What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Consumer Activists

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These days, a growing segment of consumers is deciding which brands deserve their dollars based on the values they demonstrate as a company. These consumer activists put their social beliefs at the core of their buying decisions, and as a result, B2C brands have started factoring the attitudes and motivations of these society-minded individuals into their core brand values, messaging, and marketing.

But consumer activists aren’t just consumers. They’re business professionals too—and their personal values and beliefs are coming into play more and more when it comes to their B2B buying decisions.

For B2B marketers, this reality represents a paradigm shift. Industries whose marketing has been typically built around use cases and functionality demonstrations are now talking to prospects with a whole different set of questions: What does your company stand for—and do we really want to be in business with you?

Let’s take a look at what B2B marketers need to know about today’s consumer activists and accommodating this new buying paradigm within their organizations.

The Blurring of B2C and B2B Continues

Particularly in the wake of the societal, cultural, and racial upheavals of the past few years, consumers are more aware than ever of the impact that their purchases can have on society and the environment, and they want to use their spending power to support causes that align with their beliefs. This has led to an increase in demand for products that are ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, and support fair labor practices, but it goes even further than that. Consumers want to know where brands stand on major issues of the day and expect brands to be transparent about their values.

For brands looking to meet these new expectations, everything needs to start with their customers. Who are these individuals, and what matters most to them? There are a million directions in which a brand can run when looking to align with the rising tide of social responsibility and consumer activism, so it behooves executives to pause and take a deep breath before diving into the deep end. What does the data tell you? Where is it most important for you to define and communicate your brand’s values? And in what situations do those values need to translate into action?

The above rings true for B2B brands as well. Granted, the B2B buying process tends to be longer and far more multifaceted than individual consumer purchases. It’s easy enough for an individual to hear that the CEO of a CPG company said something contrary to their personal beliefs and decide they’re not going to buy canned beans from that company anymore. It’s far less simple for a person to sever a multi-year SaaS contract on behalf of their entire organization because that SaaS company took a stance on BLM that’s counter to their personal beliefs. But that’s not to say that BLM stance isn’t going to win or lose the company business in the long term.

B2B buying teams are increasingly discussing the ethical and societal implications of the partners they work with. Why? Because they know their customers are asking the same things about them. These questions are top of mind. They’ve permeated our personal and professional existences. The line between B2B and B2C marketing principles that was blurry to start has all but vanished today, and B2B marketers need to be pivoting accordingly.

Putting Activism into Action

The good news is that, although the implications of consumer activism can feel overwhelming, B2B marketers are well-suited to adapting to this shift in the marketing world. B2B marketers are, after all, highly accountable for revenue, pipeline, and opportunities, and the impact of consumer activism, even on B2B purchases, is a highly quantifiable phenomenon.

Being a marketer is about tuning into the needs of customers. And at the end of the day, consumer activism is simply a new need to bring into the picture. That means B2B marketers can approach and drive their decisions around consumer activism just as they would any other initiative: by listening and responding to what the data tells them.

B2B buyers are consumers. And consumers are humans. B2B marketers need to put this concept at the core of how they adapt to the rising tide of consumer activism, and they can do so by layering strategic psychographic data points on top of their existing buyer personas to unlock new insights into what motivates their decisions. The resulting richer understanding of their audiences will go a long way toward not only deepening relationships and driving future revenue, but also toward a greater understanding of their own company and the many purposes it can, and should, serve within our broader society.

Ericka Podesta McCoy is chief marketing officer of consumer intelligence firm Resonate. McCoy is a global marketing executive focused on enterprise growth and revenue management in the high tech, telecom, manufacturing, energy, and hospitality sectors across North America, Europe, and Asia.

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