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9 min read

How to navigate B2B2C marketing with Annie Furlong

B2B marketing

I’m Annie Furlong and as the VP of Engagement (B2C) Marketing at Carrum Health, I navigate B2B2C marketing daily. 

For those unfamiliar with this term, B2B2C means business-to-business-to-consumer and often refers to companies that sell into businesses, but the end users of their product or service are the employees within those businesses. 

These functions are often within employee benefit vendors, enterprise e-commerce platforms, and similar organizations.

My role bridges the gap between our B2B (business-to-business) marketing efforts targeted at the companies we sell to and the B2C (business-to-consumer) marketing aimed at driving engagement and adoption among the individual employees who are the ultimate consumers of our solutions. 

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Aligning B2B and B2C marketing efforts

One of the key advantages of operating in a B2B2C capacity is the ability to gain valuable insights from both our B2B and B2C marketing efforts. 

I often say to my team having feedback loops across your different marketing teams to share what B2B sees as resonating in the market can help open doors for B2C marketing opportunities for a B2B2C marketer.

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While the brand voice may slightly differ between our B2B and B2C messaging, consistency across our brand visualization and core messaging is critical.

It's essential that these teams work together and even share central resources – like a design team – to ensure coherence and synergy across all our marketing efforts.

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How to foster collaboration and alignment for B2B2C marketing success

Effective collaboration and alignment between internal teams and external partners are crucial in the B2B2C space. 

In my experience, one of the best ways to foster this is to position B2B2C marketers as an integral part of client teams.

I ensure that each marketer on the team has designated clients they're getting to know and working with – they're part of implementations, on regular client calls, part of QBRs (quarterly business reviews) and ABRs (annual business reviews), etc., and have weekly 1:1s with their CSM (client success manager) counterparts.

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Regular syncs with key stakeholders, such as the heads of customer success, B2B marketing, and product development, are also essential. This cross-functional collaboration ensures that our B2B2C marketing strategies are aligned with the broader organizational goals and initiatives.

Beyond regular check-ins and involving B2B2C marketers in client-facing activities, I've found that having structured processes in place can greatly facilitate collaboration.

As it relates to setting B2B2C marketers up for success, holding marketing discovery kickoff calls during implementation is fundamental.

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These kickoff calls allow us to walk through our approach to B2B2C marketing and, more importantly, gather insights from the client on what has worked well for them in the past and what hasn't. This information is then used to create a tailored marketing strategy and launch plan, based upon best practices and proven strategies, that takes their unique needs and preferences into account.

Fostering ongoing collaboration is equally important. I think it's key that the team knows how to “market your marketing” by having regular forums or reporting (monthly or quarterly) to share the latest and greatest. 

These forums provide an opportunity for us to showcase successful client marketing campaigns, insights gleaned from messaging tests, and other learnings that can benefit the broader organization.

Adapting B2B2C marketing strategies to digital transformation

Staying ahead of the curve and adapting our B2B2C marketing strategies accordingly is essential. While there are limited B2B2C-specific resources available, I often turn to a mix of B2B and product-focused newsletters, podcasts, and blogs for inspiration.

Some of my go-to sources include the MKT1 Newsletter, Lenny's Podcast, the Marketing Against the Grain podcast, and updates from platforms like Litmus and Braze. I also encourage my team to share external examples of campaigns and language they find particularly compelling, as this fosters a culture of continuous learning and experimentation.

In addition to staying updated on industry trends and best practices, adapting to digital transformation often requires experimenting with new channels and tactics. At Carrum Health, we've embraced the power of personalized, multi-channel campaigns that combine email, direct mail, and other touchpoints.

We utilize Braze and Lob for email and direct mail marketing (they’re integrated so we can create email and direct mail campaigns). This approach allows us to deliver a cohesive, omnichannel experience that resonates with our diverse audience segments.

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Another primary aspect of adapting to digital transformation is continuously optimizing and iterating based on performance data. Our B2B2C marketers who are working with clients will also create some “case study” slides (anonymized by the client) whenever we have good stories to tell about campaign performance with key metrics and results.

These case studies not only serve as a valuable knowledge base for our team but also help us demonstrate the impact of our strategies to clients, making it easier to gain buy-in for future initiatives.

Crafting effective B2B2C marketing campaigns often involves balancing the needs and expectations of multiple stakeholders – businesses, intermediaries, and end consumers. 

