We all know that understanding our customer is important, and over the years we’ve come up with ways of describing who we sell to.
Segmentation can be complex, and there’s some creative ways of describing your market. You’ll hear terms like customer personas, buying behaviour, and other ways of trying to nail down who it is we’re marketing to.
One way people describe their market is: We’re either Business to Consumer (B2C) or Business to Business (B2B). The question is, is this the right way to view our markets? For me, it’s a terminology that has reached its use-by-date.
B2B or B2C?
B2B and B2C have been useful for the past 20 years or so, as it’s an easy way to describe what we do and whom we do it for.
It formed the starting point for creating a business strategy. If you’re a B2C company the focus was on individual consumers, looking at their wants and needs and how they could be answered with a product or service. For B2B companies, it was a focus on pain points in terms of organisational challenges. The difference being that in B2B they didn’t focus on a person, it was more a departmental play, for example IT, finance, operations, procurement, etc.
So, while this all makes sense, the world has changed and there’s a problem with this approach, particularly for the B2B scenario.
The market has changed
We’ve moved into a world driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics: The organisational landscape we were accustomed to is rapidly changing. The speed of change in today’s business environment is a challenge; technology is making it easier to automate processes and, in some cases, job functions. This is a major global trend that will affect businesses everywhere, including the G21 region.
Think about the way we work as an example: Technology has enabled us to work in a vastly different way than we did 10-15 years ago. Mobility means that we now expect to be able to work wherever and whenever we need to, whether it’s at the office, at home, at a client site, in a hotel…the list is endless. Work has now become focused on the needs of the individual, and it’s this trend that I believe is a clear indicator of the shift in the way we describe what we do.
This has become even more important when you think about the rise of the millennial worker. Millennials, or Gen Y, are technology literate and expect to be able to work anywhere at a time of their choosing. They don’t want to be shackled to a desk 9-5. They’re happy to take work home and vice versa. It’s a completely different mindset.
It’s now Business to people (B2P)
The realisation that businesses are made up of a collection of individuals isn’t new, but it is a different approach when you think about it from a strategy perspective. We’re all people, regardless of whether it’s a personal ‘consumer’ or a ‘business’ decision. And that is the crucial point when it come to how we view our markets
We all market to people and it’s factoring this into our approach to market that has to change. It’s why Business to People (B2P) is a more accurate term in my opinion: We need to consider the needs of the individual regardless of whether it’s a consumer or business.
Think about the example I gave above. Flexibility in how we work is a major consideration. Understanding the needs of the individual is key to selling a mobility solution. It transcends the old departmental lines that we used to use as a way of collectively grouping the needs and wants of a business. It’s about having a different conversation, something we’ve seen in the rise of social media marketing in B2B markets.
What’s the main benefit of B2P? Its not just sales focused. Everyone we work with, whether it be suppliers, partners, associations etc. are all made up of people with individual needs. Understanding and tailoring our approach to this makes perfect business sense.
Change your focus
For me, the two big factors holding businesses back from changing their focus are a lack of time and the old ‘we’ve always done it this way’.
Let me start with the latter. The ‘always done it this way’ line is one of the biggest handbrakes to change. It can keep you from spotting a trend, like the move to B2P, and force you to continue down the same road. You need to resist that type of thinking and encourage those in your business to challenge the status quo.
Lack of time is a challenge we all have. It’s why I’ve championed making time to look at the future. Think about how you can free yourself and your people to think and act differently. Automate manual tasks. Look at how you can afford increasing resources in your business (if you can). And if you can’t automate, look to outsource. All of these options will free up time in your business and allow your team to focus on people
. Imagine how much more you could achieve if you allowed your team to focus on people rather just ‘work’?
People to people
The B2P shift is just the beginning for me. I believe we’re moving further into an era in business where the people aspects will influence so much of what we do. It won’t just be traditional client facing roles like sales and marketing where we see this change. We’ll move from B2P to People to People (P2P).
The adage of ‘everyone’s a sales person’ will need to adapt to ‘everyone’s a people person’. It doesn’t matter where in your business you work, you’re always interacting with people internally and externally
. If we remember this, it will become the number one focus, and in my view, will help deliver a better result for every business.