Chris Brogan has been talking about the human element of B2B for some time – as he says, there is another person on the end of that line regardless of whether your customer is a SMB, a large corporation or an individual consumer.
At New Marketing Labs, our partner base is comprised approximately a third each to B2B, B2C and those that are hybrids. We are asked, however, disproportionately often by potential B2B partners how digital media can be useful for them. Fortunately, we have demonstrated long term success with our B2B partners, so describing case study details makes this a relatively short conversation. That said, the more we work with both B2B and B2C partners, the more it occurs to me that our approach doesn’t differ according to whether a partner falls into either camp. Instead once we do our deep dive, the approach is based on the objectives of the partner, and many of the methodologies are the same. In fact, across social networks and the digital channel, I am not sure there needs to be a distinction along the lines of consumer or business customer focus. The social network might change, but there will still be a social network, and knowledge of how to engage in that network’s community is key.
Given this, it seems we really are focused more on a business to peer model, rather than one which differentiates between consumer and business facing brands. What differentiates a digital initiative is not whether you are B2B or B2C, it is what you are looking to achieve, e.g. thought leadership, sales, traffic, branding, and so on.
Once you clearly identify your business objectives, it is up to partners like us (shameless NML plug) to put together and implement the plan for you. We basically do this by finding where your target audience is on the web, and engaging them. The type and nature of the engagement will depend on the audience, platform and the objective.
For a traditional B2C partner, we seek and find the target audience, focusing on the peer leaders. It is more effective to engage peer leaders, as there is a ripple or multiplier effect when this is done well. We have had 100% success in our outreach programs to these peer leaders. That success is not a given, as there are protocols that have evolved already across the digital channel, and they are different than traditional media outreach protocols. Hence, across digital, B2C has become a business to peer or B2P model.
For a traditional B2B company, we similarly seek and find the target audience through what amounts to an extensive platform analysis and listening effort. We find where the CTO, CIT, CSO or other relevant company representatives are ‘living’ on line, and we engage them. Ultimately, we find – shock – that said representative is a real, live person, who just happens to share our partner’s interest in a specialized product or service. If there is no such environment – which can happen given the specialized niche nature of some products or services – we just create the environment which allows them to talk about issues relevant to an industry. Most times, this environment is a very lightly branded one, where direct sales attempts are not made, but where the community members make an association. The environment is driven by continually fresh content, and the topics ultimately drive enough traffic and interest that leads are inevitably generated and the sales funnel starts to fill. Many times, this is a bonus, as most branding and marketing folks are happy with the eye balls and the mantle of thought leadership. In these communities and networks, our partners are engaging their business peers who share very specific expertise and interest. Because business representatives are finding their peers, in the digital channel, B2B has also become a B2P play.
How to find, create and engage within communities is one of our secret sauces, but across the digital channel we are seeing a fundamental blurring of the line which has separated B2B and B2C business models – yet another demonstrable way that digital media has stimulated real peer to peer conversations and humanized businesses.
Do you see a relationship between B2P and digital media?