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B2B vs B2C Marketing: 5 Differences Every Marketer Needs to Know

May 20, 2019

If you have worked in the digital marketing world, you’re familiar with B2B and B2C business types. But you might not be familiar with B2B and B2C marketing strategies. Most of the time, B2B (also known as business-to-business) marketing focuses on logical process-driven purchasing decisions, while B2C (also known as business-to-consumer) marketing focuses on emotion-driven purchasing decisions.

B2B vs B2C marketing

This isn’t always cut and dry—of course, sometimes there is overlap—but these differences between B2B and B2C search marketing are significant. For marketers or digital marketing agencies serving both types of businesses, understanding these differences is crucial to develop a high performing marketing strategy for a business. Whether it’s relationship building or communication strategy, marketers must take different approaches to maximize the effectiveness of their marketing tactics.

Here’s a breakdown of the five key B2B vs. B2C differences that every marketer needs to know.

1. Customer relationships

B2B: Build personal relationships

B2B marketing focuses on building personal relationships that drive long-term business. So relationship building in B2B marketing, especially during the buying cycle, is crucial.

Why? It gives you the opportunity to prove what kind of business practices, ethics, and morals you keep close to your heart. This ability to connect with your targeted audience allows you to separate your business or your client’s business from competitors, as well as build your brand.

The top priority of B2B businesses is generating leads. Because of the importance of repeat and referral business, developing these personal relationships can make or break a business.

As search marketers, we get asked constantly to try and bury bad reviews on Google, which as you know can be a lot of work. By developing honest and meaningful relationships, you are hoping to avoid these poor reviews altogether—but that might not be the only way reviews are helpful.

According to G2Crowd, 94% of customers read online reviews. With the majority of customers reading reviews, a negative review can be devastating. However, 72% of B2B buyers say negative reviews give depth and insight into a product.

bad review image

Wait, bad reviews may result in a positive? Yes! When a website only has positive results, they can come across as fake and untrustworthy. Remember, even the best of the best have some haters out there. By responding to the negative and positive reviews, you can tweak your approach to business accordingly. Further, you are able to show the reviewer you truly care and that you are a real person responding to the needs and opinions of customers.

B2C: Establish transactional relationships

The goal of B2C marketing is to push consumers to products on your client’s or your company’s website and drive sales. To do this, the customer needs to have a near-perfect customer experience with your website.

Ever heard the phrase “time is money”?

B2C businesses value efficiency and, therefore, minimize the amount of time spent getting to know the customer, which ultimately causes the relationship to become extremely transactional.

The marketing strategy focuses on selling the product, and the majority of time here is on delivering high-quality products at the quickest rate possible.

Unlike reviews in B2B business, reviews are buried by an influx of high quality, positive reviews. If your business or client is B2C, and the products you sell are of high quality, this should not be difficult. As a search marketer, pushing PR outreach and offering deals for completed reviews can help increase the number of reviews altogether.

A popular tactic that has shown to be useful for B2C review collection is through store credit or personalized discount codes through email marketing or remarketing.

After a customer makes a purchase or receives their product, they would receive an email or a pop-up that asked them about their experience. The main tagline here would be something such as, “Give us your feedback and receive 20% off next purchase!”

By providing extra value to your customer, you can increase future user experience and even cultivate an ambassador to your brand.

2. Branding

B2B: Focus on relationships

Branding is a part of B2B marketing, but, more often than in the B2C world, it comes through relationship building. According to B2B International, branding begins with the consistency of the presentation and deliverance of your products or services.

In regards to B2B search marketing, being able to portray where you position yourself in the market and have your personality shine can help drive brand recognition and lead generation.

Going back to relationship development, you must have a keen vision for personalities within the market. Being able to adjust your brand towards your target audience will help drive brand recognition and ramp up your lead generation.

"brand" whiteboard photo

B2C: Prioritize your message

Branding is essential in marketing because it allows the marketer to precisely deliver a message, create loyalty with the customer, confirm credibility, emotionally connect with the customer, and motivate the buyer to buy.

It also is the number one priority of B2C marketing.

Why? The relationship between the customer and company are minimally interactive so you must create a lasting memory and quality experience for the customer to ensure they will come running back.

Coke ad with message

To achieve this, clearly delivering credible messages and creating motivational copy that resonates with the customer is imperative to your success.

3. Decision-Making Process

B2B: Maintain open communication

The decision-making process is another place where you can appeal to the emotional and rational decisions of businesses. In the decision-making process for B2B, it is more open communication between businesses to determine whether or not it is a good fit for both parties.

During this communication, comparing the positive aspects of your company to your competitors can be highly effective in giving you a step ahead.

"office supplies" SERP

During the decision-making process, B2B customers must evaluate the company or their individual worker’s needs. These needs can be separated into rational and emotional motivations.

The rational motivations are those that drive their financial mind. Is this a good investment for us?

The emotional motives are those that drive their emotional connection to the company or individual workers. Will I have to fire someone or a group of people? Will we lose money and have to cut benefits for our workers?

At some point, both of these decisions are important enough to sway their decision.

As B2B marketers, understanding your audience can help you understand the decision-making process that may apply to them. Being able to deliver a message that is clearly specific can place you ahead of competitors by creating an emotional connection between both parties.

B2C: Simplify the process

The B2C decision-making process is where you can start utilizing their expertise in the conversion funnel to maximize ROI. At the top of the conversion funnel, a B2C marketer must be able to create influential advertisements that give the consumer the need for a product.

