Tuesday, October 18, 2011

B2B and B2C Marketing Automation: Understanding the Differences

As you might have guessed from my recent list of B2C marketing automation systems, I’ve recently been spending some time helping consumer marketers to select vendors. This is more a return than a departure: although I’ve written mostly about B2B systems for the past few years, my earlier work was largely in consumer marketing. Like any traveler, I’ve returned home with some new perspectives. Here are some observations

- consumer marketers have to build databases; B2B marketers don’t. You can file this under “things so obvious that it feels stupid to even mention them”, but it’s still an important difference. In setting up a consumer marketing system, the primary discussion is always around where the data will come from and how it will be managed. This accounts for most of the work and most of the cost. By very sharp contrast, B2B marketers rely primarily on their CRM system (that is, Salesforce.com or a competitor) as the primary data source, and complement that with information captured directly by the marketing automation systems’ own landing pages and Web tracking tags. The CRM integration can be set up in days, if not minutes, and next to no time is spent worrying about the marketing database design or update processes.

On the whole, this situation is an advantage for B2B marketers, since they can direct their attention to other issues and can start using their systems almost immediately (for simple tasks, at least). But it also means that B2B systems are much less flexible than B2C marketing automation systems, since the B2B systems are built around a fixed data structure that is derived from the CRM data model. Only a few B2B vendors can add custom tables to systems and I doubt any could accommodate a fundamental departure from the core CRM data structure.

The main practical implication of this is that consumer marketers would have a hard time using a B2B system. (So do the largest B2B marketers, who also need specialized data structures and update processes.) This is frustrating for consumer marketers, who see the huge variety, slick features, and attractive pricing of the B2B systems. Some B2C systems offer similar features and pricing with the same Software-as-a-Service business model. But the total costs are still higher because someone has to build and maintain the underlying database.

- B2B systems include landing pages and web behavior tracking; most B2C systems don’t. It’s technically possible for B2C systems to offer these features, and some do. But many B2C products leave them out. I’d guess the reason is B2C marketers more often have the capabilities available from other sources, such as a Web content management system or Web analytics product. We can probably expect more B2C systems to add them as vendors see that marketers like having them integrated with their primary system.

- B2B systems are cheaper. B2B marketing automation systems start around $750 per month, or under $9,000 per year, and a typical B2B installation probably runs under $30,000 per year. By contrast, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine a B2C system that costs less than $50,000 per year. As I mentioned earlier, that’s really frustrating for B2C marketers.

- B2C deployments are easier. This might spark some debate. But B2C marketers don’t have to deal with marketing-sales alignment, can usually measure results directly, and are often already running the same types of campaigns they expect to run with marketing automation. This means there’s less need for process reengineering, program design, content development, and the other changes that often trip up B2B marketing automation projects. Of course, the exception is building that new marketing database, which I’ve already noticed is much harder for B2C. But the need for the database is obvious from the start and plenty of experts are available to help. So I’d say the risks of a failed deployment are much lower for B2C.

These are simply the differences that pop out as I look at consumer marketing systems with fresh eyes. Further thought might reveal others.  What’s intriguing is that B2B marketers, often considered less sophisticated than their B2C cousins, may actually be more advanced in some ways. It’s worth putting aside the old attitudes and considering what each group can learn from the other.

1 comment:

jnailen said...


Your blog is packed with great information, thanks for sharing so much.

Given the availability of advanced features and generally lower costs with B2B marketing automation vendors, and given the difference between B2B and B2C you pointed out, which of the B2B demand generation products might be best adapted to B2C use?