The B2B Voice Is Different, But It’s Not Quite B2C
To put it plainly: B2C brands act differently, and there’s a lot they can get away with that your B2B brand can’t. However, the difference is dwindling, slowly.
Consumer-facing brands focus on emotional appeals and speak to today’s devices, as we noted in our last piece, and this encourages consumers to think the brand is their go-to for whatever product or service. The image as the go-to is the focus even if the service/product isn’t the end-goal.
Consumers are investing in brands, and they place a significant value in the what the brand stands for in a larger context. This is becoming more common in the business space, but that’s largely to satisfy a consumer play in the supply chain.
When a brand like Walmart develops sustainable partnership requirements — which you need to advertise so you can be considered — the ultimate push is to tell B2C audiences that the company is green. This impacts marketing on all sides, but the buyer at Walmart doesn’t have the same emotional connection to environmental sustainability; it’s still a business goal.
The intertwining of multiple stakeholders, marketing goals, and pitches highlights how B2B is becoming more like B2C, while some barriers have not been crossed. Keep reading for one specific example and a couple of lessons to include in your B2B marketing.
Your Go-To Example
To understand the changing nature, think of yourself as a software firm focusing on small business accounting. In the past, you would pitch price and the ability to do routine tasks automatically. Old B2B would focus on a list of activities and rates, mentioning per-user costs. And today, if you stumbled on a website that makes this exact pitch, you could head over to Google and find another dozen doing the exact same thing.
Here’s today’s difference. Your accounting app isn’t the go-to app to perform a list of accounting tasks. It’s the go-to app for performing an accounting task correctly, reducing stress and making sure a business doesn’t spend too much. It’s the go-to app for peace of mind.
Build Beyond-Informational Content
Look at your favorite food brands’ content and try to pick out what the main call-to-action is. In almost all cases, they’re trying to get you to add their product to your life for a better life, but they don’t rely on a “just the facts” approach that is common in B2B.
Coca-Cola is a master of making people believe that it makes your party, afternoon with friends, or movie better. The main focus is enjoying an activity or the people around you, while the drink plays a supporting role. A wide variety of beer brands do the same, emphasizing the benefit you get from your friends while implying (or outright saying) that beer just takes it to the next level.
In the B2B alternative, let’s consider productivity tools that include a messenger. You come across a piece of content for each. One focuses on a study that shows messenger-based project management tools will increase your team’s efficiency by 12% after just one month.
The second piece doesn’t provide the 12% number, but it does provide a storyabout how a team was able to turn a team that was always a day late into one that delivers projects a day ahead of time.
In this scenario, even if the 12% gain is technically better, the relatable story is more engaging because it provides a way for the audience (you) to feel what the product can do, not just have a detached idea of what it could potentially provide.
Borrow, But Stop Short
In today’s B2C marketing there are three tenants that often lead to strong marketing when they are successfully achieved: a witty, casual tone that is relevant to people’s daily lives.
The borrow focus here is casual. Removing the stuffy tone allows you to connect with people on an emotional level. Remember, business buyers will expect a logical argument, but they will make an emotional decision.
A casual tone removes the logic focus and makes stories more relatable, so you’re strengthening the bond between product and customer. Stop short of completely casual, however, because you can send buyers running for the hills if you don’t mirror your audience’s comfort level.
Regarding relevance, it’s time to caution you to stop short of mirroring B2C because the audience is different. The best example of this is a meme.
Memes are cyclical, and one that’s making the rounds again is Arthur’s angry fist, from the kid’s show Arthur. It’s a simple image that shows anger and works with a wide range of context, and this Ruffles tweet from last year is a splendid example:
It works with some millennials and those who are living deep in meme culture, but it won’t necessarily play well without the context or if your audience is older or if your topic is serious.
It works, sort of, but it isn’t exactly that engaging. Memes rarely make sense in the B2B space — when they do, they can be amazing though — so choose your moments carefully.
Witty follows the same rules. It can really work or really backfire, so it’s best to keep it from being a chief focus of your campaigns. Ease in and get your audience on board before jumping right into a witty focus.
Opportunity Has Arrived
It’s now okay for your brand to sound like a person, so take that concept and run with it. You still have to know your audience and speak to what they want, but there’s no more requirement for a formula of X% off, per-user costs, or any bland stat.
Your messaging no longer needs to be robotic, and that means it can be more successful.
No one buys from a robot, expect the people who buy from chatbots, and those are designed to sound like people.