The consumerization of tech has transformed more than just how people buy and interact with technology. It’s caused many B2C marketers to migrate to B2B and back again. Throughout my own career, I’ve worked across B2C and B2B companies of all sizes from CPG giants like Kimberly Clark and Kraft to Wayfair.com and now OpenView, where I consult exclusively with B2B software companies. In fact, at Wayfair, a well-established consumer company, I was charged with helping to build their B2B program. A key driver of Wayfair’s rapid B2B expansion, 20 to 500 sales reps in 3 years, was leveraging the organization’s best-in-class B2C marketing strategies.
My experiences on both sides of the marketing spectrum are becoming all the more common. Andy Freedman, a self-described recovering corporate brand marketer, has spent more than a decade working with some of the best-known consumer brands including Dunkin’ Donuts, General Mills and Visa. But most recently, he transitioned into the software space as CMO of Riskified, an eCommerce fraud prevention solution for online merchants.
So how can B2B marketers apply consumer skills to help grow their software companies? Freedman explains in this exclusive interview.
It’s All About the Brand (Which Is All About Your Customer)
“One thing that is sometimes a struggle for B2B companies is being strategic about the way they interact with, listen to, and empathize with their early customers,” Freedman says. “This is something that the good consumer brands do very well. They spend a lot of time and resources doing market research – talking with, watching, and interacting with customers. And that effort isn’t just in the interest of user experience. It’s about really understanding customer problems and identifying the insights that allow them to help solve those problems.”
It can be challenging to prioritize this kind of brand work in the early stages of a startup, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of making the effort. “At an early stage, you’re always capped by resources to some extent, whether that’s human capital or financial capital,” Freedman says. But B2B companies are actually set up perfectly to get customer feedback (with a little preparation) in order to define their brand. Sales or customer success is talking to customers and prospects every single day. Yet I’ve see too many B2B companies that fail to capitalize on this proximity. Marketers, this is your responsibility! Create a feedback cadence and framework to gain insights from your customers.
The Importance of (Really) Knowing Your Brand Champion
Whichever audience you’re pursuing, Freedman advocates strongly for the concept of a brand champion. “We talked a lot about this at General Mills and it went much deeper than just describing a mom who is thirty-five years old, has two kids, and lives in a Boston suburb,” he says. “We had to get a much more in-depth understanding of their likes and dislikes, what frustrates them, what gives them joy, and what problems they have. That’s what we needed to know in order to go out and create the right products or market the products we had in a more effective way.”
Freedman contends that the same attention to detail needs to happen in B2B marketing. “I’m quick to recommend that everyone in the organization should interact with early customers – not just product and customer success people, but also engineers and marketers,” he explains. “Everyone should have exposure that helps them keep the voice of the customer in mind. This gets us away from speaking to potential customers as ‘decision makers,’ and helps us start to really understand who these people are so we can develop a really robust customer persona.”
The Brand Book – Yes, You Need One
Another brand asset that’s more typically associated with B2C companies is the brand book or brand architecture, but it can be a valuable asset for any B2B company. “First, there’s the internal process of building the document,” he says. “And then there’s sharing it inside your organization to make sure that everyone at the company – no matter their role – is operating off the same page.” Your brand architecture doesn’t have to be complex to start. A one pager that summarizes your brand is a great starting point:
Freedman emphasizes the importance of messaging consistency. “Everyone in your company needs to be able to clearly and succinctly define what you do and how you do it better than others,” he says. “When that’s done well and you’re all using the same language, it’s truly impactful. It influences not just your marketing communications strategy, but also product – the things you build – and the way you talk to customers and solve their problems. From marketing to the way your customer service team operates to how you send an invoice, that values-based messaging and language touches everything you do.”
But building the book and standardizing on messaging aren’t alone enough to get everyone on the same page. In a B2C company, testing new messaging can be as simple as changing your ad creative or emails and running a few experiments. But with B2B, I’ve personally seen that it’s much more complex. You likely have BDRs personalizing email templates on their own and reps tailoring your pitch to their specific targets. It’s imperative that your sales team understands your brand messaging and value prop so that the language they use is similar to the message prospects experience at the top of the funnel.
Channel Mix Optimization – Continuous Rapid Improvement
Consumer tech companies are especially savvy when it comes to constantly testing and optimizing their channel mix. Sure fewer steps in a consumer funnel might make this easier for B2C companies, but complexities shouldn’t prevent you from unlocking the data driven insights you gain from experimenting. And early stage companies actually have an advantage here because a small team also means a more agile team.
“The beauty of being at an early stage growth company is that you have a willingness to experiment,” Freedman says. “You should be willing to do things you can measure, invest heavily in things that work, and learn from the things that don’t.” But before you do start testing, make sure you have clean data and good visibility into your base metrics. Without these, it will be impossible to gain a clear picture of how leads flow through your funnel and where and why they convert. A trackable and succinct funnel is the foundation for all demand gen experiments.
On the surface, B2C and B2B companies and their marketing strategies appear vastly different. But when you break it down, every good marketer is after the same thing – understanding their customers so they can provide the best possible experience.