Blame it on Steve Jobs: One of his unheralded innovations at Apple was to see that there were no real differences between B2B and B2C communications.
The genius of his insight was that he saw that all stakeholders were inspired by the same core facts and beliefs, they consumed much of the same media, and they influenced each other. Engineers watched their local TV news in addition to reading trade pubs. Investors sought out popular tech media in addition to embracing financial news, and suppliers did, too. Consumers often discovered technical content they were never supposed to see.
And it’s worked, not only at Apple, but for a number of B2B brands that now use mainstream advertising, social media, and a variety of earned media outlets to talk about their businesses in meaningful and memorable ways.
So there’s no reason why you can’t put the same B2C tools to work for your B2B brand, and every reason why you should.
So, what do innovative B2B communications look like? There are five qualities or keys to consider:
Relevant — Most B2C marketers propose what their buyers will be able to do with the product or service, what it’ll mean, how others may view it, and the ways their experiences will make them feel. Speeds and feeds are in the fine print.
Sounds crazy, considering your B2B company makes electronic parts or something like that, right? Well, it’s actually pretty smart to address the broader contextual reality in which your buyers make their decisions. Will doing business with you make them smarter, happier, or more personally successful?
Focussed — B2C marketers are very adept at telling parts of a story instead of always telling all of it; they segment their content to meet the informational needs of particular stakeholder groups, consisting of buyers and/or influencers.
It often seems that B2B communicators do the exact opposite, striving to reference every theme, message, and buzzword from the marketing department actually denigrates the value of the associated content. Dare to skip telling the whole story every time you talk.
Transparent — It is standard practice in B2B communications to rely on customer references on completed sales or implementation projects; everything that comes before that is considered proprietary and confidential, and there are established reasons for it.
But are they valid anymore? Today, buyers expect to be partners, and that means involving them — and the world beyond them — in the processes and other activities that lead to the products and services you sell. B2C marketers do it all the time; the journeys of their businesses are as notable as its outcomes. Yours should be, too.
Collaborative — One of the more intriguing practices across the B2C space is brands that engage with content they’ve not created via mechanisms like review websites and chatrooms. Even the most critical voices about your business are evident and easily accessible online, so they’re part of your buyers’ decision-making process whether or not you like it.
Innovating B2B communications can mean embracing this fact and working with those voices, not ignoring them.
Challenging — Many B2B companies spend significant amounts of money and time to create content that articulates executive or company positions on topics that market research has identified as topical and relevant, and call it “thought leadership.”
It’s mostly worthless since the very idea is premised on providing content that is surprising, contrarian, and ideally challenging. This is what B2C business do, especially on topics relating to sustainability and the environment; doing otherwise is like asserting that “water is wet.”
You need to learn to dare to challenge your buyers or, as Steve Jobs once said, think different. To gain more of an insight into B2B Communications, go to our B2B Communications course page to learn more about how B2B companies can adopt B2C communications tactics to thrive in a customer-focussed, digital world.