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What B2C marketers can learn from B2B

There’s a lot of talk in the B2B world about what we can learn from consumer marketers.  We need to treat business buyers as individuals, with their own personas, analyze their digital buyer journeys, and use social media to communicate with them.  And how to speak to buyers like humans, with messages that both inform and entertain.  These are useful lessons.  But did you ever think about what the B2C world of consumer marketers can learn from us?  I have a couple of ideas.

The first is about prospecting strategies, and the second is about building relationships.

Offer problem-solving as a way to attract prospects.

Much of B2C prospecting is about deals and discounts.  In business markets, on the other hand, the proven prospecting model involves offering a solution to a business problem.

In practical terms, this means content marketing.  Preparing educational, objective, non-sales-y material that addresses a customer problem.  In business markets this might be a white paper, research report, infographic or case study.  In consumer markets it might be a recipe book, a blog or a how-to video.

It can be used as a motivational offer to generate a lead, or it can be used to establish thought leadership, or to stimulate viral sharing.

This way you can establish yourself as a helpful resource, expert in your field, and trustworthy enough for a business relationship.

You also tend to attract more qualified customers than you do with a deal.  A buyer who really needs the solution will appreciate it, and will appreciate you.  They can become not just a loyal buyer, but also an advocate.

This is an approach that consumer marketers can use successfully.  Look at YouTube, which is filled with how-to videos for consumer products.

Nurture your customers (and prospects) until they’re ready to buy.

B2B marketers are really good at this.  We recognize the power of the Rule of 45, which says that 45% of business inquirers in a category will eventually buy in that category.  And when they become ready, we need to be there.  Otherwise, we may just as likely lose the deal to our competition.

So, B2B marketers have elaborate systems of outbound contacts designed to stay in touch until they’re ready.  Known as lead nurturing, it’s a key component of the B2B demand generation process.  With a nurturing program, we can expect to triple, possibly quadruple, the productivity of our campaigns.

Consumer marketers already understand this principle.  Look at the retargeting banner ads that follow us all around, weeks and months after we’ve stopped by a website.

But I think there’s additional opportunity here for consumer marketers.  Nurturing needs to be personalized, acknowledging the relationship, and building it over time through two-way communications.  It’s one-to-one, not mass advertising.

Perhaps it’s about developing a different attitude.   Consumer marketers enjoy prospect universes that are something like 10x those of B2B marketers.  Maybe they have the sense that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and instead of nurturing, they are tempted to move onto the next prospect.  But maybe it’s time to treat every inquirer as your last.

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Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for both consumer and business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City. Ruth is a guest blogger at AdAge, HBR.org, and Target Marketing Magazine. Her newest book is B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results. She is also the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, Trade Show and Event Marketing, and co-author of the white paper series “B-to-B Database Marketing.” Ruth is a sought-after speaker and trainer, and has presented to audiences and business schools in Asia, Australia, and Latin America. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM. She studied marketing management at Harvard Business School, and holds an MBA from Columbia University. Learn more at www.ruthstevens.com.

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