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B2B vs B2C Marketing: Understanding the Differences

Savvy marketers understand the fundamental differences between marketing to a B2B or B2C client. B2B strategies differ from the B2C approach when it comes to buying cycles, modes of communication, and how companies build relationships with their customers.

In this article, we’ll help you understand the distinctions between B2B vs B2C marketing and outline the marketer’s methodology for targeting those businesses.

In this B2B vs B2C guide:

 

What is the difference between B2B and B2C marketing? 

The main difference between B2B and B2C marketing boils down to who you are directing your marketing. There are many nuances to capturing the right tone, mood and offering the right kind of incentives for buying from your business.

B2B marketing.

Business to business (B2B) marketing involves pitching your product to other companies who may be looking for ways to make efficiencies and solve problems in their day-to-day workflow or open new avenues of revenue. It may also involve relationship building over time, as you make inroads towards additional streams of income from the same company for different products and services. 

Key messaging for B2B takes a narrow focus on what your product can do for their business. Examples of B2B products include:

  • Project management software like Workfront
  • Cloud storage like Dropbox
  • 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 percent through 2027.

B2C marketing.

Business to consumer (B2C) companies sell to everyday customers. The net you cast for B2C marketing is much wider than B2B, taking in a greater range of demographics, socioeconomic groups, and tastes.

For that reason, B2C marketing takes a much broader approach to its messaging and targeting. Tones of voice, channels of communication and incentives to buy are likely to differ between campaigns and products much more than they do for B2B marketing.

A March 2021 report estimates the global B2C eCommerce market size is anticipated to reach $6.2 trillion by 2027. This is as companies selling direct to the consumer continue to focus on tweaking impulse buys, as well as growing customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

The customer bases are very different between B2B and B2C companies and need two different marketing strategies.

 

B2B marketing 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. 

Here are five examples of how B2B and B2C marketing are different and the common challenges marketers face in either space.

 

Relationship building.

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: Targeting the right personnel.

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. This can form part of your wider content marketing strategy to target those clients.

Focus on logic and education. B2B marketing concentrates on deepening customer knowledge of a product rather than playing on their emotions. 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. Ask yourself:

  • Who do they need to convince?
  • What is important to them?

From there, 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. Buyers will also remember you as a helpful resource each time a contractor renewal period comes up.

B2C: Seamless personalized customer journey.

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 digital customer experience. The minute something doesn’t work on your website, potential customers will give up and leave. 

Don’t overwhelm your B2C customers with newsletters and blog posts. They’re accustomed to a more transactional relationship. That said, consumers do want to know that you understand their issues or desires and will deliver on their expectations.

Personalize your marketing so 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, but they also give you valuable feedback.

 

Buying cycle.

The time it takes for a consumer to buy is often dramatically shorter than a business, because there are far fewer decision makers or stakeholders involved. It’s worth remembering that some large consumer purchases, such as furniture or a home, may have a longer sales cycle, however. 

For the most part, B2B buying cycles will be longer than B2C buying cycles. Know what your average buying cycle is and design your digital marketing accordingly.

B2B: Satisfy several stakeholders.

Selling to other businesses takes time, as there are 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.

B2B marketing requires a tailored, 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 user 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: Marketing to meet an impulse.

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
  • To the point 

Your consumers are on a mission, so don’t interrupt that with lengthy distractions during their customer journey with you.

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.

 

Target audience.

Knowing your audience is probably one of the first things you learn in any marketing class. That’s 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: Offer a good fit for your customer.

Once you determine the different stakeholders and how to market to them, your product will be subject to a variety of tests to prove it’s a good fit. When selling your product to a business, you need to pass a buyer’s security requirements.

Some examples of this include:

  • The prospects’ end users needing to evaluate your product
  • Procurement teams having to assess your product 
  • Leadership needing to free up budget to buy your product

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. You should:

  • Put together case studies with quantitative information
  • Gather impressive testimonials
  • Prepare to share other customers’ contact information for references

Exceeding expectations at each stage of the buying process is key to making B2B sales.

B2C: Build trust in an instant.

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 make your prospects feel something can cause them to pull the trigger.

Some ways in which you can do this include:

  • Posting testimonials on your website to get your consumers to trust that your product is legitimate.
  • Sharing 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 on search engines.

Consider using influencer marketing to extend your reach even further. In your content, provide clear and effective copy on every ad and landing page and make it easy for customers to make purchases by adding obvious buttons or links.

 

Communication.

The way you communicate can really impact the way your message is received. Using casual language with business professionals would be jarring, while using more formal word choice could 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 show proficiency in what they do. B2B marketers must 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. There are a few ways you can illustrate this:

  • Create long and short-form content that showcases your business’s expertise and the return on investment in your product.
  • Develop case studies that are particularly effective at highlighting how your product or service saves buyers’ money, resources and time.
  • Host webinars, events, or workshops to give buyers insight into the many ways your product can be applied in their business.
  • Shoot short-form videos that can 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. 

That being said, brands should adopt a unique voice and inject some humor into their content where possible. 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 the benefits of your product obvious and point out how quickly it can be in the consumers’ hands. Make sure your consumers can purchase straight from an ad and 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. Where B2B content is often more detailed, B2C content cuts to the chase. B2C content is frequently more fun and light-hearted, while B2B adopts a more serious, no-nonsense tone. 

B2B: Provide the information they need.

B2B customers want to feel that 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 projects might they be able to work on with their extra time?

Providing actual numbers like hours or cost saved can help your buyer put together a compelling business case for buying your product. B2B software companies can also arrange demos or a trial period to 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, so your pieces may be found among the top results when a B2B buyer is researching on search engines.

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: Build trust and add the ‘wow’ factor.

Since consumers already know what they are looking for, you should always try to 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.

 

Frequently asked questions about B2B vs B2C.

What is more complex, B2B or B2C?

Depending on the product or service you’re offering, either B2B or B2C could be the more complex sell. While B2B focuses on developing relationships and proving your product’s viability, B2C requires you to get into the head of the consumer and offer a can’t-miss opportunity.

What do B2B and B2C stand for?

B2B means business-to-business, while B2C means business-to-consumer. Each type of marketing has its advantages over the other in terms of the effort put in, but they are radically different approaches that marketers must consider as they promote their products and services.

Can you be B2B and B2C at the same time?

While a company can easily sell to both consumers and other businesses within the same four walls, you shouldn’t expect to be able to achieve both goals using identical marketing methods. There are markedly different ways to present your product which will resonate with one but not necessarily the other.

 

Optimize your B2B and B2C marketing strategies.

Marketers need to be aware of the differences between B2B vs B2C marketing strategies to get great results. This is where Marketo Engage comes into play.

For the 8th consecutive year, Marketo Engage software has been named a leader in Gartner’s CRM Lead Management category, and for good reason. With over 500 enterprise customers, Marketo Engage 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 Marketo Engage products can help you start implementing your B2B or B2C strategy today.

 

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B2B Sales: Overview and 9 Proven Strategies

How to Improve the Digital Customer Experience

What is Personalization and How to Use it in Marketing?

What is Customer Journey Mapping? Everything You Need to Know

 

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