BtoB

B-to-b, and b-to-c—what we can learn from each other

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B-to-b marketers have long had an advantage over our b-to-c counterparts. Decades before “voice of customer” (VOC) became a fashionable term and a critical success component, those of us in b-to-b had the benefit of a field sales force to capture customer feedback and to tweak our value proposition and messaging. B-to-b marketers on the other hand have generally always had the disadvantage of a channel that separated them from their customers. And, while the economics of channel stuffing and pushing title to product sooner have been appealing, the world has changed.

With the rise of the Web and subsequently social media, the average consumer now has every bit as much power and information as the professional purchasing agent had in the past. In the past, purchasing agents had scores of product catalogs that gave them referent expertise, the power of choice and the competition that it created to drive prices lower. Now, through the Web, anyone can have dozens of sourcing selections at their fingertips. And, with the rise of social shopping, those price choices are now coming complete with recommendations from trusted social networks.

With a centuries-old head start on customer connectivity via the direct channel, it is surprising that so many b-to-b marketers struggle to find connectivity with new media. This brings us to the conundrum: Why is it that, despite a historical schism between b-to-c marketers and consumers, they have been faster to embrace social media. A recent study showed that while 41% of b-to-b companies have acquired a customer through Facebook, we lag b-to-c companies, 67% of which have acquired a customer through Facebook.

My point to this post is that b-to-b companies have long had the advantage of direct connectivity with our customers, and whether it is fear of the unknown or lack of sway in the b-to-b marketing department (e.g. to get through legal's concerns), we seem to be foregoing that direct customer connectivity that we have long enjoyed.

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