Last Updated: November 12, 2020

Have you ever considered how a Fortune 500 company provides new computers for its 1,000-plus employees? They would never simply send an office manager to Best Buy for an order that large, yet these transactions are vital for the future success of the business.

Business-to-business marketing (or B2B marketing, as it is commonly known) involves the sale of one company’s product or service to another company. (See also Industrial Marketing)

B2B marketing techniques rely on the same basic principles as consumer marketing, but are executed in a unique way. While consumers choose products based not only on price but on popularity, status, and other emotional triggers, B2B buyers make decisions on price and profit potential alone.

Finding new ways to foster relationships through social media is currently a hot topic in the B2B marketing world. Social media platforms have opened up two way conversations between businesses. A survey organized by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate, showed that businesses are more likely to buy from companies they track through social media.

Tech-savvy B2B companies have continued to find innovative ways to use social media to their advantage. Cisco Systems, Inc, a leading seller of networking systems, launched a campaign introducing a new router solely on social media advertising. The launch was classified as one of the top five in the company’s history, and shaved over $100,000 off normal launch expenses.

Who employs B2B marketing?

B2B Marketing Strategies

B2B marketing success doesn’t come from broadcasting a product over radio or television. B2B marketing success comes from embedding your company in the industry, and making your product seem like a staple. Get in front of niche buyers by:

  • Hosting informational webinars
  • Setting up booths at popular industry tradeshows
  • Sending out email newsletters positioning your company as an industry expert
  • Maintaining an active, interactive social media presence
  • Attending industry networking events and building buyer relationships

At its core, B2B marketing involves building valuable relationships to guarantee lasting customers — an important goal for any company, whether a mega retail corporation or a smaller family-owned one. (See also B2C Marketing)

The B2B market is the largest of all the markets, and exceeds the consumer market in dollar value. Companies like GE and IBM spend an estimated $60 million a day on goods that support the operation of their business.

B2B marketing is largely employed by companies that make products that consumers have no practical use for, such as steel. However, it is also used by companies selling products and services bought by consumers and other businesses alike.

For example, Sprint (a consumer phone supplier) provides wireless, voice and data services to both businesses and consumers. In fact, VHA, a health-care purchasing network, recently agreed to extend a three-year, $1.2 billion contract with Sprint. Sprint continues to be a nationwide leader in both B2B and consumer marketing.

How large is the B2B industry?

It is a good idea to reflect on the staying power and growth potential of an industry before you make it your career. Consider these facts on the prevalence of B2B marketing:

  • The purchases made by businesses, government agencies and institutions make up more than half of all economic activity in the United States. (Dwyer and Tanner, 2006)
  • In 2003, B2B marketers spent approximately $85 billion a year to promote their goods and services. (Business Marketing Association)
  • A 2001 study found that the dollar value of B2B transactions significantly exceeded that of consumer transactions. (Hutt and Speh, 2001)

What kinds of customers are effectively marketed to with B2B marketing?

B2B marketers generally focus on four large categories:

  • Companies that use their products, like construction companies who buy sheets of steel to use in buildings.
  • Government agencies, the single largest target and consumer of B2B marketing.
  • Institutions like hospitals and schools.
  • Companies that turn around and resell the goods to consumers, like brokers and wholesalers.

A B2B marketer can effectively put their product or service into the right hands by positioning their offering in an exciting manner, understanding the customer’s needs, and proposing the right solutions to combine the two (See also Persuasion Marketing).

It is important for B2B marketers to understand their clients’ needs before implementing any marketing or advertising tactic. In consumer marketing, an effective advertisement can be blasted out over wide channels, and a percentage of consumers will be driven to buy the product. However, since B2B marketing is so much more specialized, marketers run the risk of alienating their specific prospective candidates if they do not pay close attention to their needs before tailoring their services to those needs.

B2B Marketing in the Interactive Age

  • According to eMarketer, while US B2B spending will increase by 0.8% to $129 billion by 2012, interactive B2B spending will increase by 9.2%, to $51.5 billion.
  • BizReport found that 86% of B2B marketing firms use social media in their efforts, compared to just 82% of consumer marketing firms.
  • The AMR International B2B Online Marketing Assessment and Forecast to 2013 predicts that B2B spend on social media will grow 21% through 2013, and spend on lead generation sites will grow 17%.

How is a B2B marketing plan developed and employed?

A B2B marketing plan must be focused in delivery and broad in application. This means that while consumer marketing can advertise very specifically (one mass-consumed product advertised through print, television commercials and the Internet) to a wide audience, B2B marketing cannot. Instead, it needs to brand itself very broadly (through email, corporate image and technical specifications) to a very specific customer.

