A few weeks ago I posted an article entitled 2014 Marketing Predictions With A Twist. It was my offbeat attempt at combining a staple of this time of the year – marketing forecasts, with pop culture. In the piece are some predictions for 2014 from all walks of the marketing and advertising world including one from yours truly.
My prediction, in which I called upon the immortal Inigo Montoya for inspiration, speaks to the fact that marketers and advertisers need to go back to the beginning and put customers front and center – and leave them there.
However, if I were to make a prediction specifically for those on the B2B marketing side of the aisle I may have chosen a different pop culture reference, say something along the lines of the song Human Touch by Bruce Springsteen.
Well perhaps this will explain why. It’s from something I wrote back 2012, nearly a year and half ago.
I was working at an ad agency and was in an initial client meeting with a man that sold cleaning equipment to businesses. He was lamenting that his business was slow and I asked him what kind of advertising/marketing he had done in the past.
He told me he had not done much. Imagine that, no business and no advertising/marketing. Go figure.
Anyway, we ended up getting the account and the first thing he wanted to create was a sales letter, something to send out to prospects. Me being a writer and all scribed such a letter, informing his prospects of all the fabulousness that awaits them if they patronize this particular company.
I emailed the initial draft of the letter to the client for review and his response back to me was something I have never, ever forgotten.
“Change the copy. It’s too personal. We are a B2B company, not a B2C.”
My email back to the client went something like this…“Thank you for your feedback. I understand completely you are a B2B company, however please remember that this letter is going to a person, meaning there’s a real, live person on the other end of the line, hence my ‘personal’ tone in the letter.”
The client’s email back to me… “I don’t care… change the copy. Don’t want any personal tone, language, etc…”
I made the changes as requested, we mailed the letter… it flopped like a fish, his business continued to flounder (pun intended) and the rest is history.
Of course I am simplifying the results, but you get my point.
This gentleman, and how many more like him, could not grasp the fact that there was a real human being on the other end of his sales pitch. In his mind, he was a B2B company and B2B companies don’t need to be personal or conversational – that was for the B2C folks.
In the same aforementioned article from 2012 I also made reference to something Lisa Petrilli had written two years prior – clearly she’s a lot smarter than I, which is not really saying all that much.
But I digress.
What Lisa wrote then is still very applicable today:
“How many marketers are putting 2 and 2 together and recognizing that the most obvious and direct route to sales and profitability starts with conversations with individuals – who, at their core, love to converse – that lead to relationships that lead to advocacy?”
Girl ain’t no kindness in the face of strangers
That’s one of the lines in Human Touch and I chose that line for it speaks to the fact that far too many B2B marketers were in fact treating those on the other end of the proverbial line as strangers – marketing to them as if they were an actual business rather than that what they really are – human.
Oh sure I bet some of the collateral was/is “personalized” which amounts to including their first name in the salutation of an email or letter. Whoopee-de-do.
B2B marketers must finally realize that the world is about relationships and that those on the other end of the line they’re peddling something to want a relationship just as they would when they play the role of consumer.
A few weeks ago I read an article Forget B2B: Business buyers want the consumer treatment. The title pulled me right in and in the piece I read about some research that had been conducted by Avanade. They released the findings with the title Global Survey: B2B is the New B2C.
The findings speak right to the heart of my New Year’s resolution for all B2B marketers and that is to simply realize that even though it’s called B2B, there’s still a “C” on the other end.
From the findings:
- Enterprise buyers are mimicking consumer “shopping behaviors. The relationship between B2B (business-to-business) buyers and sellers is expanding far beyond the reach of a company’s salesforce. Similar to how consumers purchase a car today, 61 percent of B2B buyers report third-party sites and feedback from business partners, industry peers or social channels as more important than conversations with a company’s sales teams when making a purchasing decision for their company. B2B is next in line in the consumerization movement.
- ompanies can monetize customer experiences. The value of the customer experience surpasses cost as the top factor in a B2B purchasing decision. Customers report they are willing to pay up to 30 percent more for a superior experience. In fact, more than half (56 percent) of those surveyed report paying more for a product in the last six months because the customer experience was better than other less expensive options.
- Those businesses that embrace these changes are outperforming peers. Sixty percent of companies that have built new business processes and technologies to accommodate shifts in customer interactions report increased revenue – while 60 percent also report a larger customer base and 61 percent report a growth in customer loyalty.
To summarize the above findings; treat your B2B customers like they are real people because that’s what they are. They do exactly the same things ALL consumers do. They use social media, they want a relationship; they want a great experience and those B2B folks who understand this concept will succeed.
Pretty simple if you think about it.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)