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B2B vs B2C Marketing — What’s the difference?

For many people, business is business. But we as marketers know that it’s not quite so black and white. There are many layers to a business, and marketing in particular is not as granular as many people might be led to think. 

When it comes to marketing, there are two main categories to discuss — B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer). Both of these categories have the same goal, to sell something, but both of them go about it in very different ways.

The goal today is to highlight some of these differences and talk about what makes each category unique. In order to start off on the right foot, though, we first have to understand the basics.

What is B2B marketing?

B2B, or business to business, marketing occurs between two businesses. A good example of this is a SaaS that sells sales an event booking technology to another business. One business makes the product, and another buys it. 

In the grand scheme of things, this style of marketing is a lot more direct. Instead of beating around the bush and trying your hardest to sell and market, it really comes down to the bottom-line impact on revenue for the business that’s looking to buy. 

Usually, B2B is about selling to people that are already aware of what they need. Often times as a B2B marketer, you’re selling to buying committees with key stakeholders. This really puts the challenge of B2B into perspective. That being said, with the web tools and resources we have nowadays, it has become a lot easier to wiggle your way into this landscape.

What is B2C marketing? 

Business to consumer marketing involves a company marketing and advertising what they’re selling directly to individual consumers. This is the average consumer that will make buying decisions based on their needs and wants for their everyday lives.

A great example of this is a company like Apple. Sure, they also sell products to businesses, but that’s not their main target audience. They target the average consumer with high-tech conferences, big-budget commercials, and a lineup of friendly products that makes anyone, tech-savvy or not, water at the mouth. For Apple, their market is much broader, which is why you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t own an Apple product.

Is there an example of a company that’s both B2B and B2C?

As a side note, it’s important to understand that a company can be both. While a lot of companies target either one or the other and put all of their efforts into their choice, there are some companies out there that are fortunate to target both individual consumers and businesses.

Amazon is the perfect example. It’s a massive platform that sells to literally anyone. Run an office that needs paper supplies? Amazon. Want to browse for a birthday gift for your sister? Also, Amazon. Whether Amazon is considered B2B or B2C is completely dependent on who is making the purchase at the time.

What’s the difference between B2B and B2C marketing?

From the definitions alone, you can probably guess that the marketing tactics for B2B and B2C differ quite a bit. Marketers who have been in the game for a while know that selling to a consumer is very different from selling to a business.

The truth is that great B2C marketing strategies are nothing like B2B marketing, and vice versa. Sales funnels, the customer lifecycle journey, buying cycles, communication channels, and relationships are all different depending on who you’re selling to.

Buying cycle graph

For the most part, these points are dependent on the individual or entity buying from you. In any given situation, no matter which landscape you find yourself in, the situation could be different. But, there are a few fundamental differences between B2B and B2C that are very much worth talking about. So what’s the difference between B2B and B2C?

Your target audience

Okay, this one’s kind of a given. Knowing your audience is one of the first steps in any marketing strategy because it’s undeniably important to the success of not just the campaign, but the company. If you don’t know who you’re selling to, you don’t know what they want, making it harder and harder to market anything.

A key difference between these two target audiences is that B2C plays on emotion, while B2B plays on logic. Without sounding too harsh, businesses simply do not care as much about how a product makes them feel. They care specifically about what that tool can do to make their professional lives easier. 

That being said, a B2B audience will interact with your company very differently than a B2C audience. Your messaging, channels of communication and methods of engagement will all be different. Each audience will have clear preferences for just about every aspect of your strategy, so it’s best to address them as soon as possible.

Time in funnel

We mentioned that the sales funnel will be different between the two, but that’s not quite the end of the story. For businesses, once they decide that they need what you’re selling, they pull the trigger and make the conversion. 

For a consumer, however, the story is a little different. Personally, I’ve had items in my Amazon cart for about three months now, waiting on the right time to buy them. I may never make that conversion at all.

The story is the same for a lot of consumers out there. On the other hand, some people impulse buy like it’s going out of style. The fact of the matter is that the buyer’s journey for an individual is slightly less predictable than that of a company.

