No, H2H can’t replace B2B or B2C – here’s why

You’ve probably seen it in your feed on LinkedIn, the image from a lecture somewhere saying “There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s H2H: Human to Human”. Maybe you’ve even shared it. I applaud the sentiment, but let’s be clear: it is flawed logic, and for a very simple reason: B2B and B2C tells us what we’re doing, H2H how we’re doing it.

h2hI’m sure most of us will agree that there is a need for a more human tone of voice in communication and marketing. And this image captures this feeling in a great way, that’s why it’s been shared so many times. It’s from a blog post by Bryan Kramer, and his main point is that thinking in terms of B2B and B2C has created an unnatural way for marketers to think about how to approach their target audience. I agree with him on that, but his reasoning is wrong. B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) describes whom a company does business with, it’s not a formula for how to do it. H2H, on the other hand, is a way of communicating: Do we talk to our customers as one person to another or do we chose another approach?

Is this just semantics or does it really matter? I think is does, because your target audience and their decision making process is very different in B2B compared to B2C, and we have to act from that understanding. In B2B there are usually several persons involved (or several departments if it’s a bigger venture) in the purchase and decision making process. These people can have very different pain points and agendas – shaping their view of what is important and relevant. In complex B2B industries the purchase process often takes a long time and may involve different people at different stages. Finally, the channels used to communicate differs a great deal between B2B and B2C, even though that difference is becoming less marked.

What I believe Kramer really wants us to consider, and I agree with him completely, is this: In order to communicate successfully, whether in B2B or B2C, we have to adopt the way people talk to each other. Especially in B2B there is a widely shared habit of communicating with facts and figures, and using a difficult language, that is anything but human. It comes from a conviction that we as humans make decisions in one way when we are at work and another way when we are home. That we’re influenced by facts professionally and emotions privately. But this is not true, and that’s why we need to ensure that our messaging addresses both the hearts and minds of our target audience. This is more important than ever, since so much of the interaction with customers and others is moving to social media. This is happening in B2B just as much as B2C.

H2H (or P2P, person to person, as it’s sometimes referred to) can’t replace B2B or B2C because it doesn’t address fully whom we are doing business with, and it’s important to understand what is unique to both arenas. But it can, and should, be an important part of how we interact with our target audience.

What do you think? Can H2H replace B2B and B2C, or is there a difference?

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn in April, 2014

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