Marketing 101 tells us there are two key territories in marketing: businesses selling products/services to other businesses (B2B), and businesses selling products/services to the general consumer public (or B2C).
Two territories, and never shall they meet!
At TMM, however, we’ve observed an uptick in business marketing taking a more relaxed, conversational – and dare we say, B2C-style – approach to their corporate messaging.
Are there risks to such an approach? More importantly, what are the potential benefits? We’ll take a look at what B2B might learn from leafing through the B2C playbook. But first…
What are the differences between B2B and B2C marketing?
Let’s begin by teasing out some of the core distinctions between the two approaches. The most notable is the ol’ head versus heart division.
Individuals buying consumer goods – think shoes, computers, cars – have a greater emotional investment in their ultimate purchase, as their purchase is typically for personal use.
So while consumers are increasingly educating themselves about the options available to them via review sites and so forth, their buying decision is still ultimately being led by the heart.
Business buyers however are looking to buy products or services for use within their companies or offices, in order to streamline processes or operations, or as an essential part of their productive output.
The buying process is far more rationally driven, typically involving input from multiple stakeholders – technical, financial, executive – and a business case justification for the expenditure.
The buying cycles are very different also.
B2C purchases tend to be one-off, with a shorter decision-making process. Pricing from customer to customer is pretty consistent too – it’s what’s on the price tag, after all.
Emotion vs. Logic
Backing it all up for the B2C set are the splashy print campaigns, POS posters, even TVCs, communicating the visceral product appeal.
In B2B transactions, though, the buying cycle is much longer – likely requiring multiple touchpoints to secure a sale – and customers may be charged a different rate for the same product depending on the outcome of negotiations.
Product complexity is typically much greater within the B2B sector too.
The need for prospects to be able to review accurate and detailed information in advance of any major purchase creates opportunities for marketers to craft various lead-gen campaigns and touchpoints around education pieces – think explainers, white papers, case studies, product demos and so forth.
And of course, they’re all going to work much better with a diligent sales team to follow-up those efforts. There’s rarely a 60-sec spot or national POS network to do the heavy lifting with B2B.
Ultimately then, you could say B2C marketing tends to focus on the immediate, emotional appeal of a brand at the individual level – albeit at scale, across wide consumer groupings. Although it relies on trust to a greater or lesser degree, impulse and brand awareness are key drivers.
B2B marketing on the other hand is much more about establishing trust, cultivating that trust, communicating value and return on investment, and building a transactional relationship over time – in dialogue with a much narrower target audience.
One last thing…
We reckon the major differences between the two generally boil down to:
- The rationales to buy/invest
- The buying cycle and pricing
- The customers, and the ways and means of reaching them.
Obviously, however, it’s an oversimplification to say that B2B is just cost and features while B2C is about how good those shoes look on you.
Because despite their differences, both approaches are benefit driven. This point is so often and so easily forgotten!
Yet whether you’re marketing manufacturing equipment or the new MacBook Air, success usually comes down to how well you’ve been able to connect to your target customer, and convince them that your product solves their problem.
With all that in mind, in our next post we’ll look at some of the ways B2B marketing can borrow from the consumer side of the equation, and borrow a little glamour for its own ends. Check back soon for more sparkly-with-substance insights from TMM!
Need a little help with your B2B marketing? Just so happens, it’s one of our key specialties… so drop us a line if you’re in the business of doing business 🙂