Savvy marketers understand the fundamental differences between selling to a business and to a consumer. Great B2B marketing strategies differ from great B2C strategies in regards to buying cycles, modes of communication, and how companies build relationships with their customers. In this article, we’ll help you understand key differentiators of B2B vs B2C marketing and outline the marketer’s methodology for B2B and B2C businesses.
B2B vs B2C
B2B (business-to-business) companies provide goods and services that address the needs or problems of other businesses. Examples of B2B products include project management software like Asana, cloud storage like Dropbox, and web communication tools like Slack. In 2019, the global B2B eCommerce market size was valued at $5.7 trillion and is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 17.5% through 2027.
B2C (business-to-consumer) companies sell to the everyday consumer. For instance, companies that sell specific products like Sunglass Hut, subscription media and music services like Spotify, and food delivery services like Grubhub. The global B2C eCommerce market size is anticipated to reach $6.2 trillion by 2027.
The customer bases are very different between B2B and B2C companies, and thus require two different marketing strategies.
B2B vs B2C Marketing
For both B2B and B2C audiences, marketers strive to deliver an authentic, customer-centric experience to the buyer. However, the approach for each audience is unique, since individual consumers have different purchasing behaviors, attitudes, and needs than business buyers. Below, we review five areas where B2B and B2C marketing differ. We will cover common challenges marketers face in either space and provide resources for championing them.
B2B buyers require a more hands-on relationship than a B2C buyer. B2B prospects may need to convince multiple internal stakeholders that your solution is not only necessary, but worth the price tag.
Anticipate that you’ll need to spend more time to acquire a B2B buyer, but potentially more money to acquire B2C customers. B2C customers are inundated with ads, so it takes substantial time, effort, and spend to make your product stand out from the crowd. When you do catch a consumer’s attention, you’re more likely to get a quick sale.
B2B: Make them the hero
When you’re targeting B2B customers, remember that they want to look like an expert. Helping buyers get credit for purchasing a tool that saves their team time and money should be among your goals. Start developing a relationship with a B2B buyer by serving up relevant thought leadership content. Focus on logic and education. B2B marketing rarely plays on people’s emotions, but instead, B2B marketing concentrates on deepening customer knowledge. Empower your customers to speak intelligently about the value of your product.
Make the most of the long B2B buying cycle by getting to know where your buyer sits in their organization. Who do they need to convince? What is important to them? Create pointed marketing materials that speak to who your buyer is and what they (and their bosses) care about. In doing so, B2B marketers ensure that prospects can persuade their boss of the ROI of a purchase. Not only that, buyers will remember you as a helpful resource each time a contractor renewal period comes up.
B2C: You care more about them than they care about you
While B2C customers can be loyal to certain brands, they also prioritize quality and value, wanting to satisfy their needs at a good price. As such, consumers often want to find a solution to their problem immediately. This translates to you needing to ensure a seamless customer experience — the minute something doesn’t work on your website, potential customers will give up and leave.
Also, be careful not to overwhelm your B2C customers with newsletters and blog posts. B2C customers are accustomed to a more transactional relationship. That said, consumers want to know that you understand their issues or desires and will deliver on their expectations.
Personalize your marketing so that it shows you understand customer priorities, then push them to visit your site and convert. You can suggest related products in search results, and recommend relevant products and services based on their past interactions with your site. One way to do this is to encourage customers to write reviews by offering discount codes or store credit. Not only do reviews attract more prospects to your site, they also give you valuable feedback.
The time it takes for a consumer to buy is often dramatically shorter because there are far fewer decision makers or stakeholders involved (though some large consumer purchases, such as furniture or a home, may have a longer sales cycle). But for the most part, B2B buying cycles will be longer than B2C buying cycles. Know what your average buying cycle is and design your marketing accordingly.
B2B: Be in it for the long haul
Selling to other businesses takes time because there are so many more people you’ll need to cater to. In fact, the people who might understand your product the best may not be the people paying for it. Therefore, B2B marketing requires a personalized, multi-step marketing plan specific to each stakeholder. Find ways that your product can fit into the company’s upcoming strategic goals, and make sure you understand your prospect’s complex procurement process.
This helps you create content that’s unique to each stage of the buying cycle. Consider presenting use cases that demonstrate the long-term value of your product or the way your product can benefit multiple parts of your customer’s business. Also be conscious of the words your prospects use. Describe your product or services using their terminology to show that you know and can speak their language.
B2C: Make it quick and easy
Since consumers usually know what they want and need before they buy, you have limited time to capture and hold their attention. Make sure that you have fantastic SEO—you must be at the top of search engine page results. Make your ad copy short, clear, and pithy, too. Your consumers are on a mission, so don’t interrupt with lengthy distractions. Once your consumer buys, you can suggest other products they might like based on their preferences. Alternatively, you could send them discounts for add-ons that supplement the products they already own.
Knowing your audience is probably one of the first things you learn in any marketing class because it’s vitally important to a successful marketing campaign. A B2B audience responds to very different messaging than a B2C audience. Each group has a distinct motivation that marketers need to address.
