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Marketing Momentum: What B2B Can Learn From B2C

By Katrina Olson

Granted, there’s a big difference between deodorant and switches. But are the customers really that different? The same person/contractor who’s buying Old Spice is buying your products. He wants a product that works as promised for a fair price—and maybe a few other perks, based on where he buys.

For example, I use my Target Redcard when I shop at Target because I get 5% off. And when I shop at Macy’s, I use my Macy’s card because I always get from $10 to 20% off. Everybody wants to be appreciated, whether they’re buying lighting or laundry detergent.

So why do we market so differently to B2B buyers?

Sure, decisions about large or high-risk purchases like a CRM system or fleet of delivery vehicles are made by committee, but most day-to-day choices are made by an individual. And sometimes, they affect both the company and the individual. A salesperson or CEO who frequently flies for business may choose a specific airline or hotel chain because he gets frequent flier miles or points. In this case, you’re marketing to the individual, even though it’s business travel.

What can we learn a lot from savvy B2C marketers? Plenty!

  • Customize your messages for your audience. The Progressive insurance ads I see while my husband is watching football are much different than the ones I see while watching the Lifetime channel.
  • Give me a reason to switch. Walmart just introduced two-day shipping on select items with a $35 minimum purchase and no membership fee. Watch out, Amazon.
  • Reward me for choosing you. Every time I go to CVS, I get a foot-long receipt with coupons for $3 or $4 off my next purchase of similar products. And sometimes I get CVS “ExtraBucks” to use on any purchase.
  • Know my name (at the minimum). If you’re sending me a special offer because of my loyalty, credit rating, or income, you’ve obviously done your homework. So if I’m already your customer, you should definitely know my name. One-third of marketers believe personalization will be key to moving forward in the digital age, according to Ad Age Magazine. (And that was in 2014! More than half also cited social media and mobile as critical marketing strategies.)
  • Give me perks or privileges for being a loyal customer; and don’t make me ask for it. When I’ve paid my credit card balance off every month, on time for several years, I get an offer for an increased credit limit. How can you thank and reward your customers for their good business practices?
  • Help move me along in my journey. I recently booked a trip to Dallas and used my Uber app to research transportation costs. I also looked at public transportation, hotel shuttles and cabs. A week later, I got a 50% off offer for my Uber rides in Dallas. Okay, that’s a little creepy, but I’m going to use it!
  • Know what I like. I recently purchased tickets for a show using VividSeats. Now I’m getting emails about upcoming plays and musicals in the same area. Sure, I could unsubscribe, but because they’re events I’m actually interested in, I won’t.

Some of these are easy—like customizing your message for vertical audiences. In recent years, we’ve seen this in tED magazine’s Best of the Best Marketing Awards Competition.

Some are more difficult. We’ve had the ability to personalize mail and email for decades. But now we have the technology for highly sophisticated, personalized, customized, data-informed marketing strategies and tactics. The challenge is choosing the right platforms for your businesses and learning how to use them.

Sure, it’s a little intimidating. But here’s the good news. You can find literally tens of thousands of videos, articles, tutorials and trial versions online. Start by researching CRM systems and marketing automation. Learn about content marketing. Look at social media dashboards.

It’s an exciting and challenging time to be in marketing. This is where the industry is headed; those who adapt and learn sooner rather than later will be ahead of the game—and their competition.

Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.



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