Thinking B2B: B2B is human-centric, not product-centric
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) When crafting a B2C communications strategy, marketing agencies tend to start with the specific need that the product or service they’re marketing will solve for consumers. Maybe it’s convenience, or safety, or entertainment… B2C agencies usually focus on how that product will plug that specific gap, and resolve the consumer’s pain points. As a result, the marketing communication is very product-focused.
This was something that was glaringly obvious the other day in a pitch meeting for a large banking brand that has both a B2C and B2B offering. The B2C lead agency’s communications strategy crafted for this brand was as outlined above: it revolved around how the product fitted into the business buyers’ lives.
But creating a B2B communications strategy is very different, and there are a few reasons why. For starters: when considering B2B marketing for companies such as banks or telcos, there’s no real product differentiation. Yes, there might be one product that is unique to a particular bank but, when comparing overall offerings across several banks or telcos, there are often no clear product differentiators: they all offer good rates, or have excellent trading desks, or have cloud services.
So, in B2B communications, the approach should start with the customer by trying to understand who they are and how we connect with them, before we try and sell them anything. For example, different B2B customers will gravitate towards different brands depending on the chemistry they have with them. On the one hand, one company may identify more with Nedbank because the bank is more cause-related and it’s looking for meaningful interaction. On the other hand, another company may connect with Standard Bank because it identifies with the bank’s ambitious brand and its new slogan, “What’s your next?”
It comes down to the fact that, in B2B communication, the emotional differentiation is stronger than the product differentiation. This is obviously easier to do with B2B communication as the number of people you’re communicating with is much smaller — whereas, with B2C, you could be trying to communicate with millions of people at a time, so it’s hard to connect emotionally with each one.
Some B2B agencies place much more emphasis on market research in the context of the life of the buyer, with anthropologists speaking to the target market, connecting with them and asking questions about their working lives: “Who are you? What do you connect with? What’s your context? What do we need to be saying to you?”
In this way, the obtaining of the “back story” gives a rich background that enables the agency to craft a campaign that really connects with them emotionally, instead of simply pushing a product. Because, after all, people are the ones who make the final purchasing decisions, even in a B2B context.
Ultimately, effective B2B communications strategies are ones that carry meaning, resonance and chemistry. Product-centric campaigns may drive a particular behaviour in the short term, but you won’t win long-term — human-centric campaigns are what you need for that.
Warren Moss (@) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He is the chair of both the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) and the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards (Assegais), as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the monthly “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms.