In my career, I’ve worked in both B2B and B2C. And the lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred as trends like personalization come to the forefront.
Think of it like this: Imagine you’re a car salesman.
Someone walks into the showroom and tells you they’re interested in looking at a very specific car. You’ll do your best to find that car and sell it, because that’s where the customer’s interest lies. You’re not going to lead them over a totally different car. If someone is looking for a coupe and you show them an SUV, you won’t get the sale. Why? Because the customer will feel like they’re not being listened to, or that their needs aren’t being addressed.
The same experience is applicable when it comes to your website and online presence. As marketers, we assume we know what people want to consume, so we shove it in their face without even trying to figure out what they’re interested in. Because we know better.
When I worked at a luxury dealership, I did lots of searches online for design ideas and whatnot. A lot of my searches contained the word “Cadillac.” As a result, I’d get served up lots of ads and emails based on those searches. That’s not so surprising, but what was that most that were sent were based on the assumption that I was a white male, between 50-60 years old. So I’d be going about my day, seeing ads for hair loss promotions and male enhancement. Obviously not relevant.
But, at the same time, good for Cadillac, because they’ve done good research. It wasn’t them as much as other companies, but they assumed that because I was looking for Cadillac items that I must be male and losing my hair.
But as the above example illustrates, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume. Here’s how to use your marketing automation the right way: to connect with people
It’s the where, not the why
Let me tell you a little secret. It doesn’t matter whether the humans at the listening end of your communications are buying shoes, or a software solution for their business.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re baby boomers or millennials. Race, gender, and pay grade are also irrelevant. Marketing automation simply does not care. Segments do not have an impact on the success of your program, but the marketer’s knowledge of these segments certainly does.
Let’s look at B2B versus B2C again.
Marketing automation has traditionally been the domain of B2B marketers because so many of them deal with big-ticket items with long sales cycles. Remember that at the end of the day—quite literally, at 5 PM, unless they’re crazy workaholics like us marketers—your B2B buyers are still consumers. People are people, even at work. I know. It’s hard to believe. People no longer disassociate their personal identifications from their business selves. They are becoming one.
How has marketing automation turned so many B2B prospects into B2B buyers? Because well-designed marketing automation programs treat buyers like people.
We predict their questions and provide answers. We appeal to their psyches. We overcome their objections. These are not necessarily B2B principles. It’s just good marketing. Don’t think such an approach won’t apply to B2C environments, either. The key in either case is to know your buyer.
Know thy buyer
Historically, marketing automation has been viewed as a strategy for deals with long sales cycles and large price tags. Think automobiles or enterprise software. But that isn’t really the case. Marketing automation is effective even if you’re selling very transactional items, like toys or T-shirts in an e-commerce store.
Of course, you’ll need a unique approach to automation. If you benchmark the practices of IBM or Caterpillar, you probably won’t be very successful.
Big deals tend to be about trust and education. Transactional sales are all about recency and emotion. Sports teams, for example, have really embraced marketing automation because it enables them to measure movement and proactively re-engage. A baseball fan will be riding high the day after a game. He’s ready to go back to the park. Now is the time for the box office to strike with a relevant offer. With good customer data and a smart marketing automation program, he’ll get that next offer at just the right moment.
With large-ticket items, recency is less important. There’ll be more back-and-forth—more education and trust-building—before the purchase.
Whatever the price tag, you’re still measuring and responding to customer movements.
Know your buyer and marketing automation will do the work
A lot of people are looking for reasons why marketing automation won’t work for them, but the reasons for failure are always on the designer. Marketing automation doesn’t fail. Marketers fail.
As with any other marketing program, it’s not about the size of your company or the cost of your product. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling tangible goods or consulting hours. It’s all about knowing your buyer. And that takes good marketing.
Looking to supercharge your marketing automation system? Check out our eBook: the Super Awesome, Totally Wicked, Definitive Manual of Marketing Automation.