What B2B SaaS Companies Should be Learning from B2C

For decades, B2B SaaS marketers have envied the high growth success stories of B2C companies. However, many then insist that, ‘I’m a B2B product, so I could never do this in my specialized industry.’

That kind of thinking is outdated. B2B and B2C companies are not on two opposite ends of a spectrum. And failing to learn from B2C successes is preventing you from creating true long-term brand loyalty. And it hurts your ability to keep your brand top of mind with your customers.

“The worlds of B2B and B2C have been on a collision course for some time now,” says Joe Rivas, global chief exec of Doremus. “The recent impacts of Covid-19 and new work from home models have only increased the intersection between the two worlds.”

2020 has quickly made most B2B playbooks obsolete, creating noisy channels and blending work and home life like we’ve never seen before. Whether in marketing, sales, or product, it has become abundantly clear that B2B companies have a lot to learn from B2C. Let’s break down some of those lessons from B2C marketing, brand, and product design strategies.


Marketing

1. Build Relationships

B2B marketers seem to struggle with the idea that there is a relational, emotional aspect to promoting their products. More than 75% of B2B ads from this year achieved only one star out of five in ad effectiveness scoring tests. This is largely because they focus on literal, narrow, rational elements in the content of the ad.

Carla Piñeyro Sublett, the chief marketing officer of NI, said it best in this piece from The Drum: “If we continue to run the same plays in B2B, filling inboxes with unopened emails and throwing up banner ads, we are only contributing to a go-to market strategy that is noisy, flooded and at risk in its ability to make an impact. We must instead take a page from consumer brands, going a level deeper and taking the time to think about how we can develop a meaningful relationship at the right level with our customers as people.”

2. Address the whole person

The stressors of macro-trends this year, combined with everyone rapidly learning the ropes of remote work, has blended home and work life like never before. As Joe Rivas, global chief exec of Doremus, said, “At any one moment you can be a mom, a CMO, an organizational leader. And as work and home continue to blur, B2B brands are having to compete for time and attention with not only their direct competitive set, but all B2C marketers.”

This has created an opportunity to test out new marketing strategies you never have before. B2B marketers should re-orient themselves to deliver valuable, relevant, and engaging content that addresses the entire multitasking professional of today.


Brand

1. Just because it’s business doesn’t mean its boring

According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, B2B marketers were twice as likely to do rational messages over emotional messages. However, according to LinkedIn’s research, emotional messages were significantly more effective for out-of-market customers (customers not actively in the market to purchase something).

This data makes sense upon reflection: B2B purchases are infrequent, so your customers are much less likely to be actively looking to make a purchase. By focusing on emotional messaging that resonates and stays with customers, your brand will be top of mind when it is time to buy.

2. Deliver value first

Many of us are familiar with the old adage, “You won’t remember what a person said, you will remember how they made you feel.” This lesson is just as relevant for brands. At its simplest, a brand is a mental shortcut for consumers, and the best brands have a firm hold on customers’ mental availability.

By focusing on delivering value and engaging with customers first, it will remove the friction of the buying process, create fandom in your target market, and keep your brand top of mind when the all-important purchase decision is being made.


Product

1. It doesn’t matter who your users are. They have high expectations.

B2B products are not exempt from user experience expectations; the consumer world has set a very high bar for frictionless digital experiences, and 2020 has forced every experience to go digital.

You might be thinking to yourself, ‘Okay, but my industry is too specialized for that to be relevant.’

Is it more specialized than tugboats?

Trelleborg Marine & Infrastructure launched a 360° VR video experience (something you’d expect from a consumer tech brand) when it introduced a new digital offering that helps big vessels and tugs move more safely and quickly. According to Stein IAS, the agency that created the campaign, social engagement was off the chart, and marketing qualified leads rose 820% as a result. We are all a lot more than employees, and we know what makes a good user experience. Invest in product to satisfy your customers.

2. Let Product Handle Loyalty

We’ve all instinctively returned to a familiar brand when we need a new pair of tennis shoes, or an upgrade to the family car. We trust the quality of those product, and develop loyalty to them. Yet when it comes to customer loyalty in B2B, we spend precious marketing budget to retain or upsell existing customers instead of focusing on acquiring new business.

According to LinkedIn research, B2B organizations should leave the loyalty-building to the product team and focus marketing budgets on acquisition and market penetration. By properly investing in strong product, the quality should retain customers and make the product such a valuable part of their workflow that they couldn’t imagine life without it. It also allows for upsell opportunities to be introduced at natural points within the actual product itself, creating a seamless experience for users.


B2B companies have their own unique needs and challenges that don’t exist in B2C, but the days of a distinct line between the two are over. B2B marketers and product teams should be paying close attention to the success stories of B2C brands, because there are some valuable lessons to be learned. The challenges and stressors of 2020 have made it abundantly clear that its time to retire the outdated B2B playbooks, and update them with some B2C plays that focus on empathy, value, and exceptional user experience.