Whether B2B or B2C, Buyers Are Still Human
While businesses and the CRM technology that supports them have often been stratified depending on whether they cater to business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, there are elements of B2B marketing that should be used in B2C efforts and vice versa, experts say.
That’s because B2B and B2C have become more intertwined in the past few years as more interactions have moved online and marketing personalization has become more important to both types of businesses, according to experts. There are other commonalities as well.
“The trend evolving in all types of businesses is that it’s all about the people,” says Craig Charlton, CEO of SugarCRM. “It is human connections that matter. The most successful companies are those that provide a very personal experience.”
“What we see in common is that how we shop is influenced all of the time; at the end of the day, we are all consumers,” says Adrian Nash, head of strategy for SAP Customer Experience. So even in a B2B setting, one or more people will be making purchasing decisions.
There is increasing consumerization of the B2B buyer, points out Gabe Larsen, vice president of growth at CRM systems provider Kustomer. “They are consumers on their own. They know the experience they have [as a consumer] with Apple or with Amazon. They expect to have that same experience when they buy from me as a B2B vendor.”
DATA’S A BIG DEAL
Data provides essential context and structure, whether companies market and sell to other businesses, to consumers, or to both, Charlton adds. “We all have an incredible amount of data now, but for many companies, that data is incomplete.”
With more complete and accurate data, companies can better target their marketing messages, Charlton says.
In either environment, marketers should use everything known about customers’ engagements with their companies to deliver next best actions that drive sales, Nash adds. Repeat buyers also expect sellers to know them and their individual relationships with the companies.
Whether B2B or B2C, the expectations for the end buyer are the same, according to Nash. “They expect to have a great experience.”
“E-commerce has played into all of this,” adds Rick Blair, vice president of product strategy at Verint Systems. In addition to personal relationships being important for both types of selling, he says, neither one can be pursued while the automation of interactions is ignored.
“The common element is that at the end of the day, you need to get your message out to the end audience, be it a buyer for a business or a consumer,” says Mark Briggs, CEO of Validity, an email deliverability solutions provider. “The best way to get that message out is email…more than ever now due to the pandemic.”
Another common element is that the CRM system for either B2B or B2C should serve as a “single source of truth for clearer communication and better business intelligence and reports,” says Ben Harrison, cofounder of DealCloud, a provider of CRM solutions for the financial services industry.
A marketing strategy that is helpful for both is “brand storytelling,” to help guide the prospect/customer from initial product/service exploration to the final purchase, says Lauren Eubanks, senior demand generation manager at TechnologyAdvice, a business software consultancy.
Regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C, marketing messages should be targeted, Eubanks adds. “You should never use a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Numerous businesses benefit from a combined B2B2C marketing approach.
A good example is Tjernlund Products, a Minnesota-based company that uses Amazon’s B2C ecosystem to sell its industrial ventilation products, generating about $50 million in annual revenue. Many of those products are sold to wholesalers, who in turn sell them to small businesses, distributors, and hardware stores where contractors typically buy their products.
“A lot of wholesalers need partners to be successful in sales and successful in business,” says Andrew Tjernlund, the company’s owner-operator. While the wholesaler’s customers might know they need specific electrical circuit breakers or fuses, for example, a company such as Tjernlund Products needs to market the newest and best products to fill contractors’ needs.
Companies like Tjerlund’s also need to have a combined marketing approach, he says. “If we don’t help them sell, it will just hurt them.”
So Tjernlund works with individual distributors to make sure they buy products at the right time (for seasonal products) and the right price point to maximize sales.
Tjernlund offers promotional pricing at times to distributors with the understanding that the savings should flow through to the end customer for the promotion to be successful, he adds. “They want customers to come back for future sales.
“We’re not trying to sell things down their throats; at the end of the day, they are selling business-to-consumer. It’s a transactional partnership,” Tjernlund says. “We want to be a good partner. We know what will help make them successful.”
Companies in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) markets follow similar philosophies, according to marketing experts. CPG manufacturers make products that are distributed through retail outlets, so those companies need to nurture relationships with the retailers to ensure that they not only carry their products but also promote them in their stores. The retailers benefit when their customers buy their partners’ products.
LESSONS B2B CAN LEARN FROM B2C
Globally, B2C transactions represent $3.3 trillion annually, according to Verint’s Blair. B2B transactions, while far fewer in number, represent four to five times that amount. The U.S. has about 315 million consumers and about 5 million businesses.