B2B vs. B2C Marketing
Marketing is all about knowing your audience: who is buying your product? What are their pain points? How do you solve their problems? While many questions about your market can involve research, experience, and polling, you can immediately identify one differentiator: is your ideal client a business or an individual? Are you Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C)?
Initially, this could feel arbitrary. At the end of the day, marketing is marketing, right? We are all people making decisions. Does it actually matter if you're B2B or B2C?
While some marketing principles are relatively universal, their applications in B2B or B2C greatly vary. Purchase processes, pain points, desires, decision makers, brand relationships… They are vastly different from B2B to B2C marketing.
As a marketer in an industrial organization, you might operate solely in one category or a bit in both. Thus, you should know the difference and how those variations change your marketing plan.
What Is B2B Marketing?
Business to Business (B2B) marketing describes a relationship where a business markets and sells to another business. This means there is a decision maker on behalf of the organization who has a unique set of needs to be met. For instance, if the decision maker is an engineer, they are most likely to first look at the product’s application, whereas a buyer might prioritize budget.
What Is B2C Marketing?
Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing is when an individual person buys a product from a business. This is much more prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Every time you buy something, you are participating in a B2C transaction.
Where Are the Differences?
Because B2C marketing is more commonly known, a lot of resources identify marketing strategies for this sector. Meanwhile, these strategies might be less effective for B2B marketers due to some key differences in their primary demographic.
Purchase Decision Timeline and Hierarchy
B2C purchase decisions are relatively quick and involve fewer decision makers than in the B2B sector. While it would over-simplify some B2C purchase decisions to say they are made quickly by one person, they lack the same hierarchical nature of B2B decisions.
In the B2B sector, purchase decisions often require buy-in from the purchase decision maker and additional approval from the purchasing department or another level of authority.
In summary, in B2B marketing, you should expect to market to more people over longer periods of time.
In B2C marketing, we often address the unseen emotional return of a purchase. For example, when someone invests in a luxury car, the obvious, external reason might be a show of status; however, the emotional appeal we market to is confidence and reward for hard work.
In B2B marketing, there is still an emotional return, but it is different. When someone invests in your products, it might make their life easier, help them get home on time because there are fewer emergencies, or prove their knowledge and prowess to their employers.
There are also practical, external factors, like the return on investment (ROI). In the B2C sector, the ROI is rarely financial and is often emotional, whereas, in B2B marketing, financial ROI is often a primary driver. Thus, demonstrating outcomes is incredibly different between the two sectors and properly addressing desired outcomes is incredibly important for effective marketing.
In both B2C and B2B marketing, developing strategic brand relationships is the key to long term success. Retaining customers provides substantial savings, as pulling in new customers can be around four to seven times more expensive than working with your past customers. These brand relationships, however, are developed and maintained differently between the B2B and B2C markets.
In the B2C sector, brand relationships can be more fleeting. There is evidence that consumers are brand loyal to some extent. Recent research shows 56% of people are willing to stay loyal to a brand but 75% agree they would switch to another brand for a better loyalty program.
In other words: you are more invested in them than they are in you.
Thus, staying creative, fun, relevant, and personable is incredibly important. B2C brands need to constantly be developing in a way that creates new reasons for loyalty and buy-in from their customers.
On the other hand, both sides of the B2B relationship are highly invested. B2B buyers expect long-term relationships, typically with sales people, too. Thanks to their long purchase decisions and extensive hierarchies, they do not want to be finding new vendors all the time. They want a relationship with you - and they often want to deepen that relationship so they can leverage their vendors to improve their own operations.
Education vs Entertainment
In terms of developing brand relationships, B2B and B2C buyers are typically looking for a few different things. B2B buyers are focused on value and education in the content they receive from potential vendors. This is an opportunity to demonstrate expertise and value to these buyers. Their time is limited, and they want to get to know as quickly as possible that you are the expert in your field who can offer them what they need in a way that others cannot (or, simply, better than others can).
B2C buyers, on the other hand, are usually looking to be entertained by the content they consume. They also want to know the brands they use align with their values. While this is a factor in B2B purchase decisions, in many cases, it often comes after several other more practical markers.
One thing is for certain, though: content is important in both B2B and B2C marketing to develop brand relationships.
How Are B2B and B2C Marketing Similar?
There are a number of ways that B2B and B2C marketing strategies overlap. For example, content is the best way to reach potential customers, and you should remember that the people behind the decisions in B2B purchases are still just that: people. Whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, you should, in most cases, be publishing blog posts and social media content and sending emails consistently.
When it comes to the practical part of marketing, though, such as how often you should post, what your calls to action (CTAs) should be, and what kind of content would be the most effective, that is where the differences really come into play. Essentially, the entire structure of your marketing plan, message, and funnel will be more effective when these details are the focus.
Creating this plan to effectively reach your target audience and build the right relationships for long-term success matters. The good news is that you do not have to become an expert in B2B marketing overnight.
Our team of pros specialize in helping industrial organizations optimize their digital marketing to maximize conversions and improve their bottom line. If you want to explore what this looks like for you, schedule a hassle-free consultation with our founder and CEO, Nate Maguire, today.