There is a difference between marketing to businesses and marketing to a consumer. Some people think marketing to someone looking to purchase something for themselves is the same as marketing to a person making a purchase for their business.
You may still be dealing with a person making a decision on what to buy and from whom, but buying for yourself verses buying for your business is a very different purchasing experience. In fact, there are profound differences that you must remember when developing your marketing strategy.
What is B2B vs B2C Marketing?
B2B businesses market and sell their products and services directly to other businesses.
B2C businesses sell products and services to consumers for their personal use.
Some businesses sometimes do both (such as a landscape company that provides residential and commercial services).
Although the marketing strategies you may use are the same, how they are executed differ.
Whether you are creating a B2B or B2C marketing strategy, the first step is the same. You need to identify who the customer is and why they need to hear your message. From there, the marketing activities diverge.
Businesses that sell directly to consumers (B2C)
The goal of B2C marketing is to drive consumers to the product and maximize the value of the transaction through activities that provide incentives to buy additional products. Relationships between companies and consumers are based on the consumer’s experience during the purchase process. Value of the transaction will be determined by the quality of the experience.
The following characterizes the consumer market buying process.
- Cares about product benefits and how they relate to them personally
- Wants a simple, single-step buying process
- Can be influenced by merchandising and point of purchase activities
- Primarily makes an emotional buying decision based on status, desire or price
Marketing activities must focus on getting people to buy quickly.
- B2C companies employ more merchandising activities like coupons, displays, store fronts and offers to entice the target market to buy.
- B2C marketing campaigns are concerned with the transaction. They 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 website. This landing page 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 is 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 directly to businesses (B2B)
The goal of B2B marketing is to maximize the value of the relationship through marketing efforts that educate your target audience on value you provide. If done successfully, your marketing activities will result in a relationship built on trust and credibility. Value of the relationship will be determined by what is important to the client.
Business buyers are using logic and rational thinking to make a purchase decision. Your marketing should target the decision maker within a business and then help them find solutions to their problems and challenges.
There is usually a longer sales cycle due to a multi-step buying process. The B2B customer conducts more research on the right solution for their company. Once the business buyer sees the benefits of your solution, they will look for reviews and do a deep dive into your business’s reputation.
B2B marketing is built around a strong content marketing strategy. Content delivered to the prospect needs to provide the right information to the buyer depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. Content is king for B2B marketing.
- Top of funnel marketing activities build awareness and educate the prospect on the value of your offerings. This is where your blog posts and social media will play an important role.
- Middle of the funnel marketing needs to focus on more in-depth knowledge and relationship building activities. Webinars and other types of content that can help the buyer learn how your product or service solves their problem will keep them interested in your offering.
- Bottom of funnel marketing needs to help the buyer make the final decision. Content at this stage include a free estimate, a demo, a free trial or a complimentary assessment will help the buyer finalize their decision.
Especially for B2B purchases, you can no longer sell the prospect on your solution. Whether someone buys from you depends on the value of your solution, the relationship you’ve built with the buyer and the responsiveness and service you offer.
Using consumer-focused strategies to market your products or services to a business will, at best, just cost you money. And, in some cases, it may cost you customers.
The B2B vs B2C Buyers
The business buyer is sophisticated and wants or needs to buy products or services to help their company stay profitable, competitive and successful. Your:
- Messaging must talk to a sophisticated audience.
- Typical reader has a high interest in – and understanding of – your product (or at least of the problem it solves).
- Marketing must deliver the necessary information to the buyer.
The consumer is usually looking for the best price and will research the competition prior to shopping. Another factor is whether the buyer trusts the retail outlet, either the store front or the eCommerce website. 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 build awareness, trust and loyalty with its customers.
Importance of Customer Service
Quality customer service is important to both buyers.
- 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 for B2B
For B2B markets, brand will only help you be considered, not necessarily chosen. Brand is based on your reputation. So although B2B marketers develop brand awareness through marketing efforts, the brand identity is based on how you treat clients, the quality of the work, how reliable you are and other factors that the client values.
Business buyers use more rational thought when selecting a product or service for their company. Their motivation is to save money, increase productivity or raise profitability.
You still need to create a quality brand identity 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.
Importance of brand for B2C
For B2C a strong brand can encourage the consumer to buy, remain loyal and potentially pay a higher price. Companies build brands by repeatedly getting the image in front of the consumer. Consumer products need to ensure we see their brand enough times to recognize it and consider it worthy of our purchase.
Consumers are motivated by desire, style and prestige. Brand plays into the equation for consumers since we are more apt to buy “status” brands. It feels better to own a BMW, Lexus, Rolex or Nike even though we will pay more for the brand.
Plan Before You Begin to Market
The bottom line is that B2B vs 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.
For B2B businesses, put your marketing dollars into programs that helps your target make a rational buying decision. Educate them on the value of the product and service you offer. Provide quality content, 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 by delivering quality service for the best price.
Remember also that marketing organizations that tightly integrate their sales teams into the B2B or B2C selling process have a higher success. Sales and marketing need to work together to ensure they are all speaking with the target audience consistently.
As you create your marketing plan for your business, remember what is important to your target audience. Then create the right marketing activities that connect with them.
18 thoughts on “B2B vs B2C Marketing – Similar but Different”
GREAT article, very in-depth and clear. Thanks for teaching me the difference!
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.
This was very informative. I am a business owner who previously marketed to B2C and now I am selling B2B. Thank you
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
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad I could help you.
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 attachment of the purchase.
B2C purchase stays with the person forever and creates a higher level of purchase stress based on the price point. eg car or house
B2B purchase whilst important remains with the business not the person. Sure the person attached to the purchase has a reputation 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 curriculum are ignoring the difference.
I’m all for the great divide…
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