Going Beyond the Acronym - B2B Marketing Still Requires a People-First Approach

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Terms like Business to Business and Business to Consumer attempt to explain the classification of how a business might organize its sales model and marketing approach. These terms also imply some relatively generic expected behaviors of the target audiences and potential buyers. There are certain differences in the way the buying process might work for each model based on the “why” of a decision - for instance a B2B relationship is far more likely to be influenced by logic or pragmatism, than the emotion-driven influence of B2C. However,  these are very broad tendencies, not individual certainties. Ultimately, these acronyms are blanket statements that might seem to add some sense of scientific conclusively, but there’s little real value at the top of this sales funnel.

Underneath the acronyms, the marketing ideology, the digital algorithms and the ROI calculations, there are actual people who need to be moved to take action. And this takes compelling stories and messages with purpose.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with suggesting that a B2B and B2C operation may utilize different strategic plans and tactical methods - it’s only inherently wrong if we apply the definitions that they suggest with a “one- size-fits-all approach.” Just as trends in human nature and behavior are in constant evolution, businesses need to maintain the same adaptability.

A B2B operation that sells machine parts to a select few large manufacturers needs to research and understand its audience in a much different way than a B2B operation that engineers life-saving medical equipment only for hospital systems. Both, for example, might target purchasing professionals with a logical approach to making a deal, but the buyer’s directives and incentives to transact may have completely different influences. There are multiple potential decisionmakers beyond purchasing, who may have alternative motivations for the things they choose to buy, and who they want to buy it from. The B2B strategy still needs to reach the people who represent the B2B organizations the marketers seek.

While the B2C environment has a more obvious connection to individual people at the end of the funnel, there are endless possibilities in making that connection stick. A retail store for example, needs to understand what drives its customers to enter the physical location to buy a variety of goods while a consumer goods brand that sells its product in that same store has a different set of criteria. Both need to explore, understand and satisfy the individual drivers that each of their customers have. The approaches they take to promote their wares may have very different methods and outcomes.
While we can use such terminology to group businesses in a very general sense, it's a basic classification that only scratches the surface. As we dig beyond that outer layer, there are endless possibilities to the most effective brand identity or strategic marketing direction.

Effectively communicating requires an intimate understanding of the audience, along with maintaining a brand that speaks directly and clearly to them and their motivations. In discovering why they might buy what we want to sell, we need to identify who they are. It’s not just a list of names, but the details that include what they care about, where they live, work and play, how they generally behave and how they feel about key issues. The story we craft about our business needs to be tailored to these core values.
People buy the story of the thing before they buy the thing. A group of consumers for one brand or product may have completely different motivations than another. And if your consumer is classified as another business, it's important to look deeper into the driving motivations of the actual people that will make those buying decisions.

Both B2C and B2B operations are selling products and services to humans. We’re all really H2H (human to human) or P2P (person to person) brands that have to tackle different obstacles, and reach very particular audiences. The power isn’t understanding a blanket classification and utilizing a generalized marketing formula, the power is in our purpose, and the connection our brands make to the individual people that make their own decisions.