What B2C Marketers Can Learn From B2B

There’s a lot of talk in the B2B world about what we can learn from consumer marketers. But did you ever think about what consumer marketers can learn from us? I have a couple of ideas.

There’s a lot of talk in the B2B world about what we can learn from consumer marketers. Like treating business buyers as individuals, with their own personas, analyzing their digital buyer journeys, and using social media to communicate with them. And how to speak to buyers like humans, with messages that both inform and entertain. These are useful lessons. But did you ever think about what consumer marketers can learn from us? I have a couple of ideas.

The first is about prospecting strategies, and the second is about building relationships.

Offer Problem-Solving as a Way to Attract Prospects

Much of B2C prospecting is about deals and discounts. In business markets, on the other hand, the proven prospecting model involves offering a solution to a business problem.

In practical terms, this means content marketing. Preparing educational, objective. non-sales-y material that addresses a customer problem. In business markets this might be a white paper, research report, infographic or case study. In consumer it might be a recipe book, a blog or a how-to video.

It can be used as a motivational offer to generate a lead, or it can be used to establish thought leadership, and to stimulate viral sharing.

This way, you establish yourself as a helpful resource, expert in your field, and trustworthy enough for a business relationship.

You also tend to attract a more qualified customer than you do with a deal. A buyer who really needs the solution, and will appreciate it, and appreciate you. And will turn into a loyal buyer, and an advocate.

This is an approach that consumer marketers can use successfully. Look at YouTube, which is filled with how-to videos for consumer products.

Nurture Your Customers (and Prospects) Until They’re Ready to Buy

B2B marketers are really good at this. We recognize the power of the Rule of 45, which says that 45% of business inquirers in a category will eventually buy in that category. And when they become ready, we need to be there. Otherwise, we may just as likely lose the deal to our competition.

So, B2B marketers have elaborate systems of outbound contacts designed to stay in touch until they’re ready. Known as lead nurturing, it’s a key component of the B2B demand generation process. With a nurturing program, we can expect to triple, possibly quadruple, the productivity of our campaigns.

Consumer marketers already understand this principle. Look at the retargeting banner ads that follow us all around, weeks and months after we’ve stopped by a website.

But I think there’s additional opportunity here for consumer marketers. Nurturing needs to be personalized, acknowledging the relationship, and building it over time through two-way communications. It’s one-to-one, not mass advertising.

Perhaps it’s about developing a different attitude. Consumer marketers enjoy prospect universes that are something like 10x those of B2B marketers. Maybe they have the sense that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and instead of nurturing, they are tempted to move onto the next prospect. But maybe it’s time to treat every inquirer as your last.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

How to Get Engaged Prospects to Buy

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?” It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?”

It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

  1. Solving customers’ problems
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response and conversion rate)

How to Sell by Solving Problems
Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts—to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions (“conversations”) in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.

Solving customers problems has always worked! It’s a simple, effective way to produce awareness, interest, desire and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish.

The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Get Customers to Ask Questions That Connect to Products
Making social media sell for you is a matter of facilitating, and then connecting, question-and-answer oriented, digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new,” social media.

Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish whitepapers, magazine articles, or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk, or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?

Beware: Just like cranking out whitepapers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post, or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question-and-answer driven interactions.

Beware of the Digital Charlatans
As I discuss in the June edition of Target Marketing, beware. Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (Full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living, but beware of misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational business people into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.

Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on a return to the basics.