Are B2C methods killing B2B marketing?

Something’s going wrong with business to business marketing. Marketers seem to be more distant than ever from understanding their customers or having the time needed to build different value propositions in segmented marketing campaigns. I’ve picked four ways in which B2C methods seem to be driving business brands off course.

  1. Start with networks, not personas. Business marketing differs from consumer marketing, primarily because of the more embedded role of networks (of organisations and executives) between the producer and the consumer but also because of the occasional ambiguity of the value of the solution on offer. Modern marketing has become laser focussed onto content-driven online marketing targetted to general models of potential purchase influencer: personas. The reified over-reliance on persona-based marketing means that measurable clicks are displacing brand equity approaches, based on relationships that trust, emotion, relevance and a resulting price premium.
  2. Lead scoring is displacing benefit-based segmentation. Many organisations are falling into undifferentiated marketing. Marketers buy lists, and then aim email and telephone campaigns at those lists, successively narrowing their focus on customers who keep on responding. The operational logic of that is clear: you can’t call 5,000 executives, but you can send one email a month and then after half a year call the 100 who seem to have opened most of them. Instead of concentrated marketing aimed at the most valuable segment, or differentiated marketing based on competitive positions, you have an approach that focusses on the most externally-informed, and time-rich, buyers rather than those with the highest benefit from your solution. That is compounded by the echo chamber of content marketing.
  3. Content marketing is turning marketing from an emotional promise into an echo chamber. The strength of content marketing is also its weakness. If you give people the content they seem to want, then they will value you as a content source and consume more of your content. Therefore you should focus on the content people want to read. The biggest problem with that is clear from a glance at the SuperBowl adverts or the advertising firms that win the Lions at Cannes: you end up entertaining people rather than reasserting the value of what you have to sell. Of course, the best brands can produce engaging advertising that is on-brand, but many are on the road to cute puppies, monkeys and babies but no emotional promise of the benefits they provide.
  4. Up-sell and cross-sell¬†replaces relationship-based fulfillment. Sadly, marketing and sales is often more focussed on sales pipeline numbers than on satisfaction and re-purchase. Because business marketing sells to networks of influencers, and because the initial purchases are often unprofitable, the management of client accounts should be more important to marketers than new business development. Because our value proposition evolves over time, we to need to use the decision to buy from us as an opportunity to increase our understanding of each client’s developing problems and opportunities. But marketing also needs to understand how far we are meeting our promises, and which new benefits are being realised, so that our marketing is in line with the value we really produce. Technology-driven marketing points marketing and sales people away from that, and towards a conveyor belt of content marketing campaigns focussed on up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

Do you see any of these mistakes in organizations you work with? Are there strengths to these approaches that compensate for the weaknesses? How else is B2C marketing, which is what most new marketing graduates are marinaded in, chamging business marketing?

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