B2B marketing is an elusive field, not exactly known for precision guidelines, quick goal achievement, and transparency. In comparison, advertising B2C might feel like a pretty exact science. Sure, things are changing… There are always new strategies and trends to pursue. But are they changing fast enough? Better question yet, are they changing for the better or just mixing with the “good old ways” and making a bigger mess of the already messy?
Gaetano DiNardi, currently VP of Growth at Aura, a B2C digital security solution, is a music producer-turn-marketer. Though he successfully made a name for himself in B2B, Gaetano decided to jump the ship and swim towards the less frustrating horizons of B2C, which offered him unique insights into the inner workings of both.
In this week’s episode of Ungated Marketing, Fernando Amaral interviews Gaetano about his experiences in both B2B and B2C, the reasons behind the switch, his passionate claims that B2B needs to take a good hard look at itself if it wants to survive in the modern world as well as his reasoning that the answers lie in B2C.
B2B vs. B2C Marketing: Key Differences
Marketing is marketing, right? B2B and B2C shouldn’t exist in isolated bubbles, yet they do most of the time. Gaetano feels passionately about what sets the two apart — the differences in how B2B and B2C marketers look at the audiences and their role in converting them to customers.
You can Run, but You Can’t Hide
One of the first key differences Gaetano brings to the surface and warns against is B2B’s habit of obscuring its shortcomings in the vagueness of vanity metrics. Something you can’t really hide when you advertise direct-to-customer.
He explains: “When you are in B2C, there is no hiding. You cannot fluff up the numbers in any way that's going to make you seem more successful than you are. And in B2B, a lot of the numbers can be conflated. A lot of data can be presented in a way that doesn't tell the real story.”
In B2C, there are very few arguments to be had about lead quality or whether or not they are ready to buy, or whether your sales team is wasting their time on small fish. “For B2C, the website is essentially a marketing-controlled revenue environment. And so marketing has much more control over the end out.” B2C offers a lot of control and clarity, which gives you the freedom to run a lot of creative experiments, while “in B2B you really cannot. The sales cycles are longer. There are more elements, there are more components. There are more decision-makers. Your goal as a marketer, in most cases, is to get someone to go to the website and fill out a form for more information. And then there's a lot of time being spent on what happens after that, which can get very messy.”
All for Revenue, Revenue for All
Another “beef” Gaetano has with B2B is the common perception that every marketing effort needs to tie directly to revenue, which, he believes, hurts the marketing efforts significantly and gives business-to-customer marketing an advantage.
He recounts: “I saw a post that some B2B content marketer made on LinkedIn the other day. He said, ‘Yeah, content is great, but I feel like an imposter. If I'm not driving revenue with my content, I must not be good at marketing.’ And everybody in the comments is like, ‘Yeah, you're right. Content needs to drive revenue. If you're not driving revenue with your content, then what are you doing?’” Sound familiar? Well, that is the rather persistent narrative in B2B. Though, in Gaetano’s eyes, it’s this kind of thinking that cripples B2B marketing in its ability to do its job. “They're imposing this mindset on marketers that you have to drive revenue from content. And if you're not doing that, it's not successful. That just goes down so many layers of rabbit holes.”
He continues to explain that “in direct-to-consumer marketing, if we had the mindset of ‘Is this going to produce a sign-up or not?’ We'd be nowhere because you actually need to spend a lot of time marketing to people who are not thinking about your product or solution.”
Nurture vs. Nature
The last key differentiation factor in the modus operandi of B2B vs. B2C is the question of nurture. Gaetano sums that in B2C, “there is no ‘come to a webinar, fill out a form, and we'll spam you to death until you buy.’ There is no lead nurturing. There is none of that. There's no such thing as the top of the funnel.” Hence, all your focus needs to be on the marketing campaigns to bring customers to you when they are ready.
In traditional B2B marketing and sales, nurture plays a key role in driving many of the marketing actions: “You have to capture the contact information of someone who is not even thinking about buying. And then you have to call them, try to get a meeting. Then you have to try and lead, square them. Then you have to try and send them emails. Then you have to retarget them all these ads, and you have to do all the stuff, and you have to track every little thing that happens. This creates a formula for them being ready to buy.” However, Gaetano believes all that to be unnecessary as most of the actions he describes are ineffective while taking quite a bit of your time and resources.