With a company, they do the research, make sure the tool or product is the right fit for them, and then make the purchase. In a sense, you can think of the person making the purchase for the company as being paid to do so. When it boils down to it, that purchase is designed to make the company more money, which is why the B2B sales funnel is more predictable in a way. However, the more expensive the purchase is, the more stakeholders will be involved and the longer the final buying decision will take. An enterprise deal, for instance, could take months if not years to close.

Put in other words, there aren’t any universally accepted benchmarks for B2C or B2B buying timeframes, and they would really depend on your audience, type of the product or service, its price, and so on.

Industry jargon

In addition to all the differences above, the language that you use will be different, too. With B2B, you’re selling to someone that knows exactly what they want (most of the time at least) and what they’re talking about. In your marketing efforts, you have to sound like you know, too. This involves using industry jargon and buzzwords to get the job done.

ROI, ROAS, sales funnel optimization, KPIs, and metrics. To the average consumer, these words mean nothing. To a business trying to increase ROI, ROAS, optimize their sales funnel, and track their KPIs and metrics, these words mean a lot. Use the language that your audience is using. Otherwise, they’ll be confused.

Communication

The biggest impact on the way your message is received is caused by the way you communicate. Just like using industry jargon with casual consumers would be confusing and potentially scare them off, using casual language in most business settings with professionals would be offputting. 

The way in which you portray your business, the language that you use when speaking on behalf of your brand, and the way businesses then receive said message are all points of communication that you should take into consideration. Always be aware of who you are talking to and how they prefer to be spoken to.

Content

For both B2B and B2C, content marketing is necessary and often a great strategy. What’s different, however, is that your B2B audiences will be looking for education above all else. They expect to be treated well and almost catered to, but they also need to make a decision on behalf of their entire company. That choice bears a lot of weight, and that’s where content marketing comes into play.

In the case of B2B, content is direct, powerful, and gives them very clear and actionable information. Information that they will absorb and base their decision on. On the other hand, a B2C audience wants to read content that resonates with them. They want to read and feel compelled to convert. Again, this comes back to what we mentioned earlier with logic versus emotion. Both are powerful elements in marketing, but they hold more significant power with one audience over the other.

Marketing costs

With B2B marketing, it can take a while. Often, it’s a long chain of decisions that lead to a single conversion. This chain typically involves multiple people, all of which need to give the green light to make a purchase. This means that B2B marketers need to spend more time to get that conversion, which means more money.

On the other side of the coin, consumers often make snappy and impulsive decisions. Very little marketing is needed in such cases, which means less time spent for B2C marketers, and less money spent overall. 

Both of these points play heavily into the buying cycle, too. Quick, impulsive decisions means quick referrals to family and friends. With that long chain of decisions, however, the buying cycle becomes a lot more complex.

B2B vs B2C marketing channels

Since B2B and B2C marketing is so different, you might expect that their marketing channels would be quite different, too. 

With B2B, their audiences typically exist within a specific niche. Depending on that niche, the channels could be different. 

For example, marketing decisions are usually driven by rationality. This comes down to pointing out weaknesses in their customer’s strategy and offering a way to fill that hole, or even finding weaknesses in a competitor’s marketing strategy, and filling the hole there.

For a customer with a weak email marketing strategy, a good approach would be to push how easy your automated email solution is to use for sending out dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of emails a day.  

For a weakness that was found in a competitor’s SEO strategy, and good channel might be your very own blog. In fact, for a lot of B2B businesses, SEO plays a major role in gaining new conversions. The name of the game is finding those little niches where you can fit, and outperforming your competitor.

On the other hand, with B2C, marketing channels are a little more defined. The short answer is to go where ever your audience is. This means social media, Google Ads, and more. The goal for B2C companies in this case is to build their brand in such a way that they will become popular among individuals. This in turn will hopefully repeat exposure and keep people thinking about them.

Email marketing examples – B2B vs B2C

Email marketing is very important in both B2B and B2C. Since emails compile many of the points we made above, some good examples to show the difference between how B2B emails are created versus B2C emails might do us all some good. Let’s start with a B2C welcome email.

