In 2019, an annual Salesforce survey found that 69 percent of business buyers expected an Amazon-like buying experience from vendors and 72 percent expected vendors to personalize the buying experience to their needs. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has blurred the boundaries between work life and home life even further. The outcome: today’s business buyers are more likely than ever to expect – and respond to – B2C-like buying experiences. To connect with these buyers, B2B marketers need to embrace a new marketing paradigm: the B2C2B buyer. Here’s a look at what that means and how B2B marketers can successfully connect to this audience.
What is B2C2B?
The B2C2B (business-to-consumer-to-business) model reflects this reality: businesses are not making business buying decisions; rather, individual consumers are.
To make a sale to a business, you have to connect that individual person, but also, crucially, make it easy for that person to bring the message back to their business environment. (This is where B2C2B differs slightly from the B2P, or business-to-people, framework: it closes the loop to get back to the business context.)
This isn’t new; individual people have always been behind business buying decisions. What’s changed in the last year or so, though, is that many of these decision makers are now living in a world with no firm boundaries between their personal lives and their work lives. The “office” is the dining room table or the sofa or the back room. Or maybe (now) it’s sometimes the dining room table and sometimes the actual office.
Not only that: there’s now the expectation that anything physical can also be digital. Meetings have moved to Zoom. Concerts have moved to live streams. Restaurant menus have moved to our phones.
B2B marketers can reach their buyers in any number of physical and digital ways. But what’s often missing in those physical encounters is a way to close the loop: to bring the physical engagement back into the realm of the digital and therefore the business – i.e., to go from business to consumer to business. The good news is that a decades-old technology can help.
Bridging the Digital-Physical Divide with QR Codes
QR codes have been around since 1994. In the US, they were briefly popular in the early 2010s, but tech limitations at the time made for a ho-hum experience. Users had to download a dedicated app to view the codes. Data was less abundant, so loading a page the QR code pointed to took forever. And those pages were often lackluster – say, a non-responsive version of the company’s homepage.
But things have changed. In 2017, Apple updated its iOS so that phones could read QR codes automatically in the camera app. And when the pandemic hit and businesses of all kinds were forced to find contactless ways to connect to customers, QR codes took off (as with those restaurant menus I mentioned – many now leap to your phone via QR code).
B2B marketers can tap into this powerful and underused technology to complete the loop of B2C2B buying: connect with consumers in physical, non-work places, then effortlessly connect them to their work lives. Let’s look at a few examples.
B2C2B QR Codes in Action: Examples
As with any digital marketing tool, the potential applications of QR codes are limited only by a marketer’s imagination. For those who haven’t tried QR codes with B2C2B interactions in mind, here are a few strategies to consider:
1)Facilitate a Monday follow-up
One great way to connect with your core buyers is to sponsor an event they’re likely to attend. This could be work adjacent or something like an industry conference. In either case, the potential buyer is likely in a good mood, doing something they enjoy, and receptive to new ideas.
But also not in a place for deep research about a new solution.
A QR code lets you connect with them when they are: program your code to put an event on their calendar for the Monday following the event. “Check out XYZ’s new product,” plus a link to your site.
Bonus: use a dynamic QR code, and you can update the code to schedule a meeting for the closest Monday to the scan date.
The potential impact is significant, given that customer effort is 40 percent better at predicting loyalty than customer satisfaction. In other words, make it easy to use your product, and you’ll likely win a loyal customer base.
2)Hop into their social feed.
If your brand is active on social media, use QR codes to take your audience directly to your feed so they can follow you (about three-quarters of social media users follow brands). This lets you stay in front of them any time they’re scrolling, which gives you lots of opportunities to cultivate familiarity and affinity.
3)Personalize your message.
Today’s QR capabilities are just as versatile as those in other branches of digital marketing. You can, for example, customize a QR code based on a user’s geography.
Or if someone has scanned a code in the past, you can deliver new or pre-populated content when they scan again. It’s even possible to update your messaging based on time of day – for example, nodding to night owl behavior if someone scans your billboard code at two in the morning.
Remember: 72 percent of B2B buyers actually expect personalization from vendors.
4)Integrate and elevate your marketing efforts.
Data from QR codes can also tie into the rest of your marketing efforts. When a potential customer scans your code from their phone, you get the ability to target social ads to them, for example, the next time they use that phone to log onto social media.
Blend the Physical and Digital World to Make Life Better for Your Customers
Ultimately, companies want to sell their goods and services so they can make life better for their customers. To do that effectively, you have to meet customers where they are – and accept the reality that that changes over time.
Many of today’s business buyers live in a fluid world of home and work. Helping them seamlessly navigate the two helps them excel at both – staying engaged in the moment in their personal lives while setting themselves up for success in their professional lives. Given the way B2B buyers are living and working in our current quasi-post-pandemic climate, the QR code is an invaluable tool for making that happen.
Sharat Potharaju is cofounder and CEO of Beaconstac, a QR code and mobile marketing platform. LinkedIn: Sharat Potharaju Twitter: @Beaconstac.
B2B stock photo by Pulseender Art/Shutterstock