Traditionally, word of mouth marketing has mostly been focused on business to consumer scenarios. The idea being to create an environment where consumers are encouraged to talk about, and perhaps recommend, a business to their friends and family.
The same idea can, with a few adjustments, be applied in business to business situations. What we’re looking for here is creating a “buzz” within an industry or business segment.
The power of the launch
There is little else that can generate so much interest and buzz as an exciting, upcoming launch event. Whether it’s for a new product or service, or just something interesting that’s happening in the company, with the right approach it’s possible to get people talking about it months before the actual event. The trick is coming up with an idea that, even when revealed beforehand in only vague terms, gets people’s imagination going. There has to be a feeling that there’s something BIG coming.
Some companies in the B2C sector have perfected this approach – a great example is Apple, who has millions of people all over the world eagerly anticipating their launch/reveal events. This same thinking can be applied to B2B, although usually on a smaller scale.
Of course the whole idea falls short if the actual launch is disappointing. Failing to deliver on the promises made will decrease customer confidence in the business, and getting a second shot may not be easy.
Just as clever or creative advertising can be used in B2C to encourage discussion and increase brand awareness, the same can be done in B2B. The concept is actually similar to using launch events. To stand out and actually spur discussion and word of mouth, the ads could be controversial, funny or simply mysterious.
As usual some experimentation will most likely have to be done to find out what target businesses respond best to.
Here’s another technique that is used successfully in B2C, and can be adapted to B2B. Many small business owners have friends who are also self employed, meaning they probably talk business amongst each other. If a business has a lucrative referral program, they may be more likely to recommend it to their friends. Of course, just as with B2C, there is a chance these people may not treat the recommendation as genuine, considering the person gets a reward for each referral. Still,
In many situations there is really little difference between B2C and B2B when it comes to word of mouth marketing. The goal for the business is exactly the same: do something that gets people excited and talking about it. The main difference is probably that a bit more professionalism is expected in B2B situations, and the target audience may be a little harder to reach and impress. Otherwise it’s basically the same, and as always some elbow grease and a willingness to experiment is the key to success.