In today’s dialogue-driven business environment, it’s critical to learn how to build a strong social community – and that goes for B2B as well as B2C. If you have experience in B2C community-building, here’s the good news: B2B isn’t all that different. After all, B’s are just a collection of C’s – the C’s are just consuming B products.
Yes, that sounds a bit like a song I might sing to my toddler. But building a B2B community really isn’t all that different fundamentally than building a B2C community in terms of the high-level goals and the requirement that one act like a human. That being said, there are 5 big differences between the B2B and B2C consumer, and understanding them will get your B2B community marketing initiatives off to a good start.
A business consumer is your consumer because whatever it is you’re selling is theoretically something that they need to do their jobs – or do them better. The #1 thing that you can do for a B2B customer is to help them do their jobs better. This is something to keep in mind when crafting a content marketing strategy.
Business consumer purchasing habits are largely determined by the industry and discipline in which they work – and that industry or discipline will most likely follow them for quite awhile. What this means for you, as a B2B brand, is twofold:
1) You can form long-lasting relationships with a person that will follow them even once they leave their current position, and
2) There isn’t a whole lot of brand loyalty here that’s more important than product functionality. Unlike a B2C world wherein consumers will forgive shoddy performance because they have immense brand loyalty, we revisit differentiator #1 here: these consumers want you to help them do their jobs better. If your product isn’t up to snuff, they’ll choose a new one regardless as to whether your logo is cute and they used you in their last job.
Here’s where B2B marketing is actually easier than B2C: your influencers are pretty darn easy to find. Typically, a B2B influencer is going to be a seasoned professional in the business industry you target. What this means is that any decent social media marketing tool will allow you to identify and engage influencers a lot more easily than you might if you were selling ice cream.
The other bonus here is that industry influencers typically consider their thought leadership position to be part of their jobs. What this means for you is that, if you can figure out a way to engage an influencer with a program that increases that person’s influence and reach, you can create some happy and long-lasting partnerships – and some of those will (per point #2) last after both of you move on to other companies.
It’s not that often that you see a B2B customer ranting online about a company. After all, per point #2, people are likely to stay in the same industry and discipline a lot longer than they are in the same job, and it’s simply not professional to go off on a rant. The good news here is that you run less risk that you’re going to cause some sort of social media crisis or be called out on social channels for whatever it is that’s annoying people.
But remember: just because people are obeying the “If you can’t say something nice…” rule doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be trying just as hard to please your B2B customers. You should be trying harder, because the engagement can last a lot longer.
Yes, pictures of cats are fun. But B2B consumers have a job to do, and while being entertained is most certainly a nice way to lighten up the workday, real value to business professionals is in content that (per #1) helps them do their jobs better and more easily. Please don’t take this to mean that engagement in B2B necessitates pedantic, dense educational material; you can still get creative with what might help folks do their jobs better. Hubspot is expert at creating cool template downloads, for example.