What B2B Marketers Can Learn from B2C

Jay Mitchell

There remains a distinct buyer-seller gap in the business-to-business (B2B) arena. CSO Insights found that although nine out of 10 buyers acknowledge interest in engaging with sellers earlier in the buying process, 70 percent engage a seller after already identifying and clarifying their needs, while 44 percent have already identified solutions.

Why are buyers so reluctant to connect with salespeople sooner? Clearly they desire for someone to provide them value and to guide them to the best solution, yet they rarely find true value from salespeople.

There is an opportunity for sellers to serve as trusted advisors and to engage buyers earlier in the sales journey. But it takes extra effort and strategy that most B2B organizations are not yet undertaking.

The current state of market pulse insights

In business-to-consumer (B2C) industries, brands rarely invest resources in audience engagement without first conducting consumer research. From focus groups to user surveys, marketing turns to the audience to hear firsthand what is resonating and what is not — and why.

This type of buyer testing rarely happens in B2B. There is a reason for this: salespeople are interacting with buyers on a daily basis and many organizations believe this is good enough. After all, sellers have a pulse on the market, so this must be sales’ responsibility.

Yet this means sales becomes the single voice of the buyer — and product teams and marketing people are hearing that voice, if at all, through the filter of sales.

Too often, when B2B marketing and product teams create content, develop a new feature or share a piece of collateral, buyers see these things with furrowed brows, wondering, “What are they talking about? This doesn’t matter to me. I don’t even know what that is.”

Adapting a B2C marketing practice into the B2B arena

B2B organizations can gain a better pulse on the market in a few ways:

  • Sales invites marketing to participate in buyer interactions — Marketing is able to gain and maintain a pulse on the market through firsthand interactions, and sales provides marketing the opportunity to do so on a regular basis when it will be most valuable to winning the sales cycle. Net, marketing adds value to sales and is invited to help more — gaining invaluable buyers insights along the way.
  • Marketing directly engages the buyer – Marketing can invite clients and prospects alike to join working sessions on go-to-market strategy and messaging, bringing the voice of the buyer directly to the frontline. Mereo maintains the Decision Maker Network™ for this reason, with 300-plus business buyers for buying journey insights.
  • Applying market insights effectively – Directly hearing what matters to the buyer and why it matters will influence the messaging framework marketing applies to its content engine, but it also provides opportunities for marketing to transform information into insights, such as buyer personas.

Taking these extra efforts to better understand a buyer naturally leads to teams engaging more effectively with buyers. This has been the experience of Josh Hardy, CMO of Axway:

“Our first success with a market pulse was when we convened our sales, marketing and product teams into a single room and invited buyers to join the working session. While our end goal was a compelling messaging framework that resonates with our audiences, the first step was to simply listen to these buyers and to get a pulse for what was important to them. By bringing these stakeholders in the room together, Mereo helped draw out a unique take and meaning from what the buyers were telling us. We were able to create more meaningful content, our salespeople gained an edge with their credibility, and our messaging was highly relevant to our buyers’ concerns and needs. We amped that up when we invited the buyers to join us for a panel at our sales kickoff earlier this year. Enabling our sellers to hear directly from clients was game-changing.”  

Jay Mitchell is founder and president of B2B consulting company Mereo LLC.