This article is based on insights Ericka presented in her appearance on the CMO Convo podcast. Check out the episode here.
I’m Ericka Podesta McCoy, and I’m the Chief Marketing Officer of Resonate, the leader in AI-powered consumer data and intelligence. I've worked for a number of large global B2B software companies and I've had some great B2C experiences at Marriott and Sprint, so I’m excited to share my learnings on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart: the blurring of the lines between B2B and B2C marketing.
Why the lines between B2C and B2B buyers are blurring
One of the biggest shifts we’re seeing in B2B buyers is a demand for personalization. This stems from a change that started in the B2C sphere a decade or so ago when we saw marketing move to digital-first and an explosion in direct-to-consumer brands – I call it the advent of the age of the consumer. Even then, we were already on the path to more and more consumer-oriented ways to consume information, consume content, and shop.
That said, until a few years ago there was still a separation between how we approached consumers and B2B buyers. With the pandemic, however, came an acceleration of the trends that were already underway. Buyers now expect that companies will share content and offers tailored to them in the channels they want to see them in because they expect that in every part of their lives.
Healthcare is a perfect example. Why would I want personalization only for my shopping experience? Why not for my health experience as well? And so more and more tech healthcare companies are launching to serve the consumer who wants more interactive and consumer and tailored experiences.
And why draw the line at work, especially if you’re working from home? This blend of business and consumer lives is what we're all trying to get to grips with right now. Our ways of shopping and experiencing the world inside and outside of work are starting to converge. That's why B2B needs to act more like B2C to engage customers. At the end of the day, the people buying from us are just like us: they're just humans trying to get through their day.
How CMOs can appeal to the new B2B buyer
If you want to appeal to the modern B2B buyer, the first thing you need to do is shift your mindset. You can take simple steps such as testing channels that were traditionally for consumers or even trying consumer approaches in your messaging.
For example, you might want to take inspiration from consumer emails and apply it to your B2B emails – you might well see increased click-through and engagement rates, as people are used to being communicated with in that way. This is just one of the baby steps you can take to bridge the gap between B2B and B2C marketing.
As a marketer in any industry, you have to be attuned to your customer. That means if you’re applying B2C tactics to your B2B strategy, you should still leverage a persona-based approach while adding in different layers of content and media. Think about where you can find your audience, where they look for information, and what else is happening in their lives – and you can leverage consumer data to do this.
We can’t forget the psychographic layer; maybe I'm a B2B buyer with KPIs of XYZ and certain challenges, but I'm also managing my personal and business life. If you acknowledge that psychographic layer, start to unpack what that might look like, make some changes, and test them, you'll be in a great position to be successful.
How social media can fuel your B2B marketing strategies
The first challenge in B2B marketing is breaking through the noise of thousands of companies vying for attention. This is particularly difficult for smaller B2B companies trying to gain awareness. Email inboxes are overflowing, there are only so many InMails you can send, and people are not answering phone calls. In short, B2B marketers are running out of options.
To address these challenges, we have to diversify the channels we use to reach people more effectively. We have to look at new ways to engage people, raise brand awareness, and encourage potential customers to explore your brand.
Social media and native advertising are great ways to do this. They’ve traditionally been aimed at consumers and rarely B2B buyers, but as marketers, we need to meet our audiences where they are – and most everyone’s on social media these days.
Think about TikTok; you could be taking a break from work, scrolling through videos, and next thing you know, you’re learning about a brand. People don't find it off-putting; it's just part of how they learn about what’s popular, and if they're in that channel consuming information, they're open to learning about different things.
The same applies to Instagram. You could be scrolling through posts about celebrities and the latest gossip, and then stumble upon information about some tech you’d never heard of before. You don't look away. You're relaxed; you’re in the mode of consuming content, so if anything you might ingest that information a little more easily than you would if it landed in your already-overloaded email inbox.
If you can reach people in places where there isn't a hard wall between their work and personal life, that’s where you’re going to break through. Life is different than it was five years ago when people would shut their laptops at the end of the working day and switch to personal mode. Although some people still do that (and certain generations may be better at it!), for many of us, our work and personal lives have become more intertwined.
That has allowed brands to successfully launch and gain significant market share on a completely different scale with a completely different budget than they could have a decade ago. If you're a B2B player, why wouldn't you take advantage of that? However, the thing to remember, especially on platforms like TikTok, is to be authentic. Audiences have that expectation and they’ll filter out content that comes across as artificial.
How to get your C-suite on board with B2C-flavored marketing
When presenting to a CEO or executive team, data-driven arguments are always the most persuasive. Use data to show which channels your customers are on, how those channels are growing, and why you think it’s worth testing them and investing in them. If you go in with a test-and-learn approach, armed with facts about the growth of these channels, it should make for a very compelling pitch.
Let’s say you’re interested in harnessing the power of streaming and connected TV advertising. There’s a ton of data to suggest that the growth is there and that buyers are part of the same population that is streaming and using connected TVs, so it makes sense to go in with the relevant data and make a business case for testing these channels. Then you can run a test and show what’s possible.
Three golden rules for CMOs walking the blurred line of B2B and B2C marketing
- Don't forget that B2B buyers are also consumers – Yes, they have B2B goals, but they consume content and shop with a consumer mindset. If you put that at the forefront of your team's minds, great things are naturally going to flow from that.
- Leverage technology and data to better understand and engage with your consumers.
- Take an agile and data-driven approach and test everything – The agile methodology is not just for software developers; you have to live and breathe it because the worst thing you can do is not try new things and be left behind.
With B2B and B2C tactics coming together, it's such an exciting time to be a marketer. B2B marketing doesn't have to be boring anymore!
Are you struggling to hit the human side of B2B? Got any great insights on how to do so? Join the conversation with a global network of CMOs and marketing leaders on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.