I saw this image on social media the other day, and decided to track down the source. Lo and behold it was from a Bryan Kramer blog post. The gist is that we marketers have possibly clung too long and too strongly to the segmentation of business-to-consumer versus business-to-business.
Kramer goes on to argue that “The fact is that the lines are so far blurred now between the two marketing segments that it’s hard to differentiate between the two anymore.” He states that the rise of digital media and social networking allows both B2B and B2C marketers to establish both one-to-one deeply tailored individualized relationships and one-to-many brand experiences. Too true.
He also profoundly states something we’ve known for a very long time here at motum b2b – “Businesses do not have emotion. People do.”
The way we look at it (and always have), businesses don’t make buying decisions. The people working in businesses make buying decisions. It’s our job as marketers to provide them with the tools, information and trust they need at the right point in the buying cycle.
This is where B2B and B2C continue to diverge in my mind. The level of trust required for most B2B buying decisions is immense. Every purchase is a considered purchase. I mean, really, what’s the ROI on the impulse-purchased bar of deodorant spurred on by a neat Facebook contest. Dry armpits. Unstained clothing. A fresh and pretty scent.
If the purchaser chooses the wrong type of deodorant – a scent he doesn’t like, one that doesn’t last long enough, one that leaves a residue on clothes – he simply throws it away and makes a mental note not to buy that brand (or that scent) again.
On the B2B side, the person who impulse shops for anything is taking a big risk. If you’re looking to refresh an entire fleet of forklift trucks for your logistics company, you’re not going to make a decision because one of the manufacturers is on Twitter. I assure you, while you might start your research with the brand you follow on social media you won’t end there.
Our logistics fellow has to not only convince himself that he’s made the right choice in forklifts, he also has to convince the operations manager, the health and safety committee, the union and the CFO. And once the decision is made, it will impact hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in the organization. That decision can make him a hero with a new promotion or have him on LinkedIn trying to find a new job.
Emotion does play a role in B2B marketing. But the emotions we leverage are different from most consumer campaigns, which frankly seem to consist of fun times with friends, guilt-by-peer-pressure, gluttony (Save more! Get more for less!), and juvenile one-upmanship. Oh, and fear. You always get some scare ads.
In B2B, we have to build trust. We have to demonstrate thought leadership and industry knowledge. We have to prove that we understand the prospective customer’s problem and how our brand’s offering can solve it. We have to earn respect.
And on the tactical execution side of the coin, there are other deep divides between B2B and B2C strategies. Buying mass media is a waste of money for B2B most of the time. Product sampling and giveaways can be just too costly and complicated for everyone involved.
Even the two streams Kramer claims blur the lines to the point where the segmentation is no longer needed – digital and social – there are very different approaches to the content and delivery when you’re reaching someone at work (and different laws, too). A silly YouTube video about deodorant will probably produce an immediate uptick in sales. That won’t work for forklifts nearly as well as a webinar on safety features that protect worker safety, productivity and the bottom line.
So while motum b2b agrees that we all need to concentrate on the human-to-human side of marketing, we don’t think we’re anywhere close to not needing B2B and B2C.