SUMMARY: For the next two weeks, we are going to explore some cutting-edge marketing ideas. This week's B2B Marketing newsletter covers the business-to-individual (B2i) concept. In gathering information for this article, I had to travel to San Francisco, enjoy a wide-ranging phone interview and then negotiate a conversation with the two most prominent experts on marketing moments of truth.
This article offers five lessons on why you should be marketing to the individual, even as a B2B marketer.
You know, the concept of B2i is more important than the world of just business is ready to handle, but it is exactly what we're talking about in these [marketing] moments of truth.
What we're really talking about is just real people talking to real people, and I have often said that maybe the best thing for business is to think about it if we just stop talking B2C and B2B and really just started looking at P2P — just the idea of people-to-people.
Some of the best businesses that I'm working with today are looking — even though that they might have business customers — they're looking at what the relationship would be between their business customer and then the ultimate customer because they know that if they can empower their customer to think about the people that they're trying to reach, they could design a better product or service to not just add a competitive advantage, but to deliver a better experience proactively.
Then, they know that they're going to have a competitive advantage against all of the other B2B companies. And, they’re mindful about the customer, and to me this is incredibly important because without it, we are going to get caught up in business as usual, which is, as you know — design a product or service, sell it, market it incredibly well and then react to what happens.
When you can consider what it's like to deliver a better experience even as you are baking it into the product or service, when you're thinking about what reactions could look like, when you're thinking about how do you best … not just condition but introduce a positive experience in every step, then you have this fantastic relationship from the get-go and where the model of people to people is just literally proven in everything you do.
It's not just a matter of strategy, but it's almost like a matter of philosophy.
At Google, we talk about the concept of relevance, which I know many companies, many marketers are thinking a lot about, and obviously, I can have the best relationship with you as a customer, whether that's a B2B customer or a B2C customer, if I can have a relevant conversation with you or talk with you about things that you find relevant.
So, the only way I can know what's relevant to you is to have some sort of two-way discussion or two-way relationship with you, and if I have that ability, then we can have a B2i type conversation as opposed to either a much more mass B2C or mass B2B-type conversation.
B2i represents a shift for B2B marketers in terms of how to engage, transact and continually service the new buyer expectations.
Here are 3 specific tactics to try and implement B2i.
1. Can your customers buy online, via a self-service channel? Most B2B marketers are familiar with lead nurturing and invest a lot of time in content marketing and other tools, but fail to acknowledge that there are some buyers who will never convert to a large deal as required by their direct sales team, even though they are real, qualified prospects.
Adding a self-service, e-commerce site will immediately add a new revenue line, albeit small, justify marketing spend and provide a path to future growth.
2. Can your e-commerce site co-exist with direct sales in a symbiotic relationship? There is often an artificial wall separating e-commerce from Direct Sales, usually with channel conflict concerns. In the new B2i world, every prospect can be thought of originating as a smaller deal, and leveraging the e-commerce channel as an upsell path to direct sales. Addressing incentives on both teams will see a boost in revenues, as product usage guarantees a different kind of sales conversation — one that is consultative versus a hard sell.
3. Can your contact center seamlessly sell and service your customers? In the B2i world, every touch point needs to be prepared to transact, as necessary, at all times. Contact centers need to be able to easily upgrade, downgrade, pro-rate, co-terminate and extend contracts — including first-time trials — and ensure long-term customer satisfaction. This means that there is a prior knowledge of the customers’ purchases, interactions and intent during the moment of truth that empowers the agents to act in real time during the conversation.
Marketers can achieve this by making the latest promotions/offers available and integrated into their commerce system of record. Begin with on-the-glass integration, and execute a deeper business process integration over the long term.
It really is that simple. Right? And, also, in that simplicity, is its true promise.
People do buy from people and I think that for some reason just we've forgotten that. I mean, we're now investing in the most clever marketing strategies, the most clever technologies, and most capable solutions to try to reach as many people as possible, and then even if you look at the promise of social media, where the keyword there is social, we're still using them as sort of broadcast mechanisms, as ways to sort of not engage or build relationships but just to reach you and hold you.
When we look back to the tactical data, it's almost like we have to press pause on all of this stuff. OK, what are we trying to do? You know, what it is?
If we know this is about people-to-people, then what does the relationship look like? What does the experience look like? What do we want people to feel, what do we want people to say? What would referrals look like?
I believe that [the B2i concept] is at the beginning. You know this is something where you can literally talk about it as this idea of experience, architecture where you bring in the elements of user experience and you bring in the elements of surprise and delight, and then you combine that with everything else in terms of creative marketing, sales, product design, etc., to literally design the experience you want people to have and share, and then the result is that's where people usually share.