Women now, numerically, own more businesses than men in the USA and the UK 51 per cent. Moreover, the trend is accelerating: over 70 per cent of new businesses are started by women in the USA and the UK. Authoritative research shows that in corporate businesses, women occupy nearly 60 per cent of purchasing/ merchandising management positions. They are responsible for over 80 per cent of buying decisions in businesses and the home. If women consumers or prosumers in business are the new majority, there is a big disconnect.
So why do B2B marketers seem to ignore them? Because B2B marketing is boring! It has been unfashionable for years. Largely created by men with big business men in mind, typically we witness rational, logical pitches to save time, money and space.
Alternatively, we see expensive corporate advertising campaigns from companies like Accenture, choosing a megastar like Tiger Woods in all sorts of golfing situations, trying to cross relate to business solutions. Engaging eh?
Advertising messages tend to be bland, dull, lifeless and soulless. Typically, the targets seem to be faceless FDs, devoid of feelings and emotions. Very definitely a case of mind-over-heart. B2B marketing tends to identify itself with the FT, Business Week, The Economist and Fortune: big business. Yet the strength of the USA and UK economies has been with SME businesses, which rarely hit the headlines in their local paper, never mind the FT.
But executives are not robots: they do have hearts, feelings and emotions, and as we know all of these are stronger buying influences than just rational arguments.
Enticing, engaging and entertaining
So why not appeal to the soul rather than the role? Why not entice and engage with entertaining, emotional experiences that exhibit the real benefits of the product or service, appealing to both men and women?
Men's behaviour in business tends to be more single-minded and focused wholly on one project at a time. Women are different. They are multi-minded, multi-tasking and need to be addressed with this in mind.
Perhaps breaking the habit of a lifetime and listening to customers' wants has been too much of a challenge for marketers. The challenge is to observe behaviour, ask questions, listen and tailor solutions and state the benefits clearly and directly. Remember, women tend to be much busier than men, therefore act accordingly.
Men are from Mars...
Some contrasts in male versus female prosumer attitudes:
- Power pyramids versus peer groups: networking
- Me versus we: inclusive
- Men think winner ie. superiority/ideal versus women think warmer ie. someone like me: real, not ideal
- Differentiate for exclusivity versus affiliate for inclusivity
- Prioritise versus maximize, women want more
- Analyse for essentials versus synthesise for best answers
- Men target shop versus women browse shops.
Marketing and ad messages need to empathise with the busier lifestyles and traits of women and show respect for their time. Avoid stereotyping as either high-powered, suited executives eg. alpha females, or senseless secretaries/PAs.
Marketers should go deeper and build 'prosumer personas' on businesswomen's behavioural patterns. Tracking purchasing patterns online or telephone; timing of purchases; offering products of related interest (asking questions and seeking permission) will all help to build the personal profiles or personas. Armed with more accurate insights enables marketers to target personally with relevant messages/offers.
By appealing more to women ie. being more engaging and entertaining and adopting a more lifestyle-sensitive approach marketers will naturally appeal to men. For example, user-friendly products, better functional design, easier to handle eg. Dutch Boy easy-pour paint; lighter furniture; cordless keyboards from Logitech; impactful and easier to open packaging will be welcomed by both sexes.
Time to change
This calls for an overhaul of B2B marketing methods: a makeover of the soulless approach. B2B needs a makeover: an injection of soul, humour, warmth, lifestyle, reality etc. The Altana ad responsibility for profit alone? is a great example of an inclusive message for people in business.
The need is to go beyond B2B marketing, to create a refreshing, authentic approach. Personalisation is the ultimate aim, as mass marketing methods move towards individuals. We are moving from segmentation eg. accountants, lawyers to one-to-one eg. personal messages; to moment-to-moment campaigns timing communications to the most appropriate time for the individual. The need is to create a new definition: a symbolic step on the journey towards real personalisation.
B2U marketing, or 'Business to You' whether 'you' be the buyer, the FD, the MD, the facilities manager, the PA/secretary, or the user chooser, is a new more accurate definition. B2U describes clearly the next step in bringing the much-needed consumerisation of marketing to satisfy the souls of males and females alike.