The below is a preview of the keynote I will deliver at the Innovation in Communication conference, Thursday 23 May 2011, London UK.
Edited highlights from the presentation are below.
Definition – what do we mean by B2P?
When I received this brief, I decided to ask around some fellow professionals what they understood by the term B2P. I also did some reading on the internet, and it quickly became clear that actually there are a number of different views on what B2P really means. Do we mean;
- Improved technology and systems enabling dynamic personalised communications?
- That web 2.0 has destroyed boundaries between B2B audiences and B2C audiences and created one single audience of people?
- Social Media, social proof and the availability of information means contextual peer recommendation is more important than what a brand says?
- And therefore, that creating advocacy amongst key peers and influencers online has become more important than push marketing?
- Social Media enabling interactive relationships with audiences?
Actually, we mean all these things. B2P is an approach which finally recognizes that our audience are people, like us, and seeks to make the most of this opportunity through new technology and platforms. There is no doubt that Social Media, along with other trends such as mobile, is the future. But does that mean B2C and B2B will become redundant in favour of B2P?
The Argument For B2P Replacing B2B and B2C
This chart, based on a Business.com 2009 survey, shows that in fact both B2B and B2C marketers are making use of the same channels of social media. In fact, B2B marketers are more active on the whole than B2C. If marketers on both sides of the fence are making use of Social Media and frequently, the same platforms, does this not suggest the beginnings of a homogenous approach?
Audience convergence is another argument for a holistic approach. In the past, we had our consumers (B2C), and our business customers (B2B), neatly divided and so we could speak to each separately, most of time and with the exception of ATL media such as TV. In more recent times through technology we were able to market to them as individuals – you could say the beginnings of B2P. An example of this is Amazon’s dynamic suggestions tools. But nevertheless audiences remained separate.
However, the advent of Social Media has meant that audiences have merged – they can see what a brand is saying and doing to other audiences, and even more interestingly, they can see what those other audiences think of the brand too. A brand can’t forbid a business customer from becoming a fan on facebook and interacting with that brand’s public customers for example. This is often an uneasy situation for the brand! Crucially, people, be they B2C or B2B customers, now enjoy interactive, transparent and direct relationships both with brands and with each other. So why separate them out if they have naturally grouped themselves?
The issue of audience cross over is not new. Ask Gerald Ratner whose business forum speech intended for the IoD audience in 1991 destroyed his empire when consumers didn’t find it funny that he described his products (and thusly their possessions) as ‘crap’. But, in a Social Media world, it’s more pronounced than ever.
The Argument Against B2P Replacing B2B and B2C
The table above demonstrates the fundamental differences between the two audiences and disciplines which will not go away. Ditching B2B and B2C convention might be fine, if Social were the only game in town. But it isn’t. Take a look at Pepsi to see the role that traditional communications still play.
In 2010, Pepsi boldly announced that they were going to spend 50% of their branding budget in Social Media. They even passed up the chance to advertise during the Superbowl for the first time in 15 years. Meanwhile Coke continued investing in product placement in American Idol and superbowl spots. This bold move unfortunately resulted in Pepsi losing 2nd place for market share to Diet Coke for the first time in years. In 2011, Pepsi are relying again on TV and interestingly – product placement in American X Factor. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em…..
Although the basics of Social Media strategy can be easily applied to either B2C or B2B activities, as Social Media marketing matures from infancy, there are defining trends emerging in each sphere. In the consumer space, the driving trend will most definitely be towards Social Commerce – that is, group buying power and recommendation which is dependent on a large number of buyers being available. Look no further than Mark Zuckerberg: “If I had to guess, the next thing to blow up will be Social Commerce”. Of course he has a vested interest in that being true, but with brands like GAP announcing sales of $11 million through Groupon, it’s hard to argue with him. (Note that if GAP had not built a brand through traditional media they couldn’t have achieved this, to the earlier Pepsi point).
The AIDA model of advertising has been in use since 1898, invented by E. St. Elmo Lewis and has been a rough conversion funnel for almost any product or service ever since, with minor variations.
However what Elmo could never have dreamt possible, would be that any one individual could have access to peer opinions of such quantity that they were statistically robust, within milliseconds. This brings us an additional step which is becoming more and more important to all people – ‘recommendation’ – but this is much more so for a B2C context as scale is required. eConsultancy found that 90% of all purchases are now subject to social influence. Of course, they always were, you could ask your friend or your brother their opinion. But the ready availability of many, many opinions via Social Media explodes the relevancy of recommendation.
In the B2B space, the defining trend will be toward transparency and deep, ‘always on’ relationships.
These two trends are arguably different sides of the same coin, but they are nevertheless distinct approaches in their own right.
John Butler, former Head of communications at Dunnhumby, is already stating that Demographic targeting is dead and that Social targeting is where it’s at. His research has found that demographic targeting produces an average 2% response, whilst purchase based targeting elicits a 50% response. But purchase based targeting with social targeting or context – an enormous 80% average response
Over on the B2B side, the driving trend is more towards transparency and interactive relationship building through thought leadership. Social Media has broken down the walls between those inside the business and those outside. We regularly try to encourage a social culture throughout my current organisation. Twitter takeovers with key senior directors (previously not customer facing) is just one example, as is a personalised response from customer services when an unhappy tweet mentions the brand. With this approach, isn’t the real evolution within B2B going to be P2P, not B2P? We want to treat customers as people but not portray ourselves as people? This seems counter productive.
B2P as a philosophy and at a basic level is valid across both B2B and B2C audiences.
But there are still many differences between B2C and B2B – Social Media alone does not justify homogenous approach.
Especially as with more tools becoming available and Social activity fragmenting, B2B and B2C marketers are likely to be riding very different trends. Recognising this, and staying on top of those trends, now that is evolved marketing.