Despite the fact that B2B and B2C marketing have previously represented completely different practices in the minds of many marketers, we might all benefit from softening the distinction between the two.
In the age of big data and analytics, consumers are getting highly personalized, targeted messages based on their history and interests. But when we look at the B2B space, there are still many companies talking about their solutions, and making customers connect the dots on how they can fit into and solve their specific problems.
We hear often from the clients of large B2B enterprise vendors about the flurry of generic, irrelevant email offers they receive from the wide array of tools, products and services available. As we heard from one technology leader, “Sometimes I get a promotion for some service I am already discussing with my rep; other times I get emails about products that my client team has never even mentioned to me. It’s very confusing to keep track.”
It seems astonishing that an enterprise company with 50 strategic customers to target is utilizing a high-level, untailored approach, when a consumer-facing company, such as Amazon or Netflix, uses personalization and very high levels of engagement to reach millions of people.
The upside is that B2C marketing has developed into a mature, sophisticated practice with tools that can readily transfer and be used effectively by B2B marketers.
Market the Outcomes: What’s in it for them
It’s about changing the customer’s life. Clothing and beauty retailers have figured out that they are not selling better blazers, sweaters or lipstick, but rather a new, more appealing, engaging and powerful “you.” Amazon is selling convenience and knowledge to manage every aspect of your life, not books, CDs and shampoo.
This can be a dramatic shift in focus for many B2B companies, particularly when they have invested heavily in creating the best new technology or leading edge solution, or when they are selling their “smarts” to solve big problems. We hear often from executives who buy from B2B vendors that what they really want to hear about is the business problems to be solved so they can tie it to their own needs and priorities.
For example, this could mean changing the description of a cooling management solution for data centers, to a solution that increases a company’s ability to guarantee uptime due to reduced less equipment failure and lower costs through reduced energy spend.
Get Inside Your Customers’ Heads
B2C companies have gone beyond their own customer databases to study social media and broader spending behaviors. They have channeled that knowledge into creating the more personalized communications and targeted offers described above, and in identifying the “moments that matter” in the life cycle of their customers.
B2B companies too are starting to use the customer data on hand, but many aren’t using social media to full advantage. Social media conversations can offer an often-untapped perspective on what’s on the minds of senior decision makers at your customers’ companies and their peer industry leaders which can add context to your understanding of client challenges and priorities.
Connect Your Clients to Their Peers
B2C marketers have long understood the power of endorsement and referral, and how much consumers value the input and perspective of their peers in making buying decisions.
For B2B companies, tools like customer advisory boards and executive forums offer an unrivaled lens to reach into the minds of strategic clients, and help test various approaches to the market place. Some B2B companies are starting to explore and map their customer journeys, and this insight offers marketers an opportunity to personalize the experience and the messages clients receive.
The Shift is Coming
The marketing landscape is in the midst of a fundamental shift, where everyone from VPs at enterprise companies to buyers of consumer electronics expect rich, personal, targeted engagement as part of their decision making process (even if they may not be aware of it).
B2B companies need to learn from what is working in the B2C space and put it into practice immediately, so they become the vendor who understands their clients’ business concerns better than anyone else.