My team and I were giving a briefing to an industry analyst this week who asked a great question: why does employee advocacy work better for B2B companies than it does for B2C companies?
He asked this question because, with a few exceptions, our clients are B2B companies. While the answer is pretty simple, it’s only a matter of time before B2C companies are able to unlock the potential of employee advocacy (the potential of their employees).
B2B has a higher purchase price & a longer sales cycle
One of the main things that differ between a B2B and B2C company is the price of their product and the sales cycle (how long it takes to close a sale).
Generally speaking, B2C companies have low purchase prices (sub $10,000), which means they need to sell lots of whatever they’re selling to be successful and in order to sell a lot of anything, you need to have a short sales cycle (talking days, not weeks or months).
Because of the transactional nature of B2C products, relationships, or the need for a talented salesperson is much less of a factor. Especially if we’re talking about e-commerce, most sales are conducted without the buyer talking (or chatting) with anyone at the company. For the buyer, it’s all about price and convenience; only when it comes to the purchase of high-end, ultra-luxury goods does a salesperson serve an important role.
Low price points and high-volume are inherently at odds with employee advocacy because employee advocacy is centered on the relationship between the employee and prospective buyer.
It’s all about value. Unless you’re offering something your connections can’t find anywhere else (e.g., Nintendo Switch consoles at 50% off list), promoting your companies products to your networks is going to be looked at as spammy.
Compare this with an employee of a B2B company, whose average product costs $10,000. Very few if any B2B buyers will spend $10,000 without spending time reviewing, researching, and ultimately consulting with a salesperson.
Now consider that employees are trusted more than brands and CEOs, and you can see how an employee of a B2B company has far more potential to be an integral part of the sales process.
Another mistake that B2C companies make when it comes to employee advocacy is that they compare it to paid media (performance marketing). “Well, I know what we get when we spend X on Facebook or Google ads. I’m interested in this employee advocacy, however, I’m going to be looking for the same results.”
Unfortunately, this company is doomed to fail and is an example of an organization who we would usually turn away from working with.
Employee advocacy programs that succeed are the ones that put the employee first; if it’s valuable to the employee it will be valuable to the company.
Those that don’t are the ones that put the corporate objectives first. Companies that simply want to conscript their employees to push content out to their networks will fail, and unfortunately, this is how many b2c companies approach employee advocacy.
What they forget is that an employee’s network is the property of that employee, and because we’re all already on social media, we understand what’s acceptable to share vs what isn’t.
Things that help and employee establish their professional profile, grow their network, and better engage with their connections are things that they will get behind. Sharing coupons, deals and promotions are not.
So What Can B2C Companies Do?
As I said at the outset, it’s only a matter of time until b2c companies successfully unlock the opportunities associated with employee advocacy. In many ways employee advocacy is best suited to B2C companies; B2C employees are inherently more passionate about their company’s products than B2B employees. Why? Because we use B2C products in our own lives. We are the buyers.
What B2C companies need to get through their heads is that employee advocacy isn’t a performance marketing program, it’s a brand-building program, something that they should plan to make a part of their company’s DNA.
We’re going to do another post soon here on what a successful B2C employee advocacy program looks like, and as with B2B programs, it needs to be centered on the employee.
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