I posited to Twitter today that there’s not much difference between Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B). Of course, with almost any question I ask, I’m looking more for your ideas than mine.
But now that we’re over here on the blog, I’ll give you my ideas, and then we can talk more in comments. Fair?
The biggest discernible difference in business communications between those two groups is the justification of purchases.
There. Am I wrong?
In B2C, I’m talking to you, who has to explain to your significant other why you need yet another computer bag when you’ve already brought home five backpacks and three messenger bags over the last 18 months. In B2B, I’m explaining to my CIO why I want to shift off Cisco and onto Juniper, and why I think we can get away with using WordPress internally instead of buying that weird $80,000 platform that’s all written in proprietary code.
If you’re using social media to reach either, then, it’s a matter of providing the buying proof, or the behavior options, or all those other things marketers and PR types are hoping for. Right?
The B2C Purchaser
If you’re working for Canadian Club and you catch via the twitter stream or via your top notch PR company (note: I now know who Canadian Club’s PR Agency is), then you know I’m a fan of the beverage. It’s only me making that buying decision. Not a lot of effort to keep me happy, and lots of ways to scale my interests to other people’s potential interests. Right?
The B2B Relationship
But if I’m doing B2B, then it’s tricky. If I’m EMC trying to sell storage devices to huge enterprises, I’ve got Len Devanna out there on Twitter just being there, being human, and not hocking. Is there B2B value? I say yes. Here’s how.
Think of this principle: “Be there before the sale.” Sales cycles for B2B products are often very long. When I spoke at IBM Research’s headquarters in NY, I heard about a supercomputer of theirs that has a 3 year sales lead cycle. How much marketing can one do in 3 years to move that box? Instead, how HUMAN can you be for 3 years, while going through the process. I think that’s where B2B gets a big boost from exploring these social tools.
The Social Difference
Is that different from B2C? You betcha. In the opposite direction. Meaning, I think that B2C can be a bit more “here today, gone tomorrow” at times, and that B2B might actually have a better potential use of these social tools because of the relationship lifecycle of their products. Are both effective? They can be.
Remember that these toolsets and strategies aren’t always the same. Should someone blog about TicTacs? I don’t think so. Who cares? Could someone make a really funny video about TicTacs that gets us to buy more to try and replicate the fun of what we saw? Yes. Think Diet Coke and Mentos. Is that a long-term sales win? Hmmm. I’m not willing to vote on that.
Now, could someone extend a buying relationship through engaging in a culture of “continuous touch” and relationship marketing? Could you see a culture of accessible, human, and helpful employees contributing to a purchasing cycle? Does that make sense to the B2B process?
Never get hung up on the B2B/B2C thing. Instead, focus on the ways you want to use these tools to reach a business objective. When you try to exclude a tool because it’s not the tried and true, you’re voting for fax machines and telegraphs.
Now, vivisect me point of view here. It’s okay. It’s part of the plan.
Photo credit foundphotoslj, one of my favorite Flickr accounts