When you’re evaluating a digital marketing agency, there’s an important distinction you need to be aware of:
There’s a huge difference between a B2C agency doing B2B and a true B2B agency. There are a lot of agencies that claim to be B2B, but they lack the experience and knowledge of the B2B world to deliver the marketing results you need. A true B2B agency specializes in serving B2B clients and understands the intricacies of B2B marketing.
While a B2C-focused agency may be great at marketing direct to consumers and driving retail sales, if you are targeting businesses, you need a B2B specialist agency.
Why Do You Need a True B2B Digital Agency?
While search and paid media are likely part of both B2C and B2B strategies, there are specific B2B marketing channels that operate very differently.
The same goes for the tech stack for B2B marketing. It’s very different and it flows into multiple niche areas. You need to work with a digital agency that understands the B2B-specific platforms and the nuances that make them work efficiently and cost-effectively.
Targeting is done differently, too. While B2C marketing can target wide audiences, B2B marketing targets much more narrowly. For example, with account-based marketing (ABM) strategies, you are focusing on strategic accounts and customizing content based on industry, company, and role. You might have different content aimed at CEOs vs. CFOs vs. line-level managers on the same topic at the same company.
In the case of high-value targets, you might personalize content for a single individual.
With B2C, you’re generally talking to an individual or maybe a couple of people trying to convince them to buy your product. With B2B, you’re more likely talking to a buying group with multiple stakeholders.
In B2C marketing, conversions are often quick with short sales cycles. It’s exactly the opposite with B2B. Three-quarters of B2B companies say it takes an average of four months to win a new customer, and that timeline is extending. In 2021, 55% of B2B marketers said the purchase timeline increased somewhat or significantly.
With B2B sales, you are constructing a detailed strategy to attract and nurture prospects through their buying journey. Different tactics are deployed at each stage of the journey. B2B digital agencies understand the importance of distinguishing between low-value and high-value leads and the proper way to manage automated lead scoring, so the sales team can focus on the best prospects.
How to Know You're Talking to a True B2B Agency
If you want to know whether you are talking to a true B2B specialist agency rather than someone that specializes in B2C or a hybrid agency that tries to work both sides of the equation, here are some of the key things you need to know.
Strategic Data-Driven Approach
A true B2B agency doesn’t rely on gut instinct. It focuses on the data to create a strategic journey for buyers because there’s less room for error.
When you’re selling consumer products, there are a lot of potential buyers. If you make a mistake, you can often just buy more media and find new groups of customers. In B2B sales, there is a much smaller group of prospects. If you make a mistake with a high-value target, you can lose big.
This data-driven approach relies on B2B KPIs to meet specific goals at every stage of the buying journey. A B2B marketing agency will be able to guide you on these KPIs at the various stages and across marketing channels.
Managing Complex Buying Journeys
In B2C sales, there’s a more direct path to conversions. With B2B, it’s a process and you must understand the process to build an effective sales machine.
77% of B2B buyers said their latest purchase was very complex, according to a survey by Gartner. It’s not surprising. The B2B buying journey doesn’t go in straight from awareness to consideration to purchase. It’s not the traditional B2C sales funnel you’ve seen before. There are twists and turns as buyers research, compare, and share with other stakeholders.
Another complexity to B2B sales is buying committees. Rarely do large-scale purchases in business rely on a single individual these days. The typical buying group these days for these complex B2B sales involves as many as six to 10 decision-makers. Each may come to the table with different information they’ve gathered independently, preconceived notions about what they need, and a different viewpoint. For example, CEOs may focus intently on revenue generation, CFOs may focus on cost savings or staff reductions, and managers may focus on ease-of-use and efficiency.
With B2B marketing, it takes expertise and experience to find and nurture prospects and turn them from marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) into sales-qualified leads (SQLs).
