Is there really no more B2B or B2C and only Human to Human (H2H)?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or offline, you will probably have seen this in one of your social media feeds and read about it. (It’s still very much doing the rounds on Linkedin.)
Whether it’s a new idea or the dressing up of some thoughts that have existed in the minds of some marketers for some time, Bryan Kramer has certainly managed to tap into the social and viral nature of the modern connected economy. He has successfully stimulated a debate that gets to the very heart of delivering on customer needs and how (or not) consumers and business customers are intrinsically different. And, because people interact with people, it has got a lot of buzz online.
There is a difference between wants and needs
But is it really right to pronounce the death of segmented marketing?
As one commentator suggests in the discussion thread on the original blog post, there is a difference.
There is naturally more emotion involved in consumer buying when you are spending your own money. It is led by a ‘want’. Business buyers are juggling many more requirements than a want and an association with a given brand and its other followers. It is more ‘needs’ based. Products and services need to deliver a return, a hike in performance, a reduction in waste, an improvement in efficiency.
Business buyers want to deliver economy and value and want to be trusted with company money. As the procurement function professionalises, and transparency, quality and sustainability in supply chains become more important, emotion can be left at the door in favour of more functional requirements.
There is a very clear need for segmentation based on differences in the buying process.
Human to human b2b
Where Kramer is absolutely correct is that people do buy people. Trust leads to transaction and increasingly marketing is about building a trust platform – witness the rise of ‘content’ marketing and the use of testimonials, case studies and other evidence as credentials.
But if there is an implication in Kramer’s theory that people don’t want to deal with brands, and particularly business brands, I disagree. When companies and brands – which are a tangible representation of ‘group think’ – organise themselves around customer needs and wants and present a human face, it can have a very powerful impact on their business.
We see scores of b2b companies where company advocates evangelise about the importance of h2h and this is in reality nothing new. Whether it is Michael Brenner from SAP in the US or Richard Robinson from Google in the UK, these are the public faces empowered by their businesses to connect with the business environment around them.
Pronouncing the death of b2b and b2c marketing in favour of a new h2h model is, the cynic in me thinks, more a provocative move designed to create fervour in both communities and to shift books.
There is certainly relevance to communicating with more engagement, impact and personality. But to me the distinct needs in b2b marketing mean it will always remain crucial to consider and understand how decisions are processed and made – by who, how and when.
Have your say. Is Bryan right? Or should we adopt h2h principles but continue to segment by b2b and b2c buying decision making criteria?
This feature was originally published by René on the Barrett Dixon Bell blog.