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 are still just marketing to people.
You are still dealing with a person making a decision on what to buy and from whom, but a person buying a product for themselves verses buying a product for their company 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.
The first step in developing your marketing strategy whether it be for B2B or B2C is the same: 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 or the transaction.
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 (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 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 where the B2B customer is conducting more research on the right solution for their company. Once the business buyer sees the benefits of your solution, they will then 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. Your typical reader has a high interest in – and understanding of – your product (or at least of the problem it solves). Your 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
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 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 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.
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. 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.
Plan Before You Begin to Market
The bottom line is that the 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.
If you are a B2B business offering products and services to other businesses, put your marketing dollars into marketing programs 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 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, and project quality service and best price.
As you create your marketing plan for your business, remember what is important to your target audience and create the right marketing activities that connect with them.