Marketing for B2B vs. B2C – Similar but Different

Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing is different. Some people think marketing is marketing and whether you are marketing to consumers or marketing to businesses, you are still just marketing to people, right?

Well, yeah they are people, but a person buying a product for themselves verses buying for their company is a very different, emotional experience. In fact, there are profound differences that you must remember when developing your marketing activities. B2B depends on relationship building marketing efforts. Using consumer-focused strategies to market your B2B business will, at best, just cost you money. And, in some cases, it may cost you customers.

What is B2B and B2C Marketing

These terms were coined to differentiate Internet commerce businesses that sold to primarily to consumers verses those whose market are other businesses. These terms have expanded their definitions to refer to any business who sells primarily to the end customer (B2C) or to other businesses (B2B), both online and offline. Although the marketing programs are the same for each type of business (events, direct marketing, internet marketing, advertising, public relations, word of mouth and alliances), how they are executed, what they say, and the outcome of the marketing activities differ.

The first step in developing your marketing strategy for B2B is similar to the first step in a B2C strategy: identify who the customer is and why they need to hear your message. From there, the marketing activities diverge.

The highlighted boxes summarize the differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing. Your marketing plan needs to take into account the differences and ensure you are developing the right types of activities for your particular market.

Businesses that Sell to Consumers

B2C

  • Product driven
  • Maximize the value of the transaction
  • Large target market
  • Single step buying process, shorter sales cycle
  • Brand identity created through repetition and imagery
  • Merchandising and point of purchase activities
  • Emotional buying decision based on status, desire, or price

The ultimate goal of B2C marketing is to convert shoppers into buyers as aggressively and consistently as possible. B2C companies employ more merchandising activities like coupons, displays, store fronts (both real and Internet) and offers to entice the target market to buy. B2C marketing campaigns are concerned with the transaction, are shorter in duration and need to capture the customer’s interest immediately. These campaigns often offer special deals, discounts, or vouchers that can be used both online and in the store. For example, the goal of an email campaign for a B2C company is to get consumers to buy the product immediately. The email will take the consumer to a landing page on the web site that is designed to sell the product and make purchasing very easy by integrating the shopping cart and checkout page into the flow of the transaction. Any more than a couple of clicks and the customer is likely to abandon the shopping cart.

One interesting aspect of B2C marketing, however, is that many companies have realized the importance of loyalty. Amazon, Best Buy, and Staples combine merchandising and education to keep customers coming back. Add great customer service, and you get a winning combination.

Businesses that Sell to Businesses

B2B

  • Relationship driven
  • Maximize the value of the relationship
  • Small, focused target market
  • Multi-step buying process, longer sales cycle
  • Brand identity created on personal relationship
  • Educational and awareness building activities
  • Rational buying decision based on business value

Although the goal of B2B marketing is to convert prospects into customers, the process is longer and more involved. A B2B company needs to focus on relationship building and communication using marketing activities that generate leads that can be nurtured during the sales cycle. B2B companies use marketing to educate various players in the target audience because the decision to purchase is usually a multi-step process involving more than one person. For example, the goal of an email campaign for B2B is to drive prospects to the web to learn about your products and services. The e-mail to a business must contain contact information for offline communications and the landing page should contain information on features, benefits, and possibly pricing. This marketing activity is usually the first step in a longer, integrated touch campaign that may include direct mail, telemarketing, Web casts, newsletters and follow up by sales representatives who will discuss the businesses requirements in more detail and move the prospect through the sales cycle. Content is king for B2B marketing and white papers, newsletters, and coverage of your products and services by the media helps companies educate their prospects.

The B2B Buyer vs. the B2C Buyer

The business buyer is sophisticated, understands your product or service better than you do, and wants or needs to buy products or services to help their company stay profitable, competitive, and successful. Marketing copy must talk to a sophisticated audience. Your typical reader has a high interest in – and understanding of – your product (or at least of the problem it solves). Therefore, writing marketing copy is more complex and requires research to ensure you deliver the necessary information to the buyer.

The B2C buyer is usually looking for the best price and will research the competition prior to shopping. Another factor that does come into play, however, is whether the buyer trusts the retail outlet, either the store front or on the Internet. Although you can find the products on the Internet at many different price points, many consumers will still buy from a trusted source. In that respect, B2C marketing needs to convince the person to buy and build trust and loyalty with their customers.

