I don’t believe in B2B




Neil Bayley

I don’t believe in B2B. Not that I don’t believe in the importance of communication for engaging customers, it’s just I don’t believe businesses talk to businesses. 

Every successful B2B campaign I’ve been involved with has always begun with an insight on people, not businesses. It just happens that those people are in business decision-making roles.

Of course the main aim for (most of) them every day is to do a good job, and that means helping their employer achieve business objectives. So they make decisions about products, services and relationships with that in mind – but it’s not the only dimension. They want to make decisions that feel good, so they usually look beyond the cold hard facts – even if they work in procurement.

Earlier this year, Good Relations published research that showed how emotional factors are just as important in business technology purchasing decisions as rational factors like product, price or future proofing.

The study of 175 senior decision-makers, including FTSE 500 CEOs, CFOs and CIOs, showed brand had the highest influence on their purchasing above all other factors. This doesn’t just mean high brand awareness; it means a ‘good’ brand, with strong personal relevance and a degree of ‘feel-good’ factor.

One of the engagement barriers I often come across working with clients is the messaging and tone of voice they use to address their business customers. At best, it’s well-defined but lacks distinction. At worst, they haven’t even stopped to think about it.

Many consumer brands have gone a long way to embedding themselves in the world of customers in the battle for their attention. The most successful have recognised they need to relinquish some control, allowing customers to lead, celebrate and share what brands do for them – even if it’s not always good. It’s still quite rare to see this in B2B, despite the battle for attention being just as strong in many sectors.

Lots of B2B brands still insist on complex, ‘inside out’ messaging that pushes what they want to sell rather than addressing what customers really need. Why can’t they make it simpler for them to understand what they’re selling, to share their experiences and the value they felt with others? If they recognised customers as humans first and business decision-makers second, this might become easier.

I believe people want to buy from brands that get their business and are going to support them. Understanding those values and demonstrating them back, particularly in marketing, but also how they connect with customers more broadly makes a real difference.

B2B brands that take a human approach are better at connecting and gaining trust. We always try to get our clients to put themselves in the mind-set of customers instead of trying to speak in complex language full of acronyms and big words just to sound smarter. This pushes them towards messaging that’s more ‘outside in’ and a tone that reflects a conversation rather than a marketing brochure.

So my point is that businesses don’t have emotion as such, but their people certainly do. For that reason, great B2B communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, driven by the understanding that we’re all humans with a heart that’s often just as important as our head when we’re making business decisions.

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