The acronyms have evolved, and you should too.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know how drastically our buying habits have changed. We all shop like consumers now, so the lines between consumer and business buying have blurred considerably. Still, the old acronyms were useful in helping us categorize communications…except that they never did much to help us understand the people in the second part of the equation.
Authenticity is key
This is exactly how H2H (human to human) marketing came to be. Why classify your buyer when his or her behavior is the same as any other shopper’s—indeed, the same as yours? And furthermore, why put pretense into any interaction?
Authenticity, the theory goes, is the way to a shopper’s heart, whether she’s snuggled on the couch or sitting in a cube.
Next came B2ALL marketing, a response to the “democratization of the marketplace,” according to Salesforce.
"Your business buyers now expect the same experience purchasing industrial equipment as they do consumer goods. They employ the same approach to inform their decision to buy. They want ease of access, better selection and instant gratification, backed by bulletproof payment and investment options, and reinforced by solid brand recommendations from other buyers." – Colleen Francis
Since we all now have access to unlimited information about any good or service, any time we want, from any source we deem reliable, marketers are obligated to give everyone a memorable (and customized!) experience.
Think twice before giving up on the acronyms
Given so much disruption, should we completely abandon the acronyms? Not quite. B2B and B2C (and B2B2C, B2M, and B2I) are still valuable when it comes to determining the right types of communications for your target audiences. And they’re critical when planning the right mix of marketing to reach the most qualified buyers.
But as we’ve shown above, even B2B consumers want a great experience, not some dry business pitch. And they sure as heck expect your marketing to be mobile-friendly and trend-savvy, too.
Answer the burning question
B2B buyers may follow different steps, but the same purchase motivations and questions apply to whatever you’re selling: Will this make my life easier or better? Is it a good value for my budget? Will it bring me some measure of status or reputation? Will this brand treat me well? Can I trust it? Can I build a relationship here?
To answer those questions in a way that lands you a B2B sale, you have to answer one more, and it’s much bigger: What experience does your brand offer?
This isn’t about products, though those matter. It’s about feelings, like trust, security, and comfort. Why? Because every buyer, no matter whose money he’s spending, is still influenced by factors way out of your control—like life experiences and colleagues’ opinions. And you’ve got to tap into something deeper to account for those.
It will take some introspection. It will take some discovery. It will take combining the proven tactics of traditional acronyms with gut-level brand messaging that gives buyers a reason to believe in you. And it will take embracing the mediums your modern B2B buyer prefers. Are you ready for that evolution?
In marketing today, B2B, B2C, H2H, and B2ALL still matter. Just not nearly as much as the promises you make to the people they represent. Start by developing (or rediscovering) your brand message and let that do the talking, whether you’re hitting up brick-and-mortar shoppers or corporate buying agents. Only then will they listen.