The Convergence of B2B and B2C Marketing

B2B sales processes are well known for having long lead times, multiple and revolving stakeholders in the decision making process and fluxuations in (read: vanishing) budgets.  This has given rise to a plethora of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, etc, with the main goal of maintaining timely, relevant contact with sales prospects.  Almost as if B2B marketing is an endurance race where the last business standing wins the contract.

Meanwhile, over in B2C, there is much more focus on the "now" - as in "buy now", "shop now", and so on.  Immediate response, immediate results.  And that has given rise to a focus on the interplay between Owned, Earned and Paid media.  Specifically:
  1. Organic content and SEO to distribute relevant, timely and shareable news and information
  2. Social networks for peer reviews and real-time feedback
  3. Digital media for message optimization and cost-efficient scale
While it's certainly valid that B2B sales are longer processes than B2C there are key attributes of the B2C sales and marketing process that are making their way into business purchase decisions.  The main driver is not the business process or the products or price involved, but rather the preferences of the women and men researching, evaluating and ultimately deciding to purchase.  Because we, as professionals, don't leave our private selves at the door when we step into our offices.  Rather, we bring our likes and dislikes, our expectations of timeliness and relevance along with us.  With that in mind, here are three emerging trends in B2B marketing and media that are merging with B2C:

1) E-commerce/Digital solutions
Simplicity, convenience and overall ease of purchase are ubiquitous to consumers making personal purchase decisions.  Those preferences of "I want it now!" are bleeding over into their business research and purchase decisions as well.

2) Personalized content
Providing individually targeted data and details that are easily parsed and shared is essential to influencing a business purchase decision.  And the best (read: only) way to do that well is through online content delivery channels.  A recent eMarketer survey showed 60% of US senior level B2B purchase decision makers indicating vendor selection based on content that made it easier to show ROI and build a business case for the purchase.

3) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML)
Widely hailed as the emerging tech that is going to be the salvation of marketing relevance and personalization, these are the hot tools and tech across both B2C and B2B.  AI & ML are basically faster and more accurate at identifying high propensity customer targets, key messages and channels as well as emerging trends in a market or within a specific account.  Usage of ML can assist with to analyzing audience (customer and prospect) interactions to inform purchase intent; AI to model customer lifetime value, build lookalikes and implement targeted account-based programs.

But the devil is in the data.  Without clean data, there will be no positive results.  Garbage in, garbage out.  And even with clean data, managing and executing against this data requires a dedicated team with a data science background.  So, while trends in B2C of convenience and simplicity will continue to influence B2B marketing, media and sales, the complicated environment within B2B makes adoption of these tools and techniques critically challenging - setting up a potential barrier to entry for smaller businesses with not-so-deep pockets.

Even so, the basic principles of marketing: product, place, price, promotion  are still alive and well in both B2B and B2C.  And while bureaucracy has traditionally slowed the B2B sales process, there are some emerging tools and technology that are alleviating many of those traditional pain points.  All of this making B2B look increasingly like B2C - driven not by new methods of communication but by the preferences of those that consume them.   

eMarketer: B2B Content Marketing 2018: As Usage Nears Saturation, Still Lots of Room for Improvement