You’ve heard of B2B and B2C, but the next big thing is B2i — business to individual. As a business leader — and as the world becomes increasingly interconnected — you must think holistically, not only about your clients, but about your clients’ clients, too.
B2i doesn’t simply offer us a better way to market and sell to our customers. It’s a philosophy founded on shared relevance and human connection. Instead of basing decisions on metrics alone, B2i calls on leaders to account for the people who receive their products and messages. The philosophy holds businesses to higher standards and celebrates the interconnectedness of industries — and that may be its greatest asset.
Many sectors are already recognizing the shift. Banks are evolving to offer online products and mobile solutions, not just deposits and withdrawals. Telecommunications companies are evaluating their roles in different markets based on what people demand there. For instance, AT&T knew it couldn’t offer telecom services alone to stay relevant. Its pending merger with Time Warner Cable gives it control over some of the most popular content in the country, increasing its value to its shareholders and its audiences. These are the calculations business leaders need to make in the B2i era.
Ask the Million-Dollar B2i Question
How do you connect? That’s the No. 1 question companies must ask themselves to compete in the B2i space. Your direct target might be the CIO or CMO of a desired account. But who are their audiences? Who must they convert to succeed? Even when you’re not selling to the end user, you need to account for their needs to serve your clients.
B2i’s power lies in the human connection. You can’t win here unless you build relationships, and that brings the heart back into your business. It’s about connecting your company’s brand and values to your customers, your customers to influencers, and influencers to the final audience. It’s a cycle of engagement and human interaction.
As a leader, take a holistic view of your industry. While you may not be in charge of marketing, you still need to understand the trends among your clients and their customers. Identifying shifts in needs and preferences will help you determine your own company’s focus.
Translate your company’s focus to marketing and product development. These two departments must be keyed into people’s needs; in fact, they must stay a step ahead of them.
Invest in a Crystal Ball
Tracking trends and empathizing with target audiences is the way to achieve this. If you’re uncertain about how to do so, look to your design team. Designers are keen observers of people’s behaviors and preferences. Remember when Apple changed its iOS 7 design to be mostly flat? They did this to stay ahead of trend on user preferences, adopting a future-gazing attitude to what their audiences want — and then building it for them. Their approach paid off: Today, many successful designers are known as much for new their foresight on trends as they are for their successful designs.
Leading in the B2i spaces requires you to see into the future. Not only do you need to spot current trends, but you also need to predict how those trends will shift. John Deere, for example, created a “Voice of the Customer” web portal for its dealers. This way, while John Deere is targeting specific dealers, it can still measure what the end user’s experience is.
Analyzing demographics, tech usage patterns, and consumer interests will help you provide the comprehensive services on which your clients rely. You may even spot new markets based on your analyses. Expand the scope of your research to include academic, political, and industry data to get an accurate picture of what’s ahead.
Relevance should be at the core of your trend-finding strategies. Project what your market will look like two years out — how are you going to stay relevant to your customers? It’s not enough to excel in your offerings now. You need to provide the guiding light for your clients as they navigate new territories.
Anticipate Artificial Intelligence
Technology has been propelling companies toward B2i for several years now. Customers are more empowered than ever; they can find out a company’s reputation and offerings with a few swipes of their smartphone screens. Businesses have had to personalize their strategies based on these developments, and B2i is the latest incarnation of this.
Artificial intelligence has been the trend to watch in tech circles recently, with good reason. Beyond self-driving cars and thinking machines, AI is already accelerating productivity in many companies through automation.
As clients optimize through AI, they’ll find that many of their resources previously tied up in personnel-dependent tasks are now available for new investments. This means a boom in innovation and activity, and leaders should be prepared to capitalize on that. By anticipating potential trends in clients’ organizations, you can provide tailor-made solutions as soon as they need them.
Credicorp Group’s Chief Talent Officer Ursula Alvarez said, “Performance equals people.” That philosophy must extend to both employees and customers. Everything in business hinges on the human connection, so your entire organization should adapt the B2i mindset.