B2B Marketing Automation Teaches B2C Marketers a New Trick

shutterstock-137272220If only I looked like Don Draper, I could be a B2C marketer. Or, if I had the cool, laid-back style of Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, I’d be a great Ad Man.

Sadly, I’m just a B2B marketer.

I’m a bit dismayed at the portrayal of marketing by the media, but they’re not far from the truth. B2C marketers have always been the coolest kids in the room; they’ve had the best tools, the biggest budgets, and the most fun assignments.

While our B2C brethren were pushing the lines of advertising with campaigns like Oreo’s Cream vs Cookie, B2B marketers were trying to make trade shows cool with Virtual Tradeshows. However, marketing automation is changing all of this, and for the first time, B2B marketers are the envy of B2C marketers.

Marketing has been split into B2B and B2C for years. This split results from very different types of marketing techniques and goals, as well as the different ways our products are consumed. Over the years, this has lead to a rise in the clout of B2C marketers versus those of B2B marketers. This all changed in 1999, when marketing automation was created to help B2B marketers solve their major pain points.

The techniques B2B marketers are now employing are blurring the lines between B2B and B2C and creating a new world of marketing, one that’s focused on one-to-one communications regardless of the market. To quote an analyst who covers the B2B space, “This may be the first time in history when B2B marketers are influencing B2C marketers on a large scale.”

Marketing automation has many moving parts, but let’s just pick on the three high-level ideas of lead tracking, automated campaigns, and closed-loop reporting to show the recent influence B2B marketing has had on B2C.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring for the B2B world is usually refined to tracking a single person across all marketing channels and scoring each action, with the goal of identifying a sales-ready lead. This is specific to B2B because marketing’s goal is to hand their sales team hot leads, so identifying when they are hot is a key function of success. For B2C, there is a very different purchase process for a buyer, and usually the conversions are done without sales assistance. Despite not having a sales team, many B2C brands are finding value in lead scoring and employing some B2B techniques.

The goal of many B2C brands’ marketing is more focused around “Life Time Value.” This is a metric that was proposed in Don Pepper’s book The Future of One To One Marketing in 1993, and has been used by marketers to determine the full effect an ad may have on a person’s total purchase value. Now combining the idea of LTV, a lead score allows B2C marketers to identify the most active users across all marketing channels, and then give these people special attention.

B2C companies big and small have started to pick up on this technique to help build stronger relationships with their consumers. A small startup brewery in Atlanta, Eventide Brewing, is now using lead scoring to keep up with their most active fans. They are tracking who reads the most blog posts, who engages the most on Twitter, and who spends the most time on the website. From there, they can send personal notes to each of their top fans. Eventide also layers on top Klout scores to see which of their fans has the largest audience to maximize their reach.

If you’re small and scrappy and can only send ten notes, who do you send them to? Lead scoring instantly answers this question. The response to Eventide’s targeted, personalized messaging, fueled by lead scoring, is happier fans who are taking their word of mouth marketing by storm.

Lead Nurturing

Automated campaigns are nothing new. We’ve been trying automated campaigns in both B2B and B2C for years; however, the level of complexity was usually limited to a single layer. Taking that to the next step means combining all aspects of a consumer’s interactions across all channels – a feat that led to the development of lead nurturing as we know it today.

Companies like Microsoft needed a tool like this to launch their new Office 365 in 2013. Matt Fleckinstien, as reported by ExactTarget, used these lead nurturing techniques, driven by ExactTarget’s marketing automation tool, to launch Microsoft’s new product last year.

Fleckinstein was even quoted in ExactTarget’s Marketing Predictions for 2013 article as saying, “We will see big data solutions extend beyond the traditional CRM, and a new category of real-time, cross-channel marketing automation will emerge.”

This was paramount, because you had one of the world’s largest B2C brands saying that marketing automation will soon play an important role in B2C marketing. The only issue was that marketing automation had already been adopted by over 75 percent of the largest B2B SaaS-based companies by the time of this report – just another great example of B2B leading the way for B2C in modern marketing techniques.

Closed-Loop Reporting

No business likes to operate blindly. In fact, those who do usually find themselves in the 95 percent of businesses who fail. This is why reporting on marketing efforts is so critical.

As John Wannamaker, department store mogul and father to many modern marketing techniques, is famously quoted, “I know half of my marketing is work. I just don’t know which half.”

Understanding what is working and what is not has been the crux for both B2C and B2B for years. B2B marketers were able to overcome this issue because they enjoyed certain advantages, like a very specific buying cycle, smaller market size, and more direct marketing methods – all of which led to a faster adoption of marketing automation.

The key to closed-loop reporting is simple. You can’t measure what you can’t track, so you have to be able to track first and measure second. For this to be possible, you would need full cross-channel tracking back to a central tool – a tool like marketing automation, which was created and adopted by B2B because it could be launched on a much smaller scale.

Much of B2C advertising is still branding, making it highly subjective. Most B2B marketing is not. It is tactical, and all tied to a central database, usually called a CRM.

The easiest way to see B2B’s influence on this is to look at the acquisitions of a few key CRM players. Oracle bought Eloqua, salesforce.com bought ExactTarget/Pardot, and many more are sure to follow suit in 2014. The combination of the central database with a tool that can execute and track makes all closed-loop reporting possible. It just started with B2B, but will now be standard marketing practices for all marketing departments.

In Closing…

If you remember back to college, and sitting there thinking about being an “Ad Man,” working on case studies about “New Coke,” or daydreaming about being a “Creative,” we were all dreaming about B2C dreams.

Very soon, many students are going to be exposed to marketing automation and will no longer see a huge division between B2B and B2C, but rather considered purchase versus impulse buy. This is because the techniques will be the same, the same sex appeal will apply to both industries, and once everyone has adopted marketing automation, the only thing that will separate the winners from the losers will be creativity.

That’s when we will truly know B2B and B2C have merged, which never would have been possible without B2B leading the way with marketing automation.

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