Preface - Historically, marketers have approached B2B and B2C marketing strategies very differently. But the past decade has witnessed some key technological developments and trends, such as Internet and Social Media, which is making marketers revisit their approach to B2B and B2C marketing once again. With the rise of Internet and Social Media, businesses are observing a rising wave of ‘Content Marketing’. B2Cs were the early adopters of content marketing, but B2Bs are catching up and the margin between the two is diminishing at a fast rate. Before I continue any further, I first want to share a little about my background.
Flashback – I have worked in the B2C space for a long time, and I have also managed a few projects in B2B space. While there are many differences between B2Bs and B2Cs with respect to business model, the nature and selling process of goods and services and the customer in general, one common theme to both that I often like to point out is that they both need to win the customers and provide a value that would differentiate them from a pool of competitors. Over the past few years, I have seen the gap between B2B and B2C marketing approaches narrowing down significantly. If anything, I feel that the principles of content marketing in B2Cs could not have been any more relevant to B2Bs than they are now. Ever since I have joined the B2B space, I cannot help but draw parallels between the two business worlds and the learning I can apply to the B2B marketing.
Present – Here are the top three content marketing lessons that I have learnt working at B2Cs and that I would like to apply to the B2Bs.
- A customer-centric approach – The biggest lesson I have learned and that has become a second nature of mine is to always keep in mind that the customer is king. Well, nothing new here, right? But ask yourself, have you yet made customer-centric approach an inherent process in your businesses. Traditionally, a B2B marketing process was primarily outbound – spend big money on trade shows, huge banners, advertisements etc. to push their products or services to the customers. With internet, the new reality is that the communication is no longer just one way. Today’s customer is well educated and already has done most of his/her research even before you connect with him or her. So, the question here is how can you become a part of the customer’s research process even before you know that there is a prospect out there for your product? B2Cs ran into this issue decades before B2Bs faced the problem. Thus, B2Cs were the early adopters and mastered the customer-centric approach much earlier than B2Bs did. In general, B2Cs know that understanding how and why a prospect buys from you allows for more precise, targeted and relevant marketing. And, the results of taking the customer into account when executing marketing campaigns show its effect on the bottom line.
- User Experience driven content-When I started my career, design, user experience etc were considered mostly fluff, and it was difficult to quantify such results. But gone are the almost-non-existent-user-experience days, and with A/B testing, we are now much adapt to measuring results around user experience. Sooner you realize that you need to create an awesome user experience to get your prospect’s attention, the better off you would be in your marketing efforts. B2Cs were the first among the businesses to realize that they need to provide better user experience in almost everything they do to differentiate themselves from their competitors. User experience has become synonymous to web design, but it is not limited to the web only. It applies to any marketing collateral that you set out to create. Put yourself in your prospects shoes, and imagine from his/her perspective – in a day how many emails do you receive; how many e-books, whitepapers, industry articles you come across; how many companies approach you, telling that their product is best to the problem you have. In nut shell, you are fighting to get few minutes worth of attention from your prospect, when your prospect has many options. So how do you plan to get it? Create a user experience such that your prospect would be compelled to give his or her attention to your marketing collateral. Once you have the attention, carry it through the end by designing such awesome experience that your user wouldn’t want to stop mid way.
Take a look at the snapshot of GE’s blog post. The same content could have been presented in 1000 words, but think as a reader – would you have read all the 1000 words on LED? May be if you were really interested in the subject. But what if, you are not. How can I then lure you to read the content I am creating. With the help of visual content, you can cut down your word count by half, if not more. And as a reader, I am now more interested in what you have to say.
- Social media content strategy – B2Cs were the first ones to realize that they could use social media to their advantage. In 2008, I met a founder, who on the basis of social media marketing solely had built a multi-million dollar consumer company. There are many social media channels out there. Not each one would work for your business to the same degree. You will have to try and test which social media channel works for you the best. While working in the B2C space, I firsthand saw the power of the social media tool if you could learn its proper use. Consider social media as one more way to distribute your content. B2Bs can certainly look at the strategies B2Cs devise around building the customer engagement and loyalty. More than often I have heard B2Bs say that ‘but we do not have pretty pictures of the products to post’. Think again – you do not have to take this strategy in a literal sense. May be you have interesting charts and data that you can present in the form of infographic which is visually compelling. Or you can share about an upcoming product launch in your company. You can definitely learn the presentation techniques from some the B2Cs out there. Long before any business was taking social media seriously, Coke was building and thriving on its Facebook page, even though one may think that Coke is already a very popular brand and doesn’t need any more brand recognition. Well, you probably get the idea what I am trying to say here – do not leave any tool behind that may be at your disposal and that you can use to distribute the content in order to get more leads, to nurture your prospects or build customer loyalty programs and to up-sell further to the existing customers.