This sponsored post is produced by Shari Johnston, Sr. Director of Integrated Marketing at Demandbase.

For a few years now, we’ve been hearing how B2B and B2C marketing are converging, and we’ve got a whole slew of trendy new terms to describe the path forward such as B2I (business to individual), B2P (business to persona) or E2E (employee to employee). Much of what those terms address is how we all need to humanize sales and marketing, which is a valid point. However, for the most part, B2B and B2C are vastly different disciplines.

Despite these differences, B2B marketers are consistently advised to adopt the principles of B2C. Some of that advice is valid (it turns out that many customers are indeed happy when we ditch the stuffy, corporate speak) but a lot of it will prevent B2B marketers from achieving their desired results. So by all means, create a cute, animated corporate video, but think twice before you adopt one of the best practices below.

Make Sure Everyone Knows Your Brand

For B2C companies, anyone can become a customer. The more people who know about the company and have a positive experience with the brand, the better. Therefore, B2C companies have the freedom – and the need – to invest significant resources in reaching the masses with their message. It seems like the same could be true for B2B, but when you dig deep into the reality of the buying cycle, it’s a different story.

Most B2C businesses are a low-dollar, high-frequency game, but B2B is the opposite. Landing huge, slow deals requires more integration between offline sales workflows and online marketing workflows. What that means in plain English is that if sales is focusing on a certain set of high-value accounts, marketing needs to be focused on reaching those accounts rather than working to generate brand awareness among thousands of fringe prospects. It’s important for customers and prospects to have a good experience with your brand, but you can achieve that without putting your name on a billboard, running a commercial during the Super Bowl or even paying for inventory on the Yahoo homepage.

Finally, it’s important to remember that brand awareness works for B2C because those products typically have a strong offline presence. A consumer can see an ad and purchase the product any number of places. In B2B, a customer will always visit the company website as part of the purchase process. It follows that marketing activities and ads in particular need to drive prospects to the website and correlate to the experience they have there.

Market to Personas

That’s not to say that B2C marketers never use targeting in their campaigns. Today, digital marketers have a tremendous amount of data about the people we’re trying to target and tools to help us do more and more with that data. B2C companies target individuals based on demographic data, and while these audience characteristics are quite useful for them, the strategy doesn’t hold water for their B2B counterparts, who sell to accounts not individuals.

Ironically, marketing automation technology, which was devised primarily for B2B companies, relies heavily on persona-based marketing. It doesn’t capture the account-level view required for B2B. While B2C companies only target personas, B2B marketers should be filtering by company then persona. Without the company filter, you end up targeting the right individuals at the wrong company.

Furthermore, B2B marketers won’t help close deals by targeting just one person given that there are an average of seven stakeholders in a B2B buying decision. By targeting based on title, B2B marketers miss the opportunity to reach the other decision makers. By expanding their reach, they can measurably impact the sales process.

Use Direct Response Metrics

All B2C measurement is done in terms of direct response, because B2C purchases are typically quick and based on impulse. However, measuring direct response metrics like click-through-rate or simple site traffic doesn’t reflect the nuances of B2B buying. In B2C, online behavior and buying indicators are straightforward, while B2B buying signals are more subtle and sophisticated, requiring multiple levels of consideration from several stakeholders.

Furthermore, the sales cycle for most B2C products is days or weeks at the most, whereas the sales cycle for B2B is months to years. It’s not so much about getting someone to click your ad once as it is about getting them deeply engaged in an ongoing education process. Measuring success requires integration with data from the marketing automation system and most importantly, CRM.

Forge a New Way Forward

Although B2B marketing isn’t really converging with B2C, it is changing dramatically thanks to digital technology. Just because B2C got to the digital marketing arena first doesn’t mean they own the game. The challenge for B2B marketers is to understand the foundation of their business and their specific buyers’ journey, then find the technology that helps them scale. They need to find what truly works for them without compromising the principles that drive their businesses, and they won’t be able to do that by copying B2C.

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