Just Say No to Spam: How B2B Marketing Mimics B2C

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When I was the president of Ogilvy Interactive, spearheading digital for IBM in the early 2000s, we implemented a content management system (CMS) that could display different copy to different groups. Though early account-based marketing (ABM) was simply customizing the message for corporate audiences, it was a major innovation at the time. Were we mapping the complete user journey yet? No. Was social media where it was now? No. Boomers dominated the workplace and were relying on traditional methods, such as research firms to make business decisions. Even so, B2B marketing was just beginning to adopt the parlance of B2C.

In the time since, the space between B2B and B2C has continued to narrow and the decision-maker has changed. Instead of Baby Boomers, we’re looking to Millennials and Generation Z, who will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025. It’s a cohort that lives and breathes social media and depends on peer reviews. So how they’re approached for B2B really needs to match what they expect in their B2C experiences. Gone are the days of spamming businesses en masse.

Let me give an example. I’m on the board of a Brazilian startup called Rangri (pronounced “hungry”) that’s essentially a Seamless-style service with an added twist: for every meal you order, a donation is made to organizations that fight hunger. Because of our mission, we’re very appealing to restaurants, our B2B target customer.

One major shift in our approach to attracting restaurants is to demonstrate how to listen to the customer. We’ve read the online reviews for our largest competitor, which are full of complaints. So, when we approach a restaurant we’d like to work with, we show them how a second option for food delivery will serve their customers well. And everyone knows that Millennials want to do business with companies that are doing good, so our social mission makes it an easy decision.

Personalizing the customer journey in B2B marketing is another example of applying B2C thinking to the process, and it’s important to consider all the touchpoints. Another example: for one of our clients we were running product and marketing to help seniors stay independent by delivering food, taking care of household tasks, offering companionship and doing strengthening exercises. We not only brought news of our business directly to the consumer — seniors and their families — but also to social workers, rehab centers, and hospitals to encourage them to recommend this new service. In this customer journey, we realized an important touchpoint was experiencing the service first-hand. We would start with a visit that included free samples of our meals, and sometimes we would give access to the app we created so families could know their loved one was doing just fine. When we followed up, we could ask each individual how they liked our meals, and what they thought of the app. That level of customization was once unheard of. Now, if you want to stay competitive, it’s the norm.

Essentially, we’re at a time where every trick of the trade in B2C marketing can blend into your B2B approach. So, take a look at your social media, your paid media, your content strategy, and your email programs to apply this rich base of assets that are now available to B2B marketers. You have so many listening tools at your fingertips that will help you take a deeper look at the customer journey. It’s up to you to take advantage of them.

President of The McClennan Group, Serial Entrepreneur, Digital Businesses, Co-Author Innovators Anonymous, #IA

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