Both buyers are interested in quality customer service. B2B customer service comes into play prior to ever making that first sale and begins with a customer’s very first contact with your company, whether you call them or they call you. B2C customer service helps build customer loyalty where customers will be willing to pay a slightly higher price to know that they can return the product easily and can trust the source they are dealing with. In other words, customer service is critical and although may not be considered “marketing”, bad customer service can render all of your marketing efforts useless.

Importance of Brand

A strong brand is important to both the B2B and the B2C markets, but for different reasons. With B2C, a strong brand can encourage the consumer to buy, remain loyal and potentially pay a higher price. In B2B markets, brand will only help you be considered, not necessarily chosen.

Business buyers are using more rational thought when selecting a product or service for their company. They are motivated by saving money, increasing productivity or raising profitability. Consumers are motivated by desire, style and prestige. For consumers, brand plays into the equation since we are more apt to buy “status” brands, such as BMW, Lexus, Rolex or Nike even though we most likely will pay more for the brand. In businesses today, however, the adage “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” no longer rings true. This is not to say that a professionally developed brand is not important for a B2B business. A quality brand is needed in any business in order to make a good first impression, but putting excessive marketing dollars into building brand awareness is not what counts in your B2B marketing plan.

Plan Before You Begin to Market

The bottom line is that the difference between B2B and B2C marketing comes down to the buyers’ emotional perspective about the purchase. Consumers make buying decisions based on status, security, comfort and quality. Business buyers make buying decisions based on increasing profitability, reducing costs and enhancing productivity. If you are a B2B business offering products and services to other businesses, put your marketing dollars into marketing programs and materials that offer your target what they need to make a rational buying decision. Help them determine the value of the product and service you offer through quality materials, testimonials, and other activities that build credibility. If you are a B2C business, understand what motivates your buyer and the emotional aspect of the buying decision. Create compelling materials that build awareness for your brand, enhance their comfort in buying from you, and project quality service and best price. As you create your marketing plan for the coming year, remember what is important to your target audience and create your marketing programs to speak to them.

Other items of interest:


59 Responses to Marketing for B2B vs. B2C – Similar but Different

  1. Mukesh Srivastava June 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    THANX A LOT FOR THE INFORMATION ABOUT B2B AND B2C MARKETING

  2. RainDanceAli January 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    GREAT article, very in-depth and clear. Thanks for teaching me the difference!

  3. RainDanceAli January 23, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    GREAT article, very in-depth and clear. Thanks for teaching me the difference!

  4. Jessica October 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Thank you for this article! I market for a company who operates primarily in the B2B sector, but also in the B2C as well. Your well-written article made me realize that our B2B marketing is focused more on speaking to consumer motivations to buy, rather than a business buyer’s. Thanks for changing my perspective.

  5. Tim October 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    I would just like to say this I a good article very informative. However if you are going to put stuff on the web you should probably take a little more time to proof read. JS

  6. Zanade September 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    This was very informative. I am a business owner who previously marketed to B2C and now I am selling B2B. Thank you

  7. Zanade September 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    This was very informative. I am a business owner who previously marketed to B2C and now I am selling B2B. Thank you

  8. Les August 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Hi Debra, then is there a difference in the “marketing research process” that you would use to evaluate a marketing problem related to a B2B manufacturing company vs a consumer product company? Pls elaborate?

  9. Les August 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Hi Debra, then is there a difference in the “marketing research process” that you would use to evaluate a marketing problem related to a B2B manufacturing company vs a consumer product company? Pls elaborate?

  10. ManojVijaydxb June 18, 2012 at 5:05 am #

    Communicating ‘Value for money / brand’ to customers is B2C & ‘Value for chain / relationship’ to business chain is B2B

  11. Josep June 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Hi Debra,
    We are a group of students of Economics at “Pompeu
    Fabra University” (Barcelona, Spain) and we are carrying out a key project about
    marketing related to services and the B2B sphere. Thus we need some
    professional support to organize appropriately our findings. We don’t understand
    precisely if B2B can be implemented as a kind of marketing independently of
    internet or it is implicitly related to. We have analysed a logistics firm, so
    B2B and marketing of services are both the suitable option to do a media
    campaign? What is more, what would be the most appropriate parts of a media campaign for a logistics company?Thank you so much beforehand. We find your article very interesting as well as precise.

