Let me first say that I’ve never ever done Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing. The other day I was speaking with a non-marketer about what B2B marketing is. He kept trying to understand it by comparing it to slick consumer marketing tactics he had seen. I found myself repeatedly saying “No, B2B can’t do that because it costs too much or it hasn’t caught up to that level yet.” But as I thought more about it, I came up with many B2B tactics that have revolutionized our jobs. Here are a few of them.
15 years ago, I was a marketing analyst for a services company in which sales calls involved several people disappearing from the office for several days. Now the need to connect in-person was, is and always will be a vital step for B2B sales, but that’s not the way one software company sold me. I’d called them about their statistical analysis program and received a floppy disk (!) in the mail. Shortly after, an inside representative called and asked me to run the program. In that one call, we walked through some demo data and ran some reports; I echoed his actions and he magically described everything on my screen. Well since then, web-demos, demos using real-time data and mobile apps have all become standard staples for B2B teams. But looking back, we should be amazed at how far we have come and how much we can accomplish without meeting in-person.
Say what you will about it, but the adoption of Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) has improved client service and prospect engagement. Years ago, when you ordered something from a Manufacturer, you needed to know your customer #, the catalog SKU, your receiving department’s particulars and your PO number. It was once commonplace to be called by multiple sales reps from the same company, each not knowing the others were already talking to you. Thank goodness CRMs have made these problems a thing of the past. CRMs have now burgeoned into profiles, which allow users to generated content that they share with their vendor as well as with other like-minded members. Constant Contact and WordPress have forums that are banding users together and slashing support costs all at the same time. I can’t wait to see where online interaction will take us next.
In the corporate world, most people who use (or are candidates to use) a product make themselves known to vendors. This trend, called opt-in communication nowadays , began when companies started opening their email systems to outside senders and started sending out permission-based marketing emails. Judging by the number of corporate newsletters, RSS feeds, listservs and forms of social media that exist now, I’d say this development has been largely positive. In my own experience, I can point to email communications that brought in a major upsell, drove a sudden change to a user conference that was weeks away and re-opened talks with a client who wouldn’t talk to our sales rep. There are still improvements to be made in segmenting and personalizing emails – our bloated inboxes demand it, but the technology to do this is now within almost every business’s reach.
So getting back to the conversation I had yesterday, I ended up upholding B2B marketing as every bit as potent in reaching its market as B2C is in reaching consumers. It seems that marketers, regardless of their target audience, are being put on a level playing field. There’s no longer two camps of marketing competing for dominance, but this leveling has put us all into one big training camp where all marketers can sharpen their skills and learn from best practices – no matter where they originate.