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BtoB

Facing our fears and crossing the chasm

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As a b-to-b marketer, one of my biggest fears is becoming irrelevant. To me, irrelevance says you have lost touch with your audience. For a marketer, audience is everything.

Ironically, the more ways we have to connect with our audience, the more difficult it becomes. Unless we can figure out how to consistently cut through the marketing clutter and relevantly engage with our audience, we will struggle. For those marketers who have "broken the code" of relevancy, scorched-earth loyalty is the reward.

How, then, can we marketers stay sharp, connected and relevant?

I often talk about using data-driven insights, and from my vantage point, b-to-b marketers can learn how to be more relevant by looking at an unlikely role model. Readers, this may be an unpopular recommendation but I believe this is a real diamond in the rough. (Take a deep breath.)

I'm proposing that we expand our horizons and learn from our b-to-c brethren.

Actually, b-to-b and b-to-c marketers can learn a lot from each other. In today's consumer-centric economy and whirlwind environment of breakneck speed, changes and lightning-fast developments, marketers need to be extremely flexible. Marketers who cross the chasm to glean the best ideas from the entire marketing population will be the frontrunners.

While there are distinct differences in b-to-b and b-to c marketing, let's focus on a few common areas that are ripe with valuable insights.

Humans, connect! B-to-c marketers connect with people who pay from their own bank accounts. B-to-b marketers connect with people who pay from their company's bank accounts. The common denominator here is people. Human beings.

Seeing the way b-to-c marketers personify messaging, branding and images to better connect with individuals is inspiring. Frontier Airlines, operating in a highly competitive, skinny-margin industry, personified their airplanes with animal images (they talk, have names), infused with humor and creativity. Each plane now has a fun personality, an animal image and connection points which extend beyond the inanimate reality of an airplane.

Create raving fans. Knowing your customers and prospects—really knowing them—can generate enormous payoffs. Data is the fuel that can create deep, rich, actionable insights that help you anticipate and predict your customers' wants and needs. This can create raving fans who are incredibly loyal and often vocal about your awesomeness. Revenue follows. Scott Stratten of UnMarketing fame calls this "Return on Awesome."

Zappos is a b-to-c role model in making ravings fans. Zappos built its entire company culture around understanding customers in order to optimize customer experience. Their approach is revolutionary. Zappos scorecard for their first 10 years: $1 billion in revenue, and a No. 23 ranking on Fortune's "Top 100 Companies to Work For" list. Amazon.com acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Get emotional. People make decisions on emotion. This reality is often product- and company-agnostic. Technology and emotion have intersected. Great marketing uses emotion—words, voice, images, music, interaction—to engage and inspire. B-to-c companies do this so well.

A most elegant and touching two-and-a-half-minute YouTube video does this beautifully. See how photographer John Butterill uses Google+ to capture our hearts and minds

Thank you, my b-to-c marketing brethren, for great lessons for my b-to-b world.

Sandra Zoratti is an author, speaker and VP-marketing at Ricoh Co. (www.ricoh-usa.com). You can find Sandra on LinkedIn, Twitter @sandraz and on her website sandrazoratti.com. Her email is sandra.zoratti@infoprint.com.

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