B-to-B Marketing: Traits, Tips and Practices of Top B-to-B Retailers
Budget for Offers
The success of Groupon and other daily-deal sites shows the power of an offer. The best B-to-B retailers already knew this. Of course, if you're selling a commodity product on lean margins, discounts can be impossible. However, there are other things that you can test. Free tote bags, MP3 mini players, loss leaders, merchandise bundles and shipping sales are just a few things that come to mind. You'll want to budget for your offers and build them into your ROI projections. This way you know what you can afford.
While acquiring customers costs money, retaining them makes money. As a result, optimize your customer retention for maximum profit.
Acquiring customers costs you money this year but makes you money next year. Project your ROI for customer prospecting beyond acquisition and into retention.
Refer to the merchandise section. If you're not selling what people want with an appropriate value proposition, your efforts at branding are worthless. On the other hand, if you have a successful merchandising concept, you want to make sure that your brand appropriately reflects it. Consumers put your company in a box, so you might as well tell them which box it should be. The key to good branding is that it identifies what you're already doing.
Make sure your site search works every time. Run it through a variety of scenarios. If you're not finding the correct product, you can be sure visitors aren't either. Make sure that the shopping experience you provide online is easy, then focus on search engine optimization. There's no point in driving traffic to your site if once they get there they can't find what they want and have trouble shopping.
The best B-to-B practice for catalog design is to watch your pennies on creative, especially if you have tight margins. Focus first on your pagination and product groupings. This up-front organization can solve multiple problems long before your designer even starts on the project. Next, emphasize solid, benefit-driven copy and clean photography and design.
Though you need to keep your costs down, top B-to-B catalogers don't allow their design to grow stagnant; they're constantly evolving it with a purpose. Small changes such as adding drop-heads, positioning product on the outer edges of pages and making sure that each spread has a hero product on it can significantly improve your customers' shopping experiences.
Make it Easy
There's a principle taught in economics called utility, which refers to the ultimate satisfaction that a customer receives from consuming a product or service. There are lots of ways to measure utility, and one item that offers you utility may not offer any to someone else.
However, there's one thing that everyone loves — having their tasks made easy. Here's the secret that all of the top-performing B-to-B companies know: The company that's the easiest to shop wins.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.