When I get home from work, I change my clothes. It’s a ridiculous ritual, especially now my regular attire is business casual. My long-suffering wife just rolls her eyes when I tell her “I’m just going to get out of my work clothes” and swap a shirt and a pair of jeans for - a shirt and a pair of jeans. There are probably deeply disturbing psychological reasons for this which are best left for another time but it does nicely highlight the artificial separation between our business and personal lives.
It strikes me that those of us working in the B2B world are missing an important opportunity if we forget that a business is made up of a group of people. People who are also consumers. Yes, occasionally a B2B mega-brand like IBM will run TV advertising, usually during something like the Rugby World Cup, but by and large B2B companies don’t exploit many of the techniques their B2C counterparts regularly use to gather insights from their customer base.
I understand the reasons why. B2B marketing is predominately one-to-few and we don’t go in for mass market plays. But what of we challenged that thinking? As the B2C world becomes increasingly personalised, those old arguments start to break down. If a consumer brand regards me as a market of one and works hard to maximise its share of my wallet (think about how comms companies, once content with providing your mobile or phone line or broadband or TV, now want to provide all four), why can’t we use their techniques to improve our B2B conversations?
Let me share a recent experience that illustrates what I mean (and I’d love to hear from anyone who has others). Over the summer, I was working on a project for a company that offers a SaaS solution which optimises a process deep in the back office of every enterprise. We developed some pretty compelling sources of value as building blocks for a traditional demand generation campaign – sufficiently impactful to elevate the proposition so it appealed to the C-suite. As luck would have it, my customer’s marketing director had come across an amazing consumer research platform which was dipping its toes in the B2B market. “Why don’t we use their platform to test our value levers in our target market?” we asked ourselves. So we gave it a go and constructed a brief that defined the type of people we want to reach - age, role, industry, salary, and so on – and the insights we wanted to obtain.
To cut a long story short, we were able to obtain the opinions of the demographic we wanted and validated our new value levers in just a few days - and at a fraction of the cost of traditional research. All because we remembered that businesses contain consumers.