Crossing the B2B-B2C Divide: The Next Frontier in Customer Experience

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In recent years, the marketing industry has started to discuss the increasingly blurry line between the disciplines of B2B and B2C marketing. For the most part, the conversation to date has been a discussion of tactics and methodologies—but this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Over the next five years, the breakdown between the B2B and B2C worlds will be dramatic, and the resulting marketing landscape—as well as people’s expectations for messaging—will look quite different than they do today. Let’s look at how this blurring line will soon vanish altogether.

Beyond the B2B Catch-Up Story

As direct-to-consumer messaging has become the new standard within the B2C marketing space, many industry observers have noted that B2B marketers have started taking a page from this personalized marketing playbook. B2B messaging has become increasingly data-driven and digital, with the most effective campaigns employing intent data that identifies organizations (and the individuals within them) that are in-market for a given solution at a given time. 

This shift in tactics among B2B marketers is timely, but it doesn’t go far enough. If we are to deliver on the potential for truly personalized marketing, there’s another crucial gap we need to bridge: the gap between an individual’s personal and professional interests. 

When B2C marketers target customers solely according to their personal interests and B2B marketers target customers solely according to their professional responsibilities, they neglect the other half of what makes an individual a complete person.

As consumers, our jobs have massive sway over our personal lives and preferences. Meanwhile, in our professional lives, our personal interest and habits have massive implications for the decisions we make when on the job. Furthermore, a tremendous number of companies out there offer both consumer and professional goods and services. Not tying together customer profiles on both a personal and professional level represents a massive lost opportunity.

This gap is one that’s been recognized in recent years, but the possibility of its closure has only become a reality in recent years thanks to deeper connections between business and consumer personas and greater integration of mobile devices and apps into our daily lives. 

Enabling the B2B-B2C Connection

Truly personalized marketing is about recognizing the entirety of an individual. In the past, bridging the personal-professional gap was challenging, if not impossible, for several reasons:

  • People used to keep their personal and professional lives much more separate than they do today. Work happened in the office during office hours. Everything else was reserved for personal time. 
  • Technologically speaking, data and insights around an individual were also separated according to personal and professional needs and preferences. Work happened on work devices. Personal time was spent on personal devices. Insights were gathered and applied in an equally siloed way. 

Of course, a lot has changed in just the past few years. Especially given the migration to remote work setups, the divide between people’s personal and professional lives has broken down considerably, both in terms of how people distinguish (or don’t) between their work and private time, as well as the devices on which they conduct their work and private business. 

At the same time, emerging mobile and location data capabilities are providing greater intelligence around the individual than ever before—intelligence that bridges the personal-professional divide in ways that enable 360-degree, 24/7 views of the individual. Under these views, marketers understand not just who a person is, but also who they are in a given moment. With this enhanced understanding, the B2B vs. B2C marketing distinction becomes a dated way of thinking within organizations that serve both worlds. 

If you’re an insurer selling a life insurance policy to an individual who owns their own business, wouldn’t you also like to be offering that person relevant professional insurance options within the same conversation? This is the promise of 360-degree, 24/7 views of the consumer for companies that bridge the B2B and B2C worlds. But it’s relevant even for those with a foot in only one world. For example, a gym that is close to someone’s work would choose to message to that person differently than if it were close to that person’s home. Likewise, B2B marketers that can speak to a person’s hobbies or personal interests within their messaging are more likely to forge a meaningful connection. 

Modern data solutions will increasingly begin to provide granular views of individuals that defy the old-school B2B vs. B2C conventions. The real question is how long it will take the modern enterprise to catch up.

Properly incentivizing cross-organizational sales initiatives and ensuring seamless customer experiences across disparate product teams are just two of the formidable hurdles that stand in the way of breaking down the personal-professional marketing divide.

However, today’s marketers are no strangers to breaking down siloes. Just as our industry has worked to bridge the offline-online divide in recent years, this gap also represents a worthy and surmountable hurdle to overcome. The enterprises that get to the other side first will find themselves well rewarded. 

Rohit Chowdhury is the chief data officer at Infogroup.