May 31, 2016
4 Differences Between B2B and B2C Marketing

Some people think that the only difference between B2B and B2C marketing is scale. But when designing your web experience and digital marketing there are key differences to be aware of.  Many of these differences relate to the way you create the web experience - what content to provide, what level of information and how you organize it, how you phrase it, what emotions to evoke, and what engagement models you design.  

Both B2B and B2C are about building relationships, but how you do that and how you maintain the relationship can be different.  

Let's examine four ways that B2B marketing differs from B2C.

In B2B, Purchase Decisions are Made by Committee

In the world of B2C, the consumer is the only person who decides to buy a product. But in B2B, the purchases are larger, typically cost a lot of money and are used by many people in a company, so the decision on what product or service to purchase is made by a larger group. 

For B2B technology purchases a committee is often formed to research, evaluate and provide input into the purchase decision. While the entire committee may not be involved in the final decision, they have a big say in why a particular technology should be selected. 

For this reason, many B2B organizations leverage Account-Based Marketing. Account-based marketing focuses on the company and marketing to different people within the company - the decision makers and the influencers. (Read more about account-based marketing).  

Also, with B2B marketing firmographics are important to capture - things such as company size, location, market, etc.. With B2C, demographics are important - attributes about the person themselves. When creating buyer personas, marketers must focus on the attributes relevant to the audience they want to engage with. 

There are structural differences as well between B2B and B2C. Most B2B purchases are not made on credit cards, they use complex price charts based on account types and purchasing contracts. B2C is about selling quantity and cash/credit is the method for payment. 

Purchase Decisions are Rational and Logical 

The decision to purchase product or service in the B2B market typically follows a rational, logical approach. It's about using the product to make the business better - make employees collaborate better, better support customers, better market to customers, and so. In B2B it really is about making the right decision for the company, and a mistake can cost thousands of dollars or more. 

B2C buyers makes purchases based on emotion (much of the time). They buy things based on quality (iPhone vs cheap Android) or comfort, to demonstrate status (eg Levi's vs Walmart brand). This isn't always the case, some purchases require the B2C consumer to think logically about their purchase, such as buying a new washing machine or TV. But when you think about the process a consumer goes through even for big ticket items, there is still an element of emotion involved. 

Of course, this is not to say that there is no emotion involved in B2B purchases, you just have to express it differently, demonstrating how your product or solution makes the business better in some way. This will affect how you describe your products on your websites and in web content, the type of information you provide, and how you personalize it. 

B2B Loves the Whitepaper and the eBook

Content Marketing works for both B2B and B2C, but the content assets used in content marketing programs aren't the same across the board, and some are more important than others. 

In B2B content marketing, detailed, in depth content is created to inform and educate buyers. In this case, whitepapers, ebooks, datasheets and other content assets are created to build awareness, generate interest, increase consideration and so on. It's very much about lead generation.  

Content Marketing is not only used on the front-end of the customer lifecycle (acquisition), but is leveraged extensively throughout the customer lifecycle, all the way to service and support.  

For B2C markets, content comes in the form of content-based advertising across social media and search, and blog posts. It's short-form content designed to get attention and convert as quickly as possible. It's essentially about the purchase or brand engagement.  

The Loyalty Factor

In B2B markets, the relationship is critical. Markets are much smaller (could be hundreds or low thousands compared to high thousands or millions in B2C), the decision making process is multi-stage and can take months or longer to complete.  

All of this means that it's critical for marketing to start building the customer relationship from day one. They nurture leads over a period of time, and only a small percentage typically convert. Once they do convert, marketing needs to ensure the relationship is maintained throughout service and support.  

This expanding role for marketing gives marketers more responsibility and control over the customer experience overall. They need to ensure they are developing lasting relationships with customers for advocacy and for upsell/cross-sell opportunities. Customer communities, self-service support options and easy to use service and support programs are all beginning to fall under the guidance of marketing. 

Loyalty is also important in B2C, but it's only recently that B2C brands are starting to recognize how important loyalty is and put in place the right programs to develop loyal customers. In this case, loyalty programs and communities are popular web experience tactics.

B2B vs. B2C: Different But the Same

We started off by saying that many think B2B and B2C marketing are the same. There are several reasons for this line of thinking.

  • The Internet gives everyone access to as much information as possible about the products and services they want to buy. Whether B2B or B2C, this is true - so the more information either type of marketer can get out there, the better the opportunities to convert. The format of the content and delivery approach may be different, but the process is still the same. 
  • Social Media is a huge influence in both markets. B2C and B2B consumers alike listen to what is being said about a brand and its products across social media. In either case, negative content is bad and positive content is good. Both types of marketers need to actively listen and engage on key social media sites to ensure they know what their customers are saying about them. 
  • Native advertising is changing the content marketing game. Native advertising is only one component of a content marketing strategy, but it's quickly becoming a key one. Content that is produced and delivered within a consumer's normal stream of content is increasing awareness of brands. It doesn't sell their products or services, but this kind of content - usually blog post length - demonstrates understanding of the consumers problems or needs and helps develop affinity for a brand. This is the case whether it's B2B or B2C.  
  • Relationships are king everywhere. B2C may deal with larger volumes of sales, but the need to develop strong relationships with customers is becoming increasingly critical. A dissatisfied customer can quickly bash a brand across social media and a satisfied customer can just as quickly advocate on behalf of a brand and help encourage conversions of other consumers.

It's rare you see a B2B marketer switch over to the B2C market. While the similarities are becoming greater thanks to the volume of information available on the Internet, and the reach of consumers to influence the purchase decisions of others, the differences are still great.  You need to develop personas to best understand how web experience needs to be provided within the context of the complete customer journey. You have to consider the best content marketing strategies, and the role loyalty and emotion play. The lines may blur between B2B and B2C in the future, but for now, understanding the key differences can help a marketer design and deliver the best programs and campaigns for their market.

Posted by David Hillis
Categories: Marketing
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