For many B2B marketers, the days of focusing their efforts solely on their business customers and their channels are relics of history: The “good old days” are a thing of the past. Your customers are feeling pressure like never before. Their consumers, the end users, have expectations born of unprecedented information being shared in social media. Now consumers expect not only retailers and service providers to have safe, sustainable methods of doing business but also suppliers and manufacturers at the beginning of the value chain.
This requires a shift in thinking on your part, from B2B to B2B2C. As B2B marketers, our businesses are rife with complexity already. Now we’re adding consumers to the mix.
For B2C marketers, consumer transparency is a necessity. As B2B marketers, you may think “this doesn’t apply to me” or “it’s certainly a stretch that it could apply to my business.” Maybe you’re right. But the threat is real.
This shift can profoundly impact your business and requires ongoing communication with your customers. If they’re feeling the heat from their consumers, they may bow to outcry before checking with you to see how you’re impacted. For example, a promise by a big box retailer related to sustainable packaging practices affects your suppliers up and down the value chain — the package design, the packaging materials, the distribution methods and the disposal and recycling processes. Ideally, all links in the value chain should be considered before making such promises to consumers, as the impact of these announcements can be substantial for the suppliers — and your business.
The key is to stay ahead of what consumers are demanding, monitoring social channels for conversation around hot-button issues, then approaching your customers to discuss a course of action together. But your world as you know it today will change. You’re now beholden to the end users as much as your own clients and customers. You’ll have to be vigilant and communicate thoroughly, potentially adjusting your organization to address concerns about safety and sustainability, then making those changes known to anyone who is interested and will listen.
But on the positive side, you’ll have increased visibility, which can work in your favor. Demonstrating that you’re an upstanding member of the value chain can only be good for business. Sure, it will require an investment on your part and the extra effort of public relations. But the payoff is a positive reputation that’s more apparent than before, being held up as a shining example of corporate good in the industry. More customers will want to be associated with you.
How you get there is just as critical. There are best practices you can employ to steer your company to positive results:
- Get ahead of it.
- Humanize it.
- Make it meaningful.
- Nurture advocates.
- Tell your story.
Consumer transparency is a market dynamic that’s real and here to stay. This is the new reality for B2B organizations, and it’s time to embrace the consumer by becoming more transparent. Being proactive in crossing that threshold will earn positive accolades and increased business. Your competitors might be holding off in entering this brave new world, which can give you an advantage as you make your way of doing business known. Accept the reality, take advantage of it and reap the benefits that are right around the corner.
For more ideas on how to navigate the B2B2C terrain, download our free white paper, B2B2C and Consumer Transparency’s Impact on B2B.