  12. Kim April 23, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Hi Debra,               I’m a student currently conduct a paper about “launch in beta”approach,I incorporate  several consideration the usage of that approach.intrigued by your article,I think “launch in beta”(launch the product that is not completely perfect but gain time saving) may be more adapt to B2B than B2C.my reason is that in B2B when a problem occur in the product,B2B may make it more easy for company to modify and fix,because product in the B2B may allocate in the a more close geographic area other than scatter to too many place.I certainly have doubt to my argument that “launch in beta” may be more adapt to B2B than B2C,as my knowledge is quite limited in this area.So,I though if you could give me some of your opinions..many thanks

    • Debra Murphy April 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Kim, yes, launching a product before it is totally ready is hard to do and works well in the technology arena where people are willing to upgrade – both software or hardware – to newer models as the design stabilizes. Since technology cuts across both B2B and B2C, it is hard to say if this strategy is more one than the other. I think it is more industry specific. I hope the auto manufacturers don’t put out a car that is almost ready – but your iPad? no worries there.

  13. Judy April 17, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    Hi Debra, 

     Your article was very insightful! I was wondering, how would the differences between B2B and consumer marketing affect formulating a B2B strategy? Thanks in advance :) 

    • Debra Murphy April 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      Hi Judy,

      No not really. If you are developing a B2B marketing strategy, you need to assess your target market and ensure your efforts are properly directed. I think in today’s world of social media, B2B marketing is really all about effective inbound marketing – combining social, search and content marketing. B2C would also use inbound marketing but combine it with some traditional marketing (i.e. networking, direct mail, local advertising).

      As long as you understand your target audience, you can pull together a plan that will effectively communicate with that audience and give them what they need.

  14. Patrick March 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Hi Debra,
    Thank you for sharing this information. I intend to use this for my current research, so do you remember when exactly you wrote this article?

    Many thanks!

  15. Ricky Bsingh March 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Hi Debra Murphy

    I have started up my new business of artificial jewellery and want to sell online to B2C directly what is the best way how to promote a website

    SEO i dont trust because spending alot on SEO but not geting any responce

    • ManojVijaydxb June 18, 2012 at 5:10 am #

      Rickyji, To start with make web links campaign for 3/6 months with online magazines. Ask all users to register for some promotions, say ‘discount coupons’ , make customer mail base &  then  just drive it

  16. Ricky Bsingh March 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi Debra Murphy

    I have started up my new business of artificial jewellery and want to sell online to B2C directly what is the best way how to promote a website

    SEO i dont trust because spending alot on SEO but not geting any responce

    • Debra Murphy March 6, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Ricky,

      First, you absolutely need to optimize your website. Yes, you may not trust people who charge a lot for SEO and don’t deliver results but you should take control of this yourself. There are plenty of resources to help you learn how.

      Other ways to promote your website is to build a larger Digital footprint – i.e. create a Facebook Page, Twitter account, Google+, and Pinterest and provide useful information, build a fan base and ensure all pieces work well together. Without selling, you can build relationships and drive people to your website.

      Hope this helps.

  17. Mukhtar February 17, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    thanks for sharing similar but different 

  18. Mukhtar February 17, 2012 at 3:33 am #

    thanks for sharing similar but different 

  19. Ruchi Mahna January 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Am cleared up now, thanks to your article.

  20. Dav January 2, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    Hi there, I need some help in clearing something up. Would you say that Nintendo is B2C or B2B? I know that their products reach the end user (consumer), but they do not sell/distribute direct to consumers, and sell through retailers, who I presume become their B2B clients?? Many thanks

    • Debra Murphy January 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

      This is a very good question. When businesses use distribution channels for sales, where should their marketing focus? In most cases (and maybe even all cases), companies like Nintendo have two marketing organizations – one marketing to the consumer to educate them on their product and the other marketing to the channel to help them understand how to sell the product to the consumer. Distribution channels need the manufacturer to market the product because the channel usually does not have the resources to do so. Plus the distribution channel is really a service business and competes on acquiring and satisfying customers.

