Think of a successful B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) brand. Intel may jump to mind with its classic “Intel Inside” marketing beginning in the early 90’s. While a groundbreaking example back then, today, the idea of B2B2C branding goes beyond simply branding the “ingredient” components that become part of the final product sold to consumers. It’s about a change in mindset, shifting from traditional B2B thinking to embracing B2B2C strategies, getting closer to consumers and re-evaluating positioning with a broader lens.
Business models, value chains and industry ecosystems are shifting across the board, from financial services to pharmaceuticals, manufacturing to logistics. Your customer is no longer just your customer, but perhaps a collaborator, partner or competitor. Transparency, accountability, connectivity, and disintermediation are on the rise. Amidst all the flurry of change, consumers increasingly become the stable center of gravity. Make it work for them, and you create value for everyone and can secure your ongoing relevance. Leading brands get this and are expanding relationships to both business customers and consumers.
Trying to maintain a business-as-usual, traditional B2B mindset can only last so long. While the shift is challenging, it also opens great opportunities to strengthen your brand to weather any changes ahead.
As a starting point, consider these steps towards a B2B2C mindset:
Become problem solvers, not product providers
Based on B2B research we’ve led over the last decade, a key brand driver is being “enjoyable to work with.” Business relationships are human relationships, and creating the right rapport goes a long way.
However, pleasant provider relationships are not enough. “Having a clear vision of the future of the industry” shows up as the second driver: companies need to be proactive to anticipate and solve what matters to their customers, and their customers’ customers. Positioning as a forward-looking problem solver fosters a strong purpose, while staking a claim to playing a crucial role across a broader sets of audiences.
DuPont embraces this mindset as it enters its next era of growth. With a storied 200 year history, they recently re-launched as an independent company. Famous for specialty materials, such as Kevlar® and Tyvek®, sold primarily to manufacturers, the new DuPont is positioning itself beyond products to the human problems it solves and what it enables: turning possibilities into real world answers that help humanity thrive. This means looking ahead to address key societal challenges, like sustainable circular economies or healthy lifestyles. Thinking more broadly to address what matters– beyond a narrow view of the value chain and direct customers– DuPont is ensuring its relevance for the next 200 years.
While the shift is challenging, it also opens great opportunities to strengthen your brand to weather any changes ahead.
Take a consumer lens to innovation
Becoming a problem solver requires more broadly understanding the needs and wants of your customers’ customers, for today and tomorrow. Putting consumers at the center of problem solving opens new opportunities for innovations and solutions, while enhancing your value proposition with your direct business customers.
DPD, the international parcel delivery service, primarily serves businesses. Yet they’ve chosen to also focus on making consumers’ lives easier, offering services like Predict, to provide precise delivery-times. DPD looks at needs holistically, like solving last-delivery mile in urban areas. This sparks new experience initiatives, like their autonomous delivery partnership with Groupe Renault. By innovating to solve consumer needs, DPD is no longer a functional delivery provider, but an integral player leading the way in a changing e-commerce ecosystem.
Know where to elevate
In embracing a B2B2C mindset, you also need to find the right balance, without being viewed as the competition by your business customers. We’ve identified the following criteria to help identify times when you should consider strategically building greater prominence with consumers:
- Does your offering positively impact the consumer’s choice? Do you bring added value, helping to differentiate the solution and drive preference? Your brand may be an ingredient brand, like Kevlar® or Intel®. Making it more prominent in the world can help drive demand, establish a norm or a reference, and enhance value you’re bringing your direct business customers.
- Do you take on some of the risk in the consumer experience? Does your involvement help complete a step of the customer journey in the right way? High quality providers, such as Dolby® for cinema sound or Otis® elevators, not only enhance the customer experience, but also mitigate risk for their direct customers, such as theater or building operators. Owning this part of the consumer experience takes some of the load off from your business customers.
- Does your offering have significant potential- to drive ongoing growth, spur innovation and claim a market leading position?You may have a ‘hero’ or platform brand hidden within your portfolio. Don’t relegate its branding to functional business transactions, even if this may mean deviating from the efficiency of a master brand approach. Consider how to elevate your star through naming, design and experience. 3M and IBM are two parent brands that look strategically within their portfolios for a rarified set of offerings, like Post-it® or Watson, to foster and elevate across audiences as sub-brands.
Taking the brave next step
It’s challenging to think about shifting your brand mindset beyond your direct business customers. Maybe your marketing budget is constrained, ROI is difficult to prove, or you just don’t have a brand-oriented culture. But, the push is worth it to start preparing for the inevitable changes ahead. Start thinking like a B2B2C to unlock the power of your brand.