By Ian McCue, senior associate content manager at NetSuite
Traditional B2C and B2B marketing no longer exist, and modern ecommerce demands a hybrid of the two.
Thanks to endless supplies of customer data, companies are deploying campaigns that are both eye-catching like traditional B2C marketing and connection-building like traditional B2B.
Industry veteran Mark Fitzgerald’s business saw big results—including a doubled online conversion rate—after using this “convergent” marketing strategy.
Once upon a time, there was a distinct line between B2C and B2B marketing. A company’s strategies and tools were altogether different depending on which of these customers they targeted.
Traditional B2C marketing was product-driven, and brand identity came from image and message repetition. The more people this marketing reached, the better—because in this matrix, buying decisions were emotionally-driven and based on desire, status and ideal. The marketer’s end goal was to maximize the value of the transaction.
Traditional B2B marketing, on the other hand, focused more on building recognition and laying the foundation for long-term relationships. Company websites (when they existed) directed visitors to “contact us” and “about us” pages. This passive approach made sense because B2B commerce had a smaller target market, one of rational buyers concerned with value and need.
News flash: B2C and B2B marketing are no longer separate.
The best marketing approach today is a combination of the two, regardless of your business model, according to industry veteran Mark Fitzgerald, COO and VP of digital commerce for POS Supply Solutions, a company that sells point-of-sale system supplies. Fitzgerald owned a web design and hosting company in the ‘90s and then founded an online footwear store called Grapevine Hill, which he started in his garage and grew into a $25 million-per-year business.
The Internet’s ability to pull massive amounts of data, Fitzgerald said, makes it possible to combine the best of both worlds: far-reaching, eye-catching marketing (B2C) that simultaneously builds trust and a connection with the customer (B2B). Ecommerce companies should follow a strategy he calls “connectopia,” collecting and connecting large amounts of data to forge deeper, more meaningful connections with buyers.
“The line between your work life and home life has all but disappeared,” Fitzgerald said. “This phenomenon has upped the ante for all of us ... It gives us an unprecedented opportunity to connect to the hearts and minds of our buyers.”
Merging the two is easier than you might think.
Fitzgerald’s B2B company, POS Supply, tracks visitors who browse its online store. For example, let’s say the system notices that a customer who recently bought receipt paper also looked at thermal cleaning cards for a POS system. The third time that customer visits the page for thermal cleaning cards, the system triggers a flag to send an email to the customer promoting cleaning cards, sometimes with a discount code. POS Supply’s operations manager also receives a notification and has the option to include a cleaning card sample in that customer’s next shipment, with a personal note.
Naturally, the conversion rate on cleaning cards spikes for that segment of customers. It’s a perfect example of a scalable method that combines the promotional aspect of B2C marketing with the personalization of B2B marketing. The customer gets something they need with minimal effort — and sometimes at a discounted price — while POS Supply earns more revenue.
And the results are golden.
When a buyer’s thinking aligns with a business’s approach, it produces a unique experience. Since POS Supply started using this convergent marketing approach, its online conversion rate doubled, SKUs per order increased 15 percent, and average time on site tripled. Revenue per email went from 3.5 cents to 25 cents, and 40 percent of customers are now repeat buyers, up from 28 percent.
Marketers must evolve as their customers do. It’s not realistic to expect old-school marketing techniques to work when customer preferences have changed so much with online retail. Challenge yourself to think creatively by blending far-reaching and splashy marketing with personal, relationship-driven techniques.
Convergent marketing that marries concepts from two different realms is exactly the kind of initiative that will help you stand out.
“When customers feel known, the basic patterns of marketing—want and need—cross over and become synonymous,” Fitzgerald said. “Buyers magically start to cross that line from passive to active customers.”
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