Know Your Market: B2B vs B2C

Knowing and catering to your market is fundamental to a successful business. When you’re selling a product, it’s important to know who you’re selling to. On a broad level, there are only two markets: businesses and consumers. That said, there are two kinds of marketing: B2B, business to business, and B2C, business to consumer. The differences between these markets is substantial, so to maximize the benefits of your marketing efforts, it’s vital to know how to appeal to your target.

The primary difference between businesses and consumers is that businesses make decisions based on logic and statistics, and consumers make decisions based on emotion.

B2B: Marketing to Businesses

The goal of B2B marketing is to turn businesses into customers, but because businesses don’t make impulse purchases, the process is longer and more involved. B2B transactions are often relationship and network driven. Relationships between businesses are built on mutual respect rather than personal preference. A survey organized by market research company Chadwick Martin Bailey showed that businesses are more likely to buy from companies they track through social media.

There is little to no emotional attachment involved, even between the people in communication. Instead, the relationships are moreso based on facets of work ethic: can this person/company deliver? How does my business benefit from this partnership?

The most important thing you can do when marketing to a business is to consider how your product benefits the organization/buyer and make that your focus. It’s not about your product; it’s about the people using your product. Emphasize what purchasing your product means for their business. It doesn’t matter if your product is a time-saver or a money-saver; just be clear about what you product is bringing to the table.

Use professional language and include relevant data. More often than not, a B2B consumer will have to prove a return on investment (the financial benefit from a purchase), so an effective B2B marketing pitch details how your product will save the business time, money and resources. The B2B consumer will only make purchases that keep their business profitable and competitive.

The B2B market is larger than the B2C market. It also exceeds it in dollar value. Companies like IBM and GE spend an estimated $60 million a day on products and services that support the operation of their business.

Finally, attracting business clients to use your product/service is vastly different than attracting consumers. Presence on social media is important, but business customers look at your digital platforms for professionalism and relationships with other businesses, while consumers look for your brand. If you want to market to businesses, your social media content should be data driven with information that benefits your industry as a whole. Tradeshows and industry networking events are also places to meet and build relationships with potential clients.

B2C: Marketing to Consumers

B2C, or consumer marketing, has one goal: to convert shoppers into buyers as quickly and as consistently as possible. Effective business models do this by appealing to a shopper’s emotions or immediate needs. The message of why a potential customer should purchase your product should be simple. Consumers aren’t necessarily interested in building a relationship with you as a business (although brand loyalty can come as a benefit of consistently producing quality goods/services), so marketing to them should point out the benefits of your product as clearly as possible.

Because consumers are prone to make impulse decisions, B2C companies employ fast-action merchandising activities like digital promo codes, coupons, flash sales and displays (i.e. store fronts, digital look books) that entice a shopper to buy now.

Knowing your target demographic is key to a successful B2C marketing campaign. Since “consumer” includes all potential buyers, it’s better to know which potential buyer you’re going after. For example, a campaign that targets 21-35 year old women will be vastly different from a campaign that targets 13-17 year old girls. Companies that research their target market know what their potential customers need and want, so they’re better equipped to appeal to and fulfill them.

The sales cycle of B2C marketing is shorter because of the rapid rate of consumer purchase. That said, don’t discredit the value of consumer relationships just because the business/consumer interaction isn’t initially based on them. Keeping your customers satisfied is how you build brand loyalty, and word of mouth is powerful, especially in the digital era. Feedback from customers can grow your business immensely or it can destroy it overnight. Take action to thank customers who praise your product, and respond to any negative feedback immediately.

To create repeat business, offer incentives to customers who follow your brand online or who have purchased from you previously. By paying attention to buying trends and digital conversation around your product, you’ll be able to track trends and streamline your marketing efforts to be more effective.

B2B vs. B2C

Whether you’re employing B2B or B2C marketing, you want to create and maintain a great product or service. You want to identify your target buyer and why they should buy your product. From there, angle your message to appeal to them.

For the sake of an example, let’s pretend I own a business that manufactures soy candles. I have the option to utilize B2B marketing or B2C marketing.

If I’m going to utilize B2B marketing to pitch my candles to stores who may want to carry my product, my letter to the organizational buyer would include data on purchase trends of soy products in the candle market. These trends, I’d argue, are influenced by an increased interest in natural and chemical-free products. I’d include studies and data that support this information as well. Again, the business I’m pitching is more interested in profits than in my actual product, so they’re thinking of the customer who’s going to buy the candle from them, not the candle itself.

If I want to operate my candle company independently and sell directly to customers, I won’t bother with data about trends in the organic markets. Instead, I’ll appeal directly to my potential customers with a marketing campaign that gives them the information they want. My candles are 100% non-toxic (the ad would be supplemented with a photo of children or a pet to appeal to emotion.) My candles have a stronger scent. My candles burn 50% longer and are therefore more cost-effective.

The bottom line is that the difference between B2B and B2C is related to logic versus emotion. Think of it as head versus heart. Businesses make purchase decisions based on finances, profitability and the enhancement of productivity. Essentially, they want to be more efficient. On the flip side, consumers make purchases related to emotion. They want to feel empowered and excited by your product while still feeling like they’re getting a good deal. Either way, it’s essential to understand what motivates your target market. From there, make your decisions.

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