Over the years as targeting has evolved, the overarching difference between B2B and B2C is that B2B marketers target entire corporate entities rather than individual consumers. The distinction dictates the consideration process and purchase behavior on the buy side and it determines goals, approaches and tools on the seller/marketer side.
The distinction is also a sort of paradox, as behind those corporate entities, making the decisions about what purchases the business makes, are people, consumers themselves. Because these decision makers will respond to marketing both as individuals and as representatives of their organizations, it does muddy the waters a bit when it comes to developing a clear B2B strategy. However, it also presents an opportunity for marketers to use select B2C methods to augment their B2B campaigns.
Unlike consumer marketing, which traditionally focused on large target audiences but was geared more toward driving individual sales, B2B marketing targets a more select list of prospects, but more emphasis is placed on building and nurturing long term relationships with multiple decision makers and influencers. These relationships are built upon multiple engagements over time, and those engagements are driven by insight derived from data.
In recent years, however, due in large part to the growth of digital commerce, data and the multiple opportunities for engagement that have come along with it, B2C marketing has become more about relationships with individuals on a larger scale. Consumers expect to be engaged as individuals rather than as one of a group of nameless customers; they demand timely, authentic, relevant messaging from digital marketing.
It follows, then, that it takes more data, more insight, to accurately target organizations than it does to target consumers, but consumers get targeted on a deeper, more personal level. Today’s B2C advertising platforms are fueled by rich data streams that enable that high level of personalization at scale. It is intent data that has proven most valuable when it comes to optimizing marketing buys. This data maps directly to consumer purchases and reduces wasted impressions.
B2B marketers should also utilize intent data to inform their targeting strategies and campaigns. B2B marketers tend to default to targeting by job title, but intent data can actually enable them to identify not just actual decision-makers but also their spheres of influence at an organization. There are up to 20 people in any organization that are involved in a major purchase decision; there may be a revenue sponsor, a developer sponsor, a financial sponsor, etc. All are important and all need to be served relevant messaging. The old way of targeting by IP address can blanket message a company, but without layering in the intent data, you are not really targeting at all.
For instance, you can serve an ad to 20,000 people at a major enterprise organization, but why pay for that if only 20 of them are involved in the purchase of your product? Intent enables you to target the right 20 people, and further, gain deeper insight into their individual needs, interests and habits as consumers to ensure that you are reaching out at the most optimal opportunities to build and nurture that relationship. Intent data enables B2B marketers to determine when and what those opportunities are and how best to respond to them.
Another important thing to consider is the fact that technology has enabled our personal and professional lives to overlap more than ever before. People no longer work only on a desktop office computer; they work from multiple devices and locations, often the same devices and locations where they conduct their personal business as well. Many B2C platforms have made great strides toward the ability to match consumer profiles across these devices to develop robust, holistic views of their consumers. Why shouldn’t B2B marketers follow their lead to reap similar benefits? The key is to layer real-time intent data atop consumer behavioral profiles, but you must start with accurate and timely B2B intent data.
For B2B marketers interested in taking a page or two from the B2C playbook, the first step is simply an attitude shift—remembering that companies are made up of individual consumers who must be treated as such. For instance, a marketer at a business infrastructure software company can use various types of data, including intent data, to identify a COO who must decide on new payroll software, as well as the manager and accounting specialists who will research options and provide recommendations. But, by approaching a COO as not just a company representative but as a consumer with individual shopping habits, a marketer could learn that, if two options are being considered, an introductory offer tends to be the most effective way to nudge her toward a particular option. The same strategy should also be applied to those in her circle of influence.
So, though it takes more data to accurately target companies, many of the tools and techniques B2C marketers employ to target individuals with data can also be applied to B2B campaigns, as long as they are augmented by the right B2B data. Taking a page from the B2C playbook can help B2B marketer’s track company trends and target individual decision makers with timely relevant messages. You can optimize media buys, engage more prospects and better nurture relationships, and it’s easier than you might think.