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Intricacies of B2B marketing: case study shows how to boost performance

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Second-hand industrial equipment sales hold little glamour for marketers, but are big business around the world. This B2B marketing case study is a lesson in how a clear strategy, following six top tips, will help you get the best results from your campaigns.
b2b marketing case study

It may not have the glamour or splendour of fine art or antiques, but selling used industrial assets is big business. Everything from hand tools and agricultural equipment, to huge multi-million dollar production facilities, are sold by specialist auctioneers and traders globally, all year round.

So, as marketers, what do we need to know about selling in industrial B2B markets?

What really matters to buyers?

Put yourself in the shoes of the prospective customers. What really matters to them? In most B2B sales, buyers are looking for:

  • Reliability, from both the asset they’re buying and the entity they’re doing business with.
  • A fair price, when buying second-hand, price is often lead by ‘what someone is willing to pay’ – there are no RRPs in used sales.
  • Simplicity, if the purchase process is complex and onerous for the person managing the transaction, there will need to be bigger incentives to get them past the finishing line. After all, if the deal will take weeks of hard slog around the negotiating table, the proposition will likely need to be very attractive.
  • Availability, this is an important one. Sure, a used asset purchaser can source new, generally at a higher price, but there is lead time for new equipment – especially for custom built production equipment. How much money will your buyer save by having their production up and running in weeks rather than months?

Why what matters to buyers should matter to youb2b marketing case study

It’s important to understand the difference between a business-to-business transaction and that of a business-to-consumer sale. There is far less emotion in a B2B transaction – it’s generally perfunctory, just to serve a purpose – there’s no love or affection for a bottling line, just a need to get the job done.

We shouldn’t forget that we are still selling to people, and we all have buttons to press, it’s just important to recognise that we’re not appealing to a buyer’s inner most desires but to other emotions instead.

Review your most recent marketing piece – have you conveyed the USPs from the customer’s perspective? Did you showcase how much time they could save compared to buying new? Did you give them a price comparable to highlight the financial savings? Look for ways to integrate these messages into your next marketing piece – it might just save your sale notification from the dreaded delete key!

So back to our buyer . . .

What does he or she really want? Most of us are looking for simplicity – the least complicated route between setting our objectives and fulfilling them. Also, we all want to look great in front our boss, right? Appearing to achieve the impossible is a good look for sure; if they can source the right equipment, at the right price, saving money and time, they will look better than good! But . . .

They must have the confidence that they can deliver, or else the end result could be a huge waste of time and resource, for zero return (new equipment is suddenly feeling a lot more attractive!).

So what gives a person the confidence to buy used assets?

Assuming we have the basics covered:

  • Great information on what’s available.
  • Complete specifications and documentation to allow the customer to evaluate the suitability.
  • Details on how, when and where to buy.
  • Clear instructions on ‘what to do next’ – e.g. ‘Register for Auction Sale’.

We need to think beyond the actual product for a moment, what do you do differently that will help them? Does your business offer:

  • Amazing customer care with customer testimonials to prove it?
  • Financial packages, to help a customer arrange finance if needed?
  • Guidance and advice on how to buy used equipment, giving them confidence throughout an unfamiliar process?
  • Warranties, if you can provide a guarantee that the equipment will work make sure you have this covered in your advert.

B2B marketing success – checklist

b2b marketing case study

We have gathered data from successful, and some not so successful campaigns, and have compiled our top tips for improving marketing response rates for industrial auction marketing:

1. Be clear on what is for sale

This may sound obvious, but we have reviewed creative that uses whole paragraphs to ‘summarise’ what is being sold. Your headline could make or break your campaign. If the recipient isn’t 100% clear on what you’re selling within seconds, they will likely ignore your message completely.

2. Give clear direction

When someone has read your email or brochure, what do you want them to do next? Be really clear on your calls to action – should they visit the website for a full list of equipment or sign up for the sale straight away? If you ask someone to go to your website for more information, be sure they really will find more or your prospects could end up confused, or worse, disappointed.

3. Timing

When a customer reads your auction notice will they be completely clear on when the auction opens and closes? Will they understand if there is a staggered closing time? Do they understand which time zone the sale will occur in? If you are unsure of time zone add ‘local time’ and be sure to position the location alongside the times.

4. Language

Selling used assets is global, but don’t assume everyone speaks English (or your local language). If you’re targeting people in a specific world region take some time to find out the dominant business language and adjust your message accordingly, and note these three lessons I have learned:

  • An email written purely in English and sent to a French speaking recipient will most likely be overlooked.
  • It’s not always necessary to translate the complete piece – headlines and calls to action may be sufficient.
  • There are hundreds of translation services available and the small investment can pay big rewards.

5. Drop the jargon

If you’re an auctioneer, or work in the marketing department for an auctioneer, words like ‘registration’, ‘clearance’ and ‘buyer’s premium’ and many more terms will be very familiar. Be careful not to assume your customers are as clear on the meanings as you are.

Sticking to plain English (or your chosen language) in your advert and providing simple FAQs on your website, can resolve a lot of queries. If you are selling into international markets, consider having these translated into several languages.

6. Test and measure

This is a must for all effective marketing.

Making carefully considered changes to your creative can lead to far higher returns. Changes don’t have to be radical, the simple repositioning of key elements – such as your call to action – can have a dramatic impact on your results.

Read also:

Future-proof your business: 8 trends in B2B marketing to be aware of


The marketing arsenal: are marketers ignoring an important asset they already have?

Author: Donna A Peterson
Executive vice-president at World Innovators |

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