Many years ago, Disney released a film called “Freaky Friday” in which a mother and her daughter end up switching bodies. In the last few years, I’ve noticed a similar trend happening in how B2B and B2C brands approach their marketing. While I’ve always believed both marketing sects are more alike than different (though there are certainly unique qualities to each), it’s particularly interesting lately to see how much the roles have reversed.
B2B brands are taking on more B2C characteristics in the way they create and build stories around the human buyers and influencers that contribute to the final purchasing decision. Conversely, B2C brands are focusing more on building trust and credibility in the face of increased customer scrutiny (and social platforms primed for cacophonic outrage at the slightest perceived misstep.)
Jonathan Beamer, chief marketing officer of the jobs portal Monster, says, “There are differences in B2B and B2C marketing, but also many similarities. There’s always a human on the other side of a transaction who is making decisions. There is still a fun mixture of rational and irrational decision-making.”
In an article published earlier this year in The Drum, Samuel Scott offers, “The Cold War in marketing is the logical result of the longstanding assumptions about B2C and B2B marcom. The main one is that B2C is emotional and has short sales cycles while B2B is logical with long sales cycles. This has led B2C marketers to favor offline advertising and B2B ones to prioritize online informational ‘content’. But that divide need not always occur – especially since it can harm overall results.”
Take this example from Domo, a business intelligence software company that competes with Tableau and Power BI. They’ve built an entire campaign around ‘The Seven Deadly Sins in Business Intelligence’ that looks neither rational or offers informational content. But it is differentiated and stands out to an audience of analysts.
MailChimp had a cult following but wanted to reach a wider audience, so they set out to use a variety of digital and real-world media to target different subcultures in the SMB space. As Ceros reports, “They created a series of fictional short-films, hit songs, and fashion trends that played on the confusion surrounding MailChimp’s name. This generated viral public intrigue around the campaign, leading to MailChimp’s online properties gaining over 1 billion impressions. With this campaign, MailChimp shows that they live by their company motto: “Being creative and true to yourself is good for business.”
While Farmer’s Insurance, in the B2C space, takes a page from the B2B playbook, creating a content hub with rich, industry-focused research and assets that puts all the info an insurance customer would want to know right at their fingertips. The well-organized site has clickable categories and articles with big, engaging images.
Both B2B and B2C brands would do well to remember:
- Customers are people. Yes, we target businesses and households, but the people that make up a business or household are individuals that make emotion driven purchase decisions. Work to craft messages that speak to their motivations and alleviate their fears.
- Don’t be lazy. Lazy B2C marketers might use robocalls, while their counterparts in B2B might do automated LinkedIn emails. Neither creates a positive customer experience and both demonstrate the low-value and effort your brand places on customer interactions.
- Prioritize premium measurement. Marketers get lulled in a trap to focus on the easiest metrics to measure because they are usually the easiest to understand. Instead of vanity metrics like clicks and opens, all marketers need to focus on outcomes.
Welcome to the age of B2P: Business To People.
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