The Disappearance of the Distinction Between B2B and B2C Marketing

Is there still such a big difference between B2C and B2B marketing today?

I’ve asked experts of both sides of the fence to weigh in and get their perspective on new trends, approaches, and differences. At the surface, it feels like B2B and B2C are different as each group targets very different and distinct audiences – B2C feels more emotional where B2B more financial-oriented, B2B sales cycle are longer and more complex, and more.

But, is this really the case?

My conclusion, no. There are fewer differences today than ever. More importantly, B2B marketers will be more effective utilizing many B2C strategies and vice versa. Here’s why:

  • B2B marketers can no longer use industry jargon and corporate ‘selfies’ to drive engagement. The voice of the customer must be relatable to the buyer — requiring a compelling customer experience mapped across the buyer journey. Every successful B2C marketer knows that to reach their prospects, you need to address the problems you’re solving rather than the specific features of your product or service, no matter how impressive or sophisticated they are. Ultimately, the people who you want to sign a purchase order will only do so in return for solutions to their own business problems. They aren’t interested in “market leading”, “state of the art,” “best in class” — they’re looking for ways to be more effective at their jobs, save time, and avoid pressure from their management team.
  • B2B marketers can no longer use reputation only to close deals. While branding still plays an important role to influence, your buyers are highly knowledgeable and savvy in their industry and role, and they are looking for information. They are willing to do research and use peer networking to find and acquire new innovative solutions. B2C marketers have known this and have traditionally been better at developing personas, identifying the things that buyers identify with and that help establish rapport and engagement. B2B marketers need to learn and adopt these techniques, striking a balance between branding and providing useful information in an accessible format to guide rather than push buyers toward the desired conclusion.
  • B2B marketers must utilize multi-channel marketing. Although your blend of platforms will be different in the B2B space, you can’t afford to rely on just one or two channels. This is an area where savvy B2C companies that deal with hundreds of thousands of customers have learned to excel. Take a lesson from this obsession with high-availability and connection to give your customers what they want before they ask.
  • B2B marketers must make it personal by making a connection with those involved in buying. It doesn’t matter what you are selling or if the deal involves multiple decision makers and millions of dollars. In the end, you are still interacting with human beings. They want to be listened to. They want to be emotionally moved. Above all, they want to feel confident about their decision. Making this connection involves personalized informative content. Today, many B2B teams fall short because of a lack of relevant content (either not enough, not up-to-date, etc.). For B2B marketers, greater personalization means more efficiency and greater ROI. Marketing efforts won’t be wasted on unqualified leads or accounts, and sales will similarly save time by only focusing on genuinely qualified prospects. Tailoring content more personally also means their marketing spend can go a lot further. Furthermore, B2B marketers can use predictive analytics to construct high quality detailed individual customer profiles that help them create personalized offers for each customer.
  • B2B marketers must re-think long form content, seeking new formats. I am unaware of any B2B colleagues who don’t want easy to digest content, even entertaining content, as long as it’s informative. Gone are the days of detailed descriptions of products or services. It’s important for B2B marketers to address customer questions succinctly necessary for making a decision. Be brief, even funny, its OK.
  • B2B marketers must turn customers into advocates. Most successful B2C leaders know that their interaction with their customers doesn’t end with a sale. They work hard to ensure their customers will keep coming back for more, and ideally act as advocates and encourage their friends to buy. B2B marketers need to embrace and hone this practice.

In summary, while B2B may be targeting a different set of audiences, they rely on similar tools, disciplines, and tactics – differing only in program blend and priority. B2B marketers need to strive for a better balance between awareness, lead gen, and connections with buyers. It’s critical that marketing leaders look at strategy, programs/tactics, infrastructure, and activities that are directly responsible for developing these business outcomes.

We’ve reached a point where the distinction between B2B and B2C marketing is gone.

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