Your customers are people. It’s easy enough to forget that when selling B2C, let alone B2B. It is, however, true and worth remembering.
Your marketing shouldn’t ignore the people using the business, or risk losing the sale to someone else. People like to feel engaged in a business they use. If they feel like they’re just another number, they’ll be less inclined towards using you than if they feel part of a community of clients.
Seeing The Individual
Even when selling to a business, it’s still the humans involved that make decisions. They’ll decide if you’re the right choice for their business.
You’ve likely made purchases for the business before. Remember how that process worked. The final decision usually ends up coming down to a single person.
Seeing businesses for the individuals you’re actually selling to allows you to narrow down their pain points. When you understand the true purchaser, you can tailor your marketing to fit how your customers think.
Creating a community is common in B2C businesses, but still works in B2B. When you treat businesses as a set of customers with common purpose, it opens up many more marketing opportunities.
Identify Social Channels
Where are these individuals found?
Feeling like you’re being sold to can make people feel uneasy. An environment where you can interact with them without them feeling like you’re pitching at them is key to community based marketing.
Different demographics have different preferred platforms. You may find one that isolates your ideal customers from their business. Here you can focus your marketing where it’ll work the hardest.
LinkedIn is often considered the go-to business social media. However, the majority of its users are over 25. If you wanted to reach a younger demographic, such as recent graduates, Instagram’s largest user groups are under 25.
Engaging Your Customers
Find out what the individuals want and present it to them in a more personally. Get them talking about you.
Is there content you could create? Giving them something they can read or watch, then share and discuss will improve their engagement.
81% of Americans said they use YouTube, making it the most used community building site. If there’s video content you could create, such as tutorials, chances are you’ll find viewers there. If they can find answers on a video, they’ll find it easier to solve their problem.
Remember to not focus on your business. This isn’t about you, it’s about the product or service they share a need for.
A Director might want to know how they can make their business grow more easily. Someone more junior may be thinking about promotion, so a great acquisition could help their image.
When they’re looking for solutions to their personal wants, you can be there. Your content should help them find their answer and, in doing so, present your business.
You can also use your community as a forum for feedback. Let your customers feel they can approach you to thank you or give constructive criticism outside of formal channels.
Not only will this help them feel involved in your business, but it can provide useful insight. You learn what people really think, not a filtered and corporate appropriate version.
Using Loyal Advocates
When people like your business, they’ll market it for you. If there’s a place where you’ve fostered conversation about your business, it’s a great marketing tool.
When potential customers want to know more about the kind of product or service you provide, they’ll find people who’re happy they used you. These groups act as social proof.
This isn’t you saying how great you are. It’s their peers talking. This is better for building trust and costs you nothing.
If a happy customer has reached out to thank you, ask them if they’d be willing to put that into writing. If they’re satisfied enough to contact you, chances are they will.
The easier people find it to contact you, the more likely they are to do so. Make it easy for them, and your pool of advocates will increase.
Using Your Community
Often, all people need to talk to each other is for someone to get the conversation started.
One way is to ask a question as part of a post. This should be something really simple that relates to how the customer uses your business. It’s best if they don’t even need to read the content.
In this example, the question is “what tools do you use?”
It’s relevant to the content, but they could answer it without reading the article. They can jump in and start talking straight away. They may discuss their favourite tools without them being featured, but it’s all done in the context of the content.
The same can be seen in this example. It’s a different question, but it works in very much the same way.
Finding the right questions that work for your business and engage your customers will increase the power of everything you put out.
Using Your Network
When you put something out there, you want to get it spread as quickly as possible. You can use your network to help you do this.
When you share a post, the more others then share it, the faster it reaches new people. You shouldn’t have to create dummy accounts to share for you, there’ll be plenty already happy to help.
You could create an insider program for your business. The most engaged customers gain access to content a little earlier, so they’re eager to share it as soon as they can. Your loyal advocates could just need more of a notification to tell them it’s there to share it for you.
You can also work with your partners. Having other businesses that offer complementary services is common in every industry. They can complement your community as well.
Here, you can see one such partnership. Customers of both will see the post. This will improve both parties’ brand awareness.
From there, you create people who will want to see content from both, and share content from both. Even if you aren’t directly useful to a partner’s customer, they’ll know to mention you when a different member of their community could use your business.
This effect is mutual. Both communities support each other to become stronger. Becoming the go-to recommendation for a different community will help build your own.
Even in a B2B business, ideas that work in B2C can work for you so long as you remember that businesses are collections of people. Becoming more than a business and treating them as more than a part of their business will make B2B marketing much easier.
Conducting the customer research and creating the environment you need requires certain skills. What does a marketing director do – you may find that someone like a Part-time Marketing Director could help your business by offering flexible contracts to suit your business’s needs, they can bring the knowledge to your Board that you need to take your B2B marketing to the next level.
John Courtney is Founder and Chief Executive of BoardroomAdvisors.co which provides part-time Executive Directors (Commercial/Operations/
John is a serial entrepreneur, having founded 7 different businesses over a 40 year period, including a digital marketing agency, corporate finance and management consultancy. He has trained and worked as a strategy consultant, raised funding through Angels, VCs and crowd funding, and exited businesses via MBO, MBI and trade sale. He has been ranked #30 in CityAM’s list of UK Entrepreneurs.