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David vs Goliath: what B2B marketers can learn from B2C

By Natasha Szczerb on 14th March 2022

After being postponed for several months (thanks Omicron), the BMC’s big community hall event was back with a bang, gathering a mix of in-house, agency and consultant B2B marketers to discuss what B2B can learn from B2C. 

Because sharing is caring, here are my highlights from yesterday’s discussion.

Direct contact to customers

If you’re in B2B in any way, shape or form, I’m sure you’ve come across the sales and marketing alignment (or misalignment) subject. It’s actually pretty simple: a B2B business will usually have sales coming in before they even bother with marketing. This is because they initially need companies buying what they’re selling to drive cash flow and build a sustainable business. 

When they then realise that sales teams have hit the ceiling of what they can do alone, marketing comes along. But it’s almost like there’s a magnetic force pulling the two apart, despite the fact that they have the same end goal: to sell more. This is a shame because, ultimately, they have the potential to be unstoppable if they work together.

So: what does all this have to do with consumer marketing? Well, B2B marketers have direct access to customers through their sales team in a way that B2Cers don’t have. And what a luxury that is! We can ask questions, test hypotheses, and understand their motivations and barriers. Which in turn can help us be sharper with messaging, more targeted with personas, and more engaging with content.

In B2C, marketers are often directly responsible for sales, because (depending on the industry) they won’t have a dedicated sales team like B2B businesses have. So their marketing plans and activities are all geared and measured on how much soap, chocolate or phones they’ve sold, and looking at complex attribution models to justify advertising campaigns. I can’t name one B2B marketer who’s measured on sales and not leads!

The sooner B2B marketers realise what a treasure it is to have direct access to customers and work closely with sales, the better it will be for everyone. Stronger brand. Better leads. More sales. 

Isn’t this what ABM is doing? Yes, to some extent, but companies are implementing it at varying levels of sophistication. That’d be a whole different post on its own.

Data, performance and insights

The pressure for generating demand and leads in B2B, paired with the need to justify tight marketing budgets, mean that performance metrics take centre stage when it comes to B2B data. 

We all want to stuff our audience with cookies and follow their every step so we can replicate what works, and bin what doesn’t. And don’t get me wrong – this strategy is super important to remove guess work from decision-making. But a slightly more complex side of data in B2B, which I don’t believe has been fully explored yet, is insight data – and B2C is all over it.

We’re quite fortunate at OG to work alongside sister agencies from Publicis Groupe that are absolute rockstars in the consumer world. The way consumer brands analyse buyer behaviour and use data to generate strategic insights is incredibly sophisticated in ways that B2B could really learn from. The challenge is – as all humans are consumers – the data available is far greater and more readily available than in B2B. Even with advances in intent data and other insight tools, B2B still has a long way to go to be able to look at multiple data sources to draw strategic conclusions about buyer behaviours, sentiment, and overall company attitude.

This is top of mind for us at OG, as we’re constantly thinking about how to build stronger strategies for our clients, and the role data plays. And flipping it around from performance to insight will definitely feature significantly in our approach this year.

In conclusion, it was a thought provoking evening – and not only because we’re all still baffled about being able to meet and interact in person rather than via Zoom or Teams. The conversations were sincere and considered, from B2B marketers to B2B marketers, challenging each other and posing questions that really made you think. And ultimately highlighting an interesting topic that is the David and Goliath of the marketing world, at least from a marketing budget perspective. 

Thanks again to the BMC for organising and I hope to join again next time!

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