In working with B2B clients, I've noticed that many feel that their customers function very differently from B2C customers and that the customer journey is markedly different. However, the increasing availability of social media has brought the two business types—and their marketing—closer than ever.
In the past, B2B required a lot of research (much of it via word-of-mouth) and a personal connection between brand and customer. Deals were made on the golf course or over dinner. B2C customers, on the other hand, had very few opportunities for research, and they were mainly guided to purchases by advertising.
"I think, if anything, digital and especially social have kicked the customer journeys into a very parallel nature," says Paul Dunay, a Financial Services Marketing Leader at PwC. "It's just the time frames that are a little bit off."
Here's a look at how the B2B customer journey is beginning to resemble the B2C version.
1. Availability of information
B2B purchases are typically very expensive and require a lot of research. Now, however, the availability of online tools has added research to almost every financial decision for B2C customers, no matter how minor.
"Now you see consumers using research tools at home for an airline flight or a car," Dunay says. "They use similar research tools [to a business], and they ask their friends via Twitter or Facebook what they think. The B2B decision process may take a bit longer, since it takes some time to sell a large enterprise purchase within an organization, but the tools they are using are surprisingly similar."
Dunay notes that the tools available to the everyday B2C customers are not as abundant when making a B2B purchase, despite the financial commitment that B2B purchases require. He cites TrustRadius as one one of the few tools that are available to B2Bs in evaluating enterprise-level software purchases.