One of the defining characteristics of any organisation or company is whether it sells its goods or service to individuals or other businesses.
Whilst being B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business) may not always seem that different, it is particularly important to understand the differences when it comes to successful marketing
What makes marketing to consumers and businesses different?
To understand the difference between B2C and B2B marketing, first we need to look at the differences in how consumers and businesses select and buy goods and services. Though there are always exceptions, there are some typical behaviours which affect successful business and consumer marketing.
Consumers use more emotion in their buying decisions. They typically buy things which make them feel good or satisfy an emotional need. For example, consumers may buy clothes which make them feel confident or food which is healthy for their family.
Businesses making buying decisions which are more rational, logical and longer-term. Examples might be choosing a trusted marketing agency or shopping around for the best value from suppliers.
Whilst consumers seek to be happy with their purchases, business decision makers want to be seen to be making good decisions. Businesses like to have a close relationship with the brands and suppliers they choose, whilst consumers need much less interaction with their choice of car, clothing or chocolate.
Consumers make quick-buying decisions on their own or are influenced by those close to them. The decision process is longer for businesses and typically taken by a number of stakeholders (e.g. managing director, company accountant and department manager). This is important to understand when delivering successful B2C or B2B marketing.
How does this difference affect B2C or B2B marketing?
Due to these differences, consumers will often react swiftly to marketing which grabs their attention and meets their needs. For example, an individual on a hot day may see an advert for a particular soft drink and buy a can to cool them down.
Businesses typically require more information before they will make a decision. They like to research what they are buying and respond to marketing over time. For example, a business looking for a new IT supplier may research the options, ask for presentations and involve others in the decision.
To be successful, marketing to consumers is often impactful, emotive and snappy. Marketing to businesses is more sustained, contains more information and seeks to flatter or ‘court’ the decision-makers.
Burst Marketing or Drip Marketing?
Burst marketing is a persuasive marketing message or promotion made over a short period of time using a single or just a few marketing channels. As consumers can react quickly to immediate needs and impulses, burst marketing can be very effective for B2C marketing. For example, a social media advert for Christmas pudding made during the festive period is likely to be successful.
Drip marketing is on-going marketing, using several different marketing channels and a consistent message, sustained over the longer period. It is much more effective than burst marketing for B2B marketing. For example, before feeling comfortable to approach a new supplier, a company may have received an email from them, seen them at an event, read about them in the local business news and had a recommendation from a client.
Push Marketing or Pull Marketing?
Another strategic marketing choice between B2B and B2C is push or pull marketing.
B2C marketing will often use push marketing to educate consumers about a new, innovative or improved product which satisfies a need they may not currently be aware off. For example, the latest smartphone may include a folding screen which customers did not yet know they needed! Common marketing tactics and channels for push marketing include PR, social media and events.
In B2B marketing, pull marketing is more common. This is when marketing is aimed at attracting business customers who already know they need the goods or services on offer. For example, most businesses know they need insurance and may search annually. Pull marketing is used by insurance companies to ensure they are the one which businesses find. Common marketing tactics for pull marketing include Google Ads PPC, SEO, media advertising and networking.
Brand Awareness or Direct Marketing?
Brand Awareness marketing ensures your product or service is the one customers or businesses recall when they identify they need what you deliver. It is utilised widely in B2C marketing where channels like TV advertising, social media advertising and sponsorship are continuously used by brands to ensure their name is the one consumers are most familiar with.
Direct marketing makes a more direct appeal to those individuals or businesses who could benefit from what’s offered. It works particularly well for B2B marketing when the number of potential customers is small and well defined. This can include mailers, email and social media, plus ads or PR in sector or business press.
Branding for B2B and B2C
Branding tends to be used differently for B2B and B2C marketing too.
In consumer marketing, brands are often aspirational so that the consumer actively wishes to be associated with them. They often aim to appear a little younger, more affluent and more sophisticated than the customers they seek!
By contrast, for business marketing, the strongest B2B brands tend to mirror their customers more closely. For example, an IT company which uses brand identity and brand messaging to appear innovative and cost-effective may appeal most to cost-conscious and forward-thinking businesses.
Consumer marketing brands can be more fun and playful with their audience, using clever straplines and amusing campaigns. Business-to-business brands need to be clearer, simpler and consistent over longer periods. Above all they should ensure the customer is in no doubt of the features and benefits they provide.
Which marketing channels work best for B2C and B2B?
With modern media and digital marketing, most marketing channels can work effectively for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketing. The correct marketing mix is dependent on the product or service and choice of strategic marketing tactics.
For B2C marketing, if consumers are actively seeking your product or service, then building brand awareness and using pull marketing may give the greatest results. This could include SEO and Google Ads PPC to satisfy those searching online, social media posting and advertising (particularly Facebook and Instagram), mass-media advertising on TV or radio and print or display advertising. Social media influencers and sponsorship opportunities could also reach a wide audience.
For B2C marketing, if your product or service is new or not actively sought, direct marketing and push marketing may be more effective. This could include advertising aimed at specific press or websites targeting customer’s use, social media advertising (particularly Facebook and Instagram) and PR in mainstream or lifestyle press and websites.
For B2B marketing, if businesses are actively seeking what you deliver or competition is high, brand awareness and pull marketing are once again key tactics. SEO will ensure those searching find your website whilst Google Ads PPC can boost results and target others with digital display or remarketing ads. PR in business, sector or mainstream press will raise awareness, as will extensive business networking and attending, exhibiting or sponsoring trade shows and business events. Website design, development and user experience is also powerful as most businesses will look at your website, and compare it to competitors, before making contact.
For B2B marketing, if your product or service is more niche or innovative, direct marketing and push marketing may again give the greatest results. If you can identify the likely businesses who may buy what you offer, direct mail and direct email can reach decision-makers, introduce your product and encourage them to enquire. Trade events and networking will give an opportunity to introduce what you deliver to your audience. Your website will need to act as a strong online brochure, so website design, development and SEO may also be important. Google Ads PPC and social media (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter) can help introduce your services to likely business decision makers. PR, press releases, blogs, videos and other content can help demonstrate you as experts and leaders within your sector.
Remember, for B2B marketing, sustained drip marketing is almost always more productive!
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