B2B and B2C, but this time, it’s Personal
Business to Consumer brands (B2C) have always benefited from taking a humanistic approach to marketing, while Business to Business (B2B) brands seem more impersonal, dry, and buttoned up. The spike in automation and behavioral, social, and mobile data, however, has influenced how brands communicate with consumers. Now, the line between the B2B and B2C is beginning to blur.
Why is it hard for B2B brands to be B2P?
B2B brands are marketing to actual businesses - not an individual. Attempting to convince and sell to a group of business partners during the buying cycle rather than an individual is a little more tricky when it comes to personalization.
B2B purchases require more risk and investment than most B2C purchases. Switching vendors or suppliers requires a higher level of investment in the form of hard costs as well as the loss of efficiency that will inevitably occur while employees adjust to new processes and/or equipment.
B2C marketing has been drilling down to the individual level for quite some time now - for example, narrowing target segments down to the number of children a consumer parents. While the B2B sales cycle is longer and converting B2B customers is harder, thanks to data, marketing to B2B consumers is becoming easier. B2B marketers use analytics to focus on detailed segments such as job title, seniority level, and responsibility within a company when targeting potential customers on the buyer journey. This highly-targeted outreach leads to more concrete leads.
How can B2B brands overcome the marketing hurdle to become more “B2P” or Business to Person?
1. Define a clear mission and vision.
B2B brands need to understand that the best B2C brands represent more than a company, they represent a concept.
Squarespace is a platform for businesses to build and host their websites.
Their mission? To empower people with the creative ideas to succeed.
This “Dream It” ad with Idris Elba shows a man singing about his dreams and then living them. The ad ends with the words “Dream it. Make it.” which reinforces their core mission with immense clarity.
In order to develop long-term relationships and brand loyalty, the B2B marketer must thoroughly align their brand’s mission and vision with their messaging. Defining and ingraining the brand promise into the marketing efforts and to the staff enables tangible action and encourages unity. Brands that invest in their employees end up investing in their consumers.
2. Focus on serving the customers, not the investors.
As the famous song goes, “You give a little love and it all comes back to you.” Showing the consumer that they are a priority can go a long way in sales.
All marketing, especially B2B marketing, is supposed to work towards one thing: Return on Investment (ROI). But just because a marketing campaign pleases an investor, does not mean it will connect with the consumer on a personal level.
According to a study by Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 86% of B2B buyers feel like they receive a generic, impersonal sales pitch. The same CEB study noted that “brands that can connect with their buyers on an emotional level will see 2x more impact than B2B marketers who are still trying to sell business or functional value” AND that “69% were willing to pay a higher price for brand experiences that deliver some form of personal value.”
Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a guide-dog service, partnered with IBM Watson to create a B2B campaign that involved the collection of 30+ years of genetic breeding data.
But why? With all of the data breaching and hacking in the news nowadays, consumers are weary about “big data.” In doing this campaign, IBM showed corporate social responsibility while promoting their business AND connecting to consumers on an emotional level. Their B2B campaign was all about telling a story about how data collection can be used for good.
3. Get out of the comfort zone.
As Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a changin’.” B2B companies need to meet their customers where they are at - and 99.9% of customers are on some social media platform.
In a study done by Omobono, 79% of B2B marketing professionals stated that social was the most effective marketing channel…but only when done right. Businesses labeled as “boring” on one platform can shine by telling their story on a different platform. Using social media isn’t about direct sales, however. Businesses will find more success when they treat social media as a real, personal way to have 1-1 communication with their customers.
General Electric Company (GE) is a power company. Since a power company services people indirectly, individuals aren’t the first thing that come to mind when thinking about marketing for a power business. GE is unique, however, because they put people at the front of everything by showcasing their people-centered culture with a vibrant Instagram feed featuring their team, products, and effects on the world. Their “welcome” video on Youtube emphasizes that people are their number one priority. They even have Snapchat stories showcasing what their employees do on a day-to-day basis (such as explore the inside of a volcano). Humanizing a business-heavy brand creates brand fans and makes the brand relatable to potential buyers.
B2B and B2C companies also benefit from hosting experiential marketing events. Themed pop-up experiences like Christmas Wonderlands and Stranger Things bars work well with B2C companies. B2B tradeshows are a more impactful strategy to showcase a brand’s experience to the consumer. Use of augmented and virtual reality sets at tradeshows can help the buyer visualize their purchase in an exciting manner.
Godfrey, a B2B marketing agency, used VR at a tradeshow to demonstrate the unique capabilities of their client’s training facility and proving grounds - showing the headset user the reach boom lift, training bay, and classroom - all without leaving the show floor.
4. Differentiation through authenticity & self-awareness.
Consumers want transparency, empathy, and authenticity…and B2C brands have this kind of self-awareness down to a science.
Email automation simplifies lead generation and is necessary for business growth…but in no way is email, “sexy.” Even still, Mailchimp has managed to creatively and authentically market its B2B brand using the B2C brand playbook.
Mailchimp recognized that their audience was comprised of creative, scrappy small businesses and startups. Using that insight, they’ve tapped into their own creativity, creating eye-catching content through graphic, video, and image design to captivate their target market in unorthodox ways.
They’ve capitalized on the mispronunciations of their brand name, they’ve commissioned local artists to create billboards, they even did a campaign where they gave away hats for cats. Email automation isn’t the easiest business to sell, but Mailchimp approaches their B2B marketing strategy with notes of creativity, humor, and self-awareness - not unlike your typical B2C brand.
At the end of the day, the line between B2B and B2C marketing is blurring. Just like B2C brands, B2B brands with a strong sense of self pave the way for brand advocacy and loyalty through authentic messaging.