Lee Odden

The B’s in B2B Are People Too – A More Human Approach to Business Marketing

Lee Odden     B2B Marketing

People focused B2B marketing

Answering any question about what’s next in B2B marketing must involve the increasing attention on buyers as people vs. simply “business to business”. The human element of business marketing has attracted a lot of play in the B2B marketing conversation and rightly so.

While there are many changes and trends to consider to stay ahead in the B2B marketing game (paid, earned, owned and shared media for example) the thing that unites departments, tactics and technologies is common ground and common goals. By viewing B2B marketing from the buyer’s perspective, whether it’s an individual or committee, business marketers can start to break free of the mechanical and start creating more meaningful marketing experiences for buyers.

To drill down further on this topic, I’ve connected with 3 top B2B Marketers from ExactTarget, Xerox and The Conversion Scientist to capture their insights on a more customer focused view of B2B marketing.

CMO: Chief Officer of the User Journey

Joel Book
Joel Book @joelbook
Director of eMarketing Education at Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud

One of the biggest trends in B2B Marketing is the rapidly expanding technology budget for the CMO. Gartner predicts that, by 2017, the CMO will have a larger IT budget than the CIO.

“NextGen CRM” is all about personalizing and optimizing the B2B buyer’s product research, buying and usage journeys.

As Marketing, Sales and Customer Service functions converge, CMOs are being asked to shoulder responsibility for not only creating brand awareness and generating leads, but nurturing those leads by providing information that aids purchase, and delivering relevant and timely customer service communications.

In short, “NextGen CRM” is all about personalizing and optimizing the B2B buyer’s product research, buying and usage journeys. And the CMO is rapidly becoming the company’s Chief Journey Officer!

B2B & B2C Will Be Replaced by B2i

Jeannine Rossignol
Jeannine Rossignol @j9rossignol
Vice President of Marketing at Xerox Global Services

“In the future there’s no distinction between B2B & B2C. Everything is marketed to individuals”

In the future there is no distinction between types of marketing, B2B or B2C is irrelevant because everything is marketed to the individual, and everything is controlled by your smart devices.

When the alarm on your phone wakes you up, you hear a message about the latest traffic report and a reminder to leave early because your car is almost out of gas.  As you listen to the news, through iHeartRadio on your phone, all the commercials are customized to you.

You might hear a promo for a new coffee flavor that works in the Keurig you just bought, or you might hear a promo on a new product/service based on the Google search you did last night.

Shocking! BP2BP Replaces B2B

Brian Massey
Brian Massey @bmassey
The Conversion Scientist

In the coming year an in-depth study of corporations worldwide will reveal that businesses do not buy anything, but that human beings are actually the force behind decisions being made.

The B2B industry will be re-crowned BP2BP, or business person-to-business person.

This revelation will send shockwaves through the communities that sell to businesses. The B2B industry will be re-crowned BP2BP, or business person-to-business person. Thinly-veiled disciplines will be adopted from consumer marketing such as strategytelling, corpywriting, and bLearning.

Copywriters will be liberated in their writing. Stock photo sites will see a sales plummet. It will be hard for some businesses to accept that business people come with the same hopes, fears and dreams that drive consumer decisions. At least one high-level marketing executive will be overheard saying, “People. Who’d have thought?”

Well said Joel, Jeannine and Brian.  I hope you’ve already registered for the sold out MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston Oct 8-10 to see these 3 B2B marketing smarties in person. If not, you can sign up for on-demand access.

To get even more insights on the dynamics of B2B Marketing now and in the future, be sure to check out the full complement of B2B Marketing predictions in the Future of B2B Marketing eBook below. You’ll find a mix of predictions that range from the practical to those that are so far out there, they’re literally science fiction.

How are you incorporating a more “human” approach to your B2B marketing?

Photo: Shutterstock

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Great post Lee, I couldn’t agree more with all of the comments made. I have always placed a great amount of value on relationships in any marketing situation. I think Brian puts it best when he says marketing will be from one business person to another.

  2. I can only half agree with this. While the delivery channels are becoming blurred because of social media and the way B2B and B2C audiences are consuming information, there is still a difference between the two. The difference is in the basis of the marketing. B2C consumers only have to persuade themselves (or maybe their better half) for a reason to purchase something. Whereas a B2B consumer may not necessarily hold the purse strings. It means that B2B marketing creation differs fundamentally in terms of construction – despite the fact that it may enjoy the same output channels.

    Ok, so they’re all humans of course but we work very differently at home than at work. Marketing must be aware of this because your average B2C campaign will not fly at an organisational level in most cases.

    Or am I missing something?

    • Good points Sean. I think it’s more about borrowing the parts of B2C that speak to individuals, even if it’s individuals within a buying committee. That vs. more formal communications typical for B2B buyers. The “human” references to B2B marketing have struck a chord here and elsewhere because while we do think differently at home vs. work, the value of a meaningful connection is valued either way. Maybe business buyers don’t feel they’re getting that with normal B2B marketing content.

      • I think you probably nailed it there. B2B does need to become more human or maybe conversational but the core message may differ depending on business or consumer.

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