The differences between B2B and B2C, and how to shape your strategy to take full advantage…
Building personas is one of those things that every marketer knows they should do. After all, the prospect or customer is at the heart of the sales and marketing process. And if you don’t know your audience, how can you market anything to them?
Take the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definition of marketing: “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
So far, so straightforward. Create a persona, understand their hopes, motivations, and needs, and then that’s it.
The question is then… what should go into a persona? Who’s the target audience? And what do you need to know about them?
In B2C, it’s normal to start with demographics. Age, location, gender. That sort of thing. Is it the same in B2B?
Imagine you’re marketing for a software company offering e-commerce companies a simple and easy way to manage their checkout process. There are VISA and Mastercard options. PayPal. Even Bitcoin. The dashboard is intuitive and the user experience is consistently excellent. And it’s run in the cloud, which makes it particularly agile and scalable. You just have to market to the CIOs of the e-commerce companies who need this solution.
What do you need to know about the CIOs? Do you need to know their age, location, gender? Of course, this is all useful information. And yes, it will help with defining the tone and style of the messaging. But is it more important than finding out their attitudes to e-commerce solutions that operate in the cloud? No.
That’s why when creating B2B personas, things are different.
You might think that branding plays a bigger part in B2C. However, a Google report found that on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers. Is that down to their knowledge of the market? Their experience with other brands? This is essential when it comes to positioning. Because increasing your market share usually involves decreasing your competition’s. So you need to know how your target audience engages with the market.
What’s at stake in any investment, and how does that have an impact on their attitude to change? Will buying a new product position them as a thought-leader? Or will it show them as a risk taker? Any purchase probably has to be signed off by other people in the organisation, so you’ll need to factor that into your offering.
A key difference between B2B and B2C is that B2B audiences are already in a buying cycle. A CIO will have their budget. So you can devote less resources on encouraging them into a buying cycle. Instead it’s a case of influencing them to go into your buying cycle.
This is where personalisation comes into play. Using automated marketing solutions such as HubSpot or Marketo will help you manage this on a large scale, as long as you segment correctly. Analyse what they’re clicking on in your emails, and include different calls to action. Their behaviour here gives real insight into their motivations, and removes the question of whether they’re telling you what they think, or whether they’re telling you what they think you want to know.
Of course, you need qualitative data to help you create personas. Social media is the obvious channel, but to make it easier, use a listening tool such as Hootsuite, which enables you to follow hashtags, and listen in to what people are saying , not only about your product, but your industry and competitors.
Look at how industries, especially dynamic ones such as tech, evolve. More generally, there’s the never-ending volatility of markets and economical situations. Plus the natural way your personas will change attitudes and beliefs over time – which often follows no logical pattern. So ideally, this should be on a continuous basis.