By Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst at Bronto
⏰ 4-minute read
B2B and B2C marketing strategies are increasingly converging as B2B and B2C consumers become one and the same.
Each discipline can learn from the other in areas of acquiring prospects, letting consumers get to know them and using social media.
Overall, it’s helpful to look beyond your industry when pursuing new strategies--you never know where inspiration might lie.
Historically, marketing tactics for B2B and B2C businesses have been somewhat at odds with one another. The disciplines traditionally involve different approaches to lead acquisition, mechanisms to funnel contacts and types of content delivered to prospects.
Yet over the past several years, we've seen the convergence of B2B and B2C strategies. This is because consumers today, whether B2B or B2C, are mostly one and the same.
It’s projected that by 2019, digitally-savvy millennials will be the largest generation in the U.S. According to Forrester, 73 percent of them are currently involved in purchasing decisions for their companies (B2B).
In B2C interactions, millennial consumers increasingly expect relevant and personalized communications--they want to be engaged with brands. And they expect much of the same thing when it comes to B2B interactions. As your business looks to grow in 2019, look beyond your own industry to see how the “other side” operates.
Let’s start by looking at three common areas of focus and what each side might be able to learn from the other.
B2B meets B2C: acquiring prospects
Traditionally, B2B companies find and win customers by producing some sort of content like a white paper or ROI calculator and gating it behind a long contact form that prospective customers must fill out in order to access the content. This form includes all sorts of information like the prospect’s first and last name, company name and role. Upon submission, the company drops the prospect into a nurturing funnel.
At B2C companies, it’s common to focus on capturing a prospect’s email address first and gathering additional information later. Often, they capture addresses via a pop-up signup window on a website or an exit intent product. These are designed to minimize distraction and allow the prospect to continue their session on the site.
But as B2B and B2C consumers become one and the same, they’re adopting a shared expectation that products should be easy to use. They’re also doing more research on mobile. For B2B companies, those long forms potentially distract from the user’s expectation of convenience. Sure, there’s an opportunity to use that excess data you collect, like a user’s city and state, to personalize the nurture path. But if that’s not happening, it may be smarter to collect that data at a later stage in the process and allow the customer to keep moving through your site.
Retailers can think a little more about what might compel a customer to take action. Which types of content might capture additional information or interest from prospects? Maybe it’s a live event demonstrating how to apply makeup or an article about how to choose the right XYZ. In either case, it’s all about providing something valuable to the customer that will influence their purchase decision.
B2B meets B2C: letting consumers get to know you
Once marketers collect a prospect’s contact info, most start email marketing.
Traditionally, B2B marketers rely on “drip” email campaigns to nurture new customers. These emails typically consist of an introduction to the types of products or services being sold, company differentiators and often a link to more gated content (which I’ve always found odd, as gated content led readers to that email in the first place).
As email became a serious B2C marketing tactic, marketers adopted a very similar “welcome series” model. Besides the additional gated content, these messages do essentially the same thing as a drip campaign: introduce the brand, differentiate from competitors and drive a conversion (whatever that may be).
Again, B2B companies can learn from B2C companies. A common B2C welcome email asks the newly-acquired contact to provide additional information, rather than pressuring them at the point of acquisition. This allows the contact to do some brand exploration before determining whether they are ready to provide an additional level of detail, giving them a sense of agency.
B2B companies might also borrow from the ways in which B2C companies engage with their subscribers. Whether directly or subtly, they almost always promote their brand on social media. Consumers today are more than comfortable using social media to research a company, and it pays off to build a presence there.
B2B meets B2C: using social media
Considering millennials and Gen Z are social media-savvy, this channel is important for both B2B and B2C companies. According to eMarketer, both types of businesses plan to increase their social media marketing spend over the next 12 months, whether they sell products or services. These numbers are expected to increase over the next five years.
Both B2B and B2C use social to retarget--or serve additional ads to--contacts who visited their sites but did not take a desired action. For retailers, this might look like abandoning a shopping cart. For B2B brands, it might be abandoning a gated content form. In either case, using social as a means of recapturing a contact may give you a better idea of what the contact wanted in the first place: a specific piece of content, easy access to info, lower prices, discounts or something else.
It’s critical to decide how you want to use your social platforms. For B2C, you may want to post photos of customers using your products, with links to the featured products. For B2B, you may want to showcase customer successes with links to corresponding documentation (and maybe even gate it). Social proof can influence sales with today’s digital customer.
🌱 The bottom line
If you want to breathe new life into your marketing strategy in 2019, looking outside of your industry could be a great way to start. Growth comes from routinely assessing your strategy as consumers and the workforce evolve. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but a new type of spoke might just be the thing that helps your business grow.
👀 Like what you see? Follow Grow Wire on Twitter for more.