Once the consumer has identified a need, they already have a clear understanding of what kind of product they are looking to purchase. Unlike B2B businesses, consumers are much more flexible when looking at a specific product to buy.

As a marketer, it is essential that you continue to appeal to the consumer and ways to get them what they’re looking for by simplifying the decision-making process. Unless the consumer has made a firm decision to purchase your product, often they look at your competitors to see if they can get similar products quicker and for a better deal.

beauty sponge dupes

Beauty blender dupes via Buzzfeed

As a search marketer, it is essential to identify focus keywords that a consumer will search for when looking for similar products and try to rank for those keywords. The higher you rank, the closer you are to bringing customers back to your site.

When evaluating the conversion funnel, we see three sets of keywords we can potentially go after to grab their attention.

For example, if the customer wants to learn more about electric bikes, they may search for the long-tail variation of the keyword “electric bikes” such as “what is an electric bike.”

Once the customer learns about the electric bike, they may want to learn about electric bike brands that are trustworthy and high-quality. So, they will search “best electric bikes” next.

Once they search through the various brands, they may find the exact brand they want to purchase from, and now they are ready to buy. So, they search “[insert brand] electric bike.”

As a B2C search marketer, make sure that all of these portions of the conversion funnel are covered and targeted by blogs, core pages, and product pages so you have a higher chance of capturing potential customers in the space.

Remember, as solid as your conversion funnel is, if your checkout process is confusing, it can turn your customers away and leave room for others to steal them. Optimize your conversion funnels, minimize the complexity of these processes, and work toward the conversions you’re looking for.

4. Audience Targeting

B2B: Find your niche

B2B businesses usually work in a niche market, and it is imperative to understand your target audience’s demographic. To effectively attract them, compile and analyze accurate data.

Your data focus can come in numerous forms, both qualitative and quantitative. Some of the more effective tactics for data collection is through Google Analytics and keyword research. However, the best way to determine who your target audience is to head to Google and evaluate the search engine results pages for your keywords.

SERP example

By actively going through the SERP and seeing what the user’s intent for certain keywords are, you are able to infer what kinds of searches certain people are performing. By merging your conclusions from SERP analysis with keyword research and Google Analytics demographic data analysis, you should have a general idea of who your target audience is.

With this data, integrated advertisements, targeted to specific keywords and demographics, can successfully build a lead generation strategy.

Lead generation is the primary goal for B2B marketers. Therefore, building a top-of-funnel prospect list, followed by a highly integrated remarketing and lead generation marketing funnel is vital to reach your top prospects.

B2C: Follow the funnel

Unlike B2B businesses, B2C businesses work in a larger-scale market, and the target is much more spread out. Search marketers heavily weigh the importance of following the marketing funnel when acquiring customers.

Starting at the top of the funnel, pushing advertisements that are skewed toward emotional and product-driven purchases can cast a wide net and try to gain some qualified top-of-funnel leads. By analyzing the demographics of the top-of-funnel leads, you can create a warm lead list and remarket to those people in hopes to generate sales from those leads.

Another critical audience targeting strategy emphasized in B2C is the implementation of highly effective CRO tactics. Writing enticing copy, creating quality and easy landing pages to navigate, and implementing simple but effective conversion funnels can change the sales game in B2C business.

bicycle ad example

5. Ad copy

B2B: Learn the lingo

B2B businesses are much more likely to want to purchase services or products from an expert who understands their terminology, processes, and even the decisions they have to make during the buying process.

So, to reach your target audience, speak their language!

For example, a B2B business that sells a $50,000 piece of software does not focus on writing fluffy copy that entices the reader to purchase their software on impulse. Instead, the copy should focus on taking the emotion away from the decision and building confidence in the potential customer.

B2B marketing ad copy example

The business—really, the director or manager in charge of making the purchasing decision—is buying the software to improve the overall performance of the business. Although they may have personal drivers for making the purchase, they need to remove emotion from the decision and think about the positive and negative effects of the purchase.

B2C: Write emotional ads

Unlike B2B business, B2C businesses must use a relatable voice that entices the customer to click on an advertisement. By using more straightforward language, you can speak in the customer’s voice rather than using industry jargon that might cause a customer to turn away.

Copywriting for B2C should evoke emotion in the consumer. For example, someone who is shopping for a $200 bicycle will take less time to make the decision to purchase it compared to a business purchasing a $50,000 piece of software.

The person buying the bicycle is looking to enjoy the purchase, which means the copy and content should evoke emotions of joy and excitement.

Place massive importance on this because something as simple as the ad copy can make or break an ad campaign. Be strategic!

B2B vs B2C marketing strategy

Whether you’re advertising for your business or you’re an agency serving your clients, it’s critical for you to understand the key differences between B2B and B2C marketing. Once you understand these five key differences, you can take advantage of certain tactics only applicable to B2B or B2C businesses.

B2B vs B2C marketing strategy

Image via Directive

By having a sophisticated understanding of both B2B and B2C marketing strategies, you can easily apply these tactics and ramp up lead generation and revenue for your business.

About the author

Liam Barnes is an SEO Specialist at Directive, passionate about data science and experimentation. As an MBA candidate at the W.P. Carey School of Business, he wakes up every day looking to learn new and effective ways to benefit his clients. He enjoys his free time by playing with his blue-nose pitbull, Rory, and watching and analyzing sports as a die-hard Philadelphia sports fan.