Communicating with a B2B audience is a skill in itself – unlike in the consumer world, where you can seemingly get away with scattering exaggerated claims at random, the B2B audience is much more discerning.

So, what do they expect and how do you go about connecting with these tough customers?

The first step is to understand where your target audience is in their customer journey. Where they are will determine your approach and how much of a hard sell you can do.

For example, they may be just gathering information and may not know what technology or solutions they need to meet their challenge. In this case, you need to offer objective advice on what to look for or explain the different technology options available. You can still point them in the direction of your offer, but this needs to be done subtly.

Prospects further along the journey may be comparing solutions or may well be ready to buy. You can then show why your solution offers more than your rivals, or further encourage their choice of your product with case studies or details of your service offerings.

Prove what you say

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to let your communications become full of overblown marketing speak – the solution you are promoting may well be ‘innovative’, ‘ground-breaking’ or even ‘unique’, but only say so if you can back it up with evidence.

A related point is to always give the facts, preferably in numbers – don’t talk in general terms about how your solution ‘impacts the bottom line’ or ‘optimizes energy use’. Tell them that it increases profits by X percent or saves Y kilowatt hours a year.

Talk the talk

It’s also important to talk on the same technical level, particularly when addressing engineers. Use the terms that their industry uses every day – but show you know what they mean by using them in the right context. Similarly, don’t dumb down – it’s fine to set the scene in the introduction of an article but there’s no need to get too basic and start explaining PLCs and PID to an audience of control engineers, for example.

You also need to have a clear idea of who is making the decision on a new solution or product. The decision-making unit may be made up of users, maintenance staff, production managers and financial people.

Each of these different personas faces different challenges and so your offering will need to address the needs of all of them – usability, ease of maintenance, access to data, expandability, value for money or potential for saving time, energy and money.

Plan for success

There are plenty of tactics you can use in a B2B campaign – offers of downloadable content, running surveys, posting online demos and videos, researching and writing case studies and white papers – but without an overall marketing strategy, you may as well not use any of them.

Building a marketing strategy can fall into four discrete steps.

Step one is to layout your own position, what you or your client offers that no one else can.

Step two is building an in-depth profile of the people you are trying to sell to. Know who they are, what their challenges are and what they will respond to.

Step three is to draw up goals. Set a timeline or schedule for quarterly or yearly goals and make sure success is easy to measure and gauge – e.g., we achieved ten new sales leads in the first two weeks.

Step four is to draw up the tactics you’ll use to achieve these goals by the scheduled dates you’ve set. The personas you’ve identified should help you decide how best to reach them, what you can offer them when they contact you and how each tactic fits into the buyer’s journey.

Appropriate content

After identifying the channels to use, you ‘ll need to have an appropriate content offer for it. For example, e-mail is addressed to a particular contact, so you need to offer something that you are confident that person has a chance of responding to – you might want to direct the contact to a landing page to download a white paper with information you know is a hot topic in their industry.

Social media is more general and less specific, so a link to a quick video of your new machine in operation at a customer’s plant might be ideal to grab someone’s attention. This is different again to a trade journal, where an in-depth article on particular technologies or new legislation affecting an industry might be what people are looking for.

Above all, measure results to learn what works. The KPIs you set can include website traffic growth, new customers generated or how many visitors have been converted into leads.

Making the time to communicate with your audience in the way they expect, and planning how you will go about it, is the best route to success in any B2B campaign.