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Assuming is a risky business


I don’t know about you, but when I think of business-to-business I have an image in my head of chaps in dapper striped suits and bowler hats, walking to work with purpose, briefcase in one hand, Financial Times tucked under an arm. What does this tell me? That my subconscious is living in the 1950s, which is ridiculous as I wasn’t even alive then. It’s also completely sexist, old fashioned, horribly dated and based on a stereotype.

It’s worth taking a minute to think about what comes into your mind when you conjure up an image of business-to-business. Perhaps you’re more enlightened than me, and see iPads, flexible working, men and women in casual clothes, trendy leather satchels and iPhone earplugs? My point – I’ll get there shortly – is that when we think about most things, we create our own assumptions, and make up our own stories.

Business assumptions

Making assumptions can be unhelpful when you’re considering selling a product or service in the business-to-business world. For a start, businesses don’t sell to other businesses, people sell to people. And most people don’t suddenly become different people when they arrive at work each day. Marketers are mistaken if they assume that everyone in their target audience loves the job they’re in, is destined to climb the corporate ladder and strives for professional success.  

Let’s face it, people in business are the same as people out of business; they can be lazy or motivated, bored or excited, introvert or extrovert, have a go-getting attitude or a can’t be bothered one. What does this mean if you’re trying to sell them something? You must understand what will interest them and focus on the benefits the thing you’re selling can provide.

Under the influence

Another key mistake often made in the B2B arena is sending your sales message to the wrong person in an organisation. At Badger, we have created a unique framework called People-Centric Business-to-Business™ to help determine who you should be talking to. We begin by looking at what people think and do, and what part they play in the decision-making process. This helps us work out what we need to do to persuade them to buy what we’re selling.

It’s also important to remember that most people in everyday life don’t respond well to bland or vanilla creative and messaging, so why would they be any different in a B2B environment? You can be bold and stand out from the crowd, and you can afford to do so probably more than B2C advertising. In all probability, it’s likely that whatever you’re selling isn’t as sexy as a Jaguar car or the latest gadget or lifestyle product or whatever. When developing creative, remember to ask the questions that your potential customer will ask, the most critical one is, ‘What’s in it for me?”

If you’d like to find out more about our People-Centric B2B thinking, you need help differentiating between users, choosers or user choosers, or you want a new creative approach to selling your goods or services, then we should talk.

PS If you have the time, take a look at a book called Working by Studs Terkel (I know, it sounds like a dodgy porn star name). It contains hundreds of interviews with people in all kinds of jobs mostly done in the 60s. It’s quite old, but it does give a brilliant insight into what people really do at and think about their work. 

Mister Badger