As you’d expect, as East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency, our clients appreciate the difference between marketing to businesses and marketing to consumers.
However, it’s still something which we are regularly asked about by other companies and contacts.
So, in the thirty-ninth instalment of our regular blog series, we thought we’d revisit why it’s so important to understand the difference and modify your tactics if you’re marketing business-to-business:
To distinguish between business-to-business and business-to-consumer, it’s best to consider how a consumer or a business goes about buying the things they need.
When we shop as consumers, we tend to use emotion in our buying decisions. If we feel thirsty, we buy a tasty drink. If we want to feel important, we buy a prestige car. We buy clothes which make us feel confident and food which is healthy for our family.
However, businesses tend to make more logical and rational decisions (though not always). Although it’s still an individual making the decision, they are far less emotionally attached. A business may take time to choose a company accountant or shop around for the best value supplier of the materials they use.
Whilst consumers need to feel happy about their purchases, decision-makers within businesses want to be seen by their colleagues to be making good choices.
Consumers make many small purchase decisions and generally don’t wish to have a close relationship with the brands they choose.
However, when we’re at work, we typically prefer to have a closer and ongoing relationship with the brands or suppliers we choose.
Consumers make quick purchase decisions, often on their own or influenced only by people close to them. Businesses take longer as there are typically a number of voices involved in the decision – and in evaluating whether it was a good one!
Though not always applicable to every product or service, these key differences are the foundation of why B2C and B2B marketing tactics differ.
How does knowing the difference help marketing?
Let’s look at the fundamental impact of these differences…
Individual consumers often react quickly to marketing which grabs their attention and meets their immediate needs. On a hot day, we may see an advert for an appealing ice cream and buy one to help cool us down!
However, businesses typically like to look before they leap and require more information before they make a decision. Depending on time pressures, companies and organisations research what they buy and thus respond to marketing over time. A business looking for a new IT supplier might research the options, ask for presentations and involve others in the decision.
So, marketing to consumers is often emotive, impactful and snappy. Marketing to businesses is more sustained, communicates greater information and seeks to woo decision-makers over time.
What difference does it make to tactics?
How you can use this difference to get greater results from your B2B marketing is a key question. So, let’s take a look at some of the headline tactics you might choose to adopt…
The tactic of burst marketing is a persuasive promotion conducted over a short period of time using a small number of marketing channels.
As consumers act quickly to satisfy their immediate needs, it can be very effective for B2C marketing – such as a social media advert for Christmas pudding during the festive period!
Alternatively, drip marketing is ongoing, using many different marketing channels and a consistent message – all sustained over the longer term.
When it comes to B2B marketing, drip marketing is generally much more effective. For example, before feeling comfortable to approach a new supplier, a company decision-maker may have received an email, talked to them at a trade event, read an article about them online and finally received a recommendation from a trusted client.
Push marketing is often used by B2C brands to introduce consumers to their new or improved products – which they may not be considering and may not yet know they need! Common channels used for push marketing include PR, social media and events.
In contrast, pull marketing is about telling potential customers you have the thing they already know they need. It’s about satisfying those already looking, rather than trying to entice them.
In B2B sectors, where demand is often steady and competition is broad, pull marketing is often most effective. Common marketing channels include Google Ads PPC, SEO, media advertising and networking.
How you present a product or service tends to differ for B2B and B2C marketing too.
For consumers, brands are often aspirational so that people want to be associated with them. Brands often aim to appear a little younger, more affluent and more sophisticated than the customers they seek. Consumer brands can be fun and playful, using clever straplines and amusing campaigns.
Alternatively, the strongest B2B brands tend to mirror their customers. For example, an IT company which appears innovative and cost-effective may appeal most to cost-conscious and forward-thinking businesses.
Successful business-to-business brands are simple and consistent over longer periods and leave the customers in no doubt of the features and benefits they provide.
Which forms of marketing work best?
Let’s just consider B2B marketing…
If businesses are actively looking for what you deliver, then boosting brand awareness with pull marketing can be key.
SEO can ensure people searching discover your business, with PPC (Google Ads) boosting results. Most businesses will look at your website – and compare it to your competitors – so website development is also important.
Content marketing – particularly articles and press releases in business, sector and mainstream press – will raise awareness and can build all important trust in your expertise.
If you can identify the businesses most likely to want what you deliver, then direct mail and email marketing can reach decision-makers and encourage them to act.
Trade events and networking too will give you an opportunity to introduce what you do to your target audience, as can social media – especially LinkedIn.
Remember though, consistent and sustained drip marketing is vital for B2B marketing success!
We’re East Anglia’s leading B2B marketing agency, trusted by companies in sectors including manufacturing, engineering, IT, technology, logistics, energy and business services.
If you need helping finding and delivering the right B2B marketing mix for your business, simply get in touch: here