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No one ever got fired for buying IBM

When you are marketing a product to consumers (B2C), the best approach to take is to understand why your target audience needs your product, what user need it is satisfying, how it fares in comparison with all the competing products in the market that claim to satisfy the same set of needs, whether the target audience is interested in paying money for satisfying the need in question, and then design a communication strategy that takes into account these understandings.

When you are marketing a product to a business (B2B), this approach no longer provides the best result. Although it theoretically makes perfect sense to go about the exercise the same way as you would for a B2C case, the mere practicality of 'agency' disrupts the process.

The concept of 'agency' involves a person (or a set of people) acting on behalf of another person or set of people. In most B2B cases, you invariably have to deal with an agent, and the mentality of the agent is generally 'No one ever got fired for buying IBM'.

What this mentality means is that the agent will have little trouble convincing the people she reports to that a brand of IBM's stature is the best choice. Even if that is not necessarily the case. There could be better, cheaper options, but from vendors not as established as IBM. The agent hesitates in choosing that option not because she doesn't believe that a better solution than the likes of IBM can exist, but because she will come in the line of fire if things go wrong down the line.

The biggest challenge in B2B Marketing is not proving that you have the best product on offer, but to convince the agent to choose you over an established solution. The way to do it is by giving the agent enough ammunition to justify to whoever she reports to that your product is the best choice.

So it is not enough just to understand what the needs of the target audience is, but it is essential to understand the dynamics of the relationships between the agent and the people she is answerable to.

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