All over the world, a change in marketing perspective is happening. In the past, the male gaze was the standard in many industries when it comes to making decisions about retail. Today, the female sensibility has taken over – from fashion products to mobile apps, real estate, and even the previously predominantly male market of automobiles. The truth of the matter is that there remains an industry where women tend to have a subtler impact – business-to-business or B2B.
The other side of the trade
Business-to-business is the exchange of services and products between businesses rather than the more popular B2C (business to consumer). In comparison, B2B transactions have far greater volume than its consumer counterpart. As women rise to the top of the corporate food chain, becoming top executives, managers and even owners of successful businesses, they have created a market of corporate consumers. And, surprisingly, despite being the common household spender, is not reflected on the other side of the marketing fence. Business-to-business transaction between companies and female B2B buyers is not part of the new wave of the changing paradigm.
According to a research from consultancy firm A. T. Kearney in partnership with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), little attention has been paid to the decision-making process of these female executives. The survey, which included 200 companies with B2B processes such as HSBC and Google, also reported that female entrepreneurs are on the rise, based on the increase of startups and companies currently being owned by women. Among their B2B customers, almost 50% of the responding companies said that female decision-makers are on the rise. However, the marketing strategies of these companies have not been tailored to address the specific wants and needs of the female entrepreneurial sensibility.
A woman’s touch
Generally, according to Dr. Inna Baigozina-Goreli, women and men have many noticeable differences when it comes to B2B purchasing. According to the proponent of A. T. Kearney’s report, female executives tend to be better in fostering relationships, whether internally or externally. In her field of expertise (engineering), she mentioned that females are more open to collaborative efforts, thus impacting the speed by which tasks and processes are performed.
A separate study, authored by The Future Laboratory, stated that feminine characters are highly needed for corporate success. ”Businesses with a female touch will survive and thrive in an economic era that relies heavily on collaboration, communication and teamwork, all attributes associated more with female captains of industry,” as reported on o2.co.uk.
This translates to a different kind of marketing language in B2B transactions, an industry built upon relationships and strong communication lines between businesses; to tailor an approach to sales for women means changing marketing strategies. While male executives respond to facts, figures, and number, female decision makers respond more to visual evidences, said hygiene-services provider Rentokil Initial. More obviously, networking events should be less masculine (sports) but more genteel (brunches and fashion events).
However, the relatively low percentage of women in board of directorship roles prevents this change in marketing strategy. Currently, only 17% of board seats are occupied by women. While the numbers might be increasing slowly, it hasn’t reached the point where B2B transactions should be custom-made for females. In an effort to address this inequality in the board seats in the United Kingdom, the British Parliament approved a draft directive to create a deadline of 2020 for industry titans to make the male-to-female ratio 60-40.
According to the companies asked by the aforementioned report, the key to getting more women in the B2B industry is the commitment of company leaders to female management. If B2B executives think that this market truly exists, then an active hunt will occur. Boards across the country might not be equal, but it’s less of a problem than senior management. Dr. Baigozina-Gorelia remains hopeful, saying that a “post gender economy” might arise if these issues are handled in the spirit of fairness and equality.
Allie Cooper is an active freelance writer and women’s rights advocate. She writes about the role of women in technology, business, and education as part of her personal campaign to empower young women in all fields. You may contact her through Twitter and Google +.