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Why Do B2B Companies Need to Advertise?
Advertising is just for retailers, isn’t it? That’s what a lot of people think. After all, advertising is about brand recognition, making an emotional appeal to customers, and getting them to buy into a sense of belonging, a set of values, or a fear of missing out. What does that have to do with business to business transactions?
The benefits of advertising for retailers is obvious, but B2B companies also have a lot to gain from running targeted ad campaigns. It might not take the same form as B2C advertising, but the basic principles are the same: you need a way to introduce your business to the right set of potential customers and demonstrate what you can do for them.
The supplier-retailer relationship is typically more durable than the retailer-consumer relationship, so B2B companies probably aren’t going to be constantly advertising in search of new customers and fighting with each other to hold on to the ones they have. But when a business goes out in search of the kinds of services you provide, how will they find you? For B2B organizations, advertising lets you keep your name in front of potential customers so that when they need you, they already know where to turn.
The Importance of Positioning
Good advertising is about more than just getting your name out there. Letting potential customers know that you exist is the first step, but successful advertising goes further. This is where “positioning” comes in. When we talk about ad position, we are using the word in both senses:
- Position as in your point of view or feelings toward something: the message about your product or service you want to convey.
- Position as in the location of something: where will this ad be positioned (i.e. located) so that it is seen by people interested in what you’re selling?
In the first sense, you need a clear, simple message that will resonate with the kind of customers you are trying to attract. Just saying that you sell a particular product is not enough. There are lots of people who sell the same product; why would they choose you over another? Likewise, promoting low prices might not be effective, either, as there is always someone who can go lower.
In the second, if your ad strategy is to simply get your name in front of as many people as possible, you’re not setting yourself up for success. You’d be wasting a lot of time, effort, and money on an unfocused effort that will be seen by a lot of people, but mostly by people who are not going to be interested in your services. Poor positioning might even have an adverse effect on your business. If you put a broad message in front of a broad audience, sure, people will know who you are, but if they’re not the right audience, they will come to associate you with an annoying, confusing ad for a product or service they don’t understand, don’t need, and don’t want.
Every successful ad campaign is intentionally positioned. That is, it is focused. It’s built for a target audience, and it is shown mainly to that target audience. It knows what to say to that audience, and it knows where to find them. That’s what positioning is: getting the right message in front of the right people.
Finding Highly Qualified Buyers
When we think in terms of positioning, we’re not looking to get our message in front of the general public, or even just something as broad as “the jewelry industry,” even though that’s already a better approach. Ultimately, we want highly qualified buyers: buyers who know who you are and are already searching for what you are offering.
Targeted ads on Google or LinkedIn might help, the idea being that your ads will be shown to buyers searching online for suppliers. But running those ads still requires a lot of guesswork and trial and error to get right, and there are a lot of competitors vying for the same position.
If targeted pay-per-click ads on Google are a risk, casting your net too broadly is even riskier. You could put up a billboard on I-90 in Chicago and be seen by the 3 million commuters that come in and out of the city every day, but the vast majority of them don’t work in the jewelry industry and aren’t actively searching for a supplier or wholesaler—their just going to work or going home. Ultimately, that big billboard is not an example of effective positioning.
Placing your ad where you know qualified buyers in the jewelry industry are actively doing business, though, is much more effective positioning. Placing an ad in a trade magazine that speaks to your trade would be better positioning. The VDB Marketplace is used by 26,000 members, with 1.5 million items listed and 2 million actions performed every month. Every one of those users is a qualified buyer, and they are on the app looking for B2B companies like yours.
Success = Repetition
Just about every successful speech or article follows the same pattern:
- Tell them what you are going to say;
- Say what you told them you were going to say;
- Tell them what you just said.
You might feel like you’re being unnecessarily repetitive, but your audience will appreciate your ability to really make your central message stick. To get a point across, you often have to make your case again and again over a period of time. Parents, how many times do you have to ask your kids to do something before they internalize the message and start doing it on their own? The journey from brand recognition to loyal customer isn’t a straight line. You’ve got to drive home your message again and again until it sticks.
Take the Next Step on Your Growth Journey
Advertising is a necessary step in the growth of any B2B company. To get the most out of your ad dollars, think about positioning: what are your goals, what is your message, and where are the qualified buyers? B2B contracts are much higher stakes and fewer in number than B2C sales, making it that much more important to keep your name in front of potential leads, build brand recognition, and make a case for your services.