4 Tips to Consumerize Your B2B Marketing

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apple orangeThe lines between the business and consumer worlds are blurring. In the technology world, this manifests in what’s being called the “consumerization of IT” where popular consumer technologies (e.g. smartphones and apps) are bleeding into the enterprise. This trend extends beyond IT to touch many facets of business. And B2B marketing is no exception.

Today, B2B companies are borrowing marketing strategies already proven successful in the B2C marketing world. They’re using these strategies to market to the common business user, create transparent pricing, and offer a frictionless buying process.

Here are four ways that B2B marketers can borrow B2C strategies to consumerize their marketing.

1. Use Marketing to Reduce the Need for Outside Sales
B2C marketing has many strengths. Abundant product information is usually available online, pricing is transparent, and it’s relatively easy to make a purchase. Of course, B2B purchases are often several orders of magnitude more complex than a B2C purchase, but B2B marketers can provide similarly detailed product specifications, demos and more on the Web to help educate buyers. In addition to providing detailed product information, publishing fixed pricing and providing Web purchasing options can go a long way toward smoothing out the buying process and reducing the need for an outside sales force.

2. Offer a Free Trial of Your Product
While it’s not possible for every B2B company to offer a free product trial, companies with a low cost of goods sold (such as cloud software) should consider offering their product on a free trial basis so buyers have a hands-on idea of what they can expect when they make their purchasing decision. However, in order to generate leads, it’s important that B2B marketers don’t give everything away; it’s necessary to force a purchasing decision at some point. This can come either in the form of a trial expiration date or through allowing only paying members to use a certain product feature.

3. Create Customer Challenges to Encourage Feedback
Customer testimonials are a great marketing tactic, but finding the right people to be your advocates can be difficult. To encourage more customers to get involved in marketing, B2B companies can create challenges for their customers that offer a reward upon completion of the challenge. For instance, you might create a case study challenge to encourage your customers to tell stories about how your product has helped them improve their operations. In exchange for a compelling case study, marketers could provide a reward such as an Amazon gift card, or give free access to a service at their company. To use Act-On as an example, the company uses Influitive, an advocate marketing company, to manage its advocacy program. On the Influitive platform, when customers complete challenges they accrue points that can be exchanged for badges, rewards, or a higher user level. In addition to these perks, participating marketers can help establish themselves as thought leaders within the Act-On marketing community.

4. Turn Your Marketing into a Game
In keeping with the gamification trend, B2B marketers can turn their educational marketing into an actual game. While this can be difficult to do in the B2B world, I recently found a great example in the networking company SonicWALL. SonicWALL created a game designed for IT professionals called The Network Security Challenge. The game asks players to decide what to let past the firewall as potential threats come up. As the game progresses, threats come in faster and faster until the player inevitably fails. The point the game makes is that manual decision-making about what to let past a firewall doesn’t work, what’s needed is an enterprise network security solution like SonicWALL to automate the process. The game ultimately helped SonicWALL sell tens of thousands of dollars of network security from the leads generated. B2B marketers everywhere should consider how they can teach the need for their product by creating a similarly educational game.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it provides a framework to help B2B marketers start thinking about how they can borrow B2C strategies and roll them into their marketing. If you have your own tips to provide readers, please feel free to leave a comment below.