What B2B And B2C Marketers Can Learn From Each Other

Business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers seem to exist in separate universes, each with its own sales process, marketing tactics and even marketing software, publications and events.

But are they really that different? While selling to consumers differs in some key ways from selling to businesses, the differences are declining.

Not only do B2B and B2C marketers share common ground, they also can learn from each other to strengthen their own digital marketing programs.

Our new survey of more than 1,800 business and consumer email marketers also found that B2B and B2C marketers generally have similar goals and deploy many of the same email marketing tactics.

Among them:

  • Leveraging new channels: Both B2B and B2C marketers are coming to terms with how to best leverage new marketing channels, such as social, mobile and applications.
  • Increase upselling and cross-selling: An equal number of B2B and B2C respondents (38 percent/38 percent) listed this as a top marketing goal.




... But They Differ on Two Key Goals ...


  • B2C Goal: Build Loyalty. "Increasing customer loyalty" is a top marketing goal for 45 percent of B2C marketers, compared to 27 percent of B2B marketers.


  • B2B Goal: Shorten the sales pipeline. Moving prospects through the sales cycle faster is a leading concern for 51 percent of B2B marketers and 29 percent of B2C'ers.

... And Can Use Those Differences to Learn from Each Other

B2B and B2C marketers share many email tactics, although consumer marketers not surprisingly use cart-abandonment emails more often.

Because B2B and B2C marketers have focused on different marketing approaches throughout the years, each group has developed techniques that the other could use, such as these:


  • Adopt automated marketing programs that incorporate contact scoring, nurturing and message tracks. Scoring contacts for targeted messaging tends to prevail in the B2B marketing world. Contact ("lead") scoring uses both explicit data (actions taken or not taken) and implicit data (demographic and survey data) to assign a point score to a prospect.

Instead of putting all new prospects/email subscribers into the same message stream, scoring programs sort them into specific messaging tracks based on their scores and propensity to buy. As their scores change, prospects are shifted into different tracks that can help move them more quickly through the buying cycle.

While many consumer email marketers use database marketing techniques such as RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) to segment customers and target their messaging, the combination of "scoring and nurturing" coupled with multiple messaging tracks is more common in B2B marketing.

  • Marrying anonymous Web behavior to email addresses. More B2B marketers are connecting anonymous historical Web behavior on their sites to an email address once visitors have opted into their programs.

This represents a tremendous opportunity to send targeted messages immediately and potentially identify a new subscriber with specific interests or characteristics.

Suppose you operate an online cruise business specializing in Caribbean, Mexican and Alaskan cruises. A prospect could browse your Alaskan cruise pages and then opt in to your weekly "Cruise Deals" newsletter. If you didn't know her browsing interests, your first program email to her could focus on Mexican cruises instead. Your window of conversion could be lost to a competitor who better targeted her interest. With this data, and knowing her contact score based on her explicit data collected and Web browsing, you can assign her right to your Alaskan-cruise track, leveraging dynamic content that matches her interest.


  • Post-purchase/loyalty marketing. B2B marketing tends to focus on gathering, qualifying and warming up prospects. Marketing touches all too often end when the leads move to the sales staff

In contrast, B2C marketers understand that their best revenue opportunities (except for infrequent purchases such as cars) are with consumers that have previously purchased.

Many focus on building and rewarding customer loyalty, which creates post-purchase relationships and increases lifetime customer value.

Recouping acquisition costs and catering to the relatively small segment of customers who generate the highest value for the company are key concepts for consumer marketers.

Particularly in a world gone social, where customers increasingly praise or rant about products and services, using email to retain and increase loyalty will be key for B2B marketers.

Business marketers should incorporate these consumer-side strategies, such as using behavior and purchase data to identify the most loyal or valuable customers or those who are potential flight risks. This data can drive a variety of messaging tracks tailored to the customer's stage and value.

You could say that much of what I described above is basic lifecycle marketing. Perhaps, but our own study revealed that only a minority of email marketers (20 percent B2B and 28 percent B2C) deploy this approach. This highlights another similarity: Both have much to do to leverage their data and refine their marketing programs.

Let me know in the comments section if you think I'm off my rocker or if you've deployed any marketing tactics more widely used by someone from the other side of the marketing tracks.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

1 comment about "What B2B And B2C Marketers Can Learn From Each Other".
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  1. david Baker from RedPill, April 9, 2010 at 1:18 p.m.

    Love the topic Loren, yet think you left out a significant difference in B2B and B2C and it's SCALE... a B2B database is typically a fraction of a B2C, so while focus on loyalty is a primary focus, it is also limited in how they define a customer, lead process is dramatically different and shear scale present problems with sophisticated rules based program scripting as well as funnel movement attribution..

    Yet, I think B2C can learn from B2B in many ways.., but B2B would fail if they tried to apply same principles cross 15 MM customers with 400 active segments. There is no denying that lifecycle management is utopia for B2C and few do it really well so I do with the core principles can support each other.

    Great survey!


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