June 1, 2016

B2B2C Marketing: Controlling the message when you don’t control the experience

By: Young Pham, Chief Strategy Officer

We no longer live in a world where Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) marketing exist in separate universes. Welcome to B2B2C, where lines are being blurred every day as the digital revolution transforms the marketing and sales landscape.

New technologies – ranging from mobile to geolocation – have fundamentally changed how companies market not only to businesses but also to those companies’ end consumers. B2B2C is based on marketing synergies with an intermediary that maintains the relationship with the end consumer.

In traditional B2B and B2C marketing there is a clear division of “ownership” of relationships. Company A sells to Company B, and Company B sells to its target market, but Company A has little to no access to the end-user market. Digital technologies have created a major shift in how companies think about marketing because they have to be equally adept at communicating with both their partners and the end-consumer simultaneously.

The challenges of this paradigm are obvious: How do I work with my customer to determine the right positioning for them? How do I develop supporting education and marketing that support the intermediaries? How do I provide communications that drive end consumer demand?

We’ve developed a three-part approach that helps set the foundation for B2B2C marketing:

Focus on behavior

Use a needs-based approach to determine what behaviors you’re trying to influence. Most companies focus on how they differentiate themselves, but the harder questions address what problems the company is actually solving and if they are asking end consumers to actually change a behavior. For pharmaceuticals this could involve asking a person to change his or her lifestyle to become healthier, and for financial services companies it could be encouraging customers to adopt a technology that changes the way they pay for goods and services.

Different messages for different audiences

Understand that everyone’s behavior is different, and that by looking at consumers through different lenses savvy companies can communicate relevant messages that meet the needs of each audience. For a supplier, it may be figuring out why a particular user (or group of users) is important to its business. For consumers, it’s all about understanding that one person’s motivation may be different from others’.

Enable the enabler

You don’t control the experience – but you should craft the message. As a business, you need to provide the tools and support for your partners to be able to distribute materials or communicate the benefits that you are trying to convey. Consider creating a playbook to make it easier for them to be your representative. Both parties benefit, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together rather than in clearly defined “silos” with minimal overlap.

We constantly hear the term “win-win” to describe a relationship that benefits everyone. In most cases, this turns out to be an empty platitude – but in marketing it is rapidly becoming the new reality. All it requires is an acknowledgement that the traditional concept of a “middleman” no longer applies in the digital age, and that new technologies have created a continuum of information between suppliers, distributors, and consumers that have broken down the barriers of B2B and B2C.