Consumer marketing tactics are frequently regarded as irrelevant by business-to-business sales operations. B2B, after all, is all about thoroughly educating customers and forming deep sales relationships. And it typically has a longer sales cycle than applies to most consumer marketing.
But there is one category of consumer products that faces very similar challenges to the B2B space and may provide a roadmap for how to create more demand: luxury.
Luxury products are outliers in the consumer marketing realm. Just like B2B products, they too require significant differentiation and relationship-building. However, unlike many B2B organizations, marketers in the category heighten this relationship with strong brand-building and enhanced customer experiences—not just to acquire new customers, but to turn people into super fans who purchase repeatedly and consistently advocate for these products.
I believe these tactics can offer a wealth of opportunity to B2B marketers.
A personalized touch is a hallmark of both luxury and B2B. Both types of buyers want to be recognized by name and expect special treatment. Whereas B2B often relies on the salesperson to personalize interactions, luxury starts this journey of meeting personal needs much higher in the funnel.
Highly specialized and personalized communications from the start go a long way toward establishing a transaction further down the line. In many ways, it takes the pressure off the salesperson of having to build the relationship from a cold start, warming the customer with a sense that the company as a whole understands them and their needs. But more importantly, it claims some of the loyalty for the brand itself.
Mystique that transforms the buyer
From the earliest marketing interactions, successful luxury elevates the perception of being a part of something bigger than one’s self—something that sets you apart from the masses. Whether it’s a cologne with a slightly odd smell or an interior with an unexpected combination of styles, or even a handbag that might be perceived as gaudy, luxury products demand your attention and impart that attention on the buyers themselves. It essentially changes the conversation from “Should I buy this?” to “How can I live without it?” The customer arrives asking the salesperson not how you fit into their life, but rather how they fit into your world.
B2B can easily employ similar tactics. From adding unexpected, custom-feeling design elements to your product to upgrading packaging for a luxury feel to inviting your customers to an exclusive event, B2B marketers have a wide range of opportunities to enhance the look, feel or other memorable element of either the product or the marketing. The result is a vibrant and enjoyable product experience that helps buyers justify their choice, motivates other employees using the product, and boosts their reputation among their peers.
Freedom to embrace the latest technology
Marketers often limit themselves when deciding whether to employ emerging technologies, like virtual reality, augmented reality or AI, that push the boundaries of mobile capabilities.
But when it comes to B2B or luxury marketing, these limits typically don’t apply. In both cases, target customers tend to have access to higher funds and are therefore likely to already own or be able to acquire the necessary equipment. This relaxation of budget-constraints frees you and your team to create amazing marketing experiences that will set you apart from competitors and deliver highly memorable encounters with your brand and product.
Pressure through perceived scarcity
Scarcity is a key driver of luxury products. After all, the product doesn’t really increase your social credibility if every one of your friends wears the exact same dress or watch. Employing scarcity creates the sense that if I don’t act now, I might miss out.
B2B is admittedly limited in its ability to scale scarcity. After all, most B2B companies would love to become ubiquitous among their target industries—and it becomes difficult to sell a sense of reliability if you’re always running out of product. But there are ways to incorporate the element of scarcity into B2B marketing with impact. For example, B2B can create a certain amount of FOMO by promoting exclusive configurations or early access to new product iterations, which amps up the pressure on the buyer.
Remember the person
Throughout all these tactics, the most important thing to remember is that despite its name, B2B marketing is still focused on people. And while these people might not be footing the bill themselves, they still respond to many of the same tactics that they do when investigating consumer products. Finding an analog in the consumer space is smart marketing, bound to improve all of your B2B marketing efforts.
Curt Schreiber is the chief creative officer of VSA Partners, a creative and strategy agency with offices in Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
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