Is B2C and B2B Marketing the Same?
When you think of the term “marketing,” you most likely think of B2C marketing. The term “marketing” itself has come to stand as a blanket definition of all B2C consumer product and service marketing, which erases B2B marketing. It takes a unique understanding of B2B marketing to break down the difference and clear up the confusion between B2B and B2C. So let’s take a look at what makes them distinct, and address some of the challenges facing B2B marketing professionals today.
So Are They the Same?
There’s some small overlap between B2C and B2B marketing, but for the most part they’re two wholly separate entities. While both may involve creating a human connection that engages with the end user’s visceral reactions and needs, the strategic planning process involves far more complex and intricate differentiations. Marketing professionals understand that this requires an entirely different approach. That approach begins with understanding what makes a business a completely different consumer from your average shopper, even if both involve people making purchase decisions.
Then What Makes B2B Marketing Different?
So let’s take a look at a complete breakdown of what makes B2B marketing truly different. Starting with…
The End User
Where in B2C marketing, the end user is generally a target demographic defined by segmentation, in B2B marketing you tend to have targeted end users comprised of decision-makers and influencers in the companies you sell to. These users often don’t have a single profile, other than their involvement in your target market. Decisions made by the target audience can have a massive impact throughout the company at all levels – and subsequently, has an effect on that company’s own customers. The profile of a B2B client is complex, layered, and nuanced.
It also involves multiple use cases. When pitching a product to a business, you need intimate understanding of how that product will be used in various ways across departments, teams, and job functions. An executive at an insurance company will use their internal software far differently than an insurance adjuster or claims appraiser. By understanding how each user applies your product, you can drive effective product positioning and sales for a B2B target.
The Sales Cycle
B2B marketing is about playing the long game, with a much more extensive sales cycle than B2C marketing. The shortest sales cycle may run six weeks, while longer ones may run up to a year. This can be because:
- Investment in B2B products can be a lengthy, complex decision involving research and comparisons
- Many customers require proof from case studies and research to make a decision
- Budgeting and cost factors may require lengthy approval periods
- Consensus must be attained among decision-makers
- Products and services are often more complex, requiring more complicated integration plans
This leads to a multi-stage buying cycle that must be addressed by B2B marketing professionals in order to be successful. Whether C-suite executives at target companies rely on white papers or you’re dealing with a board-level team expecting case studies, you must understand your target’s expectations. Customers need to know that the product or service you’re selling has an actual useful purpose in their organization.
The Cost Investment
Generally, B2B products and services come with a higher price tag than consumer goods, meaning a much larger cost investment. This can be in an entirely different tier from even the most costly B2C purchases, often ranking from four to six figures. With such a high level of investment, B2B customers need to be certain of an ROI and often have to present business cases to justify it.
Marketing must be tailored around demonstrating value for the cost, with a prominent and clear value proposition. You’ll gain more traction if you demonstrate an understanding of the costs, rather than trying to minimize. Show you understand what kind of impact this has on your target customer, and give them an estimated timeline for when they can hope to see ROI.
B2C customers often make decisions based not on brands, but on costs. They have less of a relationship to the brand and more of a relationship with their need for a specific product in the short term, though for more expensive goods like cars and computers they may return to a trusted brand.
Nonetheless, the relationship is contextualized wholly differently with B2B marketing, where even the beginning of the sales cycle leading up to purchase is a lengthy process. While B2C sales are generally immediate, B2B sales occur in stages. This makes for a long-term relationship in which marketing professionals take on a role as consultant and advisor to customers, and often remain in contact as part of customer relationship management even after product and service delivery.
Higher cost comes with higher risks. The impact of a poor purchase on a B2C customer is rarely far-reaching, and usually only affects that customer’s household. The impact of a poor purchase on a business can impact the entire organization, resulting in significant negative impact on the company’s bottom line, efficiency, productivity, and performance. Every purchase is a risk, and a smart marketing professional understands that the pitch must absolutely present persuasive value that outweighs the risks.