B2C welcome email from Wealthfront

Welcome emails are critical for B2C companies. They add that little extra touch of personalism that many individuals are looking for in a solution or product. Take a look at this example from Wealthfront.

B2C Welcome email example

You can see that the language here is very personal and genuine. Not that B2B messaging is ingenuine, but you can definitely tell that this email was made for an individual. It’s catchy, colorful, and casual.

B2C product email from Apple

One of the biggest upsides to email marketing is that you can send out a lot of information to a lot of people really quickly. Companies have used this to their advantage and advertised their latest and greatest. Take a look at this product email from Apple specifically designed for B2C marketing.

B2C product launch email

This entire email is a product description, showcasing all the little features of the iPhone that an individual consumer might find useful. At the bottom, it even talks about trading in for the newest iPhone, and the prgrams you can enroll in to get it. This is definitely made for an individual from top to bottom.

B2C birthday email from DSW

One of the biggest opportunities most every company takes advantage of are birthdays. Birthdays are a great way to sprinkle a little personalization on your brand, potentially get a few extra sales, and of course, market in the B2C space. Here’s an example from DSW.

B2C birthday email example from DSW

As you can see, this is an excellent B2C marketing tactic. Who doesn’t love a good discount on their birthday? DSW knows this and uses this style of email in its B2C marketing automation strategy.

Further reading: How to Send Automated Birthday Emails With Ease

B2B email marketing examples

As you can see, there are a lot of options when it comes to email marketing in B2C. But what about B2B? How does that differ? Take a look at these B2B email marketing examples below.

B2B welcome email from Buffer

Just because you’re catering to an entire business instead of an individual doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be welcomed. Most companies that provide a service will send a welcome email no matter what, but the language used might be a little different. Take a look at how Buffer does it. 

B2B Buffer email example

As you can see, just at first glance, there’s a massive difference. Granted, not every welcome email in the B2B space will look like this, but you can see the contrast. This email is designed to provide information and not much else. It still uses a casual tone, but overall, it is much different than a B2C welcome email.

New feature B2B email from Moo

Just because you might be catering to a business doesn’t mean they don’t need product (or feature) updates. In a business is using your business, new products and features will be prevalent and highly necessary to keep the ball rolling. In the case of big updates that really change the game, you’ll want to do something like what Moo does in this B2B email example.

B2B new feature example from Moo

What does every businessman/businesswoman need? A digital businesscard, of course. But why settle for boring? Moo changed the game by allowing users to add GIFs to their business cards, and they want everyone using their tool to know. Again, when you compare this to the Apple email above, it’s short, simple, and provides all the information they need. This email is about transmitting information, and little else

Further reading: 30 Product Launch Announcement Emails (Tips, Templates & Examples)

Holiday B2B email from Mutual of Omaha

For B2B businesses, birthdays are a little hard to track, as it’s often several people using one account. Sending a birthday email might not have the same effect. Holidays, however, are easy to track, and sending an email on any given holiday is a much more effective B2B marketing strategy. This is how Mutal of Omaha does it.

Mutual of Omaha email example

This is a thank you B2B email that was sent at the start of the new year. It’s short, simple, and les the person (and their company) know who has opened it that they are valued as a partner. In this case, there’s no discount, and the messaging is very professional. It’s simply a thank you note, but it is effective in B2B email marketing.

Conclusions and takeaway

At the end of the day, B2B marketing is much different from B2C marketing. Almost in every aspect, there will be differences that set these two apart, even if they are slight. What remains the same, however, is the goal for conversion.

I have always liked to think of marketing as psychology. Each and every person you market to, whether they be an individual or an entire company, is different. Individuals value personalization and emotion, while companies value information and directness. Because of this stark contrast, businesses tend to stick either within B2B or B2C and very rarely cross in between.

That being said, it’s important to have the right tools for getting the job done. As you may have seen above, email is very important across the board in marketing. Encharge provides an easy and automated way for you to reach and interact with your audience, no matter if it’s B2B or B2C. Nurture your leads and implement marketing automation that converts, onboards, and retains customers. 

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