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B2B vs B2C Marketing: How to Choose the Right Strategy for Your Business

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Companies that sell their products or services to other companies (B2B) have a much different task at hand than companies that sell products and services to consumers (B2C).

  • The line between B2B and B2C can be blurred as the price tag of a consumer item, and the income of the prospect rises.

  • B2B marketers are best served by advertising in B2B journals, marketing at trade events, etc., whereas B2C marketers need to reach out to the masses.

  • When marketing to a business, buyers are looking for one thing—solutions to their problems. Actually, there are two problems—one is the actual problem, the other is the job performance problem.

  • Prospects in B2C marketing are almost always the decision-makers. Your job is simply to make them “feel like” doing business with your company as opposed to with a competitor.

  • B2C messaging is generally written to appeal to and be understood by the lowest common denominator, while B2B writing and messaging are a bit higher level, a bit more brainy, even college-level when the prospect is presumably well educated.

Although there are some similarities between B2B and B2C marketing, B2B marketers have a few very specific challenges to address.

Marketing is constantly evolving, which means that no matter how much you study it, you’ll never learn everything there is to know about it. But all hope is not lost; there are some fundamentals that every marketer, or anyone who hires a marketing firm, should know. The difference between business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing is one of those fundamentals.

The two practices are exactly what they sound like. Companies that sell their products or services to other companies (B2B) have a much different task at hand than companies that sell products and services to consumers (B2C).

Before I get into those differences, a disclaimer: The line between B2B and B2C can be blurred as the price tag of a consumer item, and the income of the prospect rises. For instance, if you’re selling personal jets, you may do better to use B2B strategies. Aside from exceptional cases, most offerings fall in one camp or the other.

Also, this is kind of a no-brainer, but to touch on it, the most obvious difference in B2B and B2C are the playing fields. B2B marketers are best served by advertising in B2B journals, marketing at trade events, etc., whereas B2C marketers need to reach out to the masses. Both have the task of finding the specific media and channels on which their prospects can be found. There is some overlap between playing fields. Often times you’ll see B2B marketers advertising in consumer newspapers, websites, and broadcast media, usually by sponsoring business news. Meanwhile, it’s rare to see consumer marketing on a B2B channel, again, unless it’s a high dollar item.

B2B vs B2C Marketing: How to Choose the Right Strategy for Your Business

B2B vs. B2C Marketing Strategies

One difference between marketing to consumers and businesses comes in psychological strategies. Selling soccer balls and selling copy machines require vastly different psychological approaches.

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B2B Marketing Psychology

When marketing to a business, buyers are looking for one thing—solutions to their problems. Actually, there are two problems—one is the actual problem, the other is the job performance problem. Marketers should be asking these questions:

  • What is the problem my prospect is challenged with? What does it look like from their point of view? How can I speak directly to their challenges?

  • Where is the buyer experiencing friction? How can I actually facilitate the solution as frictionlessly as possible? How can I convey that frictionless process in advance?

  • What is the best way to communicate the solutions (media, events, classes, etc)?

Important note: Don’t just make it understandable to the purchasing agent who has to do the initial footwork, make it easy for them to provide the needed information to the decision-maker. The manager responsible for the purchase needs to report to the decision-maker and easily explain your solution, why it works for the company, and how frictionless the process will be. Give them whatever ammunition they need.

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B2B vs B2C Marketing: How to Choose the Right Strategy for Your Business

B2C Marketing Psychology

As with B2B, many consumer products and services are solutions-oriented, such as pest control, auto service, or home appliances. In that case, the bullets mentioned above need to be kept in mind.

Whereas the keyword for B2B is “solutions,” the keyword for B2C marketers is “feelings.” Prospects in B2C marketing are almost always the decision-makers—unless you’re selling toys or kids’ media. Your job is simply to make them “feel like” doing business with your company as opposed to with a competitor.

Years of modern marketing experience show that consumers make decisions based mostly on the feelings they have about a company and an offering. This is why viral marketing works so well in the B2C domain. Viral videos and memes all have one thing in common—they make people feel something. Posts that go viral are always either funny, sad, happy, infuriating, uplifting, empowering, and so on.

Given that, here are some questions that B2C marketers need to be asking themselves:

  • How do the people who are buying my product or service need to feel in order to make the decision to purchase? How can I elicit that feeling through my marketing?

  • What makes my prospects have negative feelings and objections about the purchase process? How can I alleviate those?

  • What am I going to do to create in my prospect the impulse to take action? How can I make taking action as easy as possible?

For example, let’s say you’re selling plumbing services. What feelings are involved? People don’t like having to spend money on emergency home repairs. They often think they are going to get ripped off. They often need service right away, if not yesterday. They often feel threatened by the idea of letting strangers into their homes. Now, do a quick search for plumbers and look at the plumbing ads. They all offer the same thing: low up-front prices, fast emergency service, trusted technicians. You’ll often see feel-good photos such as a smiling baby being bathed, or a homeowner smiling and shaking hands with a technician, a truck whizzing along, and lots of trust-building elements.

These tactics can also benefit B2B, but the feelings involved are usually motivated by job performance—how can I do my job as best as possible?

Other Differences Between B2B and B2C Marketing

Language

Another basic difference is the grade level of writing. B2C messaging is generally written to appeal to and be understood by the lowest common denominator, while B2B writing and messaging are a bit higher level, a bit more brainy, even college-level when the prospect is presumably well educated.

B2C marketers need to know the language of their demographic and be able to speak it fluently, so to speak. B2B marketers have a similar challenge. Some campaigns may require highly technical language or esoteric shop talk that would only be understood by prospects in a single industry. Eight-year-olds respond to a vastly different vocabulary than grandparents, for instance.

Wide vs. Narrow Targeting

The width of the funnel is also another area where these two marketing practices diverge. B2B is usually targeted to a very narrow audience, while B2C quite often must address a very large group of people. B2B marketing is targeted at a few decision-makers, C-level executives, and managers.

In some cases of B2B marketing, where there are big dollars at stake, such as with a long-term, multi-million dollar contract, a marketing company might even be called in to create a campaign designed to sell just one single prospect. A whole team of creatives might work for days on that one presentation.  

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Biggest B2B and B2C Marketing Mistake

Here's the biggest mistake made by both B2B and B2C marketers: not speaking to the prospects' actual concerns. There is a lot of what can be referred to as “we-we” marketing going on out there. “We’re the best.” “We’re the cheapest.” “We’re the fastest.” There’s no better way to make a shopper move on, scroll past, turn the page, change the channel, than talking about yourself. Anyone can do that. Yes, it’s important to talk about your strengths and benefits, but you also need to talk about—and directly to—your prospects, while addressing their challenges and feelings.

If B2B marketers can get into the mindset of the prospective clients, directly focusing on what the clients' challenges are, and if B2C marketers get into the mindset of how a purchase process (and post-purchase consumption) feels to their consumers, each is far more likely to succeed. Ignore their point of view, and you're just another "we-we" marketer throwing marketing money away. 

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