C2B Marketing: Yesterday’s tomorrow

Whatever happened to C2B marketing? That is the marketing of individuals and their services to businesses, rather than the other way round. There was some debate on the subject a while ago (see the 2005 article http://c2b.typepad.com/c2b/2005/08/the_c2b_revolut.html or http://www.magicomm.biz/blog/is-“b-to-c”-direct-marketing-being-replaced-by-“c-to-b”-social-media-marketing from 2008) but it does not seem to have taken off.

The articles talk about various drivers for C2B
– social networking sites and their use by businesses
– technology available to consumers (especially for production of digital content)
– open source software
All of these are driving C2B, even if there has not been enough awareness of the topic to make this yet a well known phrase.

For example, in social networking, increasingly brands are communicating online with customers and prospects, using Facebook, Twitter and other sites to ask for comments, monitor feedback and reply to issues raised. Meanwhile, individuals are posting their videos to YouTube hoping to create viral hits and monetise them with advertising, while news stories from “citizen reporters” are being posted to sites like Citizenspace and the best ones sold to traditional media outlets (an area I am particularly interested in due to the work I do for the AIB,the Association for International Broadcasting). As for open source software, I have lost count of the number of utilities I have downloaded recently, and I have even donated money to the most useful of them.

But there is one other trend that I have not seen mentioned in this context and which I think is an important factor in driving the true marketing side of C2B. This is the increasing number of people who are freelancing, working for themselves or in small companies or loose associations and who need to sell their services to larger organisations. Current economic conditions are forcing this on many and no doubt there will be a significant return to salaried jobs once the economies of the world pick up. But there is a young generation coming up who have seen the pitfalls of corporate life with job cuts and pension reductions (and will soon see deep cuts in public service as well). These will fuel a continued increase in freelance working, which will match corporations increasing reluctance to grow headcount and to move outside their core business.

These are people who need to take advantage of the marketing techniques that are now so readily available and which are cheap, in terms of the monetary cost, to use. They need to sell their services and to convince companies to retain them rather than all their rivals. What most of them do not know how to manage, however, is how to manage their individual marketing, which can be extremely expensive in terms of time unless you have a proper strategy to use the tools available. The tools are either expensive because you put in a modest amount of time, but obtain no results by failing to stand out from the crowd; or you do manage to stand out, but only by huge amounts of work to constantly blog, Tweet, post and comment.

But it does not have to be like that. Successful C2B marketing requires only three things:
– an expertise: good experience in a particular niche which you can demonstrate and talk about. Never mind if it is a very narrow niche, the key is to be seen as a knowledgeable resource.
– finding the right places to talk about your expertise
– regular communication

C2B marketing is key for more and more people today and I will blog more about the keys to success shortly.

Quantity vs Quality

Thomas Power in the video to which the title of this blog links, talks about quantity as input and quality as output. So he advocates building up thousands of people in your network, for example having thousands of followers on Twitter. From these, a small number of people emerge with whom you can do business and an even smaller number who become trusted partners.

The problem this approach brings is that your network then includes every one you have ever met or come into vague contact with (virtually or physically) which is great for broadcasting your general messages as widely as possible, but a clumsy tool for nuturing the relationships that have potential to become important. It also has the danger that you are swamped by input from all the connections. You need to be very disciplined or have very good tools not to be distracted by all the possibilities that your connections provide.

I propose the alternative approach of filtering before allowing people onto your networks. Or, at least, for your most important networking tools, pre-select for quality. For example, on LinkedIn, connect with those with whom you have some relationship so you can build trust with them.

Use blogs, Twitter and some social media sites, to comment, interact, post and come up with new connections. But keep one or more networks for the inner network you are nuturing (and who are nurturing you).