B2B marketing has an undeserved reputation as the poor relation of B2C marketing, according to a leading practitioner, who maintains that its more complex world offers greater challenges and career opportunities.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to create a B2B marketing strategy, Vincent Rousselet, vice president of trade body ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association), points out that the money is in B2B.

Citing BrandZ figures, he observes that between 2017 and 2018 the combined brand value of Accenture, Intel, Oracle, Salesforce and SAP – all B2B companies – grew by 25% to reach $160bn.

“Remarkably, that annual growth rate exceeded that of the rest of the top 100 global brands, mostly consumer brands. So good B2B marketing strategies, executed well, deliver value, Rousselet notes.

“More importantly,” he adds, “B2B provides deeper intellectual challenges as well as exciting career opportunities for marketers.”

The three foundational disciplines of segmentation & targeting, positioning and branding apply to both disciplines, but a key difference in B2B marketing, he says, “is that true brand value lies in customer experience, not just in the product, service or solution offered”.

And rather than a single customer, B2B marketers tend to deal with a “decision-making unit” that may comprise six, ten or more people; crucially, it’s not just about the sale.

Too much of the B2B marketing budget is often dedicated to the top and the middle of the funnel, says Rousselet. “Nurturing customer relationships after they have bought your solutions, and turning buyers into advocates is probably more important.”

Account-based management forms an essential part of this approach. ITSMA’s own research shows this B2B-only technique delivers better returns than traditional marketing: 84% of its members using ABM reported improvement in reputation, 74% better customer relationships and 69% increases in revenue.

B2B marketers go on a journey, a buyer journey mind, not a sales journey, Rousselet explains. And over the course of two decades of work and research with its members, ITSMA has codified that into a B2B buyer best-practice journey made up of six stages.

The first four are about ‘buyer relevancy’ – from epiphany through awareness, interest and confidence, at which point a purchase is made – while the final two relate to ‘client intimacy’ – post-purchase stages of establishing loyalty and encouraging advocacy.

Sourced from WARC