Q: Marketing on a business-to-business (B2B) level requires a completely different approach from business-to-consumer (B2C) campaigns. Could you advise on ways to pitch to an audience that has very little trust for online advertising? How can a business reach an audience of people who rely on internal recommendations and personal experience?

Dima Moroz, digital marketing strategist


A: A few years ago, I conducted some research as part of a "What Business Thinks" article for Twin Cities Business magazine. In part, we were attempting to establish the credibility of information sources used by senior managers to make decisions. At the time, social media performed very poorly, but traditional media of all kinds hovered around neutral. Recommendations from peers and colleagues was clearly the most "valued," ranking at 4 or better on a 5-point scale.

The irony of the data, however, was that in response to open-ended questions, people consistently complained about the volume of information and difficulty wading through so much material — yet the primary mechanism to "filter" information was through peers and colleagues. This means that most individuals were relying on other individuals to consume and analyze all forms of media available. This would include advertising and content of all kinds.

As it relates to your question, this research data might suggest that most B2B companies have always been faced with the problem you describe.

So, as often reflected in this column, the solution lies in knowing your audience. However, if your particular target group of decisionmakers is known to lean heavily on specific influencers who represent a substantially different audience, your marketing communication (not just advertising) will need to include that new audience.

Bear in mind that this new audience may need to be persuaded based on one set of information, while it will need to make recommendations based on the needs of your critical decisionmaker.

That means making an investment of time, energy and money to make that two-tiered strategy work for you.

Mike Porter is the faculty director of the MS in Health Care Communication at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.