On the one hand, (B2B) Business to Business Advertising Strategies are largely ignored in marketing circles.

On the other hand, the idea that marketing fundamentals differ between B2B and B2C is largely a myth.

Since both statements are true, how do you bridge the gap?

You execute strategically sound marketing tailored for some of the unique realities of the B2B buying cycle.

And to do that, you’ll need to wrap your head around Business to Business Marketing and the following marketing truths for B2B Marketing Success:

1. You Can’t Make the Sale If You’re Not Invited to The Party

Your ability to sell to a prospective customer depends on whether that customer had you on their shortlist of preferred vendors to begin with.

If you aren’t sent an RFP, you’re effectively locked out of the sale.

So the trick is to win the battle of the shortlist first, then win the sale.

That makes getting you on the shortlist marketing’s job.

If your marketing budget isn’t aimed at that goal, it’s being misused.

2. The Shortlist Is Decided 3-4 Levels Below the Decision-Maker

C-Suite executives don’t generate RFPs, lists, or paperwork — they approve them.

And the same is true for the shortlist of preferred vendors.

Sure, the decision-makers might well influence the process, but the shortlist and RFP get created well below their level, often by the front-line workers or managers.

For example, the CTO won’t create the shortlist of vendors for new servers. The server managers will. But does anybody bother marketing to that server manager?

And that’s the rub: if you’re not reaching down to the level of that end-user, you’re not reaching out to the right people to win the battle of the shortlist.

And all your efforts to influence the “decision-maker” will go to waste.

3. B2B Sales Are Intensely Personal

We tend to think that organizations buy B2B products and services.

But really it’s individuals who make the decision on who to trust with their future.

Hence the ever-present reality of FUD.

If you’re not familiar with that acronym, it stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

And FUD was IBM’s chief weapon against upstart, cheaper, and more innovative competitors, back in their heyday.

Sure, you could go with the competitor’s offer, but who knows if they can really deliver on their promises? And what if they’re not in business two years down the road? And what happens if things go sideways with your project? Does the competitor have the organizational muscle to ensure things come out OK?”

The genius phrase “Nobody ever got fired for going with IBM” was born from this strategy.

And it points to the underlying truth about B2B sales and marketing:

The benefits of successfully going with a challenger brand are:

  1. Organizational
  2. Long term
  3. Logical

While the risks of going with challengers are:

  1. Personal
  2. Short-term
  3. Emotional

In other words, if a decision-maker goes with a gutsy, disruptive supplier and it works out, then the company will benefit, in a numbers-drive way, over time.

But if it blows up, then the decision-maker will suffer by having his career derailed in rather short order.

That means that B2B sales are actually intensely personal for the main decision-makers in the process.

4. Targeted Media ≠ Direct Response (Or Vice Versa)

When your product or service isn’t used by the masses, then mass media becomes a poor choice as a vehicle for your ads.

And that leaves you with targeted media.

The mistake B2B businesses and marketers make with this, though, is they assume that targeted ads have to be direct response ads.

As in, target them and make them an offer.

But just as mass media ads don’t have to be branding ads (a la, infomercials), targeted ads don’t have to be direct response.

You CAN — and should — run targeted branding ads.


Because you want to reach buyers before they need what you sell.

You want to influence those front-line workers and managers before they’re asked to come up with a shortlist of preferred vendors and before they’re asked to draft up an RFP to be sent to those vendors.

5. The Best Way to Win an RFP is to Influence Its Creation

Think about it: you do some things better than your competition. And they (likely) do some stuff better than you.

You both have your competitive edge, your secret sauce, and your strong and weak points.

If an RFP comes in that requires or emphasizes your strong points, you’ll likely win that bid.

If it comes in the other way, not so much.

So what if you could get inside the heads of the people crafting that RFP and convince them — well ahead of time — that your strengths are much more important for their overall success?

If you could do that, you’d win a lot more sales.

And that’s the game plan when branding your way to B2B growth and achieving B2B Marketing Success.

6. Brand Matters More, Not Less for B2B Marketing Success

The more considered the purchase, the more acutely the buyer feels risk.

I refer you back to point #3 for more on this.

The more a provider absolutely, positively has to come through for you, the more reputation matters.

It’s why FedEx —who was a quintessential B2B player in their earlier days — made “absolutely, positively” their catch-phrase after all.


And what is a brand but a corporate reputation?

This is why branding is even more important for B2B than B2C.

By branding yourself through targeted media, you can ensure your company becomes the sure thing, not only in their minds but in their guts.

And that’ll make all the difference to your revenue growth in the long run.

Interested in launching your own B2B branding campaign? Learn more about Business to Business Advertising Strategies.

Your first consultation is free. Contact me here.