When I was seven years old, I thought Bring Your Kid to Work Day meant I was getting a job.
Sure, I didn’t have a college degree or work experience in the B2B or B2C marketing fields—and the extent of my industry knowledge was a business plan for a lemonade stand that consisted of a single piece of paper with some very convincing crayon diagrams. But all the adults I met seemed to really like me, so I figured whatever getting a job entailed beyond that couldn’t be too difficult.
The fact is, no matter what age you are, people sense the value in having a rapport with someone. They like knowing that you know them, and that in return they know you. And this idea is doubly true in content marketing, where knowing your audience is everything. But how can you prove you understand your audience? And in a world where audiences are immersed in content, how does your brand become intimately known?
From pretty much the beginning of mercantilism, B2B and B2C businesses have sold and communicated differently. Where suppliers would seek to sell their resources through government appeal or one-on-one deals, merchants tended to set up shop in a square and hawk their wares.
Today, with the added layer of digital over the world, the dynamic has only shifted slightly—with B2B marketers hunkering down with email, and B2C marketers putting more weight behind social media in their content strategy decisions. But for the first time in history, we are now seeing a digital marketplace that’s defined by content and dominated by stories, and both B2B and B2C brands have taken notice.
It’s a new world. Does that mean new marketing strategies for B2B and B2C brands?
From a technical perspective, most marketers understand the difference between B2B and B2C brands. Consumers love Facebook and Instagram, while professionals flock to LinkedIn. B2Cs post videos and images while B2Bs share whitepapers. But while the tools are somewhat different, the general approach actually remains the same for both: to nurture individuals from awareness to purchase.
Technology aside, there is a key, conceptual difference between these two funnels; that is, the point at which brand experience is broken to encourage a transaction.
In B2C marketing, this point is typically pretty far along in your audience’s journey. By the time they’ve reached a cart on your ecommerce platform or walked through the doors of a storefront, the hope is that your soon-to-be-customer has seen and interacted with your story through a variety of content, social, and events that keep your brand’s aesthetic on the forefront, rather than buying. Purchasing, then, comprises only one or two actions that happen at the end of the journey. Done right, it can produce a powerful experience that encourages return buyers, but also leaves plenty of room for drop-off along the way.
In comparison however, B2B marketing today often takes a more sales-oriented approach. While an engaging website experience, targeted blog, or well-crafted whitepaper might pull your audience into your funnel, any subsequent steps are usually product focused: information packets, demos, negotiating contracts, etc. All this also assumes that you weren’t onboarded through a cold LinkedIn message or email that dropped you right into a buying discussion.
Is there a middle ground between these two approaches? And if so, how does content marketing help us get there?
The key point of failure in both instances tends to be the shift from experiencing to buying. For B2C brands, this is primarily a problem of presentation and finding creative ways of making buying feel like part of the experience that leads up to it. For B2B marketing, the problem tends to be a lack of brand storytelling in the funnel altogether.
Addressing these challenges is really pretty simple. You know your audience, and you know what they’re interested in—so why deliver anything else? But while the concept is simple enough, implementation can prove more difficult.
For B2B marketing, one of the strongest pages you can take out of the B2C content marketing book is to create buyer personas. Not business buyers, but actual, individual people personas. Your prospective buyer already knows the benefits of your product (and most of your company’s catchphrases) by the time they’re ready to purchase. What they don’t necessarily know or feel is whether or not you have a sense of who they are as individuals on the other end of the transaction. Constructing a clear picture of the people buying from you on behalf of their businesses will help direct you in tweaking copy, adjusting or adding images, and constructing content that resonates on a personal level throughout your onboarding process.
For B2C marketers, the solution to abandoned carts and dropped conversions lie in two places. Creatively, the answer may be to seek out presentational changes that help prevent any jarring shift from brand experience to checkout page. For a more technical approach, B2C brands can learn from B2Bs by making sure they’ve set up robust marketing automation that triggers based on user interaction around the time of purchase. Abandoned carts and remarketing messages give marketers space to remind their audiences about the elements of their stories that brought them to the cart in first place, and reframe what might otherwise be a jarring experience in a more seamless way.
Ultimately, both B2C and B2B marketing come down to understanding your audience, then telling your story in a way that speaks specifically to them. There will always be some place in which your customer’s journey must necessarily come back to logistical reality. But with proper planning and dedication to storytelling, your brand can reduce the jarring effect this has on your audience—regardless of whether you’re on the B2B or B2C side of the content marketing divide.