Evolving B2B marketing strategies

Jul 31, 2023
B2B Thought Leadership

This blog post explores diverse B2B marketing models, including B2C2B, B2B2C and B2H. It touches on the concept of business-to-consumer-to-business (B2C2B) marketing, the importance of considering stakeholders in business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) models, and the rise of business-to-human (B2H) marketing that emphasizes the emotional aspect of decision-making.

Harnessing the power of B2C2B: Personalized strategies for influencing purchase decisions

B2C2B is a marketing strategy that has gained prominence in recent years, revolutionizing the traditional approach to bottom-up marketing. This strategy focuses on targeting individuals within organizations, aiming to build brand love and transform them into influential advocates and influencers for the brand within their respective companies.

According to a Gartner study, B2B buyers report spending exceedingly little time with sales representatives. Only 17 per cent of the total purchase journey is spent in such interactions. This leads B2B marketers to look for alternative strategies to influence those customers who make purchase decisions within their organizations.

The following two examples illustrate how the purchase journey can flow when adopting B2C2B strategies.

Consider an organization with B2B and B2C customer journeys, such as Google. Google can leverage its B2C brand to capture brand affinity, which can then influence customers to advocate for their B2B business, for example, the adoption of the advertising platform, DV360.

But this approach works equally well with a strictly B2B organization, for example, one that targets key internal influencers using a B2C marketing experience. For instance, a SaaS organization may aim to provide a similar marketing experience to an individual's B2C purchasing journey.

Personalization lies at the heart of both of these examples – something we don’t often see on the B2B side of marketing. Adopting a personalized approach can foster stronger and longer-lasting adoption of products and services.

The new stakeholder era: Embracing the B2B2C marketing model

B2B companies can no longer afford to only meet their enterprise clients’ demands. They must also consider the interests and concerns of various stakeholders around their clients’ business. Welcome to our new stakeholder era, when consumers, advocacy groups, regulators, media and other parties can exercise their influence to shape how enterprises make decisions and do business. 

In this context, the B2B2C marketing model becomes an important way for B2B product, solution, and service providers to rethink the positioning and value proposition of their offerings, taking into account the potential impact their offerings may have on consumers and end-users, intentionally or otherwise. When done correctly, B2B companies can provide their enterprise clients more than the functional benefits of their offerings. They can become strategic partners to contribute to their clients’ stakeholder relations.

Take the hot topic of artificial intelligence and machine learning, for example. Banks have been using these types of technologies for some time to assess the credit risks of loan applicants to help facilitate lending decisions. That’s how they can process credit card applications or car loans at high speed to meet customers’ desire for instant approvals. However, consumer advocacy groups are concerned about the design of the algorithm, what data sets are used, and other elements of the technologies that may generate biased decisions. These concerns stemmed from decades of certain population segments having experienced difficulties in establishing a strong credit history to gain upward social mobility. 

As such, the origination technology providers now must take consumers’ concerns into account and demonstrate transparency and accountability of their technologies. They must make their AI-based solutions explainable to regulators and demonstrate how they are mitigating bias. For these technology providers, the “C” in the B2B2C becomes part of the stakeholder management model in servicing financial service institutions. 

This is just one of many examples of B2B companies being challenged to broaden their thinking, and consider how they can contribute to their clients’ and their own ESG commitments.

Embracing B2H marketing: The power of creativity and emotional connection

For years, marketers have differentiated their strategies by using the terms business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). The idea was that B2B audiences prioritized practical information, while B2C customers sought to satisfy personal desires. However, a new paradigm has emerged – B2H marketing – and this shift is here to stay. This approach acknowledges that both business and individual customers make decisions based on emotion and logic.

It's essential to recognize that humans make emotional decisions. Whether purchasing for personal or professional use, people often rely on their feelings to guide their choices. Emotional strategies have been shown to be particularly effective in B2B marketing, driving seven times more impact than rational approaches, as highlighted in The B2B Institute’s report, The Five Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing. By understanding the "why" behind purchasing decisions, marketers can create campaigns that address human problems rather than focusing solely on business outcomes. This perspective allows for a more significant consideration of cultural context and its influence on decision-making.

Embracing the human perspective has ignited creativity in B2B marketing, as demonstrated by many award-winning campaigns. The key lies in building a relationship with the person behind the professional role by meeting customers where they are and providing content that resonates with their preferences. Examples of creative B2B campaigns include personalized songs for CMOs, AI analytics companies adopting a B2C2B approach, and office wellness designs that encourage employees back to the workplace. By focusing on content, context and channel, marketers can effectively engage their audience in new and exciting ways.

The beauty of humanizing marketing through creativity and messaging is that it can be achieved regardless of budget. Cost-effective approaches to establishing an emotional connection include using humour, creating experiences or activations, adopting bold visuals, and experimenting with formats such as video or gamified brochures. These strategies can evoke feelings, foster storytelling, and maintain audience attention.

The shift from B2B to B2H marketing is a powerful evolution that enables marketers to create more impactful campaigns. By recognizing the emotional aspects of decision-making and embracing creativity, marketers can forge stronger connections with their audiences and drive lasting success.

Unlocking the power of diverse marketing models

The evolution of marketing strategies has brought forth the B2C2B, B2B2C, and B2H models, all with the common goal of fostering relationships and influencing decision-making within organizations. By leveraging B2C brand affinity, companies like Google showcase the power of using their consumer-focused reputation to advocate for their B2B offerings. Simultaneously, strictly B2B organizations understand the value of providing a B2C-like marketing experience to key internal influencers, increasing the likelihood of adoption. The B2B2C model further emphasizes the need for businesses to consider the interests and concerns of various stakeholders, going beyond solely meeting enterprise clients' demands. Lastly, the rise of B2H marketing highlights the importance of understanding the emotional aspects of decision-making and employing creative strategies to forge stronger connections with both business and individual customers. As marketing continues to evolve, these models provide valuable insights into how businesses can effectively engage their target audiences and drive lasting success.

Marc Cooper, CM, Junction59
Mahsaw Kazemi, MBA, The Trade Desk
Melissa Nemec, Scotiabank
Paula Port, Destination Toronto
Ashmita Tailor, Microsoft
Eric Tang, MBA, CM, Porter Novelli




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