Historically, B2B and B2C marketing have occupied two distinct lanes in the business world. Part of this had to do with access – before high-speed internet, B2B companies didn't have an easy way to connect directly with potential customers and try different marketing techniques. That obstacle disappeared a long time ago. Marketers now have access to countless tools designed to help them engage with target audiences.
But access wasn't the only thing keeping B2B and B2C marketing separate. Another major factor was the perceived difference in mindset between the two. Unlike B2C, which is rooted more in emotional marketing, B2B marketing is traditionally thought of as a logical endeavor – focused more on raw numbers and value and less on emotion and brand awareness.
But this distinction has also changed. Emotions are no longer considered out of place in B2B marketing and, in many cases, can actually be used to increase sales and improve customer relationships. Evidence suggests that buyer behaviors in the business and consumer markets are starting to look the same. About 71% of B2B companies start their research process by Googling – the same method consumers use to find new products.
And in some cases, B2B tactics might be even better suited to emotional marketing than B2C strategies. In one recent study, B2B brands were shown to drive higher emotional connections than their B2C counterparts. The relationships built in B2B, however professionally driven, often create a genuine emotional bond between businesses.
Today, businesses and consumers alike want to purchase from brands that connect with them. Value is still a top priority, but it's not the only priority. Emotional qualities like engagement, personalization and entertainment also affect purchasing. That said, it might be time for B2B business leaders to consider taking a page or two from the B2C marketing playbook.
Deciding whether B2C marketing is right for you
Before you begin to explore any B2C tactics, determine whether it's the right move.
From the start, you'll want to know your audience members and what they expect from you. If you're a niche security software company that caters primarily to banks and high-end law firms, for example, your clients might not be particularly interested in connecting with you through Facebook Live.
On the other hand, if you're a company that offers a variety of software solutions and has a less specialized audience, a more personal approach might be perfect for growing your brand and creating emotional connections with customers. Once you figure out the audience you're trying to reach and what causes them to respond, you can decide whether B2C tactics are a good fit for your business.
How to adopt a B2C marketing strategy
If you decide to incorporate B2C elements into your B2B marketing, it's essential to put those tactics into action properly. Here are four ways to make sure your journey into B2C strategies bolsters your business:
1. Research your audience.
Never underestimate the importance of knowing your audience. After all, it doesn't matter which B2C marketing tactics you employ if you don't know who you're trying to reach. To research your audience, start by looking at the competition.
Once you've done this, pull existing user data. Even if you haven't been particularly proactive in gathering information from your users, you probably asked them a few basic questions when they first signed up. Seemingly trivial information like email address, company, job title and location can prove incredibly useful when identifying your target audience.
From there, reach out to and speak with actual customers. Choose a dozen people and get in touch, either through videoconferencing or phone calls. This is a great way to round out your research and get personal touchpoints to fill any gaps in your internal data reports. This exercise should also reveal what makes your offerings unique in the eyes of consumers. A full picture of your audience is a crucial element of effective emotional marketing.
2. Put together a plan.
Once you complete your research and pinpoint an audience that's likely to be receptive to B2C marketing, it's time to create an action plan. There's no need to do anything overly ambitious or complex – at least to start. Instead, focus on how your marketing plan will complement your organization's existing goals and how you'll roll out that plan to consumers.
A B2C marketing plan shouldn't just be a carbon copy of your B2B strategy. This business model canvas can help you figure out who you're trying to sell to and the messaging that will be most effective in reaching them. It breaks out a variety of elements, including your value propositions, cost structure, customer segments and intended channels. Getting a bird's-eye view of where your business is and what you hope to accomplish with your marketing strategy can be extremely useful when planning something new.
Just as important as nailing down the how of your plan is making it clear why you think your B2C marketing tactics will benefit the company. Your CEO will likely ask you how this plan will bring in revenue – make sure you have an answer ready.
3. Start small.
Now that you have an audience and a plan, it might be tempting to dive in, but it's not quite time. In the beginning, it can be easy to overestimate your time and resources and bite off more than you can chew. It could be that your audience isn't all that interested in B2C marketing tactics, in which case you could spend a lot and get very little in return.
Instead, think small. Focus on simple projects, such as refreshing the language you use when talking to users to make it more personable or changing the colors on your website to evoke specific emotions. These are minor moves, but they can make a big difference in the way people perceive your company.
Once you've updated your language to be more in line with emotional marketing tactics, look for other small areas that you can enhance. For example, start crafting a story around your products that will resonate with consumers, or write more emotionally driven case studies about real customers and their stories. See what kind of responses these changes elicit, and then you can either scale things up or cut your losses and try a different approach.
4. Give it time.
In a perfect world, you would instantly see significant gains from your newly implemented B2C marketing strategy. But in reality, it's going to take some time to see the fruits of your labor. That's OK! Just make sure everyone – from your marketing team to the CEO to your shareholders – knows that the results won't be instantaneous.
If you can, forecast when you'll be able to share results. Timelines might vary, but evaluating results every quarter is usually a safe bet. And remember, it's better to predict later and deliver earlier than the other way around. While everyone waits, be sure to track and measure everything continuously, which will help you know what's working and what isn't. From there, you'll need to iterate accordingly, expanding on the good and getting rid of the bad.
As B2B marketing becomes more emotionally driven, and getting access to consumers becomes easier than ever, the line separating B2B and B2C will blur further. This gives businesses great new ways to find and keep customers. Just don't jump in without first putting together a strategy. Done correctly, you can access the best of both worlds and take your business to new heights.