Ruth Bastedo is Director and Group Head, Client Strategy and Innovation at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

These days, it’s hard to know whether you are presenting your “personal” or “professional” face to the world. As an example, I recently joined Pinterest. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I was faced with a bit of a dilemma though, as an alarmingly large number of my business contacts started to “follow” me, I had to ask myself: do all these people really need to know that I actually really love the kettle green “Aga” stove?  This, is the totally fabulous stove:

Not to everyone’s taste, I grant you. Yet, I love this stove so much, that I compromised and “liked” it, but did not “repin” it. I’ve only actually re-pinned a couple of things so far… but the process did get me to thinking, if you were selling me a B2B service online, say software or consulting services, would it help you to know that I was the type of person to really groove on green stoves? I happen to already own a blue version of the Le Creuset kettle sitting on said stove. Have had it for 10 years. If I posted that information, would that help?

When I did a talk on the B2B vs B2C marketing topic at Social Media Marketing a few weeks ago, I did some musing on this topic. As marketers, we are going to be in a position soon where we have access to unprecedented amounts of information about our target customers.  As this information becomes more available to us it opens whole new doors to create increasingly personalized messages, offers and communications based on disparate pieces of knowledge, readily available with a little digging and the right tool set.

What are the implications of this?

The traditional differences between B2B and B2C Communications have typically looked like this:

While these differences are still very valid, I have to wonder if we’re moving into new territory. The world becomes a funny place, when we consult a variety of user reviews, professional reviews, social networks and blogs to buy either a funky green stove or a new piece of software for our business.

Observationally, I can see that the process of “making a decision” is starting to look remarkably similar, whether that decision is oriented to a business product, or consumer product.

The commonality is becoming the customer’s decision journey, especially in an online environment. The fact is the “customer” is increasingly becoming an individual person. The smart marketer, will start marketing to that person, reaching out to him or her in accordance with the individual’s unique worldview, tastes, interests, life stage, peer group, background and life experiences. The B2B and the B2C approaches to customers as people, actually start to merge.

As marketers, our job becomes pretty simple in some ways. We need to reach out to our customers at key points in their decision journey. We need to really work to understand where our content, offers and experiences can add value, build loyalty and trust, and anchor the customer to the product and/or brand experience.

I encourage you to check out the deck below for some pretty interesting examples of emerging models for “Customer Decision Journeys”. Any of us in the digital communications industry can start to see that there are a plethora of tools, platforms and mechanisms to reach our customers at the touch points that matter most. The big question for all of us will be, what kind of content are we going to provide to each particular customer, so that it is relevant, valuable and adds something to their noisy, and over saturated digital lives.

I bet a lot of people who also “liked” the green Aga stove on Pinterest at some point in their careers have been in a position to buy some kind of software product.  You just have to wonder if “green stove” people buy different types of software than “stainless steel stove people”… maybe yes, maybe no, but it’s an interesting question, and one worthy of consideration.

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