B2B: Meet and surpass expectations
Once you determine the different stakeholders and how to market to them, your product will be subject to a variety of tests to prove the product is a good fit. When selling your product to a business, you need to pass a buyer’s security requirements. The prospects’ end users need to evaluate your product. Procurement teams need to assess your product as well. Leadership needs to free up the budget to buy your product. And so on.
With B2B, you need to market to every person involved in the buying decision. Be ready to give each party the right information at the right time. Put together case studies with quantitative information, gather impressive testimonials, and prepare to share other customers’ contact information for references. Exceeding expectations at each stage of the buying process is key to making a sale.
B2C: Play to their emotions
The most powerful ads make you think about how much a product could affect or improve your life. Whether your consumers buy your product immediately or a few days later, ads that appeal to your prospects’ emotions cause them to pull the trigger. People respond to ads that make them feel something.
Post testimonials or other social proof on your website to get your consumers to trust that your product is legitimate. Share a glowing review on one of your ads, or feature everyday people who make using your product look easy or fun. Show up where your consumers are, whether that’s on social media, email inboxes, or recent Google search.
Consider using influencer marketing to extend your reach even further. In your content, make sure all of your copy is clear and effective on every ad and landing page. And finally, make it easy for potential customers to make purchases by adding very obvious buttons or links.
The way you communicate can really impact the way your message is received. Using casual language with business professionals would be jarring and using more formal word choice would make consumers feel unfamiliar or disconnected. Be conscious of who you are talking to and what their vernacular is.
B2B: Emphasize the ROI
The professional community is looking to buy from companies that are proficient at what they do. B2B marketers have to appeal to the rational side of each stakeholder’s mind and make B2B buyers confident that they are making a good investment. Consequently, B2B marketing content tends to be focused on ROI.
Create long and short-form content that showcases your business’s expertise and the return on investment in your product. Case studies are particularly effective at highlighting how your product or service saves buyers money, resources, or time — or all three. Host webinars, events, or workshops to give buyers insight into the many ways your product can be applied in their business. Short-form videos or blogs can also enlighten viewers on how your product stands out in a succinct, digestible way.
Sometimes, B2B marketers will even compare a product to its competition to underscore its best features. No matter the method, it’s important to clearly state why your product is better than anything else, and how your product can deliver an incredible return on investment.
B2C: Keep it simple
Consumer messaging needs to be relatable and casual, but don’t include overly trendy buzzwords or jargon — this may confuse the reader or make your brand seem like it’s trying too hard. However, brands should adopt a unique voice, and even inject some humor into their content. This makes your audience feel like they know you personally, and will make them more likely to trust that you know what they need. Make it obvious what the benefits of your product are, and point out how quickly the product can be in the consumers’ hands. Make sure to enable consumers to purchase straight from an ad and be able to check out in minutes.
Content and Advertising
As you might expect, the form of advertising and focus for content should vary between B2B and B2C as well. Whereas B2B content is often more detailed, B2C content cuts to the chase. B2C content is frequently more fun and light-hearted, while B2B is more serious.
B2B: Give them the information they need
B2B customers want to feel like you know what is important to them. Give these buyers a sense of what their life will be like when they have your product. How will it change their day-to-day? What other neat or fulfilling projects might they be able to work on with the extra time on their hands? Providing actual numbers like hours or cost saved can help your buyer put together a business case for buying your product. A demo or trial is another standard way that B2B software companies can prove that their product works the way they’ve promised.
Rather than spam B2B customers with ads, you want to access them in more subtle, sophisticated ways. Publish long-form, informative articles on subjects tied to your product with a soft-sell at the end. Make sure that these pieces are created with SEO in mind. That way, your pieces may be found among the top results when a B2B buyer is researching. Other ways to engage with your B2B audience are to host webinars or publish reports. These channels can establish your company as a thought leader in the space, provide opportunities to obtain their contact information, and instill confidence in your customer.
B2C: Make it entertaining
Since consumers already know what they are looking for, always find quick, fun ways to present the benefits of your product or service. Your B2C ads should “wow” customers into making a purchase, and at the same time, your brand and voice should be consistent and recognizable. Consistency and familiarity build trust, and trust keeps customers coming back.
Think about the string of words consumers would use to find your product or similar products. Use those keywords in your ads, blogs, and product pages to rank in the search results. The closer you are to the top, the closer you are to getting consumers on your site versus a competitor’s site.
Optimize your B2B and B2C marketing strategies
Marketers need to be aware of the differences between these two approaches in order to produce high-performing strategies. This is where Marketo Engage comes into play.
For the 8th consecutive year, Adobe’s Marketo Engage software has been named a leader in Gartner’s CRM Lead Management category, and for good reason. With over 500 enterprise customers, Adobe has the expertise to help you execute a powerful acquisition strategy. The Marketo Engage platform gives you access to playbooks on digital marketing and a community of marketing experts. Find out how Adobe’s products can help you start implementing your B2B or B2C strategy today.