Why B2B Marketers Should Put on Their B2C Hats

Indian B2B marketers discuss growth strategies and conclude that they have a surprising amount in common with B2C

December 18, 2019

B2B and B2C Marketing
What strikes me about the B2B marketers I met in India is that they are more analytical than their peers in other geographies who focus on the qualitative perspective of research outcomes. They want to know the numbers behind insights and how findings have been generated. It’s a testament to the fact that while marketing, in general, is becoming a more quantitative discipline, this market thinks deeply about the numbers and the story these numbers tell. – Justin Shriber, VP Marketing, LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions

This adherence to quantitative insights is something Justin Shriber pointed out during his first India visit, right after we concluded an exclusive roundtable for B2B marketing leaders in Bangalore. He had just shared findings from our latest research – The Five Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing, published by LinkedIn’s new think tank The B2B Institute. Having observed brands across different geographies myself, I can’t help but agree that Indian marketers have a delightfully critical approach to theory and research — instead of just accepting them at face value.

Here’s a look at the top perspectives from the inspiring discussions:

It's time to put some heart into B2B marketing

Being in B2B, you can get the pulse of the customer because you are able to be in front of them frequently. So, you don’t have to depend on what they ‘might’ be thinking, you can meet customers and get a nuanced understanding of what they want and therefore make a change and transform your plan accordingly. — Poornima Couto, Director for Marketing, Technology Business, Wipro

It is certainly true that consumer brands have the upper hand in harnessing the power of emotions and understanding their consumers. They put in a lot of rigor and research to create tailor-made campaigns for every persona, segment and geography. B2B marketers in the room however acknowledged that it is time they started thinking of ways to appeal to the customer’s soul.

Ashwin Krishna, VP for Marketing, Capillary Technologies, shared how he is already testing the market by giving their campaigns an emotional touch. They tied up with retail industry bodies to launch Capillary Scholar, a program aimed at providing the retail store staff an opportunity to graduate and prosper in their career, thus empowering them to realize their true potential. The scholarship program aims to fund bachelor programs in business administration (BBA) for 50 retail associates.

The campaign not only helped Capillary build more authentic relationships with its customers, but it also increased the chances of being top-of-mind amongst prospects.

There is an individual behind every business

At the end of the chain, there’s always an individual looking for an emotional touch. No matter what your product is, it is the experience that counts. Thus, at Harman, we believe in harnessing the power of emotions to deliver that experience to our customers. — Arun Kumar Ganesan, Director for Marketing, Harman Connected Services

B2C marketers put customers at the center of all product messaging. On the other hand, B2B marketers tend to see their customers as enterprises and focus all their energies on understanding the organization objectives and forget focusing on individuals who are their key stakeholders.

Marketers in the room took the importance of emotion to another level and discussed at length a new term has become pre-eminent in the industry — Business-to-Individual. This approach gives businesses an opportunity to focus on individual personas in large accounts with large budgets. Just like in B2C, B2B marketers in partnership with their sales teams need to leverage these opportunities by tracking the individual’s personal and professional motivations and show up at the right time.

Throwing light on ways to leverage it, Suveni Tameri, Head of Marketing, Health Business Unit, Wipro said, “We go through the customer’s journey, understand what they need and then offer them those opportunities in the form of either a huge initiative like digital transformation or sometimes a small element like a keynote speaker at an event."

Brand and activation go hand in hand in B2B marketing

It is becoming increasingly important for B2B marketers to focus on building the brand instead of simply activating it. It considerably contributes towards garnering visibility and building trust. It also helps differentiate yourself from competition, and thus provides an upper hand in commanding price. Even from an employer branding perspective, building a strong brand helps in attracting the right set of talent. — Poornima Couto, Director for Marketing, Technology Business, Wipro

Businesses need marketing to create demand and convert that demand into revenues, and B2C companies rely heavily on brand building to do so. But how do B2B marketers focus on building brands when there is tremendous pressure to focus on performance marketing, lead generation and revenue impact? The report, the room said, gave them the arsenal of scientific backing to further push their brand building agenda and budget asks to drive long-term sales.

Having said that, the room did not quite agree with the recommended split of 50:50.

Product company versus services company versus the stage of evolution you are in, all of this has a lot to do in deciding what the company needs – sales activation or brand building or both. — Jesika Dalal, Director – Integrated Marketing, Microsoft

B2B marketers need to be more conscious of their business objectives and more agile when it comes to shifting focus between brand and activation. For instance, the amount spent on the brand will always be higher during a product launch. But that soon changes when the motive shifts to driving leads, which is when the focus changes to activation.

Acquisition trumps loyalty marketing

While expanding your customer base is a very important principle of growth, it may also be crucial to expand the customer base within the current accounts. – Suveni Tameri, Head – Marketing, Health Business Unit, Wipro

Acquisition marketing is a B2C mantra. For them, profitable growth often comes from growing their business to more consumers. In case of B2B, what really works was still a question – customer acquisition, loyalty/retention or a combination of both? The latest thinking demonstrates that even for B2B, it is important to focus on new prospects.

The strongest argument in favor of B2B companies pursuing new acquisitions is that existing relationships often run their course for reasons beyond anyone’s control. For instance, a SPOC may move out of the client organisation, causing even initiated projects to be put on hold. So, suddenly, that quarter and the next that everyone was banking on, look less likely to achieve the projected numbers. This is where the newer customer base, be it other business lines within an account or new accounts, could help bridge the gap.

Listening to the conversations from the sidelines, I couldn’t help but wonder if B2B and B2C marketing are truly a world apart. The same power that emotions, or being top-of-mind, or activating a larger prospect base hold in B2C, can drive more profitability and growth in B2B.

If a B2B brand talks about ‘something relevant’ to ‘most people’ in the market, ‘most often’, it tends to have higher mental availability and hence the probability of making a larger business impact.

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