One term that’s frequently tossed around when companies are considering marketing campaigns and targets is “business-to-business marketing.” The idea being that you are a business who is selling to other businesses, not individual consumers, and the marketing needs to reflect that.

Recently, the fabric of B2B marketing has started to come undone. This is in large part thanks to millennials (read last month’s blog for inside peek into this precarious group of consumers), who are wary of traditional marketing and prefer to feel as though they’re making informed, independent spending decisions.

The ideology behind B2B marketing is that businesses will respond to different messages and media than independent consumers. B2B marketing relies almost solely on price and profit potential.

Except that businesses are run by people. When a business purchases 1000 new computers for its staff, it’s still a person at the other end of that transaction who is making the decision to purchase from that company. So while price and profit potential are important, so is the way that individual purchaser relates to the company he’s purchasing from. Consumer marketing relies on popularity, price, practicality and emotional factors.

The old methodology for B2B marketing was dictated by the 4Ps – product, price, place and promotion. Product is what is being sold. Price is the potential profit to the company. Place is how it’s distributed. And promotion is how it’s marketed. This analysis ensured that the company created the right marketing mix for market success. If the company does all the right things at the right time, the purchaser will give them their money/business.

Now, to us, that sounds a little one sided. In fact, it reminds us of the “Golden Age” of marketing, which TV tells us was mostly just Jon Hamm getting drunk in his office and exploding at potential clients for not liking his ideas enough, and also because of his tortured past.

It’s very one sided. “I’m smart and you’re dumb. I’m big and you’re small. I’m right and you’re wrong.” Oh wait. That’s Danny DeVito in “Matilda.” Anyways, it’s basically saying that consumers aren’t smart enough to make informed decisions, and that the bottom-line is the all-knowing ruler.

If only there was a better way!

Introducing…the 4Cs of marketing. Well, not really introducing. The concept has been around a while. But here at TQS, we’re much fonder of this marketing tool than the producer-driven 4Ps. Look at it as if the P stands for producer and C stands for consumer. Sesame Street: Business Edition.

The 4Cs are consumer, cost, convenience and communication. Where product focuses on what’s being sold, consumer focuses on the person who’s buying it – selling what the customer wants and meeting their needs. Where price focuses on profit potential, cost focuses on the cost to the consumer. The price, but also the cost of time, and other sacrifices made in the process. Place focuses on distribution, while convenience focuses on how easy it is for consumers to buy. Meeting them where they are, not where you need them to be. And finally, where promotion focuses on how a product is marketed, communication focuses on how it’s perceived, valued and understood by the consumer. Creating a dialogue with them and reaching toward cooperative marketing where the consumer’s needs are most important.

The 4Cs of marketing focuses on making sure what you’re offering is something that consumers want to obtain. Whether it’s a good or a service, no amount of table-banging or handsomeness can convince this generation of consumers to buy something they don’t think they need. Making that emotional connection with your customers is the key to modern marketing.

Wait a second…weren’t we talking about B2B marketing? How did we end up on this tangent?

Oh yeah. B2B marketing has traditionally operated under the myth that businesses are different than consumers. But the decision makers ARE consumers, and by treating them differently you’re missing a lot of opportunities to connect with potential B2B customers. The 4Ps worked well in the past, and may still work well if robots are making the final decisions. But this isn’t The Jetsons (yet). Evaluating your marketing mix by what’s important to the consumer can help make sure you’re forming connections and creating brand loyalty, not just sales and profits.

So instead of relying too heavily on the idea that you’re selling to a business, shift your focus to person-to-person marketing. Engage potential customers with reactive and immersive content. Encourage dialogue and two-way conversation about your brand. Focus less on data and more on shareable content. Be bold. Be real. And don’t underestimate consumers.

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