Montagues vs Capulets. Star Wars vs Star Trek. West Coast vs East Coast rap. Marvel vs DC. Ketchup vs mustard on hotdogs. People like to see rivalries and factions, and it's no different in marketing: B2B and B2C. Traditionally, marketing careers tended to spend a bit of time jumping between them, before settling into one of the camps until you became a "B2B or B2C marketing specialist", especially by the time they reached the CMO role.
But we're starting to see more and more people make the jump between B2B and B2C at later stages of their careers, even at the very top of the hierarchy with CMOs.
We spoke to Mai Fenton, CMO of Superscript, who has made that jump from a career in B2C to managing the marketing at a company that many would class as B2B. We asked about her perspective on the divide between B2C and B2B, how her background in B2C influences her approach to B2B marketing, and whether the divide between B2B and B2C will continue.
Hi Mai, can you tell us a bit about your professional background and how you approach the CMO role at Superscript?
My career has been in consumer marketing until I joined Superscript. From FMCG beginnings, I grew up in retail and e-commerce and blossomed in B2C digital startups and scaleups.
My unconventional journey leading to my current CMO role at Superscript is a result of career choices I made driven by the growth opportunities for the businesses I joined: digitizing an offering, accessing new audiences, rejuvenating a withering brand, remodelling a business with a D2C focus, or scaling a digital scaleup and expanding internationally… all for consumer brands.
I approached the CMO role at Superscript (then named Digital Risks) in the same way - putting the consumer front and center in everything we do, albeit buyers and stakeholders are business decision-makers and the product has a longer purchase cycle.
A lot of your background is in B2C, but Superscript would technically be classified as B2B. Did you have to change your approach as a “B2B” CMO?
As a matter of fact, I don’t see myself as a B2B CMO (neither did I see myself as a B2C CMO before), I’m just a CMO. But I understand why people like to make the distinction.
In B2C, marketing tends to dial up the brand building and demand creation side of things which isn’t so much the case in B2B, which tends to give greater focus to the product and bottom-of-the-funnel lead management.
I approached my role at Superscript by giving each side equal emphasis because they both play an important part in driving business growth. So if there was such a thing as B2B CMOs and B2C CMOs, I suppose I would be a hybrid.
Do you think your background in B2C has given you an advantage in approaching B2B marketing?
My B2C background certainly gave me a different perspective. When I joined Superscript, a lot of my experience gained in B2C influenced my approach to marketing the business, in terms of our brand purpose and narrative, buyer personas and journey planning, category management, campaigns planning, and content strategy.
For example, our tone is deliberately surprising and unexpected, standing out in a category (business insurance) that is known to be overly transactional and stale. We treat the small business owners and decision-makers we serve as humans who, beyond logical decision-making, are also driven by how they can emotionally connect with our brand, not just the technology of our solution: we humanize what we do. I value top-of-the-funnel brand-building as much as we do bottom-of-the-funnel lead generation and revenue.
I basically look at our marketing through a B2C lens to build on or complement our B2B marketing initiatives.
Are we seeing the line between B2B and B2C marketing blurring, particularly in light of new working practices as a result of the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, a common awareness tactic in B2B marketing was reliant on physical networking: trade shows, conferences, hospitality and so on. B2B businesses have had to pivot away from these and invest more in other forms of awareness building.
Apart from this, I think that the lines between B2B and B2C marketing started to blur well before the pandemic. More B2B brands are behaving like B2C brands (take Mailchimp, for example), and more B2C brands are adopting the B2B marketing tech stack and rigour of demand capture, lead management and funnel optimisation.
What can B2B marketing learn from B2C, and vice-versa?
Whether the target audience is a business decision-maker or a consumer making personal use of products or services, I think the approach to how you market to your audience is similar. Identifying and understanding your buyer personas (or ICP) and buyer journey mapping will inform lead acquisition strategies.
However, there are certain disciplines and practices that are more prominent in B2B than B2C and vice-versa, that I think would be beneficial for each to learn from the other. Generally, I find that B2B marketing leads the charge with a hyper-targeted approach to marketing, close collaboration with Sales and the obsession with lead nurturing and conversion, and the customer lifecycle overall.
On the other hand, brand marketing, the emphasis on storytelling and on connecting with audiences on an emotional level, and the human approach to creative and messaging are key strengths of B2C that would benefit B2B businesses. It’s as much about the target audience’s passion points as it is their touch points.
Do you have any advice for CMOs and other marketers looking to make the jump between B2C and B2B?
I wouldn’t be so pretentious as to suggest I can give advice to other CMOs. But for those B2C CMOs looking to make the jump to be B2B, I can share my personal experience of doing so.
After a whole career in B2C, I was approached by Superscript, and took the leap (a big one indeed, moving from marketing to Gen-Z, to marketing to small business owners) because I was attracted by their purpose, innovation, and proprietary technology. I must admit, it’s been an enriching experience. The data and tech stack needed in B2B marketing is elaborate - more than I was used to in B2C - and the symbiotic relationship between product, customer success, sales and marketing makes the job all the more interesting.
Also, if you like data and find conversion rate optimisation, moving to a B2B role that encompasses both direct purchase and offline account-based sales funnels like I do, know that the job will bring much diversity and tons of fun.
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