I am a B2B marketing guy.
Yes, I have founded several companies that appeared to be consumer focused companies in Craft Beer and Craft Coffee. But in reality both of them were consumer oriented products with a strong consumer front end for marketing but were solidly built on, and focused on, business to business growth.
One of the primary reasons I prefer business oriented marketing is that it is focused on solutions to problems. Of course fashion, popularity and irrational behavior can still abound, but as a general rule you have to actually deliver a solution to your customer’s problems NOT just make them believe they will be able to fly when they use your product. Pretty radical. This is not to say that the individuals involved in the decision process (and it’s always a process) don’t want to be seen as storage superhero’s (that was a fun project to work on btw!) and really smart people.
Unlike a lot of consumer focused business models that are obsessively chasing the fickle and ever morphing consumer; business models built upon solving actual business problems are both far more exciting and exponentially more difficult. I like really difficult challenges. Complex, hairy, hard to solve, devil’s in the details, nail it, aim for the moon problems, and elegant, well thought out, excellently executed and smoothly implemented solutions. I sincerely appreciate the lean startup approach of minimum viable product and am looking forward to applying it’s best attributes to slightly more traditional hardware and software companies. Even Forbes is getting into the act and thinking about what the differences are in sales and marketing between B2B and B2C business models.
I love constraints.
B2B marketing is fraught with a picklish number of constraints. From hardware and software technical limitations, liability concerns, vendor lock-in, compliance and regulations and more it is often the constraints that breed the most creativity. (although far too much B2B marketing is deathly boring and un-engaging so it gets lost in the noise.) There are a few good examples of course like the NetApp campaign above and even stodgy old Raytheon. It is the constraints that add the intensity and pressure needed to extrude creative solutions and marketing.
I also love competitors.
Competitors forma brilliant ecosystem of mutual promotion and pressure to succeed. In the early days at a hot little SaaS startup when you are the only one doing anything like what you are doing it seems pretty great. But few brands deal well with the sudden market compression that occurs when strong competition enters the market. When you are in a market that has plenty of direct and indirect competitors you literally grow up in this battle. Trust me it’s far more exciting and fun. Plus your best competitors can often become great friends as you are both stretching for the same goal.
So back to the question of whether or not there is a fundamental difference between B2B and B2C marketing. My friend and fellow Twitter bowtie wearing author and marketing maven Bryan Kramer summed it up best with his new book: Human 2 Human: #H2H
There is no B2B or B2C:
It’s Human to Human #H2H
As marketers, we’ve been trained to speak “business to business” (B2B) or “business to consumer” (B2C). But instead of this creating a simple framework for dialogue between humans, it set forth an unnatural language for marketers, using words like “synergy” and “speeds and feeds” to tell the stories of products and services to their buyers and partners. The fact is that businesses do not have emotion. Products do not have emotion. Humans do. Humans want to feel something. And humans make mistakes.
I agree with Bryan on this 100%. It is shocking to me that in this modern age I spend so much time explaining to seasoned, professional, highly intelligent B2B marketers this simple truth:
Behind every title and buyer persona is still a person. And people do things radically differently than titles do.
To me the heart and soul of marketing is all about people. Sure the names can be a little different and the processes might be radically different but the truth of the matter is that it’s still all about people and solutions to problems. That’s why I like business focused marketing best but believe that we need to apply a more human face to it.