Sales, Not Awards
We like getting awards for our work, just as much as the next person. But, B2C agencies will talk to you about awards they’ve won for their creative work. B2B agencies will talk to you about sales. The proof is in the revenue generated and not whether their peers thought they did good work.
True B2B agencies will be able to provide you with case studies showing ROI that goes beyond clickthroughs and email open rates.
B2B agencies know ABM and have a detailed approach for execution. ABM requires personalized campaigns strategically designed to engage each account. The most effective ABM strategies can create customization at scale across multiple groups and automate content delivery.
ABM requires experience and expertise to drive the complex sequences designed to lead buyers through their journey to conversions.
A true B2B digital agency understands that inbound marketing tactics create the foundation for an efficient ABM strategy to capture and nurture prospects. Also, keep in mind, a B2B ABM expert doesn't just say they know ABM, but have the success stories to back up any claims of their ABM prowess.
B2B Marketing Channels
They have a deep understanding and experience with managing media in many of the B2B-specific media channels. While consumers typically get their information from ads, 80% of B2B decision-makers say they prefer getting brand information from articles and content rather than an ad.
While consumers look to ads for information, B2B buyers want to research and educate themselves. In fact, B2B buyers rely more heavily on content than anything else. A study by Accenture shows that the typical B2B buyer is already 57% of the way through the buying process before they have contact with the sales team.
If you’re not getting the right messaging in front of the right prospect on the right sales channel with B2B buyers, you may never get the opportunity to convert them.
Well-Defined Tech Stack
B2B marketing and sales require a well-defined and integrated tech stack. A B2B agency will have significant experience with utilizing B2B marketing technologies like CRM platforms, ABM platforms, Intent sources, B2B attribution platforms, and understand how they work together.
They can integrate first-party data and third-party data seamlessly and use it effectively across platforms and marketing channels.
A true B2B agency will have a defined content marketing strategy to create informative and educational material at each stage of the buying journey. Each piece of content will have specific goals with the intention of moving buyers through the journey with micro-conversions. From capturing emails and creating marketing sequences for nurturing to accelerating demand.
While B2C customers typically see viral content, blog posts, or product demos, B2B buyers need white papers, industry reports, case studies, webinars, ROI calculators, comparisons, and testimonials.
True B2B Agencies Know the Key Difference Between B2C and B2B Customers
Ultimately, it comes down to knowing the unique differences in how consumers and business leaders approach sales. There’s a very different mindset in B2B and B2C and the strategic approach needs to be built around this awareness.
- B2C: Customers look for deals and, sometimes, entertainment
- B2B: Buyers are focused on ROI, expertise, efficiency, and productivity
- B2C: Customers often buy based on emotion and impulse
- B2B: Emotion may play a role, but B2B buyers must justify purchases with logic and sound financial decisions.
- B2C: Customers can be sold products and don’t necessarily need education.
- B2B: B2B buyers need consistent education about products and solutions.
- B2C: Customers make quick purchase decisions and buy directly.
- B2B: Buyers have long decision cycles and often need to work with sales teams to customize products.
- B2C: Customers make decisions independently in most cases.
- B2B: There is typically a buying group involved in purchase decisions, or purchases require signoff from executives in the buyer’s internal reporting structure.
- B2C: Most consumer purchases fill a need, but they are mostly short-term solutions. Consumers may change buying habits depending on sales and price points more frequently.
- B2B: B2B buyers are making purchases with a long-term intent. Once a decision is made, it typically leads to a longer-term relationship as solutions become embedded in the workflow.
- B2C: If a consumer makes a mistake in buying a product, they don’t purchase it again. The only loss is typically the money they spent.
- B2B: If a company makes a bad purchase decision, the risk is significant. It could cost them millions of dollars, cause them to lose sales, or cost a buyer their job.
As you can see, there are huge differences in the mindset between consumers and business buyers. A true B2B agency will know these differences and understand how to tailor its marketing efforts.
Many agencies claim to be about B2B, but only an agency specializing in B2B will get you maximum results.