It is a cliche now, we all know buyers have changed and that the Internet transferred the information and decision-making power to us buyers so of course companies need to change to adapt to these new facts. But do most B2B companies get it? Have they connected the dots between the mobile phone in their pocket and the work they do in their B2B job?
So what are B2B companies and manufacturers in particular supposed to do about these changes and what is so different about B2C compared to B2B companies?
What are the differences between B2B and B2C marketing?
Audience versus persona
B2C businesses define an audience tends by demographics like age, location, job title whereas persona is more about behavioral traits like buying triggers, long-term goals, and competitive pressure. An audience is generally defined and will include many more targets than a specifically focused B2B persona. B2C marketers tend towards an audience focus where smart B2B marketers should strive to learn the specifics of their target persona, or the person most likely to benefit from their offerings.
B2C companies target people buying for themselves. A B2B marketer tries to influence a person who may not be the ultimate buyer but is learning about researching and gathering information for a buying team. B2B marketers try to connect with people starting the buying process for their employer as a part of their jobs and they bring to the process their expectations about buying formed as consumers from their personal experience.
Final Mile Management: A Shipper’s 30,000 Foot View
Brand Compared to Relationships
Brand is what other people think about a B2C company. B2C marketing often focuses on building the awareness and positive impression of a brand in the minds of a large group of consumers. B2C buyers do not tend to have relationships with a brand directly but develop an affinity for that brand through message repetition, frequency, third-party references and possibly through trusted influencers.. The relationship is hands off and transactional.
B2B companies seek to build long-term relationships based on value and an ongoing relationship. Branding is still important but the ways a B2B brand develops is different than for B2C companies. B2B companies build their brand on the experience customers have at every touchpoint along a long, disjointed, often chaotic, and detailed buyer journey. B2B brands are built on the direct experience and interactions buyers have with the people, products, services.
Content and Search Intent
People searching online for consumer and B2C products usually are attempting to satisfy a want. Volume rules in B2C sales since transactional sales typically are smaller in dollar amount that B2B sales. B2C sellers need to drive a large volume of traffic online and convert that traffic into many completed transactions. Searchers use third party social proof like ratings and reviews to build confidence in their purchase. Content tends to be lighter, more personal, and designed to drive many eyeballs to their site.
B2B researchers online are looking for more specific and technical solutions. The searchers ultimate goal is to meet specific business needs. Keyword searches tend to be niche or long tail meaning they are very specific and have low search volumes. B2B sales are fewer in number and higher in values of or sellers they do not need as many site visitors and conversions to reach sales goals. References and case studies are common ways to establish trust and credibility to searchers of B2B products and services.
A Transaction or a Buying Process
As we all know from thinking back to our last impulse purchase online, B2C sales cycles tend to be short, sometimes minutes or less. There are fewer steps for the buyer to take to reach the purchasing decision. A transactional process often requires little research. The goal of the marketer is to make the sale with the least amount of friction and at the lowest possible transaction and customer-acquisition costs. Impulse and emotion are regularly the main drivers for the consumer.
B2B sales cycles are much longer and may last years and involve many steps that do not include the B2B marketer. The goal of B2B marketer is to start the process and establish a connection with the contact buyer so that the sales team becomes engaged and can start to assess the fit of the prospect and deliver value. B2B buyers try to rationally evaluate options, return on investment, and compare competitors but emotion and impulse do still impact the thinking of a typical B2B buyer
B2C companies successes teach us three big things that B2B, industrial, and manufacturing companies should absorb into their way of thinking:
Embrace Inbound Marketing
B2C marketers understand how to show up when people are looking for their products, in other words to get found. B2B marketers must adopt the key principles of inbound marketing and get found by their target audience by using content, SEO, and promotion to reach their target personas. B2B buyers control their attention just like consumers do. Buyers jealously guard their time and B2B marketers have to a better job to earn that attention. Just sticking with your old product-centered website is no longer good enough for modern B2B buyers. Your website must be filled with helpful content that engages and educates first thus earning the right to start the sales process.
B2B companies must still share the product, technical, specification, training, and other product-focused documentation, but it is not the focus of the online B2B experience. Websites need to include to that the content buyers really want. Explainer videos, case studies, survey data, industry context, predictions for the future, and ultimately, answers to their questions whatever they are. This ability to answer B2B buyer’s questions is the core of building a target persona and will largely determine the success of your getting found online efforts.
Are you really available If you are hiding behind an automated voicemail system? Think iof how these interactions make you feel as a consumer. Do you like sitting on a call waiting on hold? Why would you treat your buyers like that if you don’t like it?
- Does your site have a chat feature?
- Do you have lots of FAQ documents on your site?
- Are your buyers able to self-serve technical information on your website?
- Are your service and account management teams compensated on response times? Do you measure response times?
B2C marketers are very good at responding at speed because they realize that time is a key measure of value for most consumers. The companies that make the experience easy and fast will win more often than not. Is speed of response important to your team?
Do you monitor social media for mentions? Do you reach out and solve the issues raised by the people that respect you enough to complain?
Do you reply to Glassdoor posts about your company? How you treat your employees tell prospects a lot about how those employees will treat them if they buy from your company.
Modern buyers want your attention when they want it. The B2B companies that show up how and where and when modern buyers expect will win the highest numbers of deals.
Being honest is about being transparent as much as it about telling the truth. Most B2B companies do not really want to be honest about what is really happening with a B2B prospect or customer.
Think about this. If I can see where my $10 package from Amazon is at any time why shouldn’t I be able to see where my $1 million machine is in the manufacturing and delivery? I believe many B2B companies withhold this information in order to avoid the truth.
Modern buyers expect you to open up your process to your buyers. Being honest and open builds trust and confidence in the mind of the buyer. Plus honesty and openness ensures that your entire team is accountable to the customer and that you are delivering a great B2B experience.
More than anything related to your product or service, a great B2B customer experience is the best competitive advantage you can create.