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  • Writer's pictureTom Kothman

B2B vs. B2C Marketing Automation and Personalization

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Every ESP, blogger, and email professional says “personalization” is extremely important for success in 2022. A recent webinar on personalization from Litmus was mainly focused on B2C. I thought “Okay, that’s do-able for consumer products. Shirt, collar, sleeve size plus style, color, etc. are natural data points to bring into one-on-one direct emails. The additional ability to create personalized product images shows the buyer “their” product. For the typical B2C e-commerce retailer customer volumes the personalization process must be scalable in order to work This is why we see the introduction of machine learning, AI, database imports and other automations being introduced and upgraded. Otherwise it would require the Mongol Hordes to create huge volumes of personalized emails.

I have B2B clients; they want to get personal too. I have this nagging question… “What about B2B personalization? What is it and how does personalization work in the B2B world?”

First, lead volume and quality define their playing field. In B2C you want the most leads and conversions as possible. In B2B quality trumps quantity.

Second, in B2C the point-of-purchase experience is more important; time, place, and convenience play large roles. B2C buy triggers are typically emotional, entertaining, spontaneous.

What are B2B triggers? According to HubSpot,

“B2B customers look for logic and positive ROI. Essentially, they’re asking themselves, how can your business help my business grow? Because of this, your email marketing must consistently resonate with your business customers and focus on things that matter to them — like time, money, and resources.”

The folks at TechnologyAdvice concur.

“Most marketers understand that the best way to generate demand is to appeal to buyers in a direct, relevant, and engaging way. But in B2B marketing, you aren’t selling to a consumer whose only reservation is whether a certain widget will match their drapes. You’re selling to a high-level decision-maker — or a group of decision-makers — who have complex priorities and obligations."
According to recent findings by Salesforce “almost 75% of business buyers expect vendors to personalize engagements to their needs. That desire gives you an opportunity to build relationships before the sales process even begins.”

(I read “sales process” to be when the customer and salesperson connect)

B2C and B2B leads, once identified, are therefore interested in fundamentally different content. Thanks again to Hubspot for providing the chart, below. It suggests the different content buckets for B2C vs. B2B emailers to bring about the sales process.

Let’s assume we’ve created the perfectly appropriate content to deliver throughout the B2B conversion funnel. How do we know what to deliver to whom and when? The foundation of B2B personalization resides with debriefing experienced sales, customer support, management, and marketing associates. There’s much to be learned from the embedded expertise of your top salespeople and CSRs.

“Nurture leads with excellent content that builds trust with your brand, get them to agree to a conversation with your neighborhood friendly sales rep, and then let the sales rep sell. If they (the sales rep) need to send some of that great content along in a personal email to the lead, make sure they have the resources to do that too.” TechnologyAdvice blog

As noted earlier, automating the personalization process in B2C marketing is clearly do-able and many ESP have developed technologies that enable even marketing newbies. Mailchimp and Constant Contact come to mind because such a larger percentage of their customer base are smaller e-commerce operators.

Other ESP’s have made significant strides in automating B2B conversion funnels that identify leads, nurture them and ultimately end with the Customer-Salesperson reunion. A good example is ActiveCampaign’s Deals. Deals is ActiveCampaign’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that consists of: Pipelines, Stages, Deals and Tasks.

Pipelines are business processes — sales-related and otherwise. They represent the entire process of converting qualified leads into customers.

Stages are the steps in a pipeline that deals must advance through to complete those processes and hopefully end in closing the sale.

Deals are contacts that no longer sit dormant in the database; they’re actually in a pipeline and are on track to becoming customers.

Tasks are to-do items that you create for deals.

According to ActiveCampaign, “In summary, Deals represent leads that are potential customers. In our CRM, you can easily view where deals are in your stages and pipelines. Likewise, you can filter what deals you see based on their status. “Open” deals are those that are active. “Won” deals are those that achieve the goal of the pipeline (e.g. buy a product or are successfully on-boarded). “Lost” deals are leads that enter your pipelines but do not convert.”

See a a full explanation of ActiveCampaign’s Deals


The B2C state-of-the-art personalization goal strives to

a) gather as much pertinent data on individuals as possible

b) use AI, machine learning, automation, first party data and purchase history

c) in order to deliver 1-1 messaging and purchase experience with a minimum of retailer human involvement.

The goal of B2B personalization is to

a) identify as many quality leads as possible

b) nurture them with a conversion funnel and content incorporating known successful sales processes

c) and deliver an educated lead to a salesperson for completion of the selling process.

For B2B email marketers, selecting an ESP and other partners that have developed the technology to deliver lead identification, nurturing and handoff to a salesperson is the path to B2B personalization.

Additional Resources to learn more about B2B personalization.




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