B2B vs B2C: 4 differences that should influence your Marketing strategy
Updated: May 30, 2021
The differences between B2B vs B2C is one of the most classical topics in Marketing, maybe even the most classical one. I don't like strict categorizations and I definitively think that the role of a Marketer is to challenge the status quo. However, I have to admit that understanding how B2B differs from B2C (or B2C from B2B) is key to start any marketing strategy on the right path, for an optimal impact. So, let's start answering the question: what are the main distinctions between B2B between B2C?
In a nutshell, the end-customer in B2B is a business whereas it is a private person (or consumer) in B2C. It may sound simple, but it is not. This key distinction has a lot of business implications, and therefore Marketing ones. Indeed, the differences between B2B vs B2C should influence your marketing strategy. Let's see why and how to make the most of it.
B2B vs B2C comparison in the customer profile
Heterogeneous vs homogeneous target group
B2B Marketing addresses not one but several professionals in a given organization. Each person plays a specific role in the evaluation process: some are the end-users, others are influencers and a very small group is the decider part. So, at the end of the day, in B2B Marketing, you have multiple contact people with multiple roles and multiple interests.
This is very different in a B2C context. There, the end-customer is usually the buyer and the user at the same time and is a single person. Even when a group is a buyer, this group is homogeneous, usually sharing the same level of decision responsibility and having a lot in common, for example, when it is a family or a group of friends.
However, the difference between B2B and B2C comes with some special cases. Indeed, keep in mind that some businesses may behave like B2C customers. This is especially the case with solopreneurs like freelancers and very small businesses because due to the low quantity of employees, the buyer and the user are usually the same people.
What it means for your B2B Marketing strategy
Prepare a segmentation of your target group depending on the size of the businesses, with "real" B2B customers (the medium and corporate companies) on one side, and the other business customers who are very near to a B2C customer on the other side.
From there, adapt the communication tone and the Marketing channels to each one. For example, dealing with an insurance company, you will probably use a very formal tone and do Print ads in a specialized magazine. But with the freelancers as one of your main target groups (so a group oscillating between B2B and B2C), you can in principle have a much more informal and direct communication and leverage well channels like Facebook (depending on the exact sector).
Do a differentiation in your Content Marketing strategy depending on the contact person profile. If you are in contact with a decider, insist on the added value provided by your product or service for his company overall. I still too much see B2B companies starting in listing features, even though they are speaking to a decider. Avoid this. If you address to an end-user, focus rather on his daily pain points and how the tool or service will solve them, by mentioning the features, this time.
B2B vs B2C: different goals, different communication
A contrasting mindset
Business customers usually are driven by commercial goals: growing in customer acquisition, being rentable or increasing revenue, expanding to a new market with more opportunities, speeding a process to better use the time of the employees, etc. If they buy products or services, this is directly to solve an issue they are meeting or to unlock potential. Because the rationals of the B2B customers are very goal-oriented, Business-to-Business Marketing relies a lot on factual communication where reports of performance (or any quantifiable topic), certifications, lists of technical specificities are very common.
In B2C Marketing, factual communication exists too, especially when it is about communicating an offer and its conditions. However, when B2C customers buy a product or a service, they are not always looking at fixing a problem: they are also taking decisions depending on how much the product or service will help them in feeling good. If my favorite actor is wearing particular jeans and says how much he loves it (in a Marketing influencer campaign), I may want to try one too because I unconsciously want to be nearer to a certain image of myself. The communication style is, therefore, more diversified in B2C vs B2B Marketing, with bigger importance given to emotions and branding, especially through the brand image and values.
The implications in your B2B Marketing strategy
Decide a conscious Marketing strategy regarding the level of emotions (or facts) in your brand communication. Don't get me wrong: I am not recommending you to develop emotional communication. But I think that this would be a very promising strategy for a B2B brand as this is not very common. Being at countercurrent is sometimes very useful to stand out. Just take time if it would make sense for your brand. Very important too, if you go in this direction: define the type of emotions you will rely on. Humor or self-irony can be an interesting path, for instance.
Define your exact role as a brand and transport it in your Marketing. By role, I mean: are you an enabler, a facilitator, a coach, or a challenger for your customers? Knowing your precise mission and how you want that your audience considers you, will clarify your brand positioning, and therefore, your Content Marketing strategy. For example, if you see your brand rather as a facilitator, you will provide use-case-oriented content whereas, as a coach brand, you will communicate on future trends and show your customer how he can anticipate them.
Variations around the purchase cycle in B2B vs B2C
The long vs fast run
In most cases, the buying process in B2B is much longer than in a B2C environment. It can last several weeks (or even months) for a new software compared to some minutes for a new beverage bought in a supermarket. Several reasons explain this. First, the company buying a product or a service has to justify it commercially, which is not the case for a private person. That's why B2B customers are especially considering the ROI. This commercial check is sometimes more complicated than it seems and requires time. Second, the amounts in B2B vs B2C are usually higher (despite some exceptions like buying a house or a car, paying a private school, etc.), so it is even more important to be sure that the investment is worth it. As a consequence, as we saw, the number of people implicated in the buying process is higher in a B2B context compared to a B2C one, which means more time is needed.
Recommendations for your B2B Marketing strategy
Plan pieces of content fitting the steps of the purchasing process, following the AIDA steps.
Think of implementing a free trial as a Marketing tactic (or a freemium if your customers are near to B2C customers) to start the conversation with the end-user. In a company, it may be difficult for a user to request a new product or service because of the numerous approvals, so he usually doesn't push much or is simply not very successful at it. But if the user has a concrete overview of the tool, and can test it without any payment, he is much more convincing with his hierarchy. My advice will be then to push the user in sharing his concrete learnings with his team or manager. Showing examples of what the company could get through the tool is a very convincing method. SimilarWeb does a very good job at this: you instantly want to show all the wonderful reports to your manager.
B2B vs B2C loyalty
Long-term vs short-term
Due to their long buying processes, business customers are usually keen on keeping the same partners and tools. Speaking of SaaS solutions, businesses prefer stability because most of the tools are interconnected: changing one means reviewing the whole integration, which is painful because it requires time and investments. As a consequence, businesses are quite loyal to their providers and partners. Besides, because this is a long-term relationship, often based on a high level of expenses, the B2B providers sometimes play the role of coach after the purchase.
In B2C, relationships are much more transactional and short-term oriented. B2C customers don't hesitate in changing brands when they see something that fits better their expectations. The reason is: the consequences are usually very limited. For example, choosing a sneaker from brand A or B won't change much in my wardrobe or my house. However, I guess that there are two types of products that still maintain loyalty with B2C customers: the (very) commodity products like washing powder (because there isn't any emotion behind and it is more boring tiring to look for another brand than continue buying always the same product) and the ones that are linked to a very strong brand the customer fully identifies with (for example, a particular clothes brand).
What it means for your B2B Marketing strategy
Integrate Cross-selling and Upselling Marketing communications around new features or services in your Marketing strategy. For example, inform your B2B customers of your new functionalities through a newsletter or invite them to take part in a webinar dedicated to a fully new product.
Leverage your customers as testimonials for your Marketing communication on social media, website, white paper, or events. There isn't anything more convincing than a satisfied customer.