What Gaetano loves about marketing directly business-to-customer is that “you don't have to do all this extra work that is probably ineffective when you can just spend time doing real marketing, and they'll come to you when they're ready.” There is no chasing leads and contacts but rather focused efforts to raise awareness so that customer knows where to go when the need occurs.
What are the Problems in Traditional B2B Marketing and Sales?
The differences above create a foundation for some of the key issues B2B companies face today. Gaetano talks about the key issues creating roadblocks that keep B2B marketing and sales moving forward.
Outbound is Hanging by a Thread
The first strategy that, according to Gaetano, hangs by a thread is outbound sales. The evidence of its fragility is most evident in the people responsible for carrying it out, the SDRs we all “know and love.”
Gaetano explains: “The [SDRs] turnover rates are insane. Quota attainment is so low. They don't like their jobs. They're only doing it because they want to move into something else in tech. And they're doing this as a gateway.” No SDR plans on being an SDR forever, and those who are “in that sort of like, ‘Yeah, I've been SDR for like two years, and I'm just bouncing around from company to company being an SDR’ — they are woefully unhappy.”
One of the reasons behind the SDR job description turning out to be quite unappealing and having the whole model crumbling down is that “it's getting much more difficult because of all the weaponized spam, all the automation, so many power dialers, there are a million tools out there now that can help you accelerate speed and volume and scale. Quality is going down. Decision-makers are getting too inundated, and so, you only have so much opportunity now because everybody's getting hammered.”
Gaetano believes that sticking to the traditional outbound model without any marketing support, you will only get so far. If you want to make a difference, you will need to let go.
Over-optimization is Killing SEO
Getting your content to position as close to the top as possible is important as it makes a huge difference in organic traffic. There’s nothing wrong with creating valuable content that plays by the SEO rules. The problem surfaces when content is created simply by creating content with only revenue in mind, a strategy that often ends up sacrificing value for the sake of optimization.
It leaves you with content that’s well-positioned but not actually helpful: “You have now a situation in so many industries where everything has been over-optimized to the point where it's optimized in excess, and you cannot really find the information that you need in some cases.”
How does this affect your business?
Well, on the one hand, over-optimization creates new tendencies among people. For example, Gaetano mentions, “if I want to find the real answer to something, now I have to search Reddit.”
Over-optimization causes the user trust to crumble and the experience to become more frustrating: “If I search that on Google, I am just going to get affiliate sites which are probably taking money and not giving real reviews or real recommendations. I'm going to see SEO-optimized pages by people like me who are great at SEO and know exactly what to do in order to get pages to rank. I'm going to see tons of ads. So like the first four to five things I see, carousel or rich snippet pack, is going to be all ads of some kind. Then even the very bottom of the page is going to have more ads. There are just so many elements there. I have to click around so much to find the real answer to what I need for things that are more complex. Why would I keep going to Google for this?”
There’s more, though!
Another obstacle created by over-optimization is the almost complete inability to rank for the more commercial terms with original content as these terms are usually taken over by review sites: “All these searches have been given preference to reviews sites like G2 and TrustPilot and TrustRadius and all those guys [...] and so if you're a vendor now, you can not even rank for these commercial terms. So, you need to spend your efforts on working with affiliates, giving them commissions, and then showing why you deserve to be independently reviewed from an editorial standpoint.”
And so, while SEO is not dead, it’s becoming significantly less relevant and doesn’t bring in as much value as it used to. And, if there’s value to be had, your focus should be on the “pre-buying-ready” mindset: “You need to find the problems that people are having before they buy or when they're about to buy or when they're in the consideration phase of buying, not when they are exactly ready to buy or sign up now, forget it. You're wasting your time with that.”
So, when Gaetano says SEO is no longer what it used to be, it means that the way it’s going, eventually “every industry, every search, no matter how long-term, we'll be so perfectly optimized by people like me, that Google would just be one big cesspool of over-optimization. And the only way to find a real, you know, real deal unfiltered answer for what you want is to go to threads and forum sites.”
Reviews are Taking Over Content
As mentioned above, over-optimization pushed review sites to the top for many commercial queries. In addition to that, affiliate relationships often throw a shadow of suspicion over the recommendation listicles that rank alongside the review sites — consumers don’t trust them to be sincere.
