In marketing there are commonly two very distinct schools, B2B and B2C. For the most part, everyone thinks that these schools are completely different.  In their defense, there are vast differences in advertising channels, sales tactics, and the length of the sales cycle.

  • Advertising Channels – Facebook might be a great avenue in B2C, for B2B.. a lot  of companies block Social Media. Which you could imagine, makes it tough to receive ads.
  • Sales tactics – Spontaneous purchases / impulse purchases (or for me putting a Mr. Goodbar in the point of sale counter), in B2B you have explain yourself to your boss. “Yeah sorry Bossman, decided to buy a 5lb bag of glitter with the weekly office supplies.. at the time.. I felt like our office could use some pizzazz!!”
  • Longer sales cycles – Of course the sales cycle is longer, you are dealing with a group of humans.. not a single person. Can you remember a time when you tried to go out to lunch with a group of coworkers? You throw out an idea that is combated by a variety of different schedules, eating habits, and objections.. By the time there is a decision you are more excited to to reach an agreement than eating.

Source

But even after all these differences,  B2B is just a group of consumers.

We are all consumers and just because we go to a job, we don’t stop being a consumer. We still hold keep our preferences, our needs, and our wants – we just typically start thinking about the needs and wants of an organization over our own during the 9-5.

And because of these preferences from our personal life, B2C trends typically tend to sneak into and shape B2B behaviors. A great B2B marketer therefore should not look for a completely new idea to transform B2B, but instead dive into current or upcoming B2C trends and see how they can be applied to their business processes. If this is executed in a rather short time-frame, B2B businesses will find themselves light years ahead of the competition.

To drive this concept home, here are some large areas that B2B adopted WAY late, but are now a staple in B2B.

eCommerce

B2B is typically referred to as the slow giant, a giant in buying power.. but it tends to go at snail’s pace.

B2B eCommerce is an area that has proven itself as the avenue for growth. Its revenues are increasing at 2-times the speed of B2C and are projected to hit 6.7 Trillion in sales by the end of 2020.. it is hard to think that any business does not believe e-Commerce is the future of B2B purchasing.

Yet believe me people still do! See B2B for the longest time has been about personal relationships and face-to-face ordering. Originally when eCommerce started in B2C, B2B was quick to push it aside thinking that it would never fit. If they would have implemented at the same time as B2C they would have been correct. This drastic of a change would have come with a massive learning curve, that is why it is best to FOLLOW B2C but not lead.

By following B2C trends, B2B companies can grow sales through new technologies because it is the new preference of buyers, but they do not have to train new buyers because they use it in their consumer purchasing.

Companies like Grainger quickly realized the online advantage and popularity and adopted e-Commerce into their sales strategy. It became a cost efficient way to grow their distribution and new customer acquisition. Their timely integration of this technology led them to dramatic growth and an increase in market-share (especially for online sales). Although many companies are now starting to implement an online store, very few have the power to take market share, unless your Amazon Business ($8.6 billion in sales first year released).

Free and/or Fast Shipping

Remember years ago when Amazon started doing free shipping? Everyone thought they were utterly insane and that it made their margins too thin. Well they clearly proved us wrong, they showed how a great customer experience can grow a business exponentially in no time.

Although, now because consumers are use to it from Amazon, every other online retailer must follow suit to remain competitive.

This has also trickled into B2B, with the evolution of eCommerce there has been a smaller emphasis on one-to-one relationships and more on the experience of buying. This explains why so many B2B eCommerce sites fail!

(Not a B2B site.. but you get the point)

Companies launch these prehistoric ill designed websites and say, “Customers you can now order online!” but they never seem to ask themselves what their competitive advantage is after launching. With the online store eliminating the need for the one-to-one relationship there is no emotional connection to your brand outside of it’s online customer experience. Fast and/or free shipping is a great way to remain competitive and offer that customer experience consumers crave.

Emotion

I can guarantee that either you are or you know a friend that is utterly loyal to a brand. The one brand that pops into my head is Apple.

They have a cult following that if they see you with an Android they will almost immediately become offended. They just can’t comprehend why someone would ever buy something that was not Apple. The best part about it, is that they typically can not say one thing that makes an iPhone better on a technical or feature based standpoint. But the one thing that is clear, they are emotionally attached.

For a long time emotional selling that creates a loyal consumer base was largely seen as only a B2C tactic. B2B was seen as the opposite, a completely logical and unemotional purchasing behavior.

But that is far from the truth.

I can say this because I am a member of a VERY loyal B2B consumer base, HubSpot. I remember attending Inbound and hearing the story about how HubSpot grew to where it is now. It gave me hope, the values of HubSpot directly aligned with the values of my company and personal beliefs.

How do I know I am emotionally attached? I really can’t tell you how Hubspot Marketing Automation differs from Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, SharpSpring, etc. because truly I do not care, in my eyes there is only one marketing automation platform.

