How to maximise B2B sales engagement using B2C customer journey principles

Designing customer strategies for B2B engagement and loyalty programs.

When designing customer strategies for B2B engagement, many B2C principles can be brought into initial project discussions. However, many B2B companies struggle to anchor consumer based loyalty programs methods into B2B sales strategies. While they differ in customer labels and buying journey, the similarities in buying decisions and customer loyalty remain the same.

Similarities between B2B and B2C

Supply and demand principles, as well as sensible business operations, can reveal where B2B and B2C markets are identical:

  • Both need a sales process with a well implemented strategy supported by tactics.
  • Both succeed more often when there is strong alignment between sales and marketing functions. 
  • Both have customer loyalty and advocacy as their overarching goal.
  • Customer retention strategies are crucial to success.

Critical differences between B2B and B2C

The Customer

  1. B2C incentive relationships target millions of people who either want or need your product. In B2B, leads are defined by the target companies’ specific requirements. For this reason, the typical B2C blanket approach to loyalty marketing won’t work for B2B.
  2. The B2B world has fewer prospects than B2C, each with unique buying requirements and relies on word of mouth.  
  3. B2C marketers spend a lot more on digital marketing.  Whereas B2B trends more towards face to face selling and building relationships. B2B sales teams should be recognising behaviour as well as understand their prospect’s unique buying traits.

The Path to Purchase

  1. Both B2C and B2B buyers are more sophisticated than at any other time in history. However, B2B customer touchpoints are usually few and far between.
  2. B2B customers will educate themselves from online information, and will know a lot about the product before they engage. 
  3. In B2C, brand awareness and value are often more important than what the product delivers. For B2B it is often the opposite. So, the key difference is what information is used to drive a purchase. 
  4. In B2B sales channels, sales teams need ongoing product training to stay on top of their product portfolio. Whereas B2C doesn’t usually require in-depth product knowledge to create a customer journey.
  5. B2B sales reps need a deeper understanding of each customer’s unique structure and “personality”. They then manually build the customer personas to maintain a relationship.

Complexity & Number of Buyers

  1. In B2C the buyer is usually the only decision maker: the customer.  In B2B sales, there is a maze of gatekeepers, influencers, blockers and decision makers to navigate before winning the sale.
  2. Every B2B deal is unique and often starts with simply identifying the best contact touchpoint before the sales process even begins.

Emotional vs Rational

  1. In B2C, you look for an emotional response from customers. B2B buyers are more rational.
  2. Many B2C purchasing decisions usually come from interest in a competitor product offering similar benefits. B2B buyers will do research on the vendor before purchasing.
  3. The repercussions of making a wrong decision is far more significant for B2B buyers than for B2C buyers.
  4. B2C incentive and reward offers are based around repeat purchasing. B2B incentive and reward offers need to be more connected to value added services to maximise B2B engagement with the vendor.

Length & Type of Relationship

  1. B2C relationships are looked upon as one-off relationships, usually at the point of purchase. B2B selling involves more face to face interactions with each side investing considerable time in the B2B customer journey.
  2. Loyal B2B customer journey can begin at any point in the customer journey.  B2C customer journey is much shorter and usually starts at education and ends at checkout.
  3. B2C can be interested in any number of product features and benefits. B2B sales need to understand how their customers feel or where they are in your customers’ journey.

Real Rewards for a change in Behaviour

  1. B2C will often focus on rewarding a customer for purchase. However, the reality is B2C will never be able to offer the same width and breadth of actual rewards as B2B.
  2. Based on frequency of sales and value of each sale figures, a B2B has 25x more earning potential than B2C. This higher level of earnings will open additional sales opportunities that will be much larger than seen in B2C markets.

Bridging the Gap

Despite all these differences, there are common threads shared by B2B and B2C customers. The main thread is DATA which is more available now than at any other time in history. In addition, many software tools are evolving to harness the power in the data to optimise B2B sales and marketing. Just like it has done for B2C.

Data is the new B2B differentiator

Over the past 20 years, B2C businesses have been at the forefront of data collection, customer engagement and behavioural analytics.

The rapidly evolving B2C sales environment has been using a cross-selling, up-selling and engagement strategy for many years. Analysing the sheer volume of consumer data has taken many brands to exponential heights around the world.  A B2C customer base is full of complex data sets. This data is then used to encourage additional purchases by offering sales incentives tracked within specialised sales engagement software.

When coupled with similar technology, B2B Data will pave the way for fantastic customer journeys, segmentation and targeting. This use of data identifies, nurtures, and enhances B2B relationships with customers.

Nurturing and targeting are critical steps in the B2B sales process and are usually managed manually by the salesperson. But are they storing this critical knowledge (data) in a central database, or only in their head?  And how are they recording customer feedback?

In the B2B world, sales teams are now made more accountable for data collection in Sales CRMs. However, much of the data up to now has been manually collected and recorded. B2C has used data for over 20 years to become more customer focused, product related and production relevant. In other words, “customer centric”.

Companies that operate in complex B2B markets are now using digital platforms to collect behavioural data. This technology can also be used to increase customer centricity.

