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What B2B Marketers Can Learn from B2C

Message in a Bottle

Having just completed the third out of four Cisco Partner Velocity Workshops, my head is full of ideas generated by dozens of conversations with partners and comments from our event evaluation forms. One conversation stands out a little for me. A partner asked me where I get my ideas from.  My answer  to this is “everywhere”. Outside of the conversations I have with Cisco partners, vendors, and marketing colleagues across the company, I read a lot… and I mean A LOT. I read everything I can get my hands on – books, white papers, blogs (see my blog roll), magazines… you name it. If it has words on it, I will read it. Here’s the deal though, not all of these are business-oriented or marketing-oriented. Don’t get me wrong. A good portion are directly relevant to me as a marketer and to what I do here at Cisco.  But definitely not all.

Here’s an example. Right now I am reading “This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of Human Obsession” by Daniel Levitin. You’re probably thinking “what’s that got to do with anything marketing related?”  Think about movies and how the music score influences your experience, commercial jingles, theme songs for television shows, and yes… music as a branding tool. Think about the sounds your computer makes when you boot up and shut down. And I’m sure you’ve heard the Cisco audio identity sounds at some point, including at the end of our human network commercials.

Will I come away from reading this book with new marketing program ideas for our partners? Maybe. We’ll have to see. I just started reading the book after all. My point is, ideas to help you evolve and elevate your marketing can be found in places you wouldn’t normally look.

I point this out because there were several comments from partners at the Velocity Workshops wanting more partner examples of marketing best practices. Totally understandable. Here’s how we prioritized  the examples used within our workshops:

First Choice – Partner examples. This requires that the partner is willing to share with a roomful of their potential competitors. Not always easy to get. You understand, I’m sure.

Second Choice – Cisco examples. Wherever possible we share our own marketing examples and experiences.

Third Choice – Third party examples. And yes… these can be examples from outside of the technology industry or (gasp!) consumer examples.

Partner and Cisco examples are nice, directly relevant, but I think that third party examples from outside of our own industry might be where there is the largest potential for innovating B2B marketing.  Coincidentally, I received (and yes… read) a white paper this morning from Silverpop on “Exploring the Differences and Similarities of B2C and B2B Marketing Tactics”. Based on a survey of more than 1,800 marketers, we may not be so different from our B2C counterparts in some respects and can learn from them in some areas.

Here’s some interesting facts:

  • Both B2C and B2B marketers indicated their top challenges for the year are in finding more prospective customers, upselling or cross-selling to their customer base, improving analytics to strengthen campaigns and better leveraging new marketing channels, such as social media.
  • 45% of B2C marketers indicated that they are challenged to increase customer loyalty. Only 27% of B2B marketers indicated that this was a key concern.
  • 50% of B2B marketers want to move sales prospects through the pipeline faster. Only 29% of B2C marketers want to speed up the purchasing process.

Things we can learn from B2C marketers:

  • B2C marketers us social media as means to sell to individuals. Social media marketing allows them to have one-to-one conversations with customers and prospects.  As B2B marketers, we, too, sell to individuals, but sometimes seem to forget this and put the customer company first. No matter what you are selling, buyers are individuals who seek out other like themselves for insights and recommendations. Including social media in your marketing mix can help to bring the necessary human element to drive engagement.
  • Customer loyalty is a primary focus for B2C marketers and should be for B2B marketers as well. It costs more to acquire new customers, so establishing and maintaining good relationships with the ones you already have is just as important. Customer loyalty is about keeping customers, not necessarily about selling more to them. This is especially true when business is tough and customers spend cautiously. Truly engaged customers are valuable assets that must be nurtured and protected. Even customers that don’t buy a lot, but are passionate supporters of your services and products can be supremely valuable to your bottom line. In the world of social media, individuals that willingly or eagerly offer their opinions are of greater value to you than those who merely passively purchase from you.

Download the complete white paper for more details and ideas. And the next time you find something interesting as a consumer think about how that might translate to your own B2B marketing efforts.  Seen anything interesting lately? Let me know by posting a comment to this blog.

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4 Comments.


  1. Hey Ruth,Great article. It is true that B2B marketers sometimes tend to lose their focus on the end customer. And as much as social media is important, it is essential to be very, very cautious. The good and bad thing about social media is its viral nature. If you’re not careful about what you’re conveying, it might just end up doing more harm to the brand. Remember Nestle’s recent Facebook fiasco?

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  2. I dont know. Social media marketing is becoming old news now (Over-Flooding), you’ll get losted in THAT Ocean Now. We are gonna have to come up with New Ideas all over again.

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  3. It’s all about building relationships no matter who it’s with. That’s what I do with all the businesses I work with and customers. It’s super easy to do so I don’t know why other businesses do a poor job at building relationships. I guess there are a lot of businesses that just care about the money and not the customer experience.

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  4. I liked what you had to say about B2C marketing because clearly, products aren’t sold in the way that they once were. Obviously there’s been a huge shift towards marketing products based on the specific needs of individuals. Social media has become the best tool for marketers to identify and leverage those needs all the while communicating in such a way that does not make consumers feel like they are being sold something.

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