“My industry really is different and special, we can’t do what B2C does.”
“Our customers expect us to do such and such.”
“In my industry, all that counts is the product.”
As marketers many of us may have said these things. At the center of these statements is the belief that the art and science of marketing only applies within narrow boundaries for B2B companies and brands. It is the belief that the B2B customer is a cold, methodical customer whose choices are found only at the end of an equation. As a result, some B2B brands and companies are not leveraging the full power of marketing, and focus on what I call a classic B2B approach.
Classic B2B marketing is often heavily focused on the product, its functionality, its ROI and break even points. Key messages are focused on technology, engineering, R&D, components, materials, innovation, and so on. Marketing often is limited to telling customers and prospects how great it would be for their companies if they were to use our product. More often than not marketers fall into the trap of filling their messages with technical jargon that no one outside their own industry can understand or appreciate.
While Mitt Romney’s “Corporations are people, my friend,” statement might be politically charged, it’s an important point for B2B marketers to remember. Behind every B2B influencer, decision maker, and buyer is a person; a human being with likes, dislikes, emotions, and feelings. It is the same person that goes to the supermarket to buy detergent and toothpaste. Why are we assuming that the same person should have a different experience as a business professional than a consumer? Does anyone think that the eagerness of corporate IT departments to adapt their infrastructures to accommodate iPhones and iPads was purely driven by business objectives?
Today our B2B audience is the “pro-sumer”, the business pro who also is a consumer. With social media, smartphones and telecommuting increasingly there is more overlap in our personal and professional lives. Accordingly, our behavior and attitudes as a pro and as a consumer are becoming more similar. Buying decisions are made by reacting to functional AND emotional benefits of a product, then making rational AND emotional decisions. A multi-million dollar contract decision is also based on emotions, one way or another, not just on functional attributes of a product or service.
Classic B2B marketing is becoming obsolete. Marketing has evolved into B2P, Business to People, in almost any industry. We are selling to people, not companies. Whether we are selling chocolate bars, home theaters or enterprise software; our buyer wants to know what is in it for them personally and why they should chose product A versus B. At the end of the day most products are interchangeable, so where is the functional differentiation anyway?
Bottom line: As marketers we should not draw artificial boundaries between B2B and B2C, we are all marketing to people: Business to People. And the power of marketing applies equally in all industries.
Author: Marcus Starke is the National Vice President of North America Marketing at SAP. He has worked in many countries across the globe with background in software, CPG, management consulting and agency network management.