  21. Manda December 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Hi Debra,

    Very helpful article…I was just wondering about the use of the Internet and whether you think the Internet offers MORE potential to B2B marketers than B2C marketers.

    If so, why or why not?

    I appreciate your insight.

    Thanks!

    • Debra Murphy January 2, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

      Manda,

      Thanks for the question. I believe the Internet offers more potential to all businesses. I can’t quantify whether B2B would get more benefits than B2C as they have different measures of success. But if a business isn’t marketing online today, they are missing a huge opportunity to reach their market further, faster and more effectively.

  22. Doyin December 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    Dear sir,
    just wanted to know, do you think a bank operates a B2B or B2C or both ? because its quite confusing.

    • Debra Murphy December 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

      That’s a great question. Some businesses do operate in both spaces. Banks have both consumer banking and commercial banking. Companies like Staples also have both and usually organize into two divisions with separate marketing departments so marketing can focus on their particular client. When you have two distinct target markets, you have to have two marketing plans to reach that target.

  23. scheinar November 6, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    this has been very help full
    i really needed to understand the difference between these two and now am ok with both concepts
    thx

  24. milana October 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    Hi!
    How do firms who sell to both B2C and B2B need to adjust their marketing approach to suit both buying characteristics?

    any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much!

    • Debra Murphy October 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

      Milana,

      If you have products that target both B2C and B2B, you need a separate marketing plan to ensure you can reach both markets effectively. A good example of a company that markets their products to both businesses and consumers is Staples. They have two separate divisions with marketing organizations so they can focus their marketing activities properly. Trying to develop a marketing strategy that will hit both markets almost guarantees you will hit neither.

      Hope this helps.

  25. Mark September 29, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Very useful information. It is explained very clearly and does not go into too many details. Thank you so much!

  26. Ankur Jaggi September 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    Dear Sirs,
    Can you please throw some light on ACE marketing and its advantages
    Thanks in advance

    • Debra Murphy September 13, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

      Ankur – I’m afraid I have never heard the term ACE marketing. Can you be more specific?

  27. Ali August 19, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you for your article.I am a business student of University Of tehran ? iran . your article very interesting and informative . Thanked with this

    • Debra Murphy September 13, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

      Ali – you’re welcome. Glad I could help.

  28. Jenayvonne Johnson June 23, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    Thank you so much for your article. I am a business student of University Of Phoenix On-Line. Your article cleared up the difference in B2B Marketing and B2C Marketing. Most of the Web Sites are not as detailed as yours.

    • Debra Murphy June 23, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

      Jenayvonne,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad I could help you.

  29. Debra Murphy June 18, 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Gaurav,

    I don’t have alot of experience in sales, but from what I remember of my corporate days, sales folks who were responsible for one large account, definitely used similar strategies to what marketing needs to do more generally to reach their buyer. The biggest difference is they are working with one account and B2B marketing is communicating with many buyers.

    Lav,

    Thanks for the compliment. I’m glad it helps.

  30. Lav June 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    We are currently preparing a report for one of our clients and the way you differentiate between B2B and B2C is great, especially the characteristics of each. Thank you!

  31. Gaurav May 25, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    What is the relation between B2B and Large Account Selling?

  32. Joe Hindmarsh May 21, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    After years of selling and consulting in the B2B sector, I’m of the opinion that B2B and B2C are vastly different because of the attachement ot the purchase.

    B2C purchase stays with the person forever and creates a higher level of purchase stress based on the pricepoint. eg car or house

    B2B purchase whilst important remains with the business not the person. Sure the person attached to the purchase has a reputational threat if it was a poor decision, but that can be easily overcome with words, if needed and often does.

    This divide is reinforced with the explosion of B2B learning over the web. I doubt many marketing curriculums are ignoring the difference.

    I’m all for the great divide…

  33. Debra Murphy May 8, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    Vincent, whether you are marketing B2B or B2C, the marketing plan still encompasses the same types of activities. Look at the marketing plan framework on this site to get an idea of how to pull a plan together. Then figure out where your customers hang out and experiment with pay-per-click advertising. Of course, good SEO will help people find you without the fees.

