Shaun Northrop

Is B2B the new B2C?

Terug Is B2B the new B2C?

After many years working in B2B internationally I have always been struck how the marking industry discriminates against B2B. It has always been seen as ‘the poor relation’ of B2C and I have always secretly been offended by that attitude. I spent the first half of my career working around the globe on some of the World leading brands. The second half working on global B2B brands. There is a massive difference, but it’s changing. The people behind the brands are changing, the way people and companies consume is changing. But most of all the business itself is changing. Let me take a short step back for a moment. A decade ago online and social impacted massively on the marketing landscape. Everything was possible, every touch point was the new Holy Grail, Likes (remember those) were being bought and sold like commodities and marketeers were spoilt for choice with niche agencies promising their own, unique digital breakthrough that would change their brand forever. Meanwhile, B2B was quietly doing its thing, making sales, keeping things moving. It refused to ‘buy into the hype’. And, to be honest, a lot of it was hype. 100,000 likes did not translate into 100,000 sales.The game was up. Business had seen behind the digital curtain and found they had wasted countless millions chasing easy solutions that never materialized.

Now, back to the present and things have had a chance to settle, the smart advertisers see the landscape clearer. The fittest have survived, the channels that created value have flourished and the rush for quick wins has ceased. Online, offline, digital, social, inbound, ambient and every other medium have become understood and refined. Marketeers simply know more than we did back then. Lessons have been learned.

So what does that mean for B2B?
Well, it places a new generation of B2B marketeers in a unique position. It’s a position where they have seen the B2C follies and can avoid the pitfalls. The lessons learned from the B2C frenzy are being applied to a new B2B industry, and with great effect. Granted, it’s been a while coming but finally B2B is benefitting from ‘proven approaches’. And working together with agencies who not only understand the unique ways of working in B2B but can think beyond them. It’s this combination of learning from the mistakes made by the consumer world and a deep understanding of exactly what makes other businesses tick that is changing the way B2B operates.

If you look closely you can see it happening all around. The increase in social media for business, more emotive ways of communication, thinking beyond product features and using customer insights are radically changing the way things are done. It’s old news for B2C but it’s a revolution for B2B. It’s gathering pace, moving fast and most of all – working. The principles and momentum once exclusive to the FMCG world is now well and truly the defacto way of working in the leading B2B brands. So as the similarities between these two markets reduces, the differences remain clearly defined. B2B always thinks twice before it acts, eliminates risks where possible, and rings-out the value from every marketing cent.

A great example is GE and it’s use of social to create a really engaged group of brand ambassadors.

With 337,000 followers on Twitter and 65,601 YouTube subscribers, GE certainly knows how to engage their audience. From my perspective, though, their Instagram is where they really stand out. GE uses social channels to express their awe and fascination — not with their products, but with science and innovation as a whole. GE has accumulated a massive Instagram following of 185,000 followers, many of whom are highly engaged. Each post pulls in thousands of likes and scores of comments.

What they do well was to give their followers a nickname. It may not work for every company, but GE Aviations refers to their followers across all social media networks lovingly as “AVgeeks.” They’ve even turned it into a hashtag that their followers can use in other contexts. Injecting community into their content makes their social media presence about more than just the company, helping it spread farther and wider than it may have otherwise.

Also, not taking themselves too seriously. Having a history as long and storied as GE does might have made them more conservative when it comes to their social channels. But GE takes risks in their content. They add humor, demonstrate their own passion for the subject matter, and engage openly with their followers. Those risks pay off in a social following that is as engaged as any B2C brand.

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