How B2B brands can take cues from B2C Marketing
That sense of connection is common with many B2C brands, but is that the case for B2B brands? B2B brands usually take a conventional approach to marketing and often trail behind the marketing of B2C brands in terms of creativity and storytelling.
Should B2B brands take marketing cues from B2C brands to find a deeper connection with their customers? Will this instill a greater sense of customer loyalty, and ultimately, aid their business overall?
Business to business enterprises are all around us. Did you know that Google is a B2B marketer? How about LinkedIn? Studio Pax is a B2B company as we work directly with other companies to help shape their identities. You likely either work for or with a B2B currently or may in the future.
What B2B customers want
The decision making process on the end of the B2B buyer is complex. Because B2B involves two entities and not an individual consumer, the budget for the purchase will be larger than an average consumer budget and the decision may include a group of people made up of different specialties from a company versus an individual consumer. B2B purchases typically involve longer decision making processes (or sales cycle) than B2C purchases. The B2B client, or buyer, may be considering proposals and bids from a number of companies.
Above: The Bain & Company B2B Elements of Value™
Above: Table Stakes
Above: Functional Value
“I had a client once, many years ago, [for whom we worked on] the leasing function for locomotives, airplane engines, and rail cars.
There aren’t too many people searching for options to lease an airplane engine. But, every time somebody searched that, it was a multi-million dollar opportunity for [the client] and we built a plan. We built content in a way that [was optimized for] Google and we earned [the client] millions of dollars.”
Above: Ease of Doing Business Value
Above: Individual Value
Above: Inspirational Value
General Electric is one B2B company that has mastered storytelling. Their GE Reports initiative shares video and written accounts of how GE has impacted individuals, innovation, and society at large from testimonials of WWII GE engineers to accounts about the amount of electricity it takes to power West Africa, all through thoughtful narratives.
“[A lot of] B2B marketing is [centered] around, ‘Well, my left-handed, corrugated, widget splitter is 6% cheaper than the competitor’s. Wanna buy a widget splitter?’ That’s the core drumbeat of [most] B2B marketing.
[But] when you see a B2B marketer like GE, for instance, who has just fundamentally changed their perspective on what the role is of marketing: to build momentum for the whole company, not just to sell the next widget, then you can get into some really exciting places.
GE is a Mount Everest, but every business, small or large, has an interesting story to tell and the B2B marketer needs to be able to figure out ‘Why in the world I [the consumer] should care, even if I’m a perfect customer for this company?’ ‘Why should I care to purchase from these guys over some outsource that I can get from China?’”
GE is consistently ranked one of the top B2B brands each year, a leader in their industry, and a recognizable household brand with strong customer loyalty. The storytelling method that GE uses is one of the same strategies that consumer brands use to encourage emotional investment in a brand. GE is able to offer the basic characteristics of Bain’s pyramid, but what sets them apart from their competitors is their ability to showcase inspirational value and make connections with their consumers creating a sense of customer loyalty not often seen in B2B.
So what can we, as B2B marketers, take away from B2C marketing, Bain’s B2B Elements of Value, and the practices of GE? Lay your foundation through functional and practical attributes, but then search for your “why” and project that to your customers. Use storytelling to let your customers know the meaning behind your work and they will keep coming back for more.
Writer / Content Development & Marketing Intern
Miriam is an undergraduate at Northwestern University pursuing a degree in Communication Studies with a focus in Integrated Marketing Communications and Design Innovation. She is passionate about learning about people and finding new ways to problem-solve.
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