In September 2012, Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo, wrote a great article on Marketing Profs about how the best B2B marketers think like B2C marketers. In his article, Glass says "the best B2B marketers are successful because they start with building a brand," by doing things like developing marketing that speaks to the target audience, using visuals to sell your product, and being human in your communications.
I agree with Glass's framework. But I think some of the best B2B marketers are not only thinking like B2C marketers but also borrowing marketing strategies that have already proven successful in the consumer world.
In the tech sector, borrowing from the consumer world has been dubbed the "consumerization of IT." In my view, we're also starting to see the consumerization of B2B marketing. That is, B2B marketing—at least in the tech world—is starting to mirror the simple marketing, transparent pricing, and frictionless buying process of the B2C world.
Although this trend is still developing, several ways that B2B companies can borrow strategies from the consumer world are already evident. Here are four ways that B2B marketers can consumerize their marketing.
Before getting started, I should note that all of my examples come from the industry which I'm most familiar—enterprise tech. Nevertheless, I think that many B2B companies can adapt these strategies to their own marketing.
1. Invest more in marketing to reduce reliance on outside sales
Today's B2B marketers have the potential to smooth out the B2B sales process by mimicking the B2C marketing strategy of providing detailed product information online, publishing fixed prices on their website, and providing an easy online purchasing option. Getting this kind of information on the Web is an important element of B2B marketing today, because roughly 70 percent of B2B buying activity (i.e., the research and comparison phase) is completed before a salesperson is engaged.
This big shift would not be an easy transition for a lot of B2B companies. Though it's notoriously difficult to offer a fixed price to B2B buyers, marketers can get around this issue by providing tiered pricing structures that give the buyer an idea of how much they can expect to spend. As for paying online, marketers will likely want to provide more options than the standard B2C option of paying by credit card. Also a good idea is to include options for direct billing or paying by credit line.
2. Provide a free trial of your product
A free trial won't work for every B2B company out there because they would have to offer a product with a relatively low cost of goods sold. However, for such products (e.g., Cloud software), offering a free product trial can be an effective way of generating leads. But it's important to force a buying decision at some point.
The e-commerce vendors BigCommerce and Volusion do a great job of forcing a buying decision by allowing you to use their system just long enough— a two-week trial—to see its value. Those vendors do a good job of keeping you on their product because they know that after two weeks of working with the system you won't want to change to a new system and lose all of the work you put into setup and configuration. By giving away just enough of the product, they are able to sell more of it.
3. Gamify the customer feedback to get more brand advocates
A lot of marketers are talking about the importance of gamifying marketing. B2B companies have an opportunity to gamify customer feedback to produce more brand advocates.
I recently came across the Influitive platform, which allows B2B marketers to connect with their customers and issue challenges that can be used to support marketing efforts. For instance, B2B marketers can create a challenge asking customers who are on the platform to provide a case study for how their product has helped them improve their operations.
In exchange for completing the case study challenge, marketers can award their customers points that can be exchanged for things such as a $25 Amazon gift card or a free seminar on how to get the most out of your product or service. In exchange for such small rewards, B2B marketers get a queue of brand advocates that they can integrate into their marketing materials.
4. Turn your marketing into an actual game
In keeping with the gamification trend, B2B marketers can turn their educational marketing into an actual game. Though creating interactive marketing in B2B world can be difficult, I recently found out about a game that enterprise security vendor SonicWALL created; that made me think many B2B companies can turn their marketing into an interactive game.
The game is targeted toward IT professionals and is called The Network Security Challenge. The game asks players to decide what to allow past the firewall as potential threats come up. As the game progresses, threats come in faster and faster until players inevitably fail. The game is designed to make you fail so that you understand that no manual process will allow you to keep up with security demands—in the way that no one can manually monitor their firewall.
The game ultimately helped SonicWALL to sell tens of thousands of dollars of network security from the leads generated by the game. B2B marketers in other industries should consider how they can create a game that similarly demonstrates the value of their product or service.
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Although the examples I cite this article focus on the tech industry, I think that many B2B companies can draw on those examples and translate them into their own experience.
What do you think? What are you tips for consumerizing your B2B marketing? Leave a comment below.