    Divyani, I researched this topic by searching the Web thoroughly and reading everything I could about the differences in B2B vs B2C. I’m sure if you search on the keyword B2B relationship marketing, you will find plenty, as that is what B2B marketing is all about.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  34. MISS DIVYANI RAMJING May 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

    I am currently writng a thousand word report on B2B relationship marketng. I need to learn more about it, any ideas of how i will get some more notes on this particular topics

    THANK YOU

    Divyani Ramjing

  35. Vincent Lewis March 9, 2009 at 8:52 am #

    Dear Sirs:

    I am definitely in need of a B2C marketing strategy.
    This article was very helpful. I need to learn so much about advertising online to get customers to buy products from highly recognizable, trusted, value-oriented retailers through my website.

    Any ideas of how to start learning where to develop this
    marketing strategy? Should I take a class or read a book or both? I want to know what I’m doing with advertising dollars when I start this and nto just throwing them to the wind.

    Thank You

    Vincent Lewis,
    San Jose, CA

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Is B2B more cautious than B2C when adopting new pieces of tech? | Blog - December 20, 2013

    […] with product and service sectors, B2C is often more product-driven, whilst B2B businesses place stronger emphasis on forming and maintaining client relationships. Both categories require effective internal […]

  2. Content Marketing Examiner – Using B2B Buyer Personas to Accelerate Your Content Marketing - November 6, 2013

    […] the resulting personas will look very different. While not true in every instance, general differences between B2B and B2C […]

  3. Using B2B Buyer Personas to Accelerate Your Content Marketing | Content Marketing Examiner - July 15, 2013

    [...] the resulting personas will look very different. While not true in every instance, general differences between B2B and B2C [...]

  4. Creating B2C Buyer Personas for Effective Content Marketing | Content Marketing Examiner - July 11, 2013

    [...] Marketing for B2B vs. B2C – Similar but Different [...]

  5. Why Social networks are more suitable for B2B | SNID Master in Social Networks Influence Design - July 30, 2012

    [...] market , indeed, is usually described as relationship driven, aiming to maximize the value of relationship within a small and focused [...]

  6. Speed Up Your Sales Workflow Online | Productivity and Workflow Improvement Online - July 23, 2012

    [...] and sometimes even collaboration.  Routinely, the dollar amounts are larger than most average B2C transactions therefore; companies must be willing to work with these inefficiencies in the sales [...]

  7. Ad Club EDGE 2012 Conference Recap | SoftArtisans, Blogged - June 15, 2012

    [...] realm including issues of privacy and big data. While the majority of the speakers focused on B2C marketing as opposed to B2B, which is what we focus on with OfficeWriter, the insights proved to be extremely valuable. Wish [...]

  8. The trouble with charity | In defense of anagorism - July 23, 2011

    [...] but not every customer is a consumer. There are, after all, some important differences between B2B and B2C commerce. A consumer, unlike a business customer, is an individual. Actually, the inclusion of the [...]

  9. Marketing for B2B and B2C « Learning Points - April 15, 2011

    [...] awareness for the brand, enhance their comfort in buying the product, and quality service. Sources: http://masterful-marketing.com/marketing-b2b-vs-b2c/  GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  10. Should we approach b2b and b2c digital marketing differently? - Quora - April 14, 2011

    [...] I believe it has to be approached differently.  This is a fairly sound article regarding this: http://masterful-marketing.com/m…   Buying patterns, reasons, etc… are very different.This answer .Please specify the necessary [...]

  11. Differences Between B2B and B2C Marketing | Best Hot Items and Trends - August 11, 2010

    [...] we write to ensure our book is as B2B focused as possible. This is what I came up with. Thanks to vista-consulting.com/marketing-b2b-vs-b2c/ for the [...]

  12. 4 Things to Know When Pitching B2B Bloggers | Social Media B2B - June 27, 2010

    [...] talking about B2B on a blog shows that they’re in-the-know on the communication mix. Vista Consulting says the B2B buyer “is sophisticated, understands your product or service better than you do, [...]

  13. PR for Marketing and for You « Bologna 2010 - June 15, 2010

    [...] One might be surprised to find that PR is, to many in the business world (particularly B2C), the last –albeit essential- step in the marketing process. This, I’ve learned, holds some [...]