When it comes to marketing, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) are attempting to do the same thing: capture someone’s attention. However, because the audiences for these two groups are so distinct, each requires a very different approach. So, what is the difference between B2C vs. B2B marketing and why would a B2B company need to partner with a B2B agency that specializes in just B2B clientele?
First, B2Bs are companies that are selling to other companies. B2Bs have to appeal to the interests and challenges of a person who is buying based on the needs of an organization.
B2Cs, on the other hand, are generally trying to appeal to a much broader spectrum of consumers. These would include well-known brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Apple, etc. These companies must appeal to the individual and the challenges they face in their everyday life.
One of the biggest differences between B2C and B2B marketing is how much education is required. For B2Bs, education is one of the most important aspects of any marketing campaign. This can be attributed mostly to the audience.
B2B decision-makers are typically experts within their industries. They are often engineers or professionals with a master’s or a doctorate level of education. These people are continually trying to stay abreast of what’s happening within their industry or the industries they serve. What are the latest trends? How are other companies solving their pain points? Who are the leaders in the industry that I can depend on to solve our problems?
Consumers, in contrast, typically make purchases based on desires and emotions. The pride of driving one car versus another. The prestige of wearing a certain watch or carrying a designer bag.
Another major difference between B2B marketing vs. B2C marketing is the number of people making the decision. At the consumer level, the decision is usually made at the individual level.
For B2Bs the decision-making process may include a single business owner or a whole board room full of people – each one with a different agenda. This makes the sales process typically much longer and more complicated. However, a key point in successful B2B marketing initiatives is to focus on the benefits for the individuals making the decision as well as the overall company benefits.
The amount of time that is required to make a purchase is also referred to as the sales cycle or buying cycle. For B2Cs the process is usually shorter, possibly even instantaneous. A buyer sees a new pair of shoes and decides to buy them. The sales cycle is complete.
B2B sales cycles can take months or even years and the goal is to shorten your sales cycle. The amount of time and resources that it takes to close a B2B deal increases with each passing week. Therefore, a good B2B marketing campaign might want to include the length of a sales cycle as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). If the average sale gets cut down from 12 months to say 6 months, then you have just halved the cost of acquisition.
Finally, the relationships that a B2B and B2C company would develop with its buyer are significantly different. For instance, a consumer would have almost no formal relationship with anyone in the B2C business. It is almost always going to be transactional, like in the example of the shoes above.
Conversely, for B2Bs, who are working with a potential buyer, or buyers for months and even years, the relationship is a key driver. B2Bs must generate three things before making a sale. The buyer must trust the salesperson, the product, and the company, or the sale will almost always fall through.
Due to all these factors, the best marketing options for B2Bs and B2Cs are almost always going to be different. What works best for B2Cs may not work at all for B2Bs and vice versa. So, let’s look at the best marketing options for B2Bs and B2Cs.
For B2C marketing, the top spot goes to advertising. In a one-page ad or 30-second video spot, you can inspire a desire to buy the latest iPhone or book a trip to an island in the Caribbean (sign me up for the latter).
However, for B2Bs, advertising is a much more complicated avenue to take. Television ads would be a huge waste of money since the target audience is much too broad. Advertising in trade publications (print and online) would be more apt. However, it can be hard to grab someone’s attention with a photo of the latest fastener, injection molded part, or aluminum extrusion fabrication. Even adding a small bit of copy is going to fall short of educating the B2B buyer. Therefore, generating an ROI from advertising is tough for B2Bs.
Instead of the ads in trade publications, B2Bs can generate a lot more interest by generating the content that appears in between the ads – the feature articles. This is where B2B PR can make a huge impact for B2Bs. Creating educational, insightful, and even disruptive content can lead to more than a 300% increase in sales with little to no other forms of marketing. That is how you know if your PR agency is doing a good job, and that is exactly what Rankin PR has been able to accomplish for several of its clients.
By providing this type of content and then getting it published by top-tier trade publications, you can also cut down on the length of time it takes to close a sale. For our clients, Rankin PR has seen sales cycles that averaged close to 9 months be cut in half. Imagine how much more selling you can do if each sale required half the amount of time and resources.
While traditional public relations can be a great tool for B2Cs, the approach is much different. For this, a B2C agency would write up a press release or pitch the media on possible story angles. Then a journalist would be required to write the story without any assurances that the final story would include anything important about the company. The article may end up including a number of competitors. This makes B2C PR much more difficult and riskier than B2B PR.
Obviously, a website that can convert is going to be key for any company. The content is really the only real difference between a B2B and a B2C website. This aligns mostly with what is written above – B2Bs need to educate, and B2Cs need to tap into one’s emotions.
Driving people to your website is where search engine optimization (SEO) is going to be a key marketing tool for both B2Bs and B2Cs. It is important to point out that the aforementioned B2B PR is also a great tool for B2B SEO. When an article is published about your company in a top industry journal, your PR agency can get them to include a backlink to your website. Those publications deliver high domain scores for your website and can help your website rank much higher over time.
Today, it is not really a matter of “if” you should be doing social media, but only where you want to spend your time and energy. For B2Cs, there is always going to be a new kid on the block. Years ago, it started with Myspace, then Facebook, and Snapchat. Today, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter are some of the leaders. However, these come in and out of fashion so fast that by the time you read this blog, all these may be out, with new ones taking their place.
Social media for B2Bs focuses on LinkedIn. This is where professionals go for business content. You should be posting at least a few times a month with original content. Then using your company account to like and comment on others’ posts a few times a week. This can actually lead to rapid growth in followers. Rankin PR has been able to grow one of our client’s followers from zero to over 10K in just one year.
As you can see there are a lot of differences between B2B vs. B2B marketing. So, if you are considering working with an outside agency to partner with for your B2B or B2C operation, let us provide this quick word to the wise. Beware of any agencies that do not specialize in either B2B or B2C.
Most agencies that say they work with both B2Bs and B2Cs are actually B2C agencies that “dabble” in B2B. This can create a number of problems because instead of catering to all those things that work for B2Bs, they tend to try and lump you in with what is working for their B2C clients. We have encountered countless B2Bs that come to us with these types of stories, often saying things like: “they did not really understand our products,” “they did not get our customers,” “the messaging was off,” or worse, “we got nothing!”
Think about it, everyone has a core competency. Do you think Nike is going to say tomorrow that in addition to our shoe and apparel lines, they are now going to start selling tractor tires? No, because that is not what they are great at.
We will end with this: we are an industrial and tech B2B PR agency. Even within that, we tend to turn down about 60% of the companies that request to work with us because they are not an ideal fit. Maybe they sell uniforms to industrial B2B operations and want us to write stories for trade publications about that. Unfortunately, the trades do not publish stories like that, so we politely turn them away. This is one reason why we have one of the highest client retention rates in the industry. We know who we can help, and we know our process with those clients can guarantee results. So, select your provider carefully. If you would like to contact us to see if you fit within our program, please set up a time for a free session or give us a call.