As a professional marketer, you have to know your customers and what motivates them to make a purchasing decision. But are the buyers of products and services in the B2C world really that much different from their counterparts in the B2B world?
The primary differences between B2C and B2B marketing are derived from the emotional perspectives of the buyers. Often, the consumer is focused on quality, comfort, and price, while the business buyer is concerned with increasing profits for his/her company.
“As a general rule, B2B marketing relies more heavily on rational–rather than emotional–product or service benefits,” said Kim Hennig, a B2C marketing veteran and principal of Kim Hennig Marketing, who has delivered record sales, award-winning advertising, and profitable marketing plans for some of the nation’s best-known brands, including McDonald’s, 1-800-Flowers, and Subway. “This is certainly not to say that the business buyer doesn’t have emotional connections to the brands he or she purchases, but there is a far greater need to justify how the features or benefits of a product will have a demonstrable impact on the company’s bottom line.”
B2C marketing typically:
- Involves targeting a large audience of individuals
- Focuses on products, services, and transactions
- Creates brand awareness and loyalty through imagery and repetition
- Drives single-step purchasing decisions using emotional decisions based on status, impulse, or price
- Relies on merchandising and point-of-purchase activities
- Requires cash, checks, or credit card payments
B2B marketing typically:
- Involves targeting a small audience of groups or committees
- Focuses on relationships
- Creates brand awareness and loyalty through personal relationships
- Drives lengthy, multi-step buying cycles using rational decisions based on bottom-line business value
- Relies on educational and awareness-building activities
- Requires credit lines or open orders paid each month
“One of the fundamental differences I see between B2C and B2B is the role that the sales professional plays in generating business,” said fellow The Social CMO Crew member Chris Herbert, the founder and CMO of mi6, a B2B marketing agency. “It seems that in B2C, the marketing organization leads, and the sales organization follows in terms of budget and priority. But in B2B marketing, the sales organization often leads, and marketing ends up being a support service. In B2B, the risk business owners take is that the sales reps start defining the brand based on what they say and end up just focusing on the things they want/can sell. The owner needs to use marketing strategically to ensure customers know why they buy from the company and not just the rep.”
“In my experience, targeting also differs between B2C and B2B,” added Herbert. “Consumers tend to be marketed to similarly based on geography, demographics, and in some cases, psychographics. The sale tends to be more emotional and focused on gratification. You’re targeting an individual, a couple, or a family. In B2B, your market can revolve around a problem you solve for a specific function, department, or industry. The targets within that market tend to be corporations, functional departments, and specific roles. Marketing to these people is about solving problems, improving their businesses, and reducing risk.”
But is the gap between B2C and B2B marketing narrowing or widening? “While much has been written about how today’s consumer is becoming more businesslike in his/her purchasing habits (the ‘new frugality’ trend, for instance), the fact is the consumer still responds powerfully to marketing messages that deliver promises of happiness, comfort, escape, and self-reward,” noted Hennig. “Recent upticks in dining out and luxury goods sales are great examples of how emotional messaging to consumers is still highly effective.”
Through tracking such differences and similarities, as well as the ongoing impact of social media evolution on both B2C and B2B marketing, potential specific approaches and methods can be identified for reciprocal crossover improvements as well as the identification and advancement of best practices.