Incorporating B2C Learnings into Your B2B Marketing Strategies

Content Marketing

Incorporating B2C Learnings into Your B2B Marketing Strategies

Rachel Martin

Rachel Martin
Apr 07, 2021

Person holding a block with a happy face

Two students show up to take a test. They’re both anxious, standing in the hallway with clammy fingers wrapped tight around their No. 2 pencils. They avoid eye contact and focus instead on running through the study materials in their heads.

When the door swings open, the students lock eyes for just a second before they walk in and seat themselves in the vast, empty classroom. Moments later, the door bangs open and a man walks in — his stride purposeful, his posture confident. The students sit up straight, ready.

Suddenly, the room goes dark and a spotlight shines on the man at the front of the classroom. He clears his throat and pulls a microphone from his pocket. With the flick of a finger, he flips it on and grins at the students.

“Did you ever hear the one about the horse that walked into a bar?”

The deadly disconnect

Are you cringing? Good.

The two students came for a test they’d strenuously prepared for and were met with a guy doing stand-up. The mismatch between what the students were there to do and how they were feeling versus what they encountered is admittedly disconnected — yet it happens in B2B marketing when we are too focused on talking about ourselves. Thankfully, marketers are acknowledging the problem: Just 49% of marketing leaders think the experience they provide aligns to customers’ expectations, while more than half don’t (Salesforce, State of Marketing 2020).

How do we fix it? By taking a page from our B2C marketing friends.

Focus your marketing strategy on building customer trust

The best B2C marketers know — and apply — four essential truths to their marketing strategies:

  1. The customer is a human being.

  2. Human beings have expectations and emotions.

  3. When expectations and emotions are validated, it builds trust.

  4. Trust is necessary to build loyal customers.

But that’s B2C, you say, and B2B is different. B2B purchases are complex, require a distributor or intermediary, and take a long time, whereas B2C is often a quick retail transaction. True. However, centering your marketing approach on the timeline and complexity of the purchase is limiting at best — and unprofitably flawed at worst. The timeline doesn’t make the final decision on whether to do business with you, a person does (or a team of people). You’re not trying to persuade the timeline to purchase your product. You’re trying to persuade a person.

If it helps, substitute the word decision-maker in the list above: The decision-maker is a human being; trust is necessary to build loyal decision-makers who choose to do business with you. There are always decision points in a B2B purchase, with a person or team determining the choice at each intersection.

Building emotion into the customer journey

The quick and dirty way to bring emotional considerations into your B2B marketing strategy is to align it to your customer journey. A simple example of this is outlined below.

If you’re already using the customer journey to help guide your channel and communications plan as part of your content marketing strategy, adding the customer’s wants, needs, and emotions is fairly straightforward. Those wants and needs form the basis for the customer’s expectations at every stage of the journey. They also help you focus on the customer’s goals versus your brand’s. With this lens, the Awareness stage isn’t only about how to boost familiarity with your brand, but also how to help the customer solve the challenge they’re facing.

Taking an empathetic view of the customer at each stage of the journey makes it pretty simple to layer in the emotions your customer feels along the way — positive and negative. A customer in the Awareness stage may be curious to learn more about possible solutions to their problem, and they may also be afraid that they won’t find a solution that will work. Therefore, the marketing approach in that Awareness stage looks for on-brand ways to indulge that curiosity while assuaging the customer’s fear. Do that and you’ll increase your relevance. Miss it, and you’ll come off as careless.

Consider the customer journey as a guideline. Download our 2RM Customer Journey Chart.

2RM Customer Journey Chart

The connection to customer experience

Emotional relevance and meeting expectations are only a part of building customer trust. The way your business handles data, privacy, customer service, and a host of other factors, impacts trust. The customer journey sample shown above is simple, but it’s a starting point to build from.

In reality, your customer’s journey may have many stages and dozens of decision points along the way. Still, the essential work of researching and understanding your customer to build a smart strategy that meets their wants, needs, and emotional states is critical to making your marketing efforts successful in the long-term.

After all, there’s a fifth essential truth that B2C marketers know that wasn’t mentioned above: Human beings are resourceful and will go elsewhere if they don’t find what they need. In a 24-month period, 80% of frequent B2B buyers will have switched to another seller (Accenture, Pulse Research, 2018).

Customers expect an easy, frictionless experience that provides relevant, meaningful answers to their questions — in B2C and B2B. Recent Salesforce studies have shown that 80% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services; and 83% of business buyers say that being treated like a person — not a number — is very important to winning their business (Salesforce, State of the Connected Customer, 2018).

Even in B2B, your brand is competing against the last great experience the customer had. By being empathetic to your customers’ emotional state of mind at each point in the journey — while also providing the information they want and need — you reinforce your brand’s relevance and deepen customers’ trust in you. That’s how you create (and retain) loyal customers and loyal decision-makers.

Find more content marketing thought leadership, tips, and ideas to inspire your B2B marketing approach on our blog and in our B2B Marketing Guide.

Rachel Martin
Get to know Rachel

Rachel brings nearly 20 years of strategic content experience to her role as content director at Two Rivers Marketing. Prior to joining the agency, Rachel was a senior content marketing strategist at Principal, developing and leading content strategy and thought leadership efforts for the company’s retirement business. Rachel also spent close to 15 years at Meredith Corporation. There, she specialized in content strategy, planning and development for a variety of digital, print, social and integrated marketing programs, and led a team of talented content managers. Reach out to Rachel.