B2B vs B2C Marketing - Is It Really Any Different?

by Adam Luckeroth, on Nov, 19, 2015

Let's settle a long-standing question. Is B2B marketing really any different than B2C marketing?


B2B and B2C marketers both struggle with lead generation and conversion. Although the B2B marketer may have to contend with a longer sales cycle and fewer leads, deals typically represent more money at stake than in B2C.

If you're a marketer handling both B2B and B2C campaigns or an organization learning the ropes as you go along, it is important to understand the differences and similarities to align the right strategy to your specific type of client.

We'll start by challenging some common B2B vs. B2C assumptions:

Differences between B2C and B2B Marketing

Assumption 1:
Industry jargon is generally considered acceptable when dealing with B2B prospects. For B2C, it is best to steer clear of language that may be confusing.

Challenge 1:
No one appreciates confusion, and that includes B2B prospects.

Assumption 2:
Your B2B prospect wants to be in the know, and the content needs to educate and come from a place of authority. They will be making a decision based on factual information that they can relate to their colleagues. Many people will be involved in the decision-making process. There is less pressure for B2C marketers. Consumers can be emotionally triggered- status and cost can be addressed more playfully.

Challenge 2:
B2B and B2C prospects are both human and as such, are subject to the same emotional triggers. Daniel Newman at Forbes talks about it in this article.

Assumption 3:
B2B content is typically more detailed and longer to convince audiences and their organizations to buy in. The B2C market needs shorter, snappy content that is humorous, useful and ultimately shareable on social media platforms.

Challenge 3:
Again, all prospects are humans. Ditch the drab. Whether long or short, content should connect.

Assumption 4:
The number of people involved in the decision-making process changes from B2C to B2B. The B2C buyer will buy on their behalf, or that of a loved one and the buying cycle is shorter. They will research and short-list, but there is usually only a single person that needs to hear your message. The B2B buyer is not alone. Their organization may have a long chain of command with individuals from procurement, accounting and other select individuals having a say in the approval process. B2B buyers need more hand-holding, attention and nurturing to get to conversion.

Challenge 4:
Just because the buying cycle for B2C is typically shorter, nurturing and "high-touch" is still beneficial for establishing long-term and repeat customers.

Assumption 5:
Contracts make a B2B purchase a significant decision for the organization. It takes a longer time to come to a final decision but a contract can lock them in for months to years, and a wrong decision can impact the entire operation. More is as stake with B2B over a substantial purchase and its ability to affect multiple parties.

Challenge 5:
Even with minor commodities like toothpaste and soap, people like to be reassured that they've made the right decision.

It's important to keep realistic timelines in mind for B2B and B2C buying cycles. Also, with more money at stake, marketers can expect that different buying scenarios come into play for B2B. SiriusDecisions outlines that for purchases less than $50K, agreement occurs amongst individuals. For buying decisions from $50K-$500K, a consensus must be formed across functions, teams or departments. For purchases of $500K to $Millions, decisions come from a committee with agreement at the executive leadership level.

With such a significant outlay and the impact a purchase can have on an organization, it is no wonder that it can take over two quarters to come to a decision. B2B marketers need to be ready to invest in the long haul.

Sales reps and subject matter experts play an important role in facilitating the B2B buyer’s decision. B2B buyers interact with sales reps over 50% of the time during the early phase of the buying process, but B2C buyers need answers as well.

[Tweet "The aim of marketing is the same: to get prospects to know, like and trust you"]

Whether the buying cycle is long or short, preparation and alignment across the board are necessary for successful outcomes. For marketers handling either B2B or B2C clients, it still boils down to understanding your buyer, how they buy and enabling the sales and marketing teams to make it happen.

Marketing Fundamentals Remain the Same

Businesses, no matter the client, need to attract, nurture and convert their prospects. The basics are in many ways similar whether the client is another business or an individual consumer. You are addressing the same questions in B2B and B2C Marketing.

  • What makes your organization, product or service unique? Organizations that focus on their unique selling proposition within their marketing strategy fare better with their marketing approach and have a clearer picture of how they stand out from the competition.
  • Does your organization deliver fresh, relevant content? Both organizations need fresh content that addresses needs during the buyer’s cycle. This holds true whether the lead is a consumer or another business.
  • Does your content build trust? Both organizations require content to create brand recognition and trust with their audience.
  • Can your organization quickly address prospect queries and monitor social media conversations? Sales and marketing need to stay on top of concerns of prospects and be ready to answer questions on the minutiae of their product and service and how it can integrate with already applied solutions. Show that you are listening.
  • Are your messages finding your audience? Marketing is multichannel. LinkedIn is currently a great resource for the B2B marketplace while Pinterest and Facebook may be more likely candidates for the individual consumer. This all depends on many factors which is why it's important to find out where your audiences spend their time and how best to interact with them. And don't forget about mobile! I talked about this in a recent Locassa Expert Interview.
  • Do you speak the same language as your prospects? Tone and voice should be adjusted to match your target audience.

In a CMO.com poll, 52% of the senior marketers surveyed responded “yes and no” to the question, “…Is B2B marketing truly that much different from B2C marketing?”

Even senior marketers are compelled to acknowledge the fundamental similarities between the two. Some thoughtful explanations of this conflicting response include those of Marvin Mason, CMO of Crisis Prevention Institute, and Christy Thom, Executive Director of Dogtopia:

Mason says, “At the heart of B2B and B2C is a person. I believe people generally make buying decisions based on how it makes them look/feel. As Simon Sinek says, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ However, I recognize that spending your own money versus business’ money introduces nuances that influence buying behavior. Thus, B2B and B2C are the same and different.”

Thom adds, “The key to this question is reading the repeating word: marketing. It doesn’t matter if it is to a business or consumer. Solid, proven, and sound marketing principles are the same even if your approach varies. It is all about knowing your customer (whether it is a business or single human) and meeting their needs.”

At the end of the day, marketing fundamentals come down to meeting the needs of the prospect, speaking to them in their language and driving them to view your service or product as the best solution for their needs. Your approach may vary for B2B to B2C, but the goal remains the same. You are still marketing to people, whether that person is buying for themselves or is purchasing on behalf of their organization.

The aim of marketing is to get prospects to know, like and trust you.

You know your target; the type of arrows you choose are up to you. So how do you adapt your strategy for B2B and B2C clients? Show off your best practices in the comments below or tweet us @modusengagement.

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