Forget B2B and B2C; the future of marketing is P2P

Move over, B2B and B2C marketing. Columnist Joe Hyland believes marketers need to embrace person-to-person (P2P) marketing and connect with their customers on a human level.

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Ss Target CustomerBy now, we can all agree — digital has changed everything. So, it only makes sense that digital is responsible for blurring the lines between the marketing strategies of business-to-business (B2B) companies and those of business-to-consumer (B2C). Now that we can reach individual customers at scale, we have to start treating every customer as a person first, and the “customer persona” second.

Forrester analyst Steve Casey put it eloquently in his latest research by calling this trend the rise of the “B2B consumer.” For a career SaaS marketer, I’ll admit my first reaction was skepticism.

The conventional wisdom is that enterprise deals require buy-in from a committee of stakeholders, all motivated by their organizational responsibilities rather than personal interests. So, it should really be about putting our value proposition in business terms, right?

I realize now that’s an oversight. When I think about the marketing campaigns that have grabbed my attention and made me want to engage, the thing they all have in common is that they speak to me as a human being, not generically as the CMO of a martech company.

Personalization draws me in, entices me to explore what the vendor has to offer, and then compels me to share those findings with my colleagues. Why then do most marketing strategies I see today still feel so canned and insincere?

In the age of marketing automation, it’s easy to forget that the customer is not just another contact at a target account — it’s alive! And, thank goodness… if decision-making relied solely on an empirical decision based on cold fact, marketers might be out of jobs.

It’s time that marketers forget B2B or B2C marketing. Instead, we must master person-to-person (P2P) marketing. To start, let’s look at some of the ways you can gear marketing and content strategies to be more human and connect with customers in a genuine way.

Tell a story

Storytelling is an overhyped way of saying “don’t pitch your product.” Everyday brands are required to articulate their business to new customers; sales-y pitches just add to the white noise. Instead, imagine your customers as the heroes of your brand’s story, and explain how you can help them along their many, different journeys.

Goldman Sachs’Progress Campaign is one of my favorite examples of taking a storytelling approach. By celebrating the leaders of the cities and businesses in the firm’s investment portfolio, what could be a boring case study becomes as interesting as a short film.

A really important lesson here is that if you tell a compelling story through your marketing content, you don’t need to gate it. Those stories will drive authentic curiosity and interest among prospects. They will want to learn more!

The dominance of the form-fill as your marketing campaign’s primary goal is outdated; instead, focus on making an emotional connection with your customers, and the customer information will follow.

Humanize your brand

The hardest problem with B2B technology or services is that most of the time what you’re selling isn’t tangible. It can be very hard to break free of business jargon and communicate your company’s value. Marketers find themselves too close to the product, unable to remove themselves from the company messaging they helped create.

One strategy is to find connections between your brand and concepts that anyone can wrap their head around. This can take on many forms, whether it’s a simple analogy to everyday life that sticks or more literally comparing the relationship of your company’s many parts to that of the human body. It’s about reframing your business proposition in a simple, easy-to-understand perspective.

A brilliant campaign that follows this philosophy comes from MailChimp. By equating marketing automation with a second brain, the understanding of what they offer is instantaneous and transcends their core email marketing solution.

Immediately, the campaign communicates the company’s benefit to the individual in a relatable, human way. And, who wouldn’t want a second brain? In this case, MailChimp isn’t the victor; it’s the savvy business owner who decided to invest in a second brain!

Empathize, don’t glorify, the job

Let’s be real — 50 percent of our day-to-day tasks are pretty boring. Brands that fail to recognize the daily struggle we all face just frustrate me. Of course, I want to be a marketing guru, but first I have a list full of action items to complete and meetings to attend.

Glorifying the job only makes me feel like I’m going about it all wrong, especially when there are other marketing savants who have apparently triumphed over the daily grind and turned campaigns into revenue overnight.

We all know that smooth seas are an online fantasy, so empathize with your fellow marketers. Detailing how something happens is as important, if not more so, than the outcome.

Don’t just champion the results; recognize the work it took to get there. Break your value proposition down to those unique, individual efforts versus detailing the business achievement in macro.

A model for this is HubSpot’s Facebook page and new podcast, Weird Jobs (disclosure: HubSpot is an ON24 customer). Both properties focus on the individual doing his or her job as opposed to the way an organization operates as a whole. Customers want to know how HubSpot can help them be more productive employees so they can contribute to companywide success, not the other way around.

At the end of the day, everyone is selling something, no matter how flamboyant a job description they have. This unites us all and creates a community of professionals just trying to do their best daily — not superheroes who never have a bad day in their life.

Create a cause

From Toms shoes to Chobani yogurt, consumer brands have done an incredible job of demonstrating that they stand for something beyond their product. This is an important lesson for B2B brands. After all, the decision to partner with a vendor isn’t made on impulse; it’s often part of a larger strategy. That’s a perfect reason to show those customers that they can trust your brand and that it represents a bigger vision.

One brand that takes this to heart is American Express (disclosure: American Express is an ON24 customer). For the last few years, American Express has laid claim to the day after Black Friday, dubbing it Small Business Saturday.

The event took off, and it now has transcended the American Express customer base. Businesses across the country now look forward to the day as a time to celebrate the local entrepreneur, all thanks to a clever marketing campaign by a credit card company.

Measuring what really matters

Breaking out of the typical B2B campaign box takes courage and patience. You have to play the long game, and measuring that impact is hard.

We need new metrics to evaluate whether we’re winning customers’ hearts and minds, in addition to their company budgets. So, it’s critical to ask our customers how they feel about us and create interactive feedback loops such as surveying for NPS scores, holding livestreamed events and convening customer advisory boards.

At our company, we measure the strength of our customer relationships by how individually engaged they are. How much time does a customer spend consuming our content? How interactive are they in that experience? How many customers opt into our customer advocacy program?

These questions start to paint a picture of a person’s behavior and attitude. Once you understand what drives a person’s actions, you can focus on best serving their needs. It comes down to treating customers as more than just clicks and views on the other end. Use data that’s reflective of who customers are as people — then treat them like humans! That’s P2P marketing, and that’s the future.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Joe Hyland
Joe Hyland is the CMO of the leading webinar platform company, ON24, where he is responsible for the company’s global marketing, communication and brand strategy. He has over a decade of experience creating and marketing innovative products in the enterprise and SaaS software markets. Before joining ON24, Hyland was the CMO at Taulia, the SaaS market-leading financial supply chain company. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College.

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