4 lessons from B2C for B2B

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

The FSF recently hosted marketing experts to discuss the lessons B2B marketers can take from B2C – here are some key learnings from the event.


The need for B2B creativity

Ian Henderson, CEO of AML, introduced the session by noting recent advances in B2B marketing.

“Most B2B marketers these days are aware that their audiences are humans…people make decisions emotionally before rational mind is aware.”

He said that marketers need to connect to those feelings “even when the decision is a bit more important than which bar of chocolate or fizzy drink to buy.” He argued that the common factor between the two disciplines is the need for creativity.

Ian added that the importance of creativity as a tool to “attract attention and persuade people” will become more pronounced as data protection regulations strengthen.


Think about relationships, not about products

Sarah Christie, Senior Director at Truth Consulting, encouraged B2B marketers to move beyond the “product delusion”.

“We think too much about product and not enough about relationships,” Sarah said.

Sarah said B2B customers don’t want to be seen as a uniform group – they need to be seen as an individual business with individual challenges. They are very habit-driven and it is difficult to change behaviours – “most people who shop around typically just stick with what they know”.

Despite this the industry, she says, is still talking at product rather than brand level. Differentiating in terms of product features is difficult when there is huge competition and due to regulation most products are very similar.

The solution is to build stronger relationships, which B2C has done a good job of. This means humanising companies and building experiences more around the customer.

Using banking as an example, while interactions have moved away from office and branch interactions, Sarah argues that digitisation has offered new opportunities for better emotional connections using personalisation.

Better data can provide more personalised interactions at scale.

“Data is a critical tool for individualising what we offer and knowing the customer.”


Psychology of helping them

Simon Moore, CEO at Innovationbubble, called on marketers to “stop hiding behind numbers and stats” and deliver more tangible wins for their B2B customers.

He compares current marketing to a blind date where somebody turns up and begins talking about themselves.

“They’ve got far too much to do in a day and you’re throwing more stuff at them.”

He suggests applying these criteria to messages: status (is it boosting their standing in their company), time (is the product giving them more time in the day) and digestibility (is it conveying the information in a simple way).

“Solve their imposter syndrome,” he says. “Make them feel worthy, useful and an asset.”


Cater to the emotional, not the rational

A theme that each speaker brought up was the importance of emotion in a business world obsessed with rationality. Ian set the scene in his intro by citing Binet and Field research suggesting that emotional campaigns deliver four times the ROI than rational ones.

Simon pointed this out as well, arguing that only around a fifth of the brain is able to deal with stats.

“Your brain doesn’t work,” he said.

He called on delegates to count as quickly as possible the number of ‘F’s in this sentence:


Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.


Most people get the answer wrong, missing out the ‘F’s in the word “of”. (The correct answer is six).

Making the argument for less rational-focused marketing can be a challenge when talking to CFOs, who are numbers-oriented. Simon recommends showing them the sentence and proving to them that they too suffer from these cognitive biases.

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