In my opinion, one of the most common mistakes that a B2B marketer can make is to forget that their target audience is a group of human beings and not an ‘organization’. (Perhaps “mistake” is too strong, let’s say it’s an oversight or a blind spot.) Regardless of what we call it, we as marketers are missing opportunities to engage with B2B audiences by hesitating to use what have been traditionally considered “B2C tactics”.
People are people. Demand Gen Report’s 2021 B2B Buyers Survey speaks to the fact that B2C and B2B purchasing behaviours have been merging for a while and Covid-19 has accelerated that shift in mindset and actions.
One of the most interesting insights I ever got was from running some “silly” B2B-targeted retail-style contests on Facebook and Twitter. The product was professional grade vinyl electrical tape. The target audience was electrical contractors, industrial electricians and the like. It felt like a bit of a gamble at the time but I figured it was low cost and low risk and might prove to be very educational. It was!
Some individual contractors did see and engage with the contests, but the most interesting contest entries came from office staff, spouses and friends of electricians and contractors. We received lots of comments along the lines of:
- “…my husband uses that tape all the time…”
- “…I told my friend X about seeing this post and…”
- “…I steal Y’s tape to use around the house all the time…”
- “…the guys in the field hate the cheap stuff…”
We successfully engaged our target B2B audience with a typically B2C action–fabulous! But even better, engagement increased significantly by catching the eye of adjacent audiences that could be characterized as B2C given that they had no direct involvement in the electrical industry. It was a really cool added bonus! Adjacent audiences attracted by our “silly” contests brought significant value to our campaign.
I also took a bit of a B2C gamble with another part of that B2B campaign. We were running the promotion as a celebration of a 70-year anniversary since the company had invented vinyl tape. I didn’t really want to do yet-another-anniversary promotion. The thought of it didn’t excite me, so I wanted to mix things up! What did we do instead?
We had a 70th birthday party for electrical tape!
I got some strange looks from my colleagues and sales people but who doesn’t love a birthday party!?! A huge portion of our target B2B audience were parents and grandparents. Surely they could appreciate a good party: balloons, streamers, fancy napkins and plates, CUPCAKES–who doesn’t LOVE cupcakes!–party favours (free tape samples & extra entries into the national prize draw) and more. It attracted tonnes of attention at trade shows and in the showrooms of our industrial distributors. It was definitely a hit with our B2B audience!
That being said, the B2B path to purchase is still quite different than B2C. It can be long and complex. The procurement process can also vary greatly between customers, involving anywhere from one person to twenty people! We have the tough job of getting them all on our side. But, people are people. Communicating value to all stakeholders is a matter of knowing how each individual thinks, what their pain points are, and what information they need at various stages of the buyer’s journey, just like any individual B2C interaction.
Have you tried something that people thought would flop but was wildly successful instead? I’d love to hear your story!
Unlike wild bears, feeding the content creator is encouraged! 🙂
© 2021 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.
† I told you so! You know who you are! LOL