One thing I try to keep in mind when thinking about PR strategies for business to business brands is that business buyers are also consumers. The people who buy Oracle or SAP for their organization also buy Coke and iPhones. They subscribe to Netflix and get stuff from Amazon. They don’t become an entirely different person when making purchasing decisions at work. That said, there are still some significant differences in how people buy B2B and B2C products and therefore, PR strategies for each require a different approach.
Media and Audience Segmentation
Consumers and the media channels that serve them tend to be segmented along demographic lines. Groups may be segmented by age, gender, income level, education, and other factors. These segments are more or less important depending on whether the product has a very broad appeal. Audience segments for B2C products tend to be quite large, so there are often many networks, publications and journalists to target.
Business buyers, on the other hand, tend to be tightly segmented based on industry, role and company size. Publications and journalists are much more specific with niche channels available for focused information distribution. When it comes to earned media, targeting is critical to effective PR for B2B organizations.
Consumers and business buyers are motivated by different desires and therefore a brand’s messaging must reflect what is important to their customers. The B2B audience is seeking products that will help their business solve problems or leverage opportunities. They are attracted to efficiency and expertise. Consumers tend to buy based on emotions like hunger, desire, status, or price.
Modern buyers of all types are influenced by what they see on their social networks, but the networks they look to for advice and ideas are often different. Consumers are influenced by friends, family, anonymous online reviews, and celebrities. Business buyers look to industry experts, third party analysts, peers, and colleagues for help with deciding what products to select and which vendors to consider. Your influencer strategy should reflect this difference.
The Buyer’s Journey
Consumer buying decisions are usually quick, if not instantaneous. This means your PR strategy should focus on getting the information to your potential buyers exactly when and where they want it. For consumers, the buyer’s journey is often literally a journey as they use mobile devices to research products and shop from anywhere. For business decision makers, the buying process can take much longer; months or even years. PR professionals in B2B should craft assets that support the buyer’s changing needs across the entire process.
So, while people are people, we do compartmentalize and exhibit different behaviors in our work and personal lives. Smart PR professionals keep this in mind and approach B2B and B2C customers in ways that are uniquely suited to the situation at hand.