The core of marketing is, and always been, understanding the target audience and customizing presentation for achieving desired goals. Depending upon target audience – the presentation undergoes major changes and has variously been coined as B2C (Business To Consumer), B2B (Business To Business), B2G (Business To Government) etc. While B2B marketing employs highly rational, detailed and analytic presentations to hammer home value propositions and return on investment, B2C marketing employs emotion-driven, catchy, impulse-based communication designed to appeal customer desire.
Deficiency Of B2B And B2C Marketing
A common thread that runs through both approaches is a largely one-way communication to convince the customer to buy a product or service, mostly overlooking customer’s unique views, liking and tastes. Though B2C marketing is meant to be directed at individual consumers’ desire – in practice it targets a particular demography such as 18-25 year-old women, or 35-50 year-old middle-class men etc. However, such demographics exist only in the abstract. A real-life 35-year-old man who owns a car and aspire to buy home might have twin daughters and a taste for musicals.
Even in B2B marketing, businesses don’t decide ultimate purchasing decisions — people do. The decision marker is also an individual with specific taste and leanings. B2B companies may technically sell to businesses, but in practice, they sell to group of decision makers, just as B2C. B2B purchases are typically made by a committee of few individuals.
Emergence Of B2P
In this age of social media – customer, whether Business or Consumer – does fair bit of research before making a purchase. The marketing communication is no longer one-way – customer has a way of finding out a lot about the product and company and make an impression – good or bad. A smart way would be to treat the customer as an individual, tap his/her thoughts, liking, search history etc. from social media and engage in one-to-one communication. This way, the business will be on far stronger footing in addressing a specific need or desire. This is what B2P or Business to People marketing do. A B2P marketer never approaches their business customers as mere organizations, but as individual people with unique wants, expectations, and tastes.
B2P is a new way for both B2C and B2B marketing. Instead of B2B/B2C distinction, Businesses may just take a single B2P approach. Core of B2P approach is to humanize business. It requires keen listening of customer requirement, adapting product features to suit personal preferences, offering customized solution, using case studies to help customer and generally raise the trust factor.
The first step toward creating a B2P marketing approach is to put people first, and to align marketing with people’s behaviors. Next, put in place processes that support them and finally technology follows. This may sound simple but is not intuitive to a traditional marketer. Experienced marketers tend to think in terms of channels because that’s how marketing has happened historically – through channels, not individuals. Marketing involved messaging through a few established channels using right balance of general and specific information to attract maximum number of potentially interested people. B2P turns this paradigm on its head.
Is B2P Practical ?
Treating each customer as individual and engage in specific communication sounds well-nigh impossible given the scale and diversity necessary. Large organizations are more suited for this approach and many of them actually practices this in some form or other. For example
- Amazon uses customer’s past purchase record and search history to suggest products
- Dell gives customers option to “build their own computers” by making choice of component
- Real estate brokers suggest nearby homes using IP address of customer
- Small businesses with Facebook fan pages, which can interact with fans on a one-to-one basis
Technology has made it possible to adopt B2P marketing even for SMEs – in varied degree. Specific steps for a technology based B2P marketing has been discussed in later part of this article. In reality, a business may adopt a mix of approaches that suit their marketing goals best.
Implementing B2P For Your Organization
There are several steps that organizations can take to implement B2P gradually. The core of B2P is connecting with customers at individual level and get feedback. Here’s a few examples
1) Leverage Social Media :
An effective B2P campaign must engage targeted people through social media. Depending upon requirement, businesses decide which type(s) of social networking websites to be used. For direct to customer campaign – Facebook and its like could be useful. For targeting business professional – LinkedIn, Innocentive or TopCoder may be better options.
These websites offer a place for like minded people to meet, share thoughts and contribute to discussion. B2P marketers must leverage the opportunity to engage in dialog. Paying attention to users’ contributions to these sites reveals what consumers think about a business, and what they want from it. Independent of advertising, different users will discuss the values of products and services—and their disappointments as well. A company’s participation in these sites allows them to respond directly and immediately to consumer wants and needs.
2) Orienting Business Websites For B2P
Business websites should be more customer-centric and interactive. Overall goal should be to tailor the information and experience according to each person’s preferences. Wherever possible, business website can use information about the customer’s location (from their IP address), their browsing history (from tracking cookies), and activity on your site (which can be tracked without cookies) to determine what information appears to them
3) Customizable Products
A product may have many features, but they do not appeal in same way to customers. Mechanically presenting all features to all customers make little sense and may even irritate customers. Presenting a bouquet of features as per requirement of a specific customer is far more meaningful.
4) Personalization Of Communications
Gone are the days when spamming customers with randomly selected offers was considered normal, in the hope that at least some of them would stick. This practice has always been irritating, today, in the age of ever-growing personalization, it is unacceptable. Communication between a business and the customer should be as personal as possible. Perhaps one may not afford to use as sophisticated recommendation algorithms as the ones used by Amazon or Netflix, but there are always simpler (yet still effective) ways to achieve similar results. For example, one may offer clients to answer a quiz for finding preferences and tastes; and use that information to offer a customized solution.
5) Chat, Blogs, Forum
These are simple ways of establishing communication at personal level. These also provide valuable information about active users, their personal liking and tastes and very valuable analytics.
Internet is rapidly changing the traditional way of marketing. Given its speed and impact, B2B businesses will always benefit from challenging the status quo. One doesn’t need to overhaul entire strategy for the sake of calling oneself a B2P company. But, remember to question the tried-and-true philosophies that we’ve operated with for ages. Embracing a B2P mindset means taking creative risks, providing the best possible experience for customers, and creating a brand that’s unique.