In these situations, I always start with our marketing best practices and then layer in or tweak as needed based on the specific client.

When presenting to different stakeholders, it's important to convey the "why" behind our approach, whether that's data-driven insights, best practices from the field, or our deep understanding of that particular client. 

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Additionally, I emphasize the importance of considering the "WIIFMs" (What's In It For Me) for each stakeholder – how will our proposed strategies benefit them and align with their goals?

One of the biggest challenges in navigating stakeholder relationships is gaining buy-in from clients to execute marketing initiatives. Successful B2B2C marketing so often relies on a client's willingness to participate – whether that's allowing us to send comms via an eligibility file, sending comms themselves, giving us access to internal channels, and squeezing us (and all of their other vendors) into their internal comms calendars.

In these situations, I've found that having a multi-pronged approach can be effective. 

Involving marketing early on in the sales process and working with the sales team to include contractual language that outlines expectations around marketing collaboration is key.

I will note, however, that unless you're willing to hold someone's (legal) feet to the fire if they don't follow through on their end of the bargain, it may be irrelevant. Setting expectations around your partnership and how your marketing team will help and take on the heavy load of communications to best support the client team is critical up front.

That's why building strong relationships with primary client contacts and demonstrating the value of our marketing efforts is so important. I'd also recommend, where appropriate, seeing if you can get them on board with testing out pilot strategies for a segment of their population.

We can often overcome initial hesitation and build momentum for broader marketing initiatives by starting small, gathering data-driven proof points, and leveraging case studies and benchmarks from similar clients.

How to maintain brand consistency

Maintaining brand consistency and relevance across various touchpoints in a B2B2C ecosystem can be a challenge, especially when dealing with diverse target audiences. That's why having clearly defined brand guidelines and a written style guide is essential.

At Carrum Health, we have a comprehensive visual brand guide that outlines our color codes, typography, and logo usage. We've also created a B2C style guide that covers everything from how we refer to our company and products to our preferred punctuation and capitalization conventions for our member communications. 

These resources are part of the onboarding process for my team and serve as a reference for both internal and external partners.

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When it comes to tailoring our messaging for different audiences, we focus on maintaining consistency in our core value propositions and brand identity. However, we may adjust imagery, terminology, and specific pain points addressed based on the characteristics of each target group, like their job roles or industries.

To streamline the personalization process, we leverage tools like Brandfolder or Brandworkz, that allow us to create co-branded, localized, and customized marketing materials while maintaining brand consistency at scale.

Maintaining brand consistency isn't just about adhering to visual guidelines and messaging conventions – it's also about ensuring a cohesive experience across all touchpoints. In the B2B2C space, this often means coordinating with various partners and intermediaries involved in the customer journey and product experience.

If you repeatedly receive pushback, you might find yourself asking “Why do they even pay to have your service if they don't want to promote it and help drive utilization?” In these cases, it may be necessary to involve higher-level stakeholders or explore alternative partnership models that better align incentives.

However, in many situations, the challenge is simply cutting through the noise and competing priorities that clients face. 

The more you showcase how you “play nice in the sandbox” with others and can be open to coordination, creating referrals between vendors (if/when it makes sense), etc. can go a long way in opening up opportunities.

Positioning ourselves as a collaborative partner and demonstrating our willingness to work alongside other vendors often enables you to overcome barriers and gain access to additional touchpoints that enhance the overall customer experience.

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Final thoughts on navigating B2B2C marketing

Navigating B2B2C marketing requires a strategic, collaborative, and adaptable approach. 

When we align our B2B and B2C efforts, foster cross-functional partnerships, stay ahead of digital trends, balance stakeholder needs, and maintain brand consistency, we can effectively engage both businesses and their employees/consumers.

As I often remind my team, "There’s no silver bullet in marketing." You need to continuously optimize and refine your strategies to create incremental improvements to “raise the water level,” rather than chase elusive one-off campaigns. 

I hope you can embrace this mindset and the principles outlined above, and go on, as a B2B2C marketer, to unlock the full potential of this unique and rewarding discipline.

Written by:

Annie Furlong

Annie Furlong

Annie Furlong is VP of Engagement Marketing at Carrum Health. Annie brings 15+ years of experience as a B2C, B2B2C, and B2B marketer and people manager to health tech and employer benefits markets.

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How to navigate B2B2C marketing with Annie Furlong