Anna Harris argues that B2B and B2C marketing alike need to reframe the customer journey around a long-term post-sale view of the ‘forever customer’.
“Marketing is markets”.
When I first heard this phrase, I was studying for my MBA while working very firmly in B2C land. To me, marketing meant consumer packaging, TV ads, radio jingles, product launches in supermarkets, flyers for stores… you get the idea.
But that phrase “marketing is markets” – a definition from B2B Professor Pete Naude – sparked something in me.
What does it all mean?
‘Markets’ are networks of organizational entities and individuals connected through complex relationships. This widens the scope of what marketing and customer journeys can look like — B2B relationships can both enable and constrain organizational growth. In other words, to do our jobs as B2B marketers, we need to understand how everything fits together.
But what I realized is that this way of thinking is true for all marketing. We often hear agencies claiming that their ‘B2B marketing feels like B2C’ — but, actually, B2C companies need to be more B2B. They need to target more than just the end user. They need to think about broader stakeholder needs too.
For instance, a campaign might say ‘this product tastes great’ (consumer benefit) and ‘this product comes in shelf-ready packaging’ (buyer benefit). Both lead to more revenue. If you only focus on one part, you’re missing out.
But there’s a catch: most B2B brands are relying on marketing strategies from another era, where “awareness-consideration-purchase” was enough.
But it isn’t anymore.
Just like the B2C brands that were missing a trick when I was doing my MBA, B2B brands aren’t considering the full scope and influence that marketing can have on a customer journey.
The story doesn’t end at the sale
I didn’t know it at the time, but Professor Naude’s lecture was to shape my thinking for years to come.
When I joined Ledger Bennett, I discovered that their marketing philosophy gelled with the realization I’d come to: marketing needs to think about more than just one single customer journey, and instead consider a much wider business context.
Even better, they had a name for it: the ‘forever customer’ approach. This philosophy is built on a profound but overlooked truth: for B2B markets, the sale isn’t what brings revenue. In fact, in today’s subscription-based world, most revenue generation happens after the sale.
That means finding and keeping your customers (and thus turning them into forever customers) depends on engaging, persuading, and delivering great experiences pre- and post-sale. You need to do this for all the audiences you touch, from buyers to users, from the chief executive to shop floor operatives.
Can we change our ways?
At Ledger Bennett, we start all new engagements by talking about our forever customer model. We use it to unlock the full potential of B2B marketing.
It’s a model that challenges the assumption that marketing ends with a sale. It opens up conversations around brand and culture.
It forces you to ask yourself: ‘How connected are my teams?’ And, ‘Does the post-sale experience deliver on the pre-sale hype?’ And ‘Are my customer-facing teams able to tell our brand story with clarity and consistency?’
It’s only by asking questions like these that we can deliver better customer and user experiences, from first contact to forever.