Many may believe that business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) public relations (PR) strategies are diametrically opposed — requiring a completely different skillset, approach and strategy to successfully develop PR campaigns within each practice. But in fact, they’re two sides of the same coin.
Communications professionals have often criticised B2B PR campaigns as being “old-fashioned” because they tend to take a conservative approach and prioritise traditional media. This is in sharp contrast to B2C campaigns, which are seen as more creative and flamboyant as they spark trends and leverage the latest digital tools and social media apps.
The difference could be attributed to the fact that B2B PR focuses on reaching out to a business audience that is involved in selling goods and/or services between two or more businesses, while B2C PR targets a more general, mainstream audience.
But it’s important to remember that ultimately, the underlying target audience for both groups is the same — human beings. All human beings, regardless of whether they’re a decision-maker in Pfizer’s vaccine department or a fresh university graduate, respond to emotions and things that are meaningful.
With this in mind, there’s no reason why B2B communication professionals can’t incorporate the best practices from B2C practitioners to evoke an emotional connection and gain a competitive edge. After all, B2B audiences are also consumers who interact in B2C channels in their daily lives. They’re used to being marketed in a B2C manner for everything from new sofas to the latest KFC limited chicken flavour. Who says B2B has to be drastically different?
As with B2C campaigns, it is important for B2B practitioners to understand their target audience inside out to maximise the impact and outcome of their campaigns. Unfortunately, to this day, reaching out to B2B contacts still predominantly consists of blasting generic PR campaigns en masse in the hopes of capturing legitimate business leads and prospects by chance.
There may be a small chance that this “spray and pray” tactic will eventually get some results, but it is far more meaningful and resourceful to properly understand your target audience and what they care about. What CEOs care about may be completely different from what a CCO is concerned about, therefore B2B communicators need to do their due diligence and properly analyse valuable data to better understand their target audience.
This can be done through being active in industry events, conducting surveys and even through the odd informal drink with a prospect. Don’t underestimate the value of this legwork; it allows practitioners not just to understand their target audience, but also the deep challenges that they are facing, which gives them more insight on how the gap can be bridged.
Good B2C campaigns are successful because they evoke and appeal to emotions, which creates a stronger bond with the audience and results in a higher buy intent. B2B PR consultants often default to a professional, neutral tone when implementing campaigns because they think they are promoting products and services that help businesses, not consumers. (I have been guilty of this). However, businesses that sell to other businesses are still run by human beings, who are engaged by emotions.
Thus, B2B consultants can learn to use tools which can build emotional connections. For example, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook tend to be quite personal in nature and are tailored towards the individual’s interests. B2B communicators can use them to drive conversations with B2B decision-makers and build stronger relationships.
B2B audiences are also consumers who interact in B2C channels in their daily lives. They’re used to being marketed in a B2C manner. Who says B2B has to be drastically different?
Video is heavily used in B2C campaigns because it is engaging and appealing, which is why they are often seen on social media channels like YouTube, on blogs, or even on website pages. They can help increase user understanding of a product or service and improve engagement, which can also benefit B2B marketers if used in similar scenarios.
New technologies such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and even gamification are also some other exciting ways that B2C brands are exploring to differentiate their outreach campaigns and increase engagement with their target audiences, which B2B marketers can also leverage.
A memorable example is when the New York Times delivered Google Cardboard glasses to all of their subscribers in order to watch a VR film that they produced. Not only did this allow them to build engagement with their loyal subscribers, but it also acted as an incentive for brand loyalty. There’s no reason B2B marketers can’t do something similar to promote their brand.
As everyday society finds different ways to interact and communicate — be it through upcoming apps like TikTok or Clubhouse — it is compulsory for all PR professionals to continue to adapt, innovate and evolve in this ever-changing world. Both B2B and B2C consultants can continue to learn from each other and adopt best practices for their own campaigns.
Through constant innovation, creativity and technology, PR campaigns have the ability to stand out — regardless if they are ‘meant for’ B2B or B2C audiences. By understanding that all target audiences are ultimately humans with emotions, developing an emotive campaign has the potential to make an impression and be remembered for the ages, which will help achieve business objectives more effectively.