A recent survey from B2B International identified several B2B business challenges for companies in the U.S. and Western Europe. While B2C businesses–which serve general consumers–experience their own difficulties, B2B businesses–which provide products or services to other businesses–face unique challenges related to marketing, innovation, and customer retention in order to grow and flourish.
Below are some of the major areas of concern identified in the survey as B2B business challenges, as well as some suggestions for understanding and overcoming these obstacles.
Growing market share
Roughly 62 percent of businesses identified building market share as their central B2B business challenge during the survey. This concept applies to more than growing their revenue and sales. According to one source, the market share relates to “a specific market segment and not combined growth of sales over all products, services, and customer types.” In essence, a company’s market share is how much of the overall market they are able to do business with. For B2B businesses, who typically specialize in both their customer type and their particular product or service, expanding their opportunities for market share growth can, in some ways, counteract the specificity of the niche they fill.
Overcoming this challenge requires intensive research into the marketing segment the business is currently targeting and a better understanding of other potential applications for the company’s service or product. This B2B business challenge can be conquered through a better understanding of the market, the willingness to adjust services to meet new customer markets, and an openness to potentially expanding services to meet new and emerging needs.
Customer loyalty and retention
Another major area of concern for B2B business is maintaining the current customer base. In this market, businesses often have to shop around for lower costs and more efficient services to keep themselves afloat. A B2B business has to worry about not only it’s own efficiency and bottom line, but how its prices and availability affect the businesses it serves.
To solve this problem, B2B companies must focus on more than marketing and expanding their customer base. With other business owners as customers, savvy B2B businesses need to step beyond basic customer service to build real relationships with their customers. Businesses operate on a higher cost scale than general consumers and tend to spend a lot more money on a weekly or monthly basis to obtain the supplies they need. Personalizing services or customizing schedules to cater to the needs of other businesses should be standard operating procedures for strong B2B businesses in order to establish trust, reliability, and loyalty between the company and its clients.
Trying something new is never easy. Innovation is difficult for any individual or company, so it’s no surprise the concept weighs heavily among the B2B business challenges. To start, when seeking innovation, business owners should consider each aspect of the business separately, including product, operational, and marketing segments. Innovation is not just new products or services (i.e. don’t try to reinvent the wheel), but new ways to approach, sell, or develop those products and services to better meet customer needs.
Basically, there is no catch-all answer to becoming more innovative except perhaps to be as open as possible, with a level head about potential risks and rewards. Also—don’t overthink it. In the end, any business exists to meet a specific need. By being in touch with the customers, listening to feedback from employees, and keeping apprised of technological developments, a B2B business owner may find that productive and lucrative ideas are not so unattainable.
Sometimes, certain B2B business challenges can seem overwhelming, largely because of the high dollar amounts often involved with customer retention, high-level marketing, and keeping the products or services flowing smoothly. At their base, however, these challenges are not so different from many others. The key is understanding the specific nature of the problems and seeking specific, attainable solutions.
A few cautionary concepts, however:
- Do not sink money into something that is not actually working. Pride, lack of research, or an unwillingness to change can all contribute to a money pit that achieves nothing.
- Strive for efficiency in all things. Automate where possible and work smarter, not harder. Technology can help with this, but it’s not always the only or best solution.
- Keep an open mind, research, and seek outside opinions. Know what the competition is doing and don’t be afraid to emulate or adapt pre-established systems/processes to improve and grow.
No challenge is impossible to overcome, and B2B business challenges are no different. They just might require a bit more mental flexibility or perspective from time-to-time. With focus and determination, however, a solution is never far away.