Business-to-business manufacturers are increasingly interested in getting closer to their customers’ customers. In highly competitive markets, it is especially important to address the needs of end customers in a targeted manner – even if a third party (e.g. sales representative, distribution partner, etc.) is involved in direct customer management. The recipe for success for companies in this context is to keep an eye on their end customers while specifically influencing their purchasing decisions at key points in the buyer journey.
From bystander to active player
Business-to-business suppliers adopt a variety of strategies to build a bridge to their end customers:
- Ingredient branding: Manufacturers use this approach to make themselves more visible to end customers by actively promoting the subcomponents provided by a supplier in a service bundle, with the aim of influencing the customer’s choice of product.
- B2B2C approach: Here, manufacturers move closer to their end customers by selling their products via third-party e-commerce platforms, thus establishing at least virtual contact.
- Combined push & pull: In this model, suppliers supplement conventional marketing activities, which are intended to encourage end customers to buy (“push” method), with further measures to create a “pull” in terms of demand (i.e. end customers actively request the manufacturer’s services from intermediaries).
Exploit potential in a targeted manner through push & pull marketing
Combined push & pull marketing is the approach that offers the closest contact between suppliers and end customers. This model is particularly promising in the business-to-business environment, where it can be implemented quickly. It offers several benefits to business-to-business suppliers, allowing them to:
- Exploit innovation potential: Direct customer access offers manufacturers an opportunity to learn about relevant customer needs on a first-hand basis. In this way, it is possible to improve the customer experience while also driving product innovation forward.
- Maintain control: Through direct interaction with end customers (e.g. targeted provision of content), the manufacturer retains greater control over its own brand image and can prevent it from being diluted by intermediaries.
- Generate more leads: Ideally, the complementary marketing measures reach a larger number of potential prospects for the manufacturer’s services. These prospects are then managed effectively in cooperation with intermediaries.
Key factors for successful implementation
For successful implementation of the push & pull approach described here, manufacturers should consider the following factors:
- Bring intermediaries on board: Suppliers should definitely coordinate the direct customer approach with their intermediaries so that the latter do not feel overlooked. In the best-case scenario, the intermediaries will actively assist in handling the leads generated.
- A strong brand is a prerequisite: For manufacturers to make a compelling case to their end customers, a strong brand identity is important. Manufacturers should therefore clearly establish in advance what differentiates them from the competition and what added value they offer end customers.
- Pay attention to partners: In addition to targeting end customers, suppliers should maintain their activities vis-à-vis intermediaries and should continue to support them actively in market development (e.g. by providing product information, conducting joint marketing campaigns, etc.). Otherwise, there is a risk that they will move away and increasingly promote other manufacturers in the market.