A majority of modern businesses fall into one of two categories: B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business).
These classifications provide the building blocks at a company’s inception, as they broadly define a brand’s audience and target market.
For decades, such denominations have ruled the business world. The terms B2B and B2C are so ingrained in our vernacular that only seasoned vets will recall a time when such terms weren’t the status quo.
But, in the rapidly changing sales and marketing landscape, it’s important to challenge the status quo. While B2C brands have adapted in the face of an ever-sophisticated Internet audience, many of their B2B counterparts haven’t experienced a similar evolution.
Now is the time to expand upon the confines of B2B and B2C, and start thinking in terms that better reflect the customer-centric world we live in. Enter, B2P (business-to-person) sales and marketing.
Today’s post will discuss the common pitfalls of the B2B framework, and explain why a B2P approach is more conducive to long-term business growth. Keep reading!
What Is B2P (Business-To-Person)?
A B2P strategy transcends the B2B/B2C distinctions by placing the emphasis back on people — either individual consumers or the several individuals that make up a B2B buying committee.
By adopting a B2P approach, you recognize that each person involved in the purchase of your products has his or her own unique needs and interests. These unique characteristics then drive your entire business strategy – from branding to content creation to customer service and beyond.
Why Should B2B Companies Embrace A B2P Approach?
B2B companies tend to embrace a style of communication that is more risk-averse. They cater to a wide variety of people and try not to single out or alienate any one type of person. In particular, B2B messaging speaks more to a person’s job title than it speaks to the actual person.
In recent years, we’ve seen B2C companies embrace more grassroots-style branding through personalized messaging that zeroes in on the qualities of individual consumers. On the other hand, B2B companies still seem predicated on appealing to the over-generalized “prospective customer.”
Here’s the problem: B2B companies may technically sell to businesses, but they really sell to people, not unlike B2C brands. The difference is B2B purchases are made by a committee of people, typically consisting of 5-7 individuals.
When B2B companies avoid risk and cast the widest net possible, they fail to stand out to these decision-makers. And, when decision-makers don’t connect emotionally with a brand or understand a brand’s values, they’re less likely to buy from that brand. Consider these statistics:
- 64% of people cited shared values as the main reason they have a relationship with a brand (source).
- B2B brands that connect with buyers on an emotional level earn twice the impact over marketers who are still trying to sell business or functional value (source).
- B2B customers are more than 2x as likely to consider a brand that shows personal value over business value because they see little difference in the business value between suppliers (source).
B2P aims to provide a solution to the over-generalized, impersonal approach which hinders many B2B brands.
Key Considerations For A B2P Business Model
We don’t expect you to reject the B2B label altogether or start calling your company a B2P business. But, there are a few important considerations you can make to introduce a B2P philosophy to your business strategy:
Does your branding stand out and take risks?
Imagine you’re a member of your business’s target audience. If you looked at any of your brand’s online profiles but covered up the company name and logo, would your brand itself still be recognizable?
Here are some further questions you should ask yourself to determine how well your brand sticks out from the pack:
- Do you use the same verbiage and tone as your competitors?
- What story does your brand imagery and messaging tell about your brand? Does it tell any story at all?
- Do you use the same design elements and stock photos/videos as other companies?
- Is your brand product-centric or customer-centric?
Originality is a key component of the B2P framework. In order to connect on a personal level with your audience, you must first craft a brand image that is unique and immediately distinguishable from the rest of the pack.
The above questions dovetail into our next consideration:
Does your brand leverage storytelling?
The term brand storytelling gets thrown around often, particularly as more B2B brands have begun to embrace the tactic in their content strategy. Unfortunately, many of the same old problems plague B2B brand storytelling: unoriginal concepts, nondistinct tones of voice, and an over-emphasis on results.
It’s incumbent on marketers to form a brand that conveys sincerity, personality, and empathy for their target audience. Storytelling is an effective method to achieve those objectives, but only if your storytelling content is both valuable and unique.
Here’s an example. Maersk, a Danish shipping company, began using social in 2011 to raise brand awareness and form stronger relationships with its customers. They focused on telling emotionally-impactful stories directly related to their business, such as their role in spurring a boom in the sales of Kenyan avocados which helped boost Kenya’s economy. Maersk now has over 63K Twitter followers and 2.45M likes on Facebook.
Do you offer personalized customer service?
B2P is predicated on stellar customer service. After all, it’s not a business that reaches out to your company for support — it’s a person. When someone poses a question on social media, sends a support request, or needs to resolve an issue, your brand must be there right away with a personalized response.
While personalization seemed cutting-edge not too long ago, it’s now commonplace in both the B2C and B2B worlds. As a result, brands that don’t leverage personalization stand out in all the wrong ways.
Fortunately, technology has made it easier to streamline your customer service process. Interactive knowledge centers, chatbots, and other digital tools allow you to engage with each customer promptly without resorting to boilerplate responses.
Final Thoughts On B2P Sales & Marketing
Given the speed with which the industry changes, B2B businesses will always benefit from challenging the status quo. You don’t need to overhaul your entire strategy for the sake of calling yourself a B2P company. But, you should remember to question the tried-and-true philosophies that we’ve operated with for ages.
Embracing a B2P mindset means taking creative risks, providing the best possible experience for your customers, and creating a brand that’s unique to the others in your field. As marketers and salespeople, we can not afford to be bandwagoners in such a fast-paced world. As Ann Handley has so rightly said, smart companies lead conversations, not just join them.