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What can B2B marketers learn from B2C marketing?

John Webb, executive director of EMEA, Spiceworks, highlights the value of vertical communities.

When looking back at the most engaging and creative marketing campaigns that launched in the last few years, your thoughts will likely turn to the attention-grabbing consumer campaigns. But what about B2B?

The problem is B2B marketers tend to be more predictable when engaging with prospects, so campaigns are typically less memorable. They often forget their buyers are no different than a consumer in that he or she is, well, human. Just like consumers, B2B buyers want to have meaningful engagement with the brands they care about online, and these take place in communities and forums.

Marketers shouldn’t overlook social communities as a means to engage with their customers and solve their problems more effectively. They need to rethink their strategy to ensure they’re reaching potential buyers where it counts.

Go vertical to get personal

Rethinking how you engage with customers and prospects is a critical first step. Building an active presence in vertical communities where your prospects spend time during the work day is a great way to drive this change. The likes of Facebook and Twitter can be impactful when engaging with mass consumers, but in the B2B space, you’ll have more success by narrowing your focus to specific markets. With the likes of Edmondo for educators, HealthUnlocked for healthcare professionals, and Spiceworks for IT professionals, brands can find more opportunities to engage with prospects and increasingly become an influential presence throughout their workday.

Professionals typically join vertical communities to find answers, share best practices, and engage with like-minded peers who understand the major challenges in their particular industry. It is in this knowledge-sharing environment that brands have a real opportunity to become a trusted source of advice. In fact, compared to social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, research shows B2B buyers are three times as likely to turn to vertical communities to learn about products and services.

Become a trusted source of information

But in order to have more meaningful engagements with your prospects, simply setting up a profile is not enough. B2B marketers must get involved in conversations with their prospects, help answer their questions, and share their perspectives on trends. The key here is to ensure your message and tone feels authentic. Repeatedly selling your products and flaunting your brand is a surefire way to get ignored. Be personable, and be willing to discuss topics that fall outside of the products you offer. Buyers want to know they can rely on you to be more than just the sales or marketing person.

In fact, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey, nearly 50% of B2B buyers listed peers and colleagues as a top source of information during the buyer journey, up significantly from 20% in 2015. So it’s important for B2B marketers to stay top of mind among prospects and create meaningful experiences with them. That way they’re much more likely to recommend your products in online when the opportunity arises.

Rethink your content strategy

As you begin to build personal relationships within vertical communities, it will become a lot easier to personalise your content strategy. B2B marketers need to learn that their remit is much broader than widely distributed white papers and unfocused content programmes. Sharing content for the sake of it, because someone out there might read it, is not a rewarding endeavour. Personalisation is key and vertical communities can help brands deliver on this count. B2B prospects and customers want to know why a product fits their business needs and what problem it solves.

So although the mindset of B2C and B2B customers may differ in some ways, both are still human, and thus respond to certain marketing strategies more positively than others. Gone are the days when white paper distribution was one of the only ways to engage with buyers – it’s now about getting social. Consumers want the same experience with B2B companies as they have with B2C brands. No one wants to be another sales number, And engaging in vertical communities relevant to your industry is an important step in creating more meaningful experiences with your buyers.

As Dave Sumner Smith put it in his paper, Vertical Networks: Origins and Outlook, vertical communities were initially borne out of business needs, so why shouldn’t those operating in the B2B sphere use them to get closer to customers and solve their problems more effectively? It’s time to show the human face of your organisation.

Spiceworks is a professional network for the IT industry, headquartered in Austin, Texas.

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