The Biggest "Hidden" Market in B2B

When most people think of writing for business-to-business (B2B) companies, images of software, forklift trucks, industrial gadgets, electronic components and other products come to mind. And no wonder. There are tens of thousands of companies that sell "things" to other companies.

But there is another market within the realm of B2B that, surprisingly, many writers overlook: companies that sell services.

Business services companies (often known as professional services companies) may seem like a hidden niche within B2B. If that's the case then it's like a gorilla trying to hide in a china shop! Service companies represent almost half the sales generated by business-to-business companies in total.

And when it comes to marketing, service companies can make just as much noise in promoting their products and services – creating a wide range of marketing materials … materials that need to be skillfully written by someone. (Maybe you.)

Examples of B2B professional services companies include:

  • Consulting firms
  • Law firms
  • Seminar and training companies
  • Architects
  • Credit reporting services
  • Equipment rental
  • Office cleaners
  • Engineering firms
  • Security services
  • Executive coaching
  • Event planning firms
  • Hotels and conference centers
  • IT services
  • Commercial real estate agents
  • Executive search firms
  • Strategic planning

How do you land these types of clients?

The most important thing is to understand how service companies differ from their product-selling counterparts.

B2B companies that sell products tend to be very sales focused. They want to sell as many of their products as they can. The more the better!

B2B companies that sell services are similar in that they want to generate a lot of sales too. But building lasting relationships with past, current and potential clients is equally important. In fact, it's not unheard of for a professional services company to sacrifice sales opportunities in order to gain a better reputation in their industry or build more loyalty amongst their clients.

So you could say B2B services companies are both sales-driven and client-driven.

They want to attract clients. They want to keep clients. They want to get bigger clients. They want to be thought leaders in their industry or niche. They want everyone to think highly of them.

And, of course, they want sales too!

So how do they accomplish all that? Well, instead of taking a hard-sell approach, B2B services companies embrace relationship marketing. And the materials they produce to help sell their services reflect this relationship marketing approach.

  • Special reports (which is the preferred name for "white papers" in this sector.)
  • Case studies
  • Lead generation materials, such as sales letters, emails and ads.
  • Follow-up emails
  • Newsletters
  • Articles
  • Websites
  • Online videos
  • Social media

Notice a theme amongst these marketing materials? Most are compelling content, designed to inform and educate prospects, rather than hard-sell them. Even the lead generation materials produced by these companies rarely cross the line into grab-you-by-the-shirt-collar-and-make-you-buy land.

So if you enjoy writing materials that are more informational and less "salesy," then writing for B2B service companies might be an excellent fit for you.

There are a couple of other advantages to tapping this market that might be of interest to you too:

  • Relatively little competition. As I said earlier, professional services companies tend to fly under the radar screen for most writers, again, because a lot of writers think of B2B as products.
  • Thousands of potential prospects. There are more than 100,000 mid-sized to large B2B professional services companies in the United States and Canada. You only need three or four good clients to fill your schedule with lucrative writing work.
  • Services tend to be easier to understand than B2B products. Let’s face it. An executive time management training program is much easier to understand than an industrial fluid processing measuring device!

So if you're targeting business-to-business companies, don't forget the huge market that's hiding in plain sight. B2B professional services companies need skilled B2B writers, and if you can position yourself as someone who understands their double objective of getting sales and building client loyalty, you can do very well.

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Published: November 15, 2010

4 Responses to “The Biggest "Hidden" Market in B2B”

  1. Couldn't agree with this more and it's a real challenge to find professionals with the ability to support B2B sales of high end services (leadership in my case)

    Guest (Jerrold McGrath)

  2. Thank you very much for that timely informational piece. I have been struggling with this market. I write informational materials that are long and educative and now i realize my niche is B2B.With your professional advice i know i ll grow to become a leader in B2B services.

    Guest (Leslie)

  3. Thanks so much for this wonderful article Steve! I just completed the B2B course and am starting to investigate niches. B2B Services companies sounds like my cup of tea!

    Shannon N

  4. Just revisited this article as one in search of a specialized field within B2B. It is both enlightening and thought provoking. This will help me refine my thoughts and focus my research.




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