For decades, the worlds of business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing have been separated. As a result, B2B marketing lags behind the B2C space when it comes to technological adoption and sophistication.
This has remained the case in digital, but perhaps not for much longer. The growing use of artificial intelligence, coupled with the existing data resources and infrastructure, is finally leading to a convergence of B2B and B2C audiences. As B2B data and insights catch up to the scale and sophistication of consumer-targeting data sets, marketers on both sides of the aisle could benefit from combining these behavioral insights. With more competition than ever for consumer attention, this merger could break down the silos and give marketers a much more holistic view of their consumers.
One of the issues with the current B2B-B2C divide is that, even with advancements in understanding audiences, the industry at large tends to forget that actual human beings are on the end of these data points. Isolating what someone does on their business computer only captures part of the story. In fact, business professionals are typically top spending consumers, and marketers need to better understand their online and mobile interactions.
Today, B2B data can infer what a person does for a living, approximate their household income and even understand demographics. Those are valuable insights to consumer-facing brands, and they paint a more detailed portrait of the consumers themselves. The evolution of data and technology further allows marketers to glean insights on how individuals behave and spend their time throughout their day and evening. The ability to sync digital IDs finally bridges this gap to understand when, where and how an individual or company behaves when they research and buy.
This is important, because the way we behave is very different depending on location, time and profession. It should be no surprise that mobile activity peaks in the morning and evening, while desktop users are mostly on their laptops from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The professional uses mobile for specific actions and research, with site visits averaging one-third of the length compared to the laptop. Business professionals are constantly providing clues on where their company is in market, so understanding simple things, like location and the professional’s functional area, enables the marketer to deliver relevant messaging.
B2B marketing opportunities can happen during downtime as well. Consider the business buyer who views TED Talks at the gym. It’s business-related content, but it’s at a location that has little to do with an occupation. Tapping into this combination of interest, location and device unlocks the marketer’s ability to reach B2B customers with relevant messaging.
If and when they can, marketers should combine B2B and B2C segments for a more developed view of their potential customer as a person. The challenge is that matching these data sets can be a frustrating endeavor. When trying to align two data sets to match up based on demographics, it’s not uncommon for scale to drop, giving marketers far fewer prospects than they’d like.
Once they actually find the right combination that provides scale, marketers are essentially locked in to repeatedly working with the same partners, lest they undergo the frustration all over again. In the very near future, the industry will see demand for ready-made audience segments that solve this problem by combining demographic and psychographic insights with buyer intent signals.
If nothing else, marketers on both sides must begin to think about how B2B segments are comprised of real people who don’t solely identify with their occupation. Companies are made up of diverse individuals who are dog owners, commuters, Uber users, etc. — their lives don’t start and end with what they do for a living. Marketers of all stripes can deliver much better personalized messaging if they can effectively leverage all of the digital fingerprints that these audiences leave throughout the day, across many devices.