In marketing, business-to-business relationships abound. There are countless companies – ourselves included – that work directly with other organizations rather than marketing or selling directly to consumers and the general public. Some companies offer services that assist others, such as appointment scheduling or lead generation businesses, while others are vendors or suppliers, providing components, parts or raw materials needed for other industries to be able to do their work.
However, in the push to get sales, sometimes the B2B drive ends up stuck on a one-way street. If we’ve learned anything in the past few weeks as we adapted to life in the era of quarantines and COVID-19, it’s that we all have to work together to survive and thrive.
Like surf rock singer Jack Johnson croons, “it’s always better when we’re together.” Unlike him, however, we’re talking about business relationships, not romantic ones.
When a B2B relationship is simply one-sided and transactional, one party always is at a disadvantage. Sure, the seller of a good or service hopefully will make a profit and the buyer gets what they need, but neither party is working toward their mutual benefit. Conversely, working together can create a more beneficial relationship for both parties.
For a vendor-consumer relationship, this could take the form of receiving feedback from the end buyer of the company’s manufactured item being passed back to the vendor, helping to drive improvements in the core product. Or it could be having conversations to plan out projected needs months in advance, helping ensure supply and production both meet demand and allowing the vendor and the buyer to adjust their costs at a benefit to both companies.
This is incredibly true in the world of marketing. As an agency, we have our own needs, of course – we need technology, printing presses and software providers to get the job done – but we also work to have conversations with these partners whenever possible. And that’s the key point – a focus on creating partnerships, not simply customers, can help companies grow together.
Be a Partner, Not a Pusher
When you approach a prospective B2B client with the attitude of being their partner, you immediately start off with a friendlier introduction. You’re looking out for their interests as much as your own. You want to help them do business more consistently or offer them savings on services or supplies they need. And in turn, they can help your bottom line or perhaps offer an in-kind service or discount on their offering that can benefit your business at the same time.
We’ve seen this happen quite often. We’ll get a cold call from a local company that can help with IT services, insurance coverages or another offering, and they go on and provide their pitch. Sometimes they have a unique offering or the ability to offer us savings – sometimes not. But almost always, they don’t listen in kind when we ask if there are ways we could work together to save them money on their marketing or offer suggestions on how to help increase their advertising ROI. It’s sell-sell-sell. And if your business never goes off pitch, you’ll never discover the brilliant music you could make by working together.
Links in the Food Chain
Beyond simply the humanity of having conversations and building partnerships is the truth that we all rely on one another in the local economy. This has become more apparent in recent weeks as we’ve all hunkered down and adjusted our business and personal lives to adapt to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. As restaurants and nonessential employers adjust to life without a full dining room or no foot traffic in stores, new and creative means have been used to stay in business and bridge the gap until we can return to something resembling a sense of normalcy. That’s required all of us to do our part to support these businesses however possible – ordering takeout, purchasing gift cards or helping vendors move sales online who never had before.
There’s also the ongoing ripple effect that this change has had throughout the economy, all starting at the local level. A recent report on “CBS This Morning” highlighted how much this is impacting businesses up and down the economic food chain. As employees are laid off or see hours cut, they have less discretionary income for even small things like takeout from their local diner. In turn, the diner – already hurting by having lost in-person dining guests – sees fewer sales, impacting their ability to buy ingredients or perform maintenance work. This reverberates back to the diner’s food suppliers and local hardware stores, and so on up through the economic tree, leaving nearly every branch impacted in some way by the dramatic shift caused by the current crisis.
Let’s Get to Work and Emerge Stronger Together
In times like these, you begin to see the true colors of some people and organizations. Some turtle inward, closing their doors and laying off staff, hoping to ride out the storm by cutting ties to everything and everyone who helped them succeed to this point. Others open up, working to partner with neighbors and colleagues to see how they can help one another get through this time, maintaining for now and planning for recovery when it’s over.
At JFG, we strive to be the latter, and are doing all we can to help. Times are tough now, but by working as partners, we can all come out stronger when it’s safe to do so. Now is the time to think ahead and plan for the better days to come. Let’s put our heads together – digitally, so that we keep our social distance – and make sure we’re all ready to hit the ground running when we finally can get out and enjoy the world together again. Contact us today to get the conversation started.