Comparing B2B and B2C Marketing: Similar but Different

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.

Some businesses may do both B2B and B2C marketing. An example is a landscape company that provides residential and commercial services. If your business does both, keep in mind that you need to plan your marketing for each segment separately.

What is B2B (Business-to-Business) Marketing?

B2B businesses market and sell their products and services directly to other businesses. Your marketing strategies and tactics are focused on to attracting other businesses to purchase your offerings.

B2B marketing typically involves building relationships with other businesses and catering to their specific needs and requirements. Your marketing efforts need to showcase the value of your products or services for your target audience.

What is B2C (Business-to-Consumer) Marketing?

B2C businesses market and sell their products and services to individual consumers for their personal use. Your focus is on understanding and appealing to the needs, preferences, and buying behavior of individual customers.

One of the goals of B2C marketing is to create brand awareness to attract consumers and get them to know, like and trust you. Once you have achieved that goal, it is easier to retain customers that drive sales. Make sure you appeal to the desires, needs, and emotions of individual consumers.

How do B2B and B2C Marketing 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.

  • B2B marketing typically targets decision-makers, such as managers or executives within organizations. For small businesses, our target is usually the business owner.
  • B2C marketing is a broader consumer audience with a particular need. You need to identify who within that very broad consumer audience you can service the best.

Although the marketing strategies you may use are the same, how you execute your marketing activities differ.

B2C Marketing
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 transactional and 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
Focus of B2C Marketing

The focus of B2C marketing is to attract a large number of individual consumers and get them to buy quickly.

  • B2C companies employ more merchandising activities like coupons, displays, store fronts, paid ads, social media, influencer marketing and offers to entice the target market to buy. Content is more consumer-friendly, entertaining, and visually appealing, designed to grab attention and evoke emotions.
  • 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.

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.

B2B Marketing
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. Most often, purchase decisions are driven by rational factors such as cost savings, efficiency, ROI and meeting business objectives

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.

Focus of B2B Marketing

B2B marketing strategies often revolve around targeted, personalized approaches. An effective strategy is using content marketing. Content you deliver to the prospect needs to provide be more technical, informative and focused on addressing a specific business need. Content is king for B2B marketing.

Depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey, provide the following types of content.

  • 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.

Importance of Brand for B2B Marketing

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.

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.

  • 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.

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.

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