Whether B2B or B2C, Buyers Are Still Human
Blair points out that B2B marketers are still developing personalization capabilities that lag behind those on the B2C side.
B2C marketers tend to be better at personalization of email marketing content, Validity’s Briggs agrees. Personalizing content is essential for a B2B email to stand out from the others vying for the same amount of limited attention. “You need to differentiate how you look in the inbox,” he states.
Briggs adds that it’s important to verify names, email addresses, etc., in both B2B and B2C emails, but B2B marketers have the added burden of ensuring that messages reach the right decision makers within the company. The person whose business card was taken at a trade show might have little or nothing to do with buying a particular product or service.
Briggs also recommends that B2C marketers leverage activity-based marketing, delivering marketing messages in real time based on something the potential customer does, like looking at a web page or clicking on a link in an email.
Though there are significant channel differences between B2B and B2C, it’s still important to learn how business customers prefer to communicate, whether it’s by email, phone, Zoom meeting, or some other method, Nash says. However, he doesn’t see social media becoming relevant in B2B marketing, even though Facebook and Instagram have made some inroads.
B2B customers also aren’t likely to be making purchases on their iPhones or other personal devices, Blair says.
Companies selling to other businesses should also provide the same transparency that consumers receive during B2C transactions, Kustomer’s Larsen recommends. “With Amazon, it’s easy to know the price, check out, and understand everything. With B2B, those things tend to be hidden. You might see a product demo, or a marketer might call you initially. Then it takes you three days to learn what you want to know about the product.”
Similarly, B2B companies have not advanced as much in self-service as their B2C counterparts, according to Larsen. He adds that B2C companies tend to be more focused on the customer experience to drive loyalty and sales, yet it’s a concept that most B2B companies overlook.
B2B marketers are adjusting their campaigns and marketing mix to accommodate decreased budgets in the COVID-19 environment, says Melissa Sargeant, chief marketing officer at Litmus, an email marketing technology provider. Companies are also seeing increases in remote work environments and digital usage, so B2B firms should incorporate the following B2C strategies to optimize outreach:
- create more digital touchpoints that can help signal “warmer” leads;
- build abandoned-cart and browse campaigns; and
- add more fun and personality to marketing collateral copy.
A major strength that B2C companies have over their B2B counterparts is an understanding of email list hygiene, according to Briggs. If an email doesn’t reach the intended target, it’s a wasted effort, he says, and he would urge companies to “verify emails before you send them out.”
Eubanks also recommends that B2B sellers use surveys to help build better relationships and programs, much like their B2C counterparts.
While marketing to businesses and consumers both involve making a human connection, even if artificial intelligence and other technology aids in making that connection, there are differences.
In B2C settings, typically only one person makes the buying decision, though there could be some discussion between spouses or with others before purchases are made. But in B2B sales, several people are usually involved in the purchasing decision. Simple office supplies can be authorized by one person, but higher-value purchases, especially for capital equipment, are likely to involve more people, possibly extending all the way to the C-suite. So when marketing to businesses, sellers need to ensure that messages get to everyone who needs to be involved, Briggs says.
Sellers shouldn’t assume that everyone involved in B2B purchase decisions will have easy access to data in the company’s CRM system, Eubanks adds.
In B2B, marketers need to understand the target industry, Harrison says. He points out that many CRM system vendors offer industry-specific solutions, modules, or features for companies in life sciences, healthcare, financial services, or government, for example.
“You have to understand how those relationships are formed and managed,” Harrison advises. “What is the focus of the technology? Do you understand the end market?”
B2B customers’ needs can change quickly, Harrison adds. So he advises using dashboards to keep on top of B2B market trends.
Business customers also can experience a lot of turnover in the time that elapses between initial product exploration and the actual purchase, Blair warns.
Companies also need to consider the end goal of the different customer types when marketing their products. B2C marketing should focus more on outcomes, Nash says, noting that laundry detergent suppliers looking to appeal to consumers would do better to promote how well the product cleans. When marketing to retailers to make sure that they set aside shelf space in their stores, the same laundry detergent supplier would instead convey to key contacts how the product helps them meet important retail metrics.
Another essential element of B2B that typically isn’t used in B2C marketing is strong market research, SugarCRM’s Charlton says. B2B marketing might include deep business intelligence, such as market share information, to give retail partners a better sense of the types of items they should be placing on their shelves to increase sales to consumers.
Nash adds that webinars, trade shows, and conferences are primarily B2B marketing elements, though some professions, like financial planners, might use webinars and virtual conferences to help sell their services.
Even though many of those differences between B2B and B2C will continue, any gap between the two will likely continue to become smaller, marketing experts agree.
Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.