B2B Marketing and the 95:5 Rule

Only 5% of prospective customers of B2B businesses will be actively interested in what you are selling i.e. they are currently in the market to buy.

For example, if a company has just installed a new telephone system, they won’t be back in the market for a new one for a good few years – no matter how good your system might be.

Similarly, if they’ve just bought a new forklift track for their warehouse they won’t be looking to purchase another one, unless the company is rapidly expanding and they may be back in the market in another six or 12 months. But, even so, it’s not now.

It’s an identical story if you are selling accountancy software. If a prospective customer has just signed up to Sage, you’re unlikely to get them to consider switching to Xero or Quickbooks.

If you supply consumables, you might dislodge someone from their preferred brand, but they’ll need a really good reason to switch to you if they are happy with what they are using.

It can be done with really exceptional products or a price difference that can’t be ignored. But these examples are rare.

One example I can think of where this did happen was when PowerPoint was introduced and, virtually overnight, wiped out the market for 35mm slides for presentations using projectors.

Once you had the software, PowerPoint reduced the cost from around £5 - £10 PER SLIDE to zero.

So, 95% or 5%?

So, in light of this situation, should your focus purely be on the 5% of companies who may be actively interested in what you are selling?

Of course, you should be targeting the 5% who are ready to buy, but you need to court the rest of the market at the same time.

If you solely target the 5% who are ready to buy with a hard edge ‘buy now’ call to action, the other 95% will ignore your message. They’re not interested. They won’t even remember you, because you’ve given them no reason to.

But, surely, if you can get a share of the 5% of buyers who are ready to buy that’s business worth having?

Well, this is where it gets really interesting.

If you only focus on the 5% and manage to land a chunk of it (bearing in mind your competitors will be taking a share as well), it’s still a short term outcome and you’ll be making it more difficult to get a share of the next 5% who are ‘in market’.

That’s because the 5% who are ready to buy will already have in mind the providers they’ll consider, having been targeted by them over the past months or years with brand building marketing.

Buyers opt for brands that are known to them

When people are ready to buy, they tend to go for brands they can recall, rather than start from scratch doing internet searches. Even those who do use searches tend to go for brands that are familiar to them or that they are, at least, aware of. If you are not already on their radar, you’re unlikely to make it onto their shortlist.

To build that brand awareness amongst this group, you need a different kind of marketing to ‘buy now’.

It’s a longer term, less in-your-face approach that demonstrates your products’ performance, company expertise and support, innovation, reliability and trustworthiness.

Show your wider market that you understand their needs and how you can solve their problems.

Do this consistently, continuously and repeatedly and your brand will be in their thoughts when their buying time comes.