Historically, business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing practices were very distinct. B2C marketing is typically much larger in scale—marketing tactics have always leaned on the philosophy of casting a wider net, often utilizing the spray-and-pray method in hopes that some of the marketing exposure would drive emotional buying decisions. On the other hand, B2B marketing has always been much smaller in scale and very high touch as most B2B products require high human touch and education—this has naturally forced B2B marketers to be much more diligent about whom they market to and spend human capital on given limited resources.
The emergence of digital channels and marketing technology platforms is starting to expose similarities in how B2B and B2C companies market to their customers.
Marketing Principles Become Unified
As the lines between B2B and B2C blur, enterprises can learn from each other in five business areas.
Analytics and scoring. Analytics has played a critical role in the convergence of B2B and B2C. Traditionally, B2C companies didn’t appreciate analytics, specifically scoring as a crucial element in informing marketing decisions. B2B marketers have traditionally used scoring to identify and categorize leads, something B2C marketers have started to realize is important. Both types can focus on high value or “most likely to purchase” segments, in turn allowing B2C marketers to improve their marketing spend and ROI.
Content. When it comes to content, B2C has always invested in creating quality digital content that appeals to the emotions of target consumers to drive purchase behavior. B2B marketers, on the other hand, have focused on connecting with their customers at a more human and tactile level to help educate potential buyers on the complexity, cost, and impact of the product purchased. With the emergence of social media in particular, both are upping their content game. B2C enterprises are focusing on engaging with their customers in two-way conversations to build a human connection and stand out as brands.
Automation. Once the realm of the B2C marketer, automation is now being used by B2B marketers to efficiently reach larger-scale target audiences at the top of the purchase funnel. Automation is key to scalability for both B2B and B2C. Both must manage customer relationships throughout their life cycles to convert, build trust, and create brand loyalty. Automation allows B2B sales teams to focus on connecting with their top leads without having to worry about nurturing the relationship in the early stages of the sales cycle.
Personalization. B2B marketing has always been extremely personalized, since marketing practices typically have coupled digital engagement with a direct human contact between a sales rep and lead. B2C brands, on the other hand, have concentrated on a broader messaging approach. In an extremely crowded market place, it is becoming crucial for B2C companies to personalize their customer experiences with their brands to stand out from competition.
Product trials. A key takeaway that B2C organizations have started to leverage is the product trial. B2B companies have often gone down the route of providing product trials in an attempt to acquire customers. This is an emerging trend in the B2C space, where part of the marketing effort has revolved around “trial boxes.” Consumers like to explore what having a product would be like, so, as part of this effort, some retailers have even deployed virtual reality changing rooms and other technologies in their brick-and-mortar stores. This is particularly powerful in the retail space as a means to reduce buyer anxiety.
As the lines between B2B and B2C continue to blur, consumers will benefit from being more connected to brands and brands will benefit from higher sales, sharper marketing strategies, and more efficient operations.