Customer centricity evolving B2B data and loyalty

New ‘customer centric’ initiatives, like B2B loyalty program software are creating real opportunities for B2B businesses. The contact behavioural data is collected from engagement with online content assets. Then the B2B company’s sales and marketing function can analyse this engagement data to encourage spending growth.

B2B customers, resellers and channel partners are very different to a short term B2C sales cycle. B2B salespeople are not just selling products and services online. They are also selling their company’s reputation and their own product knowledge along with long term management and maintenance services.

For a B2B path to purchase, the buying cycle needs to target decision makers as they go about their personal lives.  B2B sellers should then use digital paths encouraging them to purchase when in the workplace.  This has changed how B2B customers buy, bringing both opportunity and complexity to B2B lead generation.

Recognising and rewarding the personal behaviour of B2B decision makers needs to be applied to the workplace. This requires B2B companies to leverage data from multiple resources and social media networks to run their loyalty reward process. B2B buyers consult with many different platforms and influencers before making a purchase, just like we see in the B2C space.  To do this effectively, B2B organisations must become customer focused to meet the expectations of the new-age B2B customer.

As new B2B data comes to light, they will notice that B2B buyers will act like B2C customers. However, their motives will be more rational than impulsive.  For B2B sales and marketing teams to gain the same advantages they must build more value by rewarding non transactional engagement. This builds emotional stickiness to their brand and recognises buying behaviors that go beyond financial motivation.

Technology and data has given B2C businesses great insight into their market.  B2B relationship marketing can also use this to reward buyer warmth to their brand (interaction). Recognising behaviour and identifying and rewarding actions will drive the customer closer to a transaction. And will also build a repeat customer or advocate relationship for the B2B product.

Over the years, B2C brands have realised customers want more than just discounts. Discounts don’t always work in the B2B market either. So, B2B brands should track and drive activity that meets their most valued KPI’s.

B2B brands can use similar data to identify what makes a good customer and where they sit on their value chart.  Well designed business to business loyalty and engagement programs identify and reward interactions and transactions within one infrastructure. It removes the personal bias intrinsic in more traditional B2B programs by rewarding the relationship for greater sales growth.  It will also automate additional B2B lead generation for sales to follow up.

Reward Interaction, Not Just Transactions

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New B2B data tracking gives more options to change behaviour and reward interactions.

B2B brands are now building ways to generate additional ways for B2B buyers to interact with their brand. They should use live social engagement feeds to reward online product research.  Social media engagement, comments, programs, posts and profiles views are great buying accelerators. Focusing on rewarding interactions and ‘whole brain engagement’ rather than just dollar spend are adding to wider B2B customer strategies. 

B2B businesses that reward engagement will produce enhanced personal relationships with their brand. This is much better for repeat sales than the product-based relationships of the past.

The other benefit of rewarding interactions is that brand control can now be at the center of all online interactions. Placing emphasis on customer needs throughout the pre and post-purchase cycle will bring the B2B brand top of mind.

B2B businesses are not always front and center when a buyer transacts. Many B2B incentives and loyalty programs are run internally, and only reward the buyer for transacting. They literally ignore all the beautiful data derived from engagement and research.  However, when a B2B brand recognises non transactional interactions they can fully tailor and enforce each as a valuable interaction ‘event’.

A B2B organisation using buyer or buying group reactions connect at a human level. This will give better ROI from marketing dollars than from traditional marketing and selling processes. Storytelling is about building personal experiences. In a B2B market this can play a vital role in collecting personal data.

Most B2C marketers prefer to rely on their brand and online portals do the selling for them.  Most B2B marketers believe face to face interactions are a big part of the B2B sales process.  However, sales cadences and other online content will reward stronger buying relationships in a B2B environment than old cold selling techniques.

Using a sales engagement platform like, 212F, will help you gather feedback from decision makers in a relaxing and fun environment. Travel and event incentives will help you see around corners to finalise new sales faster.  Basically, Information from the source is the holy grail of marketing for many businesses across many industries.

In Summary

B2B and B2C sales and marketing methodologies have long been viewed as uniquely different. Targeting buying persona’s via product knowledge components and buying cycles are traditionally the areas where they differ. These lines have now become blurred due to technology’s impact on sales and marketing cycles.

Utilising B2C technology and data collection tools is now bringing these two camps closer together. Data is now more relevant than ever to B2B sales processes.  In the past, personalisation enabled B2C to get closer and more relevant to consumers. Personalising a B2B experience by using B2B customer loyalty programs and B2B rewards will grow the sales pipeline.

There are significant gains for B2B once it fully adopts B2C’s customer centric data-first approach. Companies that are more customer centric are using B2B loyalty program software to design effective customer journeys and sales engagement programs. Formalised B2B incentive strategies are now delivering customer centric outcomes like those enjoyed by B2C for years.

Final Thoughts for B2B Marketing & Sales Functions

Historically B2B has always thrived on business relationships to drive sales performance. While they need to retain this crucial sales strategy, they should also build data layers around a central personal relationship. This will optimise sales and lead generation even further.

212F loyalty data provides unique insights into future transactions.  Knowing your customers’ current preferences, buying behaviours, social networks and reward preferences will build loyal buyer/seller partnerships into the future.

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