5 Things B2B Brands can Learn About Customer Engagement from their B2C Counterparts

Today’s B2B companies may be overhauling business models and breaking technological boundaries, but when it comes to building customer relationships, the B2C world has them beat. Modern consumers want to believe in the companies they patronize, and B2C brands are embracing that fact. They’re reimagining the customer experience, building bonds with consumers that go far beyond the point of sale.

So how can your B2B brand get in on the action?

Make ‘em laugh

Laughter is powerful thing. It turns neighbors into friends, friends into family, and general consumers into loyal customers. The engagement potential is massive and B2C brands are no stranger to this fact. It feels like every week brings us a new story about companies who are boldly dragging trolls on Twitter. I can tell you from experience that Wendy’s special brand of sass has earned them the fast food allowance of at least one french fry connoisseur. And did they have to change their business model or alter the way they prepare or serve their food to earn my business? Nope! They just changed the way I view their company, and that was enough. My colleague Lindsey Schroeder stated it best: “[Humor] makes people feel good. When people feel good when reading your posts, they’ll associate your brand with good feelings and feel a genuine connection to it.”

Of course, throwing shade on social might not work for your B2B brand, but that doesn’t mean that humor is off limits. After all, there’s nothing less sexy than insurance, but if State Farm hadn’t dared to push the envelope, we wouldn’t have Jake from State Farm, and oh what a dim, khaki-less existence that would be! If subtlety is more your company’s thing, you can always take the KFC approach and play the long game. The options are endless.

There’s nothing less sexy than insurance, but if State Farm hadn’t dared to push the envelope, we wouldn’t have Jake from State Farm, and what a dim, khaki-less existence that would be! Click To Tweet

Make ‘em cry

If you truly don’t feel like laughter is your company’s thing, tears are always an option. Now, I’m not telling you to pull an ASPCA/Sarah McLachlan and make your customers bawl their eyes out, but there are situations in which a few tears can be a good thing. When done correctly, joyful and inspiring content can surprise consumers, elicit tears in a positive way, and leave a lasting impact. GE did this beautifully with their Ideas are Scary campaign back in 2014, and I know I’m not the only one who shed some yule tide tears to Apple’s misunderstood Frankenstein ad, circa 2016.

These videos are years old, but the visceral reactions I had when seeing them for the first time are still very much alive. And in a world of content-overload, that’s a big freakin deal! It’s an incredible feat that’s achievable by B2C and B2B brands, alike.

When done correctly, joyful and inspiring content can surprise consumers, elicit tears in a positive way, and leave a lasting impact. Click To Tweet

Make your own way

Speaking of content-overload, there’s something to be said for any brand that manages to get a voice in the conversation when it’s nearly impossible to be heard over hundreds—if not thousands—of other companies who are all yelling the same thing. That’s why so many modern B2C brands have stopped trying to fit in to find customers, and have decided to carve their own paths instead.

Take Death Wish Coffee for example. This once small business burst onto the scene with one 30-second Super Bowl spot and some very clear branding: Their coffee is caffeinated AF. Do you know how difficult it is for a new brand to find success in the food and beverage space? I’ll be honest, it’s not my area of expertise; but if countless hours of Shark Tank have taught me anything, it’s that it isn’t easy. But Death Wish’s simple and specific message struck a chord with the perpetually tired and caffeine-obsessed. They found their customers in a niche, and B2B companies can do the same.

Make a statement

Before we dive into this one, I’ll admit that I’m one of those pesky consumers who ‘votes with their money.’ Before you recoil in horror, hear me out because I’m not alone in this school of thought. We are, undoubtedly, in the age of the conscious consumer and modern customers want to buy from brands who share the same values as they do. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that every software and logistics company shout political commentary from the mountaintops, but there’s room out there for B2B brands to say something.

If politics really aren’t your thing, try making a statement by making a difference. This can come in the form of a corporate giving program or outreach initiative, but it can also be the foundation on which you build your brand. One look at Toms or Warby Parker will show you that modern consumers don’t just want products, they want purpose. And that’s good advice for any company, whether your customers are individuals or other businesses.

Modern consumers don’t just want products, they want purpose. Click To Tweet

Make a connection

Whether you’re trying to find your customers, show them what you stand for, make them smile, or make them shed a tear, it all comes down to making a connection. So how can your brand connect with a customer beyond the purchase point to form a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship? As with any relationship, you have to show them that you care. That’s exactly what Panera did when customers customers tweeted about liking their products and the reactions were amazing.

 

I mean, look at that face. Does that look like the face of a customer who’s going to go somewhere else to purchase their bread? I think not! 

Of course, slippers might not be right for your B2B brand, but you could give your customers the gift of branded sunglasses, or make a donation in their name. You could give them a discount on future products or feature them on your website as a success story—the possibilities are endless!

Why these tactics work

 These aren’t just some nebulous examples; I know these tactics work because hell – they worked on me! Here I am, Warby Parker on my face and Death Wish Coffee in my belly, typing away on my MacBook, trying to decide which Panera broth bowl I’m going to have for dinner tonight. I’m loyal to these brands, because something that they did made me feel connected to them (granted, I don’t have any “loafers” myself, but I’m holding out hope that my time will come).

It’s easy for B2B brands to forget that even though their customers are companies, they’re comprised of individuals with whom they can connect. Someone over there is making the purchasing decisions, so why not try to connect with them the way that B2C brands do with their customers? Why not try to make them laugh or cry or love your brand so much that they decide to write a blog about how fabulous your company is? (See what I did there?)