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B2B vs B2C: A Lowdown on the Differences

Posted September 22, 2016

B2B vs B2C: A Lowdown on the Differences

Posted September 22, 2016

How is B2B different from B2C?

Having been asked to explain how B2B is different from B2C, it occurs that the best route is analogy.  Remember the KISS principle?

Business-to-Consumer (B2C) sales are emotionally loaded and spontaneous when compared with slower Business-to-Business (B2B) oriented sales.  Let’s examine the two methods with a simplified model.

Philip’s parents pay him $10 to cut the lawn every Saturday.  The widow next door hires him to manage her lawn as well.  This snowballs and soon Phillip has a thriving neighborhood business.

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B2C: Emotional and spontaneous decision: You have long grass; I’ll cut it for $10.00…  Sold!

Saving for college, Phillip seeks to expand his business.  At the end of his street is a small, overgrown public park, which went into disrepair some years before.  The mayor is interested in “revitalization”; if Phil obtains a contract to maintain the tiny park, it would significantly aid his savings plan.

He arranges to run into his neighbor, the mayor, and puts forward his idea.  All park maintenance in town is independently contracted.  It just “needs to be approved by council” the mayor assures him.

Two days later he speaks to the mayor once again.  To obtain the contract, he is told, council members want a list of items taken care of.  He must clear the weeds and grass, but also coordinate maintenance to fill in any chuck holes, sand & repaint the benches, maintain the river fence, as well as the staircase leading down to the shore, and rake & re-gravel the walkways.

“Just to cut the grass?” he asks. “I’ll need to coordinate with several people and talk to council members individually to get them to give me the contract.”

B2B: You need an understanding of each decision maker, must tolerate long lead times, and be prepared to cope with different agendas.

B2B advances closer to B2C

By employing some of the strategies of the B2C world it becomes possible to identify individuals who can move you forward.  As we have discussed in this space before, using Intent Signaling Data (ISD), allows B2B marketers to have information about prospects when they first enter the buying cycle. When you match that behavioral data to business contacts things become very interesting.

The result is data-sourced prospecting that identifies not only the interest of a particular company, but who the major players are that are conducting the research into making changes.  By following which white papers they download, which webinars or conferences they sign up to attend, what searches they conduct, it soon becomes evident who the decision makers are, and what they are interested in right now.

Next Step

How the story of Phillip translates to our everyday B2B sales world is that it reminds us that you will seldom find a single person responsible for a purchasing decision.  Selling to a committee in the traditional way is many times more difficult than selling to an individual.  A single sales-approach will not work for everyone and it only takes one person in the chain saying “no” to send you packing.

The character outlines (personas) that you create for each link in your sales chain help you to understand the individuals.  How long have they been in the job?  What do they read and what conferences do they attend?  What triggers their emotions and enthusiasm?  What is your best approach to persuade them to do business with you or advance your cause?  The link above will get you started on designing these essential tools.

Better than “predictive”

Predictive Account Based Marketing (ABM) has been getting a lot of attention lately. Predictive has sizzle, but does it deliver?

Based on statistical modeling, predictive identifies “look-alike” contacts – ones similar to those already existing in the CRM. It’s expensive, requiring a mashup of pre-existing data sources and database maintenance to be effective. It also takes time. A lot of it. The model needs to be tuned over a twelve to eighteen-month period for a questionable ROI.

Fact-based solutions relying on an individual’s actual actions to identify prospects outside the funnel but beginning their buying journey are the perfect alternative. Knowing is superior to estimating.

Establishing relations

First we eliminate conventional thinking where one says “This organization performs bookkeeping.  I will sell them Accounting Software”.  Instead we substitute “This company (and these employees) have been devoting a great deal of research to IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and they are about to make a big move to the Cloud.  I’d better begin my approach, establishing myself as an expert consultant for them”.

The process is slow, and you will be months ahead of others who haven’t recognized this trend.  You don’t have to rush them into a decision.  You will build the relationships slowly, never asking for anything, and always providing value.

You’ll connect with these decision makers through LinkedIn, personal contacts, or even better, through an Intent Signal® generated contact list; you’ll offer insightful comments about moving to the Cloud and they will think “this person is knowledgeable and could make me look good!”

You’ll send them related short emails, indicating that they might find it of interest.  “I was just thinking about that!” they’ll say to themselves.  “How did he know?”  Soon you’re not only an authority, but something of a wizard, in their mind.

Building Loyalty

When you are ready to approach that individual, you have created a persona that matches and describes their experience.  You can be ready to address the concerns they have made evident by their searches and biases.  When they see that you’ve taken the time to understand them, you increase your valuation in their eyes.

You provide answers to questions they haven’t even asked themselves yet.  By tuning your approach like a B2C marketer not only will they undertake your cause, but they will promote you for future consideration as their needs increase, which will generate more sales.

Building Respect

This works for the next person down the sales-chain, and the one after that.  Encountering decision makers at different levels requires that you create a new persona that suits that particular individual.

In every case, you’re always going to be the most informed person that they talk to; you’ll have the information that they specifically desire; and you will provide it before they themselves know that they actually need it!  But most importantly, you’ll have the support of the earlier contacts you have made within that company.

By always having the data they need, on that rare occasion when you don’t have an answer for them, they are much more understanding.  You have become “their authority”, and they know you will come back with the right answer.   Your “competitors” no longer deserve to wear that moniker.

Pure Efficiency

Unlike B2C marketers who successfully broadcast their message far and wide and rely on a percentage response, as a B2B marketer you are going to be extremely focused.  You have a very small group of elite targets, and every single communication with them is crafted to elicit the desired response.

Granted, it takes much longer.  It requires you to dedicate yourself to doing the research; to stay on top of communications; to provide value and ask for nothing until it is the appropriate time to sell.  The payoff, however, is correspondingly huge.

The advantage is that you can run this project in parallel with a number of companies considering the same options.  It will be no surprise, in this example, that dozens upon dozens of companies are moving to the Cloud all at the same time.  That’s where the technology is headed now.

The Takeaway

Technology is your answer, too.  This is the part where we mention the InsightBASE® platform, using Big Data to identifying prospects generally outside the funnel in its finest form.

How you use it is up to you.  Your answers will be uniquely revealing because your questions will have different parameters than anybody else’s questions.

Remember however that Marketing is always about being attuned to the design and purpose of the organization.  There is not, and never will be a one size fits all approach in marketing, and that’s what makes it a fascinating industry.

There’s an old adage that goes “If you don’t learn something new every day, you have wasted the day.”

Let’s agree not to waste another single one…