What can B2B marketing learn from B2C?

21st October 2018

Last month, on 27th September, I had the great privilege of giving a keynote presentation at the annual PM Forum Conference in London. This year the theme was ‘the bare necessities’ and – in an industry where it often seems that everything is changing – the focus was on what hasn’t changed, in other words, the fundamentals of marketing that remain the foundation for everything we do as marketers. You can watch the video of my session further below.

Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

I began my session with a look at Apple’s Think Different campaign of 1997. And, yes, we all know that Apple is used a lot as the example of best-practice marketing. Nevertheless, I am adamant that we in B2B and professional services marketing mustn’t dismiss learning from the B2C world. There’s a reason Apple is used as a shining example of the best practices of marketing. And, as the world’s first trillion-dollar company, we can and should continue to learn from them.

There is an entirely new generation of marketers born in the 1990s who are likely familiar with Apple in this century as both consumers and as marketers. But these same marketers are much less likely to be as familiar with this iconic campaign from 20-plus years ago or its astonishing impact.  For a conference all about the marketing basics, I went back to the one campaign that so clearly illustrates the core principles of marketing. And I will continue to do so, because – as the context of my marketing life changes – so does my perspective of this campaign. Every time I revisit it I learn something new and different.

Brand, Strategy, Customers and Measurement – this is the foundation for everything we do, the building blocks that support the 4Ps of marketing.  These principles do not change; the 4Ps are as relevant today as they were 20, 40, and even 60 years ago (yes, the 4Ps are almost 60 years old!). And they are as relevant for B2B and professional services as they are for B2C.

The themes in this presentation are ones that I go back to again and again, and which you can read about in more depth across my blogs on my website.

Here’s the video of my session, live:

 

Why attend a marketing conference?

I was at the conference the entire day and it was so refreshing to attend an event where no one was trying to sell anything and the focus wasn’t on all the shiny new things that keep distracting us from our purpose as marketers. It’s especially important during times of change to take a step back and revisit the core principles in the context of today’s commercial environment and realise that they are as important as ever. I’m honoured to have been a part of a day that was all about the very real-world challenges we’re facing in professional services and I highly recommend the annual PM Forum Conference as one worth attending for every professional services marketer.

Even though the core principles of marketing don’t change, a career in marketing has always meant constant reinvention. When I started out there were a mere handful of tactics and channels that made up a B2B marketer’s ‘toolkit’ –  PR, events, direct mail and our product datasheets were pretty much it. I could never have predicted the dramatic changes that were in store for me, the companies I worked for, or our customers.

One of the biggest mistakes we make as B2B and professional services marketers is that too often we get stuck in our silos, in our organisations, and don’t venture out into the wider world of our profession. We simply don’t look beyond what we do or know.

We must continue to learn and grow within our profession. That’s why these marketing conferences are so important. But please, go with an open mind. Certainly, there are unique aspects of marketing within B2B and professional services that are different than marketing for a B2C company. But many of these differences don’t have as much to do with marketing as they do with our organisations. Every industry, every organisation has its own unique challenges and ways of working. We are just not that different.

We have simply got to stop making excuses for what we can’t do and start taking responsibility for what we can do. And if we don’t know how, then we have to learn. And yes, that includes B2C.

 

About the PM Forum

The PM Forum is the world’s largest and fastest growing community for professional services marketers, with over 4,000 members. Dedicated to raising the standards of marketing across service industries and to enhancing the credibility of professional services marketing, the annual conference is a ‘must-attend’ event for professional services marketers across accounting, law, property, management consulting, architecture, engineering and other types of professional firms.

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If you’d like to read more, check out my book B2B Marketing Strategy: differentiate, develop and deliver lasting customer engagement on my book page, and then buy it from Kogan Page publishers or Amazon everywhere.

B2B Marketing Strategy

 


Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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