As B2B marketers, we’re always looking for the next channel, tactic, or piece of technology that will make our lives easier and bring in more leads. At times, we even entertain strategies used by our B2C contemporaries, either by specifically researching these strategies or simply gaining awareness of their use.
In some ways, marketing is marketing. In other ways, B2C marketing is very different from B2B, and not all B2C tactics will transfer.
Using a bad fit marketing tactic for a B2B audience can have a range of repercussions, from wasting part of a marketing budget to losing the trust of your customer base because a campaign went sideways.
Stay away from the following B2C marketing tactics and trends:
1. Facebook Live (or Periscope, or YouTube Live)
The recent April the Giraffe Facebook Live stream kept the US waiting round the clock for over three weeks for a baby giraffe birth, but does this sort of content translate to B2B? Holding a Facebook Live event can bring you lots of views, but the appeal of these events lies in their transience. Customers can pop in and out without you ever knowing they were there. While these events give the illusion of personalization, they remain impersonal — which makes it awfully hard to connect with new prospects.
Want to provide really good content that shows how your company or product addresses customer pain points? Give a webinar. Speak at a conference. Do something that gives you a follow-up opportunity. Running a webinar through GoToMeeting or another similar service provides valuable feedback about participants and engagement that you just can’t get with Facebook Live.
While many B2C brands use Snapchat to promote their products, users are more likely to look here for shoes, news headlines, and consumer brands than to decide on a new accounting platform. When you look through the Snapchat ad specs, you might think, “Ah, but we can use this! They let you attach content and link to things.” Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good investment of your time or money?
Think about your target market. Are these the same kind of people who might buy your product? Only 30 percent of North American Snapchat users are millennials or older, and only 18 percent of overall social media usage comes from Snapchat. B2B marketing needs to focus on professional decision-makers. Snapchat’s atmosphere brings the young, hip, and fun, but it doesn’t exactly scream decision-maker.
At the risk of belaboring the point and sounding even more like a fuddy duddy (also, get off my lawn), what about Snapchat Ads? Ads show between stories, and you can connect an article to your video ad (I admit that’s pretty cool), but for business prospects who need deeper information, how much helpful content can you stuff into a 3-10 second video?
I love this app for shopping, looking for recipes, and finding crochet patterns, but like Snapchat, no one is going to find their enterprise CRM+marketing automation tool on Pinterest, because no one is looking for that sort of thing on Pinterest.
Keep your target audience in mind, and spend your time and marketing budget elsewhere. In addition to its ocean of spam (and even a couple hundred Spam recipes), Pinterest is also one of the worst offenders for Dark Social.
4. Free Offer with Purchase
You know that car lot that gives away a free turkey at Thanksgiving with every new car, or promises $1,000 cash back? That tactic works with consumer products because marketers are trying to convince the customer to make a large initial investment. It doesn’t work with B2B brands because:
- You should be offering a free trial anyway.
- You should be working off a subscription model or some form of recurring payment plan which will net more revenue in the long run.
- It makes your product seem chintzy if you have to bribe people to buy it.
- What is a business going to do with a turkey (or a set of Taylor Made golf clubs, or a branded canvas tote)? Offer something of value instead, like premium product support.
5. Crowdsourcing Product Ideas
B2C companies love to poll the masses to choose the next new flavor, color, or product design. This has resulted in Boaty McBoatFace, cappuccino potato chips, and significant buzz for the companies involved, but how do you turn this into something that works for a B2B market? You don’t.
Want to add a new feature to your product? Talk to your power users, conduct customer interviews, and use a scientific approach to product testing. Crowdsourcing your product can lead to flash and fizzle popularity when you want sustained growth.
Business is business, and while sales contests are fun motivators for your team, sweepstakes and idea contests really don’t have a place among B2B customers. Work with truth and honesty, and be up-front about your product. You can have fun without relying on gameshow tactics.
6. Oculus Rift and VR
Don’t simulate good sales, make them. A 360-degree customer experience in B2B is still defined as providing good service and a great product. Instead of building/wasting your marketing budget on a high-tech simulation immersive experience, spend that money on research and training for your teams.
What Works Instead
- Use social media for thought leadership and building relationships. Follow up with phone calls and emails. Do not sell through social media; it’s still creepy.
- Segmentation and personalization still work. Actually, your B2B efforts should start here. Find and target your ideal customer list; then work toward scaling your efforts.
- Use long-form, educational content like webinars, e-books, and blog articles to build brand trust. Publish your links to these all over social media, and direct interested parties toward contact forms so you can reach out later.
- Video still works for B2B, whether it’s embedded in a blog post, in an email, or on the home page of your site. Using YouTube to host videos you publish elsewhere will make it easier for people to engage and share. Eighty-nine percent of video viewers go on to share educational content, according to a 2013 Animoto survey.
- Search engine marketing (SEM) should still make up the bread and butter of your inbound strategy. Effective SEM goes a long way toward raising awareness and establishing your brand as an authority in the space.
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A lot of the things B2C marketers do to reach individual consumers just don’t translate to the B2B market, where products are more complex, ROI takes longer to realize, and purchase decisions are made by groups of stakeholders. If you want to strengthen your market presence, focus on creating and promoting valuable content, and build a customer success team that reduces churn and increases account engagement.