Things like who owns the P&L, the org structure, and the technology. I recognize that the sales cycles tend to be longer with more people involved in B2B because, generally speaking, the sales ticket items are quite a bit bigger.

Alejandra: But also, there’s still a person behind the sale. There’s one person always pushing the product through to purchase. So you have to figure out that person and the drivers for them and their organization. Also, one of the keys I see in marketing is trying to convert the message from feature-focused to result-focused and solutions-focused.

That’s something that happens a lot in startups. Some larger marketing departments figure it out. But converting that message from this is what we sell to this is what we solve for you–or this is the result you get–is something I see many organizations struggle with. For me, figuring this out is vital. The rational/emotional reasons to buy, but also what I need. What’s the need for the person that you target.

Camela: It’s surprising how hard it is to figure that out when you’re close to the product. It’s a challenge unless you’re sitting with users and talking to them all the time and getting their input. That’s what has helped me as a marketer.

Alejandra: You need to have a certain level of empathy with the CEO or the product developer behind the product. It’s their baby.

Camela: Oh yes!

Alejandra: It’s tough to extract yourself and say, these are the results. It’s tough for them. The marketer’s role is to extract the results from them, too. Marketing needs to lead leadership through that tough conversation.

When I speak about the golden circle and the “why” behind the purchase, my clients typically jump to cost objections. Sometimes I get a lot of resistance, especially among entrepreneurs.

Camela: I’ve gone through those exercises before where I keep getting features instead of what we are solving. Why is that feature good? Why do we care? I mean, it’s great that it’s fast, but–

Alejandra: It’s great that you have ten different plugins, and it works online. Good.

Camela: It’s funny because the whole reason they develop the product in the first place is precisely what you’re trying to get back to as a marketer. “What is the problem you saw in the market that you’re trying to solve?” That approach can help sometimes.

Alejandra: Sometimes they forget.

Camela: Yeah. It is hard building a product, and there are so many rabbit holes you go down after that first idea. So I, I get it. I get it.

Alejandra: It’s a long path from inception to production. Also, you start taking detours. They may have started because of three problems, but they ended up changing the product because of the market’s response to the initial concept. So yeah. It’s hard.

B2C Skills are Transferable to B2B

Don’t be afraid to apply your B2C skills to your B2B go to market strategy.

Camela: So for B2C marketers who want to try out B2B or the other way around, what would you advise they start thinking about as they’re switching sides?

Alejandra: Challenge yourself to think that it’s not that different.

Camela: I love it.

Alejandra: As long as you can be in the shoes of your target, that’s all you need. I always go back to this exercise they had us do back in college when people explain communication between two people. You have one person, the other, and then a little noise in the middle. I always try to think, I’m telling the market these things–I’m sending this message. How is it being received?

If I were that person, what would I hear? What’s my interest? Why would I listen to you? For example, lately, we adapted a ton of our communications because we saw that saying that we help companies scale wasn’t enough. Some companies said, “Well, I need help entering a new market.” When I said, “Okay, I sold the entrance into a new market. But we didn’t say it that way.”

Coming out and positioning ourselves as helping people conquer a new market has had a significant effect.

Ultimately, I don’t think there is that much difference between B2B and B2C. There are humans we have to consider in either type of market.

Camela: I’ve had to coach quite a few people, and the reservation is always, “I know B2C and the technology is different. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.” And my thought is that’s a good thing because you do not have to unlearn bad habits that you pick up along the way in B2B. You’re coming in with this freshness and ability to communicate and empathize with people. Just go with it.

Alejandra: And be prepared that the KPIs will be lower and more prolonged.


For the audio version of this episode, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.