When it comes to stereotypes, business to consumer companies are all about fun and quirks while business to business firms are about straight-faced suit-wearing executives.
Well, there are a lot of things different between b2c selling and b2b selling: the number of clients, the size of the contracts, the nature of the products, and the usual sales process. However, in the last decade, it’s become apparent that b2b selling shouldn’t be regarded as (and it isn’t) the bland brother of b2c.
This means a lot of things. One main point is this: it’s not crazy to actually adopt b2c sales and marketing practices to b2b. Which practices?
I put together a list of 10 b2c sales and marketing techniques that b2b pros can learn from.
Freebies are your friend
There’s a place for freebies in b2b sales and marketing. While freebies have been a mainstay in b2c, it’s not that used in b2b–perhaps because of the fear of being seen as a symbol of insecurity about the performance of products and services or even abuse from some customers.
Customers like free stuff–that’s not really mindblowing. But there’s data to back it up too, a 2013 survey found that 60 percent of consumers purchase products after having tried it for free. The study included both products and services–so for both, freebies have a real impact on sales.
This technique banks on a psychological cue called the norm of reciprocity. When someone does something for you, you’re compelled to do something for them too. Through freebies, companies are triggering this cue. In the b2b setting, people having tried out your product through free trials (or a freemium model) results to better sales compared to just a pitch and an invoice.
If you were to choose, would you read a white paper on the latest technology in mobile phones or watch how Serena Williams takes selfies with her iPhone while playing in the Wimbledon?
B2B salespeople and marketers are humans….so are your customers. Okay, that first example might be too simplistic but hear me out. B2b products and services are usually very elaborate and sophisticated. The value they bring can barely be captured in a 30 seconder or a GIF.
However, in wanting to communicate all the value a product or service brings, most b2b firms resort to text-heavy marketing and sales materials. Not only that, but the language! There seems to be this assumption that b2b materials need to be jargon-filled and dry as a bone. There seems to be an unspoken rule that text-heavy equals b2b.
Many marketers go down this route. Many salespeople hand these materials out to leads they’re nurturing. However, these marketers and salespeople often find themselves wanting for something better to give value to prospects, leads and customers. B2b marketers and salespeople are looking for materials that use b2c messaging.
It’s a good thing that a lot of the frontrunners in the b2b tech space are embracing this shift. Microsoft boosts its content marketing efforts through Microsoft Stories. The site says, “Get an inside look at the people, places and ideas that move us.” That’s exactly what you get from this site. It’s a journalistic take on the employees that run Microsoft and the products that they offer. Why does it work so well for this b2b company? It shows their prospects and customers who the people are behind their products. It shows that when you do business with Microsoft, you’re not just buying software. You’re working with the people showcased on this site.
Many business owners still believe that social media is solely a b2c playground. It’s not surprising at all–most social media campaigns out there are centered on reaching out to individual customers.
However, there’s a huge wealth of opportunity awaiting b2b companies who are willing to do social media right for b2b.
B2b salespeople and marketers should take advantage of the increased engagement social media brings. It helps influence decision even before the first direct touch. It also helps collect data from decision makers. And, of course, it helps build b2b brands.
Social media networks are a great channel to showcase b2b subject matter expertise. Social listening helps b2b companies know what’s going on in their prospects’ space and that of their competitors as well. This sales intelligence is valuable in polishing the sales process and messaging.
It’s clear–social media is not only for b2c. B2b and the players in it are all connected in social media too. Especially on LinkedIn, companies and professionals share insights and discuss business-related topics all the time. Through these conversations, you can glean what matters to your prospects. Monitoring conversations involving decision makers and influencers is a major key in understanding your prospects further.
When brands are present in social media, customers are more likely to talk about them in the same space. These casual “reviews” positively impact buying decisions of people who see them. A Content Marketing Institute study found that 62 percent of b2b buyers make a purchase after reading a positive review or mention on social media.
User generated content
So what’s user-generated content?
According to Webopedia, user-generated content can be defined as any form of media (e.g. video, blogs, discussion forum posts, images, reviews, audio, etc.) that is created by consumers or end-users, and is publically available to other consumers and end-users.
For years now, user generated content has been largely used in the b2c space and not much in b2b. Well, to say b2c companies have experienced success through user-generated content is an understatement. Customer feel more connected to brands that allow them to share–be it on social media, submissions, blog posts, even comments!
To most b2b companies, this is just way out of their lines and something that’s “exclusively b2c” if there were such a thing.
To see the value of user-generated content, you have to see it for what it is: social proof. Prospects might believe you when you pitch them. But you know who they’re really going to be listening to?
Prospects want to hear from actual customers who are using or have used your products and services. Aside from this, b2b products tend to side toward those that are subscription-based or serve customers for longer periods. Some customers love ongoing on-call support but some people within organizations like finding help for themselves. When b2b outfits like software firms open up opportunities to contribute like user support boards, many professionals appreciate the ability to access experience-based advice in these platforms.
Now, while it’s apparent that this type of content would benefit b2b companies in finding prospects and keeping existing customers happy, there’s still a fine line between the way b2c and b2b companies gather this type of content. Of course, consumers volunteering to contribute is never not welcome. But if you’re going to include user-generated content in your marketing plan, you have to have control as to how it is gathered. The challenge now is influencing b2b buyers and customers to create content.
Now that we’ve laid the basis for using marketing and sales materials that are not robotic and bland, we must underscore the need to use more personalized tactics. This way, b2b companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors. You help buyers make better purchase decisions when you supply them with content that they understand. Many studies point to the fact that most people are visual learners. The upside of using visual content to communicate and educate doesn’t stop at this fact, there is generally an “entertainment” component when it comes to using visual mediums in any content context, right?
So what forms are best to use in the b2b setting?
Infographics continue to match what prospects are searching for in search engines and this is benefiting the companies too, of course. Infographics for b2b have been reported to bring better rankings for companies. As much as 62 percent of marketers have reported this in the last few years.
B2b marketing and sales videos are not new–but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Gone are the days when sales videos and marketing clips are purely demos that look and sound more like monologs and dictation guides.
Humor is no longer off-limits! This human component is probably what’s been lacking in most video content that’s been produced in the last few years. Better response can be expected when video materials keep prospects engaged.
Many people thought SlideShare won’t pick up–but now we see many sales organizations and marketers lauding the site for bringing them better engagement and boosting their site traffic. It’s a simple, easy to use platform that lets the audience focus on one slide at a time. It’s like a user-guided presentation.
SlideShare makes content creation easier for b2b marketers. Besides, it’s free.
Just like LinkedIn is Facebook Pro, SlideShare is like YouTube for business. While YouTube has its own strengths as a marketing platform for b2b visuals, SlideShare is where business people go to find important information and new insights in their respective niches.
Make sure to use best practices when crafting SlideShare content. Don’t cram information into each slide. Be patient and serve content in pieces that connect and contribute to the main message.
Get on or get beat
The truth is that many b2b marketers and salespeople have gotten onto this bit and if you’re not sprinkling spice into your marketing mix, you’re getting left out. Humans outside suits and humans in suits are practically still the same type of human. You’ll be surprised at how much your communications and messaging will improve if you keep this in mind.
B2b isn’t bland. B2b should never be bland.
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