Marketing Mythbusting

There’s a lot of misinformation on many topics, and B-to-B marketing is no exception. As a result, there’s more guesswork, not less, in B-to-B marketing today. Increasingly, this gives rise to false beliefs or myths about B-to-B that are difficult to dispel.

There’s a lot of misinformation on many topics, and B-to-B marketing is no exception. There are two reasons for this:

1. Many B-to-B marketing practitioners prefer to make marketing decisions based on personal opinion and subjective judgment, rather than tested techniques and proven principles. The reason most often given: Rules interfere with “creativity.”

2. Many marketing professionals do not have systems in place to measure Web analytics, and those who do often don’t know how to interpret the results. Unlike the good old days—when it was easy and simple to measure ad and direct mail results—a lot of marketers are either baffled by how to use Web analytics or don’t bother to test online.

As a result, there’s more guesswork, not less, in B-to-B marketing today. Increasingly, this gives rise to false beliefs or myths about B-to-B that are difficult to dispel:

Myth No. 1: B-to-B prospects don’t read. I’ve been hearing this one for my entire copywriting career, and I started in the late 1970s. If I had a nickel for every client who proclaimed, “Our prospects don’t have time to read,” well—I’d have a lot of nickels.
The idea that business prospects don’t read is preposterous. Countless business executives have graduated both high school and college, and to do so required years of intensive reading and study.

It is my experience that business prospects don’t necessarily read “long” copy, but they do read as much copy as they need to help them make intelligent buying decisions. If this were not the case, there would be no need to post copy on the pages of your website. And your Google AdWords campaigns would generate zero clicks.

Myth No. 2: There’s no difference between selling to a business prospect and selling to a consumer. A B-to-B ad agency owner I respected told me many years ago, “Whether he is at work or at home, the prospect is a human being first, a businessperson second.”

But if there is no difference between B-to-B and B-to-C marketing, why are there webinars, books, conferences, advertising agencies, consultants and publications focused specifically on B-to-B—and an audience that consumes them eagerly?

B-to-B is different from B-to-C in several ways. To begin, most B-to-B buying decisions are considered purchases, while many consumer purchases are impulse buys. In addition, most business buying decisions are made by committee, while most consumer purchases are an individual’s decision. Also, consumer selling is usually a single-step process, while the sales cycle for B-to-B is often a multi-step process.

Myth No. 3: Direct mail is dead. According to the Winterberry Group, in 2010 marketers increased spending on direct mail by 3.1 percent to $45.2 billion. In the 2011 Power of Direct Report, the Direct Marketing Association reported that spending in direct marketing overall grew at a 5.6 percent rate to $163 billion in 2011, generating nearly $2 trillion in sales. The ROI for direct marketing is $12 of sales per dollar of advertising expense, vs. $5.24 for general advertising. So, the idea that direct mail and traditional direct marketing are out of style, obsolete or ineffective simply isn’t supported by the facts.

Myth No. 4: QR Codes are the new 800 numbers. QR Codes are the latest new thing and cool-looking, and so the rush is on to incorporate them into every reply device on the planet. The only problem is, millions of Americans, including me, don’t use smartphones: Half of all mobile device users in the U.S. do not own a smartphone. Many more prospects can respond to an 800 number; 234 million people age 13 and up have mobile devices in the U.S.

Myth No. 5: B-to-B is one homogenous market. People refer to B-to-B as if it’s a single market. The truth is there are many subsegments within the B-to-B market.

Based on company size, for instance, there is the SOHO market (small office/home office), SMB (small to medium size business), and Fortune 500 (large corporations), each with different needs and characteristics.

The SOHO customer, for example, is spending the buyer’s own money, and shares many characteristics with the consumer segment. The Fortune 500 buyer is locked into a rigid corporate hierarchy and requires buy-in from multiple parties before placing an order. A smaller SMB acts more like a SOHO and a larger more like a big corporate buyer.

Myth No. 6: Whitepapers are old hat. Many marketers share with me their opinion that whitepapers are overused and, therefore, much less effective today than a couple of years ago.

That may be. The more pervasive a marketing technique, the more difficult it is to get yours noticed. Years ago, video cassettes were a hot marketing tool until too many marketers jumped on the bandwagon; then their effectiveness cooled off.

Despite the flood of whitepapers in the market, they can still work well when integrated into a B-to-B marketing campaign. And although there may be a lot of whitepapers out there, the more specific you make yours, the fewer competitors there will be.
Also, we’re hearing how marketing with content is the new mega-trend. Given that whitepapers are content, they would seem the perfect marketing communication for today’s content-based marketing world.

Myth No. 7: Talk only about benefits, not features. I can’t count how many times I’ve read an article or heard a talk by a marketing expert who proclaimed, “Use benefits, not features.”

But this is patently absurd. To make your copy effective, you need both features and benefits. The benefits are what prospects want and the features are what convince them your product can deliver those benefits.

An ad for IntraLinks in an issue of KM World reads: “Now, IntraLinks Connect gives you the enterprise-strength, cloud-based collaboration platform to confidently share content with partners anywhere outside the corporate firewall, while controlling your content everywhere.” The benefit is securely sharing content with partners; the feature is the cloud-based collaboration platform.

Author: Bob Bly

Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at or call (973) 263-0562.

5 thoughts on “Marketing Mythbusting”

  1. Great article Bob!
    Every point is spot-on. White papers are still working quite effectively for insurance B2B marketing.

    Heather Sloan

  2. Excellent article Bob. I might expand Myth 5 to add, and, when you segment F500 or SOHO company targets into vertical industries, and then match your benefit/feature messaging accordingly, it’s even more relevant to each of your target segments.

  3. Great article and agree with all points. You could write a book on Myth #2 – the differences between B2B and B2C are endless. It gets a bit more complicated when you market to both…!

  4. “Whether he is at work or at home, the prospect is a human being first, a businessperson second.”
    B2B is talking to humans in need of solving business issues – It is about the human mind and where it is hovering at any given moment, and since many of us hover at work a decent portion of our time. If you have a human inspired business solution simply have the human inspired business solution CONVERSATION, no mystery, just make real connections.

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