Business marketers can develop and decide how to employ their B2B plan by identifying and understanding the importance of the following topics:

  • The product or service: When marketing to consumers, there is an emotional component involved. Individuals are drawn to products because of how they make them feel. With B2B customers, the buyers are trained professionals who care about the quality of products, their cost-saving and/or revenue-producing benefits, and the service provided by the host company.
  • The target market: Many B2B marketers are able to focus on very niche industries which reflect specialized needs. While this can make marketing a bit more straightforward, it also requires a high level of knowledge outside of marketing specialists.
  • Pricing: Businesses are usually more concerned with cost, value, and revenue potential than consumers. However, they can also be more readily convinced to pay top dollar – as long as B2B marketers do an excellent job of convincing them that the product, quality and customer service will be worthwhile.
  • Promotion: B2B marketers need to be experts not only of marketing and advertising, but experts within their fields. Once this happens, they will learn the best ways to market to this field, whether it is through blogs, journals, tradeshows or word of mouth. B2B marketing very rarely employs traditional media like TV and radio commercials. (See also Promotional Marketing)

What types of careers work with B2B marketing strategies?

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

Salaries of Careers in B2B Marketing

  • Marketing Manager
    Entry level: $57,750
    10 yrs. exp: $112,800
  • Sales Representative
    Entry level: $26,970
    10 yrs. exp: $52,440
  • Marketing Coordinator
    Entry level: $40,520
    10 yrs. exp: $54,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

Marketing managers have the knowledge and training to manage and effectively strategize a B2B campaign. They have gained the marketing knowledge and managerial skills needed to hone in on the specific needs of a niche or industry, and market their product or service effectively to fit those needs.

Professionals in the marketing field should have strong communications skills, but in B2B positions, marketing managers also need a background in economics and business. This way, they can more effectively market to experts in business and government.

Education and Skills

Most marketing managers hold at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related major like business, advertising, accounting, economics, mathematics, or statistics. Marketing managers generally begin in entry-level marketing positions and work their way up the career ladder.

B2B Sales Respresentatives

What do they do?

B2B sales representatives are responsible for implementing the marketing plans that are put into place for their company’s product or service. They are the ones who develop and maintain relationships with potential clients.

As such, a B2B sales rep should have strong communication skills and be able to connect with a variety of people. They need to have an interest and talent in sales, negotiation and decision making.

Education and Skills

A Bachelor’s degree in marketing or business administration is required to become a B2B sales representative. Generally, it is a role that also requires 3-5 years of experience in the B2B sales environment.

B2B Marketing Coordinators

What do they do?

A B2B Marketing Coordinator organizes and implements the day-to-day tasks of building and marketing a B2B brand. This position is usually in charge of communicating with a variety of people to set up tradeshows, webinars and other events, as well as help produce written marketing materials, client lists and email campaigns.

Marketing coordinators need to feel comfortable with statistics, analytics and quality assurance since they are generally responsible for the behind-the-scenes organization of an entire B2B campaign. They should also have good communication and writing skills, since they will be emailing and telephoning a variety of contacts to set up events and promotions.

Education and Skills

Most marketing coordinators need a bachelor’s degree in marketing, event planning or a related field, but generally need less experience than other positions in the B2B marketing field. They should have excellent time management and organizational skills, and should be able to manage multiple projects on tight deadlines.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

A degree in marketing can lead you to a career in a variety of positions and fields, including B2B. Knowledgeable marketing experts are the key to developing a B2B strategy that fulfills the ultimate goal of getting the product or service sold to the right people.(See also B2B Product Manager)

Earning a degree in marketing exposes students to the functions of advertising and selling, as well as background in strategic business function, statistics and analytics. This gives students the expertise to figure out what consumers and businesses are looking for, and the skills to produce and deliver it to them in an efficient and pleasing manner.

Marketing programs place importance on the four pieces critical for B2B success: product, promotion, price and place. They also generally impart skills in math, statistics, business and behavior, as well as advertising principles. Students also learn more specific skills, like how to conduct market research and analyze consumer data. It is important to understand the broad business perspective required for success in the marketing field.

Because B2B marketing is so closely integrated with the principles of business, it may be advisable to also earn a minor in business, or at least take some business courses as part of your marketing education. This extra experience with economics and business principles can better prepare you for building long-lasting relationships with other businesses.

If you want to learn more about how a marketing degree can help you build a successful B2B marketing career, request information from schools offering marketing degrees today.