And so, reviews are taking the central stage, and “that means you have to have good customer reviews. So, now you're getting into this rabbit hole of where ‘I actually need to prove why I deserve to be on these listings. Now I have to get customer reviews. Now I need to get ratings, and they have to be actual good quality reviews from real customers saying real things about the product.”
The issue is, many B2B businesses don’t consider reviews a priority, and “what happens a lot is, they'll say things like, ‘Yeah, I know we need reviews, but it's just not a priority right now.’ Or ‘Yeah, we need reviews, but we don't know how to get them.’ Or ‘Yeah, we need reviews, but we don't know how that's actually gonna help us get more customers.’”
Another problem is, especially in B2B, that it’s not enough to get five stars and a four-word sentence of praise, “it needs to be an actual product review.” And so, “companies need to spend more time figuring out how do we get more comprehensive reviews from our customers and how do we get them to not just make it seem like they're doing us a favor.”
Gaetano believes that “all of these things are very tough nuances that need to be figured out, and every company needs to have at least one or two people dedicated to this [reviews] at this point, if they're in B2B and they're gonna make it a long-term part of their strategy.”
Not Making Most of Events
Another issue in traditional B2B marketing and sales Gaetano discusses is the wasted potential of events; “One of the main differences that we have in B2C versus B2B is that when you have a B2B trade show, how is everybody thinking? I need leads! The purpose of this is leads. How many badges can we scan to prove that we market it to someone? How many meetings can we set? How many follow-ups can we get, what is the total investment of this event and what are we going to get out of it? What's the ROI? How do we measure all this stuff? How much pipeline is going to come as a result of this event? That is how B2B thinks.”
In B2C, the mindset is different: ”We know that it's going to benefit us, in the long run, to be there. We know that we need to do this from an attracting, educating, and influencing standpoint, brand marketing, and brand marketing activations. And so, we don't think of it as how many meetings were booked or how many signups came as a result of doing [it].”
The main problem is the cost that usually goes into attending big events and trade shows, and, according to Gaetano, “you're not getting much ROI out of it because you're not taking advantage of the content creation opportunities. You're not turning this into like year-long content creation and capturing opportunity.” A strategy Mark Huber already proved to be extremely effective.
The key issue with the traditional B2B approach is that “you can produce a year's worth of content from [these events], and most companies are not doing it that way. They're just showing up, badgering people for meetings that they're just looking at it as how many emails can I collect then, out of all those emails we collected, how many automated follow-ups can we send the results?”
Suppose you want to get ahead of competitors. In that case, you need to start approaching events from a less revenue-driven perspective and, instead, double down on the content and exposure opportunities you can get from them.
Wasting Resources on Tools
Last but not least is the popular issue of wasted resources. While this can happen in any company or department, it’s far easier to lose sight of what’s important when working with a long marketing and sales cycle where vague metrics can help hide a lot of misgivings.
From Gaetano’s experience, one of the biggest sources of sales and marketing budget waste in B2B “is buying and implementing all this new technology because you're being brainwashed by Gartner and you're being brainwashed by the vendors. They make you feel like if you don't have this, you're going to be left behind. All your competitors are using it, and you are not. So, what is the end result? People rush into buying technology without a strategy, without being prepared, without even really knowing what they're going to do with it, how it's going to be. Who will manage all these things? Tons of time is wasted in meetings and decision-making [...] and then you don't really get much use or much value out of it.”
While tools can be helpful it’s important not to give them too much value in the equation of your success. Gaetano believes that you don’t necessarily need the latest tech tools to achieve the results you want: “I'm very tool agnostic. If I'm doing customer life cycle marketing or email marketing, I can use Active Campaign, I can use Autopilot. It doesn't matter what tool you give me. I'm going to figure it out and create a great outcome. [For Instance] — I use this example all the time — Eddie Van Halen, one of the greatest [guitarists] ever, he could make a cheap $150 guitar sound like a $2,000 guitar because he has the fundamentals and the skills and so.” And that’s what you should consider when creating your sales and marketing tech stack.
Traditional B2B is restrained by roadblocks ranging from unhappy SDRs to vanity metrics and unnecessarily complicated processes. If you want to succeed in this day and age, you need to evaluate the way you approach the sales and marketing practices, from content to outbound outreach.
If you wish to learn more about the issues in B2B sales and marketing, gain a fresh perspective, and find ideas on how to solve them listen to the full episode below or tune in on Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Apple Podcasts.