Historically, B2B marketing and B2C marketing have been defined as two distinct methodologies, used to attract and influence two different types of decision-making audiences.
But more recently, the marketing industry has seen a “blurring” of methodologies—most notably, as we witness B2B marketers adopting tactics that have been traditionally used in B2C marketing.
So how did this blurring come about? And what does it mean for B2B marketers and the companies they work for?
This was the topic of discussion during a recent CMO Club virtual roundtable led by:
- Kimberly Kupiecki—Director, Strategic Marketing, Dow Energy & Water Solutions
- Jennifer Krisko—Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing Operations, Wells Fargo
- Laura Sullivan—SVP, Wholesale Strategic Insights Lead, Enterprise Marketing, Wells Fargo
Driving Forces Behind the “Blur”
So what exactly is creating this blurring between B2B and B2C marketing?
Panelists and roundtable participants identified three main trends impacting the shift:
#1: Rapidly emerging technology
Much like their B2C counterparts, B2B marketers are adapting to the “new world order” by shifting their marketing investments.
For example, whereas some B2B companies may have traditionally invested in direct mail and in-person events, many are more focused now on using technology to reach customers digitally and create more personalized, one on one connections.
#2: Increased/improved access to information
Traditionally, B2B buyers have relied heavily on salespeople to get the information they need.
But thanks to the customers’ expansive access to information online, enterprise customers can educate themselves more readily by accessing information such as case studies and testimonials. The ability to self-educate allows them to be knowledgeable about a company, its’ products, services and competitors before they even have a chance to talk to a sales rep.
Ultimately, this access to information has shortened if not disrupted the linear flow of the traditional buyer journey (not to mention, the role of the B2B salesperson).
#3: Evolving expectations
Just like B2C customers, B2B customers are increasingly looking to invest in businesses that promote brand authenticity and trust, and who appeal to them emotionally through their marketing.
Moreover, there is a growing expectation in the B2B environment of gaining instantaneous access to products and services—particularly among Millennials who work in B2B. This is likely due to them having positive experiences with companies such as Amazon and Zappos.
How B2B Companies Can Embrace the Changing Marketing Landscape
Kupiecki, Krisko and Sullivan as well as participants agreed that B2B companies can be most successful by applying the following to their marketing strategies:
#1: Be bolder
Stop thinking that marketing concepts normally reserved for B2C are too “out there” for a B2B customer base.
In other words, companies must stop settling for the status quo, and get more confident with their marketing.
#2: Stop waiting for perfection
B2B companies need to think in more agile terms—and break out of the perfection mold. Once a product or service is ready to go to market, it should go out—and quickly.
(One participant who worked several years in B2C marketing referred to the B2C way as “build the plane as you fly it.”)
#3: Get current
Not all companies are ready to shift their marketing dollars from traditional to digital tactics.
While there is still a time and place for things like print (e.g., mail can be a key way to break through email inundation), B2B leaders must be more willing to invest in building customer relationships within the digital world.
As well, B2B companies must improve how they navigate specific social and other emerging channels.
Whether B2B or B2C, It’s About People
Certainly, there are still a few characteristics unique to B2B marketing methodology—most notably, the number of multiple decision makers involved in buying a B2B product or service, as opposed to an individual B2C consumer.
But whether it’s B2B or B2C, both forms of marketing are ultimately about creating a great buyer experience, P2P (that is, person-to-person).
In other words, there is little need for marketers to wrestle with the traditional definitions of B2B versus B2C. That’s because, as digital and social evolve and the need for human engagement strengthens, we will continue to see more blurring between the lines.