To all those suggesting “B2B” should morph into “human to human” or that enterprises should market themselves more like consumer brands, the CEO of an agency that works with the likes of IBM, GE and SAS has a counterargument for you.
As the founder of Centerline Digital, Charles Long said he’s familiar with an increasingly popular sentiment making the rounds of industry conferences that the lines between B2B and B2C are blurring. While people are people no matter where they work, he says it may be time to reinforce what a good customer experience means in an enterprise context.
“A contributor to a group buying decision wants to have a good brand experience, they need that, but does not mean (B2B and B2C) are the same thing,” Long told B2B News Network in a phone interview from his office in Raleigh, N.C. “Some tactics and principles may apply, but there is a massive difference in the sales cycles, scrutiny and complexity of group buying decisions.”
Purchasing a pair of jeans by a consumer could take minutes or even seconds, Long argued, while investing in software, IT infrastructure or other B2B products requires messaging that speaks to the expertise of C-suite decision-makers and their teams.
“The level of understanding and granularity and experience that these buyers have in their arena so far eclipses a consumer’s level of knowledge of buying a television or clothes,” he said. “(Enterprise) buying decisions are thousands of times larger, because they ultimately affect how that business performs.”
This affirmation of B2B tech firms’ unique processes informs everything Centerline Digital does, Long said, from strategic consulting to executing on campaigns and optimizing other areas of marketing. What consumer and enterprise brands may share, however, is a sense of urgency to deliver results.
“Our goal with customer experience marketing is to take in the entire look of what it is a B2B buyer’s journey and speed it up,” he said. “That’s where growth comes for a company.”
Long’s advice to B2B brands looking for agencies is to carefully weigh what they need from a third-party versus what they want to own themselves. Centerline Digital is by no means threatened by the notion of brands developing their own content marketing studios, for example.
“My disposition is, ‘Good, take it inside. Take a lot more inside,’” he said. “Do a good, human reconditioning and hiring of people who are more knowledgeable, more interested, have more capability and can do some of the commodity-type work that is there in volume.
“Do not take everything in-house though,” he added, “because you will isolate yourself, and when you’re in a silo, you will lack innovation and creativity. As an agency, we’ve found that when brands approach this the right way, we end up with smarter clients.”