In communications disciplines, we have always categorised audiences and activities into B2B and B2C. Practitioners tended to have expertise in either one or the other. Yet these classifications are increasingly blurred because of the way audience behaviour is becoming homogenised, thanks to the ubiquity of online search.
We frequently stress the importance of search to clients. It doesn’t matter whether purchases are personal or business-related, more than 95% of buying decisions involve an online search. In the office, at home or on the move, we instinctively reach for a device to ‘google’ organisations, products and services we are interested in.
The research and decision-making aspects of buying behaviour are consequently very similar, whether we are wearing our work hat or our personal hat. Gone are the days when the role of PR and Marketing in B2B was to ‘warm up’ the audience, creating awareness but leaving the hard selling to the professionals. There has been a significant shift in the balance between Marketing, PR and Sales in moving potential customers through the pipeline. Now, online Marketing and PR activities are influential right almost up to the point of closing the deal. Buyers surf company websites, online reviews, blog posts and online media to gather all the information they need, so the purchase decision is practically made before a salesperson gets involved (if they ever do).
Marketing Today is about Business to Person
That’s why we encourage people not to think in terms of B2B or B2C. Marketing and PR today is about Business to Person, where habits and expectations are the same because of the convenient ways the internet serves information about everything from lawnmowers to highly technical manufacturing kit. The fleet manager gets vehicle information from the same sources as the private buyer looking to upgrade the family car. The traveller uses exactly the same website to purchase an airline ticket for business use or for a round-the-world adventure. A new laptop could be for a teenager to use at university or for a fledgling e-commerce business.
As an organisation, you may not always know which hat visitors to your online content are wearing, so it’s best to think of your audience simply as people looking for relevant, helpful information about a product or service. The most important thing is understanding the correlation between audience behaviour online and sales performance, recognising that the two are inextricably linked. What an audience takes out of your online content will make a massive difference to the success of your business plan – even if you are selling hats.