Using consumer insights to improve B2B communications

As a creative agency, we have always made a big deal out of the fact that we are continually learning, gaining insights from the different audiences we are asked to communicate with and the different sectors we work in

We work with a range of different clients from consumer facing brands in the retail and publishing sectors to businesses such as financial institutions and manufacturers that require complex B2B communications strategies. In a recent workshop with one such organisation, I was asked to help them explore how they might be able to use consumer insights to help them improve their B2B communications.

This post summarises some of the insights we gained from the workshop and why it’s important to remain open minded regardless of the brand or organisation you are working with.

Why should B2B businesses take notice of the changing consumer market place?

It’s no big shock to anyone reading this (you’re pretty much certain to be reading from a desktop, tablet or mobile) that we now live in a multi-screen world where over 90% of media interactions are screen based. With over 7.4 billion mobile and tablet devices in use today there are now more mobile devices than people and according to recent research ‘they’ (screen based devices) are multiplying at a rate that’s five times faster than we humans are.

OK, so they’re the facts but what’s even more interesting for our B2B businesses is that by the end of 2015 a whopping 50% of all B2B purchases will made on digital platforms. From low-cost printing services to multi-million pound procurement processes, the business world is becoming more and more like our digital-first consumers every day.

Rethinking B2B marketing and communications

If we then look at the Internet of Things research undertaken by Cisco and the increasingly ‘connected’ world that we’re building, it’s clear that digital is as important for B2B as it is for consumers and so it’s time for business to rethink their B2B marketing and communications if they haven’t already.

In the workshop with our client we found it useful to think about B2B marcomms in a similar way that we do with consumer facing projects. By breaking it down in to 3 key points were able to start defining a new B2B marketing and communication strategy.

So, here’s the break down and top line thoughts:

1. Build a great brand

“Make sure you have your own story to tell and tell it clearly.”

OK, more facts and figures. According to research by Forbes “decision makers are willing to pay a premium for strong brands because established brands make their lives easier”. The same research also suggests that strong brands outperformed weak brands by more than 20% and our own research into B2B brands showed that many do not see their brand perception as a priority when developing their business.

Building a great B2B brand can be a complex process although it is undoubtedly worth the effort. If we reference the work we are doing in the consumer market it is key that business owners focus on their end-users when building their brand; keep the message clear and simple, speak with one voice across channels and create great content that is unique and relevant to your target audience.

2. Get personal

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

Building meaningful connections with B2B buyers really matters as B2B buying has more personal risk associated with it than B2C buying:

“B2B purchasers are almost 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they see personal value – such as opportunity for career advancement or confidence and pride in their choice – in their business purchase decision.”

Too often businesses use incredibly technical descriptions to communicate the benefits of their products and services without considering their audience. Communicating tangible benefits using the right tone of voice is a great starting point for businesses when thinking about adding personality to their B2B communications.

When building connections with consumers, brands make it worthwhile for the end user and, where possible, make it personal. This becomes increasingly important when your target audience is diverse. One of the key points that came out of our client workshop was that the older generation of prospects were fast being replaced with a much younger group of tech savvy decision makers. The younger audience worked on email, LinkedIn and their smartphone whereas the older audience worked in a very different way.

We showcased some of the ways we start to understand our audience better and how delivering much more targeted communications can have a much greater impact for brands. All insights gained from consumer insights that can (and should) be used in the B2B sector.

3. Innovate and iterate

“The only real risk is not to take a risk.”

So, we’ve already established that digital has changed the marcomms landscape forever and where there’s change there’s opportunity. An opportunity to be brave and be different and create a stand out brand that’s ready for the digital future. An opportunity to experiment with technology, learn and evolve.

This approach has already been adopted by major corporate organisations with great success. IBM has shifted the perception of its brand by demonstrating how they not only advance entire industries but directly benefit consumers. The resulting creative work connects with everyone (consumers, prospective customers, business partners) and has a clear and focussed message which IBM communicate across all channels.

As well as being brave with the brand, the B2B sector needs to embrace digital innovations with the same enthusiasm as consumers do – just look at the 1m+ pre-orders of the Apple Watch that no-one ‘really’ needs.

We have created iPad sales apps for B2B clients, interactive product finders used at events across the world and developed augmented reality experiences for brands because our clients understand the importance of rich and relevant digital experiences as a way of building meaningful connections with their audiences.

What might this look like for your B2B communications?

As a creative agency that is most well known for our work with well known consumer brands such as Tesco, TopGear and Lacoste, we know that every brand (and every type of consumer) needs it’s own unique solution.

This is exactly the same for B2B businesses (large and small) and a communications strategy developed based on a clear brand vision and focus on digital innovation can deliver huge benefits. Using consumer insights to improve B2B communications is a great starting point.