B2B businesses need to position themselves to take advantage of this B2C tactic, yes features, benefits, and product specs matter, but if you can align your business values with your target market’s – your competition begins to disappear.

Other areas B2B followed

When writing this article. Here at this exact point in typing I noticed the word count and thought, TL;DR – so I sparknote’d the rest below. Please let me know if you have any questions as I am happy to explain. Also have some to add? leave it in the comments.

  • Social Proof Selling – Using reviews to increase conversion rates by decreasing perceived risk.
  • Persona Marketing – In-depth demographics and psycho-graphics to speak directly to decision makers.
  • Content & Social Media Marketing – Generating shareable content to reach your audience.
  • Chatbots – Automated customer service and self service technology.

Conclusion

B2B and B2C marketing are not as different as we commonly make them out to be. Purchasing decisions are still coming down to individual(s) that have consumer preferences. In order for a B2B marketer to grow with the times, they should look at the B2C market now and analyze current trends and ask a couple questions:

  1. Will this trend be full adopted by the general public?
  2. If it is, how will it look in B2B and how can I prepare my business for it?

Areas that this might fit:

  1. Augmented reality or virtual reality – Help understand complex products, or online buying if you can witness a product remotely
  2. Cryptocurrency – becoming more widely used as a B2B payment, especially in an international setting.

B2C just subscribed a minute ago.

Time to follow.

KPIs

There is no doubt that the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are common practice in every business. It is great to quantify an employee’s, your own, or a team’s performance to promote great work and constant improvement.

Although this type of bench-marking when used correctly can help a company grow, it can also come with some huge negatives that can be hurtful to an organization.

Encouraging employees to seek one number, not growth

In the beginning of my professional marketing career I remember being heavily praised for our increase in Facebook followers. When you jump from 0 to over ten thousand followers in a matter of month it does make it feel like you are doing something right.

I remember everyday, I would look at the notifications and see 20-30 new followers every morning – which at that time made me feel like a marketing all-star.

Because we saw this growth, management encouraged further spending. So we grew quicker! (weird how that works).

Key Performance Indicators

After we stabilized our social media dominance we focused on social media engagement, and we realized that the posts with the most engagement came from sharing fun facts, giveaways, cute pictures, or health quotes. Almost all of our content was not talking about our product, and we definitely were not creating thought leadership in the industry.

So with this massive fan base and engagement, of course our sales went up right?

They remained absolutely flat!

In the most simple way of explaining it, my KPI encouraged me to spenda lot of the marketing budget that just equated to showing a bunch of cute kitty pictures to an astronomical amount of Facebook bots. (It was a very large problem for Facebook back then)

Facebook KPIs

Of course this metric is a vanity metric, but the same goes to a variety of other metrics. For example, if an employee is encouraged to get a number of leads every month, do you think those leads will be the most qualified, or just the ones that are easiest to obtain that won’t lead to any revenue for the company.

Gives you false promise

Let’s say you have created a blog for your product. As you start writing, you start getting a good amount of subscribers. For the new company you are, this is the shining light, very few other channels are producing results.

So what do you do? You double down on content and start popping bottles (or poking straws into juice boxes, whatever you are into) because you just found the channel that is providing you with results!

After the week long celebration you get out of your coma and realize that your business bank account does not have enough money to buy the next bottle.

But how could this be?

Because your business associated success with something that is irrelevant. You can not pay the power company on subscribers, yes these metrics are great to see but they do not keep the lights on.

It encourages unethical behavior

As we learned from Wells Fargo, employees can do some very unethical things when they are driven by meeting specific goals, or KPIs. At Wells Fargo, their sales goals were so high that employees where creating fake accounts in order to meet them and be financially rewarded.

Although this is clearly a drastic case, think about how a similar thing could happen in your organization:

  • Social Media Following – Buy the following via use of bots
  • MQLs – Do a slight change in the MQL qualification metric, or push a pointless email to trigger leads into the MQL bucket
  • Leads – Buy them via a database or submit false leads through forms to make them look like inbound.
  • Organic Search – go after irrelevant but high traffic keywords
  • SEM – Use general broad terms to get the trigger happy crowd

The above show how easy it is to manipulate almost any KPI. The worst part about these manipulations is that it costs the business to lie to itself.

So how do you create a good KPI?

In order to create KPIs that actually helps the business, a business just needs to remember what is keeping them in business.

REVENUE

Every KPI should always play a direct role in generating revenue for the business, if it isn’t, why would you reward someone for just simply using your money. (but if you like just blatantly spending money, email me immediately..I GOT IDEAS!)

As managers and marketers, it is very easy to see just one giant funnel. The concept is, just keep pouring in as many leads on the top, and then out the bottom comes revenue, but this is not always the truth.

The more you can track which channels are responsible for the highest revenues for the company, the better you can effectively allocate your budget and optimize your ROI.


I have no revenue.

So this whole Subscriber KPI works for me.