Working as a SEO & marketing analyst for B2C and B2B companies, agency and client-side, has given me a full appreciation for the industry and the different models they operate in.
After many years in the field, I have witnessed the levels of difficulty that go hand-in-hand with each model, and the results are evident: B2B is clearly the hardest. Most marketers probably wouldn’t even need to work in B2B to know it is the most difficult, but there are actually quite a few factors that make it so.
1. Less Appealing Content
Clearly, B2B content is often boring and uninteresting for many people to both create and consume.
No one really wants to follow a blog or watch videos about products or services that rarely affect their day-to-day lives, and those that do simply use it to their advantage as an employee in the same (or similar) industry. There are only so many business owners out there, compared to consumers. Content marketing will always be an uphill battle due to the size and nature of the potential customer in a B2B context.
2. Low Social Engagement
Going off the previous point, it is unrealistic to expect B2B companies to amass large social media followings when they can only post about the inner workings of a company that may or may not be doing something interesting/important. Moreover, some companies do not want their industry secrets or processes to be released to the public, which further limits the range of content a marketer can post.
There are a few examples where businesses have broken through to the mainstream, however they are largely providing some form of entertainment or education that exists in spite of their company’s products and services, not as a result of it (which may be the overall takeaway).
In terms of commenting as a strategy: YouTube only has so many B2B videos being uploaded daily; there are less relevant questions on Quora to answer, and perhaps even less relevant threads on Reddit. Twitter search may help, but let’s not bank on it to bring in the goods.
3. Stiff SEO Competition
The concept of SEO is simple: rank higher for target keywords. How many keywords? As many as possible.
A smaller target audience often correlates to smaller keyword volume. As a result, there will naturally be a lesser variety of keywords to target. In other words, if there are 300 searches a month for the term “3pl logistics services”, there may only be around 50 searches for the term “3pl logistics company”, and not much else beyond that.
With a tighter pool of keywords to target, it will typically lead all businesses in that industry to focus on the same ones. Alas, these low-volume keywords are sometimes the most competitive to rank for. Not an ideal scenario for any marketer.
4. Fewer Link Building Opportunities
Backlinks are a typical byproduct of online discussions and promotions. Whether it be on a forum, news site or blog: If there are less people talking about you and your field of expertise, how many chances will you realistically have to build links for your company?
Social media websites have very little incentive to actively build links for themselves, since it will happen organically. People share news articles and interesting blog posts with each other, and sometimes even promote them on their own sites. But what is a B2B site to do to gain a similar link profile? There are only so many times they can contact journalists as an expert source or sponsor a niche event.
PBNs are often too risky and frowned-upon by legitimate companies, while acquisitions can be a viable alternative if the company has enough resources to routinely purchase competitors in order to harvest their backlinks.
Things were so much easier when link directories were enough to get by.
5. Slower Sales Process
It’s painfully obvious to highlight, but some items just sell quicker than others. Candy and clothing are not items that require a long, drawn-out process. The same would apply for most B2C products and services, albeit there are varying levels of speed in that space also.
B2B is almost never in the same conversation. Whether it be software, training, procurement or anything business related in general, it typically requires time: time to make appointments, discovery calls, follow ups, meetings, pitches and presentations. It can take weeks, months, and sometimes even years to make a sale from an initial point of contact.
While it often comes with greater revenue and higher retention rates, the problem with the B2B sales process is making the case for a positive ROI. Marketers cannot truly justify their marketing efforts and spend if the sales process is slow, delayed or sabotaged by an internal set of circumstances that are outside of their control. PPC budgets are spent quickly, but the leads that follow, follow slowly. It requires a great deal of patience and convincing from the marketers perspective to have the finance and leadership team to stay on board with the strategy and allow the process to play itself out. Which marketer really wants to deal with this kind of extra pressure unnecessarily?
Even if half of these points are true, it clearly showcases how B2B is worlds apart from B2C, and if you are unlucky enough to find yourself in such a position, I only hope you have a strategy, and an exit plan!