Digital consumer marketing has always had a head start and remains in the lead as far as business-to-business digital marketing initiatives are concerned. Consumer marketing as opposed to B2B marketing is more flexible and generally less restricted by factors like corporate mandates, brand limitations, and regulatory restrictions. B2B enterprises do, however, get to benefit from applying lessons learned from B2C marketing trends that work, as opposed to the ones that flop.
The problem is that many B2B companies don’t look to B2C marketing tactics as a benchmark or even for inspiration. This is generally a mistake because if you look at some of the biggest B2C marketing trends that have emerged over the past decade (e.g, social media, mobile marketing, omnichannel marketing), they’ve all been adopted by B2B sellers. Adopting B2C tactics usually means focusing more on the customer experience, personalization and gathering feedback from the customer in a systematic way to learn how to make relevant improvements.
This article explores some of the latest B2C marketing trends that have been successfully adopted by innovative B2B companies.
#1: Offer A Better Customer Experience
B2C companies focus on providing their customer with a digital shopping experience that’s seamless (translation: painless) that encourages them to shop online.
Back in the day, the online shopping experience was much more cumbersome. Pages were slow to load, search functionality was poor, payments were time consuming but people enjoyed the convenience and the novelty.
Today, major advancements allow for a much faster, smoother and more enjoyable customer experience.
Preference recognition offers suggestions for a more personalized experience, loyalty rewards programs offer added incentives and a touch of fun, live customer chat support means receiving help without sitting on hold.
If we simply stop and think about it, companies are comprised of people. These people decide whether your product is the right fit for their business. These people are also B2C customers and B2C sellers, so by continually providing a better and better customer experience, they are in fact being trained to expect more – across all their digital experiences.
When the decision-maker on the other end of your potential B2B deal tries your product and the user experience and support is mediocre, he or she will feel it. It will impact their decision whether or not to choose your product. So keep up. Focus on the customer experience associated with your product. Build a product that’s easy to use. Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Make sure the team you have providing support is well armed. Invest in the agent side by providing more consolidated user interfaces so it’s easier for agents to do their jobs and keep customers happy.
#2: Foster Emotional Connections Between Your Brand and Your Customers
Fostering an emotional connection to the brand, telling a story that appeals to our sense of self, communicating personal value – these are all techniques that B2C companies excel at. They sell to people.
Too often, B2B sellers think of their customers as companies and not as people.
Like we covered before, companies are made of people. These people’s decisions are driven by emotion and not always by rational thought.
This distinction is important because it asks B2B marketers to focus on the emotional component of decision making in addition to the business value when crafting their messaging and differentiating their brands. This isn’t a new concept. A few years ago, Google came out with a report that surveyed 3,000 purchasers of 36 B2B brands across multiple industries. The report showed that on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than B2C consumers.
The report goes on to explain the logic behind this. The stakes are lower for a B2C consumer. Buying a shampoo that you don’t like or a pair of expensive shoes that you later return, this is small potatoes. When it comes to business purchases, which can easily run into the high six figures, bad purchasing decisions can affect performance rates and can ultimately cost someone their job. The emotional connection, so critical in a B2B transactions, helps to offset the risk. They trust the brand. They trust the product. They trust their decision.
#3: Stop Selling and Start Listening
Your customers are out there. They’re talking about their business challenges, specific pain points, their opinions on the current solutions and of course, their opinion on your product. They’re talking to you (e.g., your sales and biz dev teams) and they’re talking to others, mainly online.
This information is highly valuable feedback whether it’s negative or positive and should feed directly back into your product and development team in order to ensure that future iterations are on point. It doesn’t end there.
Controlling the conversation, responding, engaging – these are all highly valuable marketing tactics that when executed correctly can shape the conversations surrounding your brand.
There are two ways to do it. The first is by listening and responding to existing conversations. The second is by providing relevant content to spark a specific type of conversation. Both require managing digital communication channels that are continually monitored and updated. Start gathering social data. Who likes your posts? Who comments? What do they say? Who shares? Where do they share? This information is incredibly valuable and is not difficult or particularly costly to collect.
Creating channels for feedback and communication inside your product can also hold immense value and provide a closed ecosystem where mission-critical data can easily be harvested.
The days of simply selling are long gone. Today’s ecosystem is about winning trust, providing value, eliminating frustration and actually listening to what your customers have to say.