What can today’s B2B take from B2C?
Business (B2B) and consumer (B2C) marketing have long been separate disciplines, but the maturity of digital marketing, including the advanced availability and use of data, has fostered a greater crossover than ever before. Differences will always remain, given the objectives of buyers and the sales cycles are often much different, but there are aspects of marketing once considered solely the domain of B2C that should now be part of any successful B2B marketer’s playbook.
At the core, the primary instigator for this convergence is technology. We as consumers have become accustomed to a convenient and personalized shopping experience. Whether online or on mobile devices, we can research products, shop around for the best deals, identify inventory, make purchases and arrange for delivery or pickup.
When not wearing their business hats, B2B buyers are typical consumers. They, like the rest of us, have grown to appreciate the ease of today’s consumer experience – and they want that in their business purchases as well. So, what can B2B marketers extract from their B2C counterparts to make their marketing even more impactful?
Even though you may be selling to a business, the decision maker is still a human. There’s an assumption B2B purchase decisions are guided strictly by what maximizes business value. This has proven to be a misconception. In fact, Google research found that B2B purchasers are almost 50 percent more likely to buy when they recognize a personal value in that product or service. In other words, business value is table stakes, so they choose options that also benefit themselves in some fashion.
Data-driven marketing, which is used heavily by B2C marketers, can help you build accurate and extensive profiles of your customers and potential customers, allowing for the greater personalization that we have come to expect and appreciate from consumer marketing.
By using segmentation, you can create personalized buying journeys that get to the heart of what the potential customer needs and wants, not just for the business, but on a personal level. Then speak to those wants and needs, not just about product features. It’s easy for B2B marketing to take the boring route of listing out facts about the product or service, but illustrating how it improves the life of the buyer greatly increases the likelihood of closing the deal.
For years now, storytelling has been a buzzword in consumer marketing, but there’s also plenty to be gained by business marketers taking a page from this book. Studies show prospects do more than half their research before even talking to a sales rep. This, of course, is the new nature of readily available and always-on information through the internet.
Thus, potential customers already know about your product; now they need to know about you. As we already mentioned, decision makers are people, with human emotions. That’s why branding has become more important than ever in B2B marketing. It’s not just about your product or service, it’s about your company and what it stands for, where it comes from and how it aligns with the prospect.
This is accomplished by leveraging the power of storytelling. And not just the story of your company, but the story of how your company has helped others and how it can help this particular buyer, individually and for the business, in the big picture and the immediate.
B2B marketing has long been considered the straightforward, left-brained discipline, while B2C has enjoyed being the fun and creative counterpart. But to think there’s no room for creativity in B2B marketing is selling it short and leaving opportunity on the table.
Harkening back to our buyers being humans, not all people prefer to digest information in writing. B2B has traditionally taken this very textual path, via spec sheets, white papers and the like. But consider tapping into the other side of the buyer – the more creative side. This could be as simple as colorful and animated infographics, or as advanced as interactive web content or even virtual reality.
It might be more challenging to find creative ways to market an industrial grade blast furnace than, say, a candy bar or body spray, but it’s a challenge B2B marketers should welcome and will find rewarding when done successfully.
Don’t forget mobile
As the world has gone mobile, so too has marketing. It’s not just personal email and texting that takes place on smart phones and other mobile devices. Business leaders are as agile as ever and conducting business on these devices.
As a result, it’s important that your marketing translates to mobile. Make sure your website is mobile responsive. Have versions of collateral and other materials that work well on these devices so your best can be in front of a buyer on the go.
Turning customers into advocates
It’s always been said that word of mouth is the best marketing. Social media has taken that to a different level, and consumer brands have taken advantage by turning happy customers into advocates. Think of people posting pictures of their new Air Jordan shoes, or Apple enthusiasts proclaiming their excitement over new product announcements.
You may not be Nike or Apple, nor may you be selling something necessarily fashionable, but it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from social influencers. Make customers happy enough that they tell people about it. Encourage them to share positive experiences they have with your company. More than ever before, people are looking at customer reviews and the experiences of other people to help guide their purchase decisions, and that filters into B2B marketing as well.
It’s more like B2P
Business and consumer marketing will always have their differences, but as consumer experiences become the norm, the chasm between B2B and B2C is shrinking. By taking some of the digital and data-driven tactics consumer marketers are using, business marketers can take a step closer to something more like B2P – business-to-people marketing. After all, buyers and decision makers are humans, and thereby emotionally driven beings. Tapping into some of the psychiatry that fuels consumer purchases will lead to closing more business deals as well.