B2B Becomes P2P: The Business Marketing Revolution

June 23, 2015 | Posted by Kim Hutchinson | Marketing

It’s 2015, and B2B marketing is no longer Bland2Boring. Today, it’s hot. Ad Age recently released its first-ever B2B Marketing Fact Pack. IBM just released a report on the impact of the millennial generation, the new B2B decision makers. Budgets are up, and the blah factor is decidedly down. “We have to be more human,” Andy Goldberg, global creative director at GE told Ad Age in a recent round up. “You have to be a great storyteller, especially in b-to-b.”

In part, this is due to the millennials, who have some distinct differences in product research and purchase decision-making styles. But other factors may be involved the shift, such as the commodification of information and growth of mobile media.

Millennials are the new decision makers

As they enter their mid-30s, millennials have greater impact on team decisions in the workplace, and they are moving into decision-making roles. A recent IBM study illustrates how their unique perspective shapes B2B purchase decisions.

Not surprising, ready access to data is important. They aren’t so interested in 3rd-party reviews, but they do place great stock in what their colleagues think. And providing authentic, personalized experiences wins them over.

Through most of the buying journey, millennials prefer to interact with vendors via phone or email. When they do want to connect in person, what they want to know is what it would be like to work with you, because they place a high value on a hassle-free experience. Millennials and Gen X both believe in team consensus, so you may have to appeal to a variety of roles and perspectives in your marketing.

Is it too much information?

Another factor may be the free availability of information. Ten years ago, the same time that YouTube came online, author Daniel Pink predicted the coming Conceptual Age, a time when data has become a commodity and knowledge work is often outsourced. While we still need left-brained thinking, we may not value it the same way. We now value right-brained activities and viewpoints. Innovation, creativity, sympathy and instinct—all very human qualities—help us succeed professionally.

Another possible factor is the perception created by digital media. We’ve known for a long time that a medium influences our perceptions. But if B2C and B2B brand messages are all together in the same environment—your phone—do customer preferences and expectations change? The marketing channel does impact brand personality perception. And brand personality perception impacts purchase behavior.

B2B becomes P2P, but the goal is unchanged

While there is a lot of change going on in the B2B world, refocusing marketing messages to incorporate a more Person2Person approach, the end game remains the same. It’s still about helping prospective buyers navigate the path to purchase that leads to your products. Understanding today’s influences and decision drivers, as well as conforming to how your B2B audiences want you to communicate with them, will help you reach your goal of making sales faster and more frequently.

Now take our quiz: How well do you understand your B2B buyer's needs?