What B2B Brand-Builders Can Learn From the Consumer Sector


The rise of mobile platforms and bring-your-own-device is breaking down the barriers between work time and play time, creating both new opportunities and new challenges for brands who sell their products and services to other businesses.

As the historical divisions between the enterprise and personal spheres disappear, experts say business-to-business marketers can learn a lot by monitoring the tactics of their counterparts in the consumer sector – who have been taking a more individualized approach to how they communicate with their audience.

“When you’re not at work, work bleeds into your personal life; so now [prospects] set the same expectations that they have in B2C marketing as they do in B2B,” said Sheryl Pattek, a vice president at Forrester Research, in a recent interview.

Chief among those expectations is the feeling that a brand is speaking to them directly, or at the very least understands their language. And that language has been being developed and perfected in the consumer sector.

Pattek – who places a high premium on the interaction between marketing departments and their colleagues in IT – says prospects have more next-generation tools at their disposal than ever before for deciding what products and services are right for them, and they are increasingly putting them to use before choosing a vendor. Successful B2B brands are those that understand that relationships are ultimately between people, not companies, and apply that principle to engaging their audience.

Here are three places to start:

1. Step your e-mail campaigns up a notch

For e-mail, companies need to create brand identity through a graphic look and feel while tracking customer interactions. Drop generic “form-speak” and adopt a flexible tone that varies based on a prospect’s needs and knowledge of your brand. “E-mail marketers need to focus on the customer on a one-to-one basis, using information about what’s worked in the past,” said Pattek.

2. Get social

A 2012 survey found that while roughly two-thirds of B2B companies are using social media in some capacity, it is largely confined to PR and communications departments. The survey of 548 B2B marketers by Eloqua found that less than a third of companies are using social platforms for lead generation, while only 16% use social media to assess market perception of their brand. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the perfect place to facilitate a two-way conversation with prospects and ensure your brand resonates with the right voice. It’s a strategy that is destined to pay off; Aberdeen Group polled 500 companies and found that B2B brands that aggressively leverage social media generate more leads, close more deals and retain customers longer.

3. Video sells

Data show that YouTube now ranks among the top-three social platforms for business-to-business marketing, and knowing how to leverage video content can make the difference between a lackluster campaign and one that sings. When it comes to demand generation, Software Advice recently compiled research, which shows that video – including videos posted on social media and embedded in e-mails – is the second more popular type of content used across channels.

Whether video is used to make a sale, generate an inbound lead, build brand awareness or demonstrate a new product or service, it is successful business marketers who will emulate the B2C sector and keep video content short and narrowly targeted to a specific audience. Videos should be promoted across channels to amplify their power.

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