In the world of marketing, we often hear about the differences between B2B (Business to Business) and B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing strategies.
On one side, we have the emotional, benefit-driven B2C marketing, while on the other, the rational, features-driven B2B marketing. But what really are the differences, and can we find a great marketing approach for both styles of business?
In this article, I’m going to apply my experience of running both B2C and B2B businesses to answer this question once and for all.
Understanding B2B and B2C Businesses
Before we delve into the differences in marketing approaches, let’s clarify the definitions of B2B and B2C businesses:
- B2B (Business to Business): This involves businesses selling products or services directly to other businesses. Typically, B2B transactions have fewer customers, larger orders, higher value, longer decision times, and longer-lasting relationships.
- B2C (Business to Consumer): B2C marketing focuses on businesses selling products or services directly to individual consumers. B2C businesses have more customers, smaller orders, lower value, shorter decision times, and transactional or shorter-term relationships.
The 5 Ways B2B and B2C Marketing Approaches Differ
From my experience, there are 5 main ways that B2C and B2B marketing approaches differ and these are:
- The nature of the customer relationships
- The size and scope of the market
- The pricing of the products
- The approach needed to close a sale
- The length of time it takes to close a sale
Let’s dive right into these 5 differences.
The Nature of Customer Relationships
In B2B marketing, the relationship with the customer is typically close and collaborative.
When I worked as a Software Engineer at a large consulting firm, the relationships I had with our business clients were always incredibly personal, being on first-name terms and often speaking most days to secure new pieces of work.
Discussions were also largely collaborative. Instead of simply trying to secure a sale, my focus was on helping the customer realise their goals, which often resulted in a sale.
This is a stark contrast to the nature of customer relationships with B2C companies. B2C marketing tends to be impersonal, and the message is mass communicated, rather than targetted to individual customers.
For example, when you purchase a can or bottle of Coke, the business relationship is incredibly transactional as it ends once the transaction is complete.
The Size and Scope of The Market
B2B markets are generally smaller and more specialized, often targeting niche markets with a few thousand to a hundred thousand prospects.
In contrast, B2C markets are broader, encompassing tens of thousands to millions of potential customers.
Why is this though?
Well, simply put, it’s down to price, which we’ll cover next.
The Pricing of Products
B2B sales involve higher ticket purchases, ranging from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions. These decisions are typically driven by needs and budgets, making them rational and calculated.
B2C sales, on the other hand, cover a wider spectrum of costs, from a few dollars (like a chocolate bar) to a few thousand dollars (except for big-ticket items like cars and homes). B2C purchase decisions often stem from emotional triggers rather than strict needs or budgets.
In B2B marketing, consultative selling is the norm. This approach hinges on understanding a client’s needs and cultivating trust. It often requires a two-step sales organization involving both the seller’s sales force and distribution sales force.
B2C sales, conversely, primarily target consumers or involve retailers. The sales approach is more traditional, focusing on convincing consumers of their need for the product or service.
B2C sales usually have a short purchasing period, ranging from a few minutes (e.g. impulse buys) to a few days, and transactions are typically immediate.
In B2B sales, however, the purchasing process normally unfolds over months rather than minutes. They are often characterized by complexity and may require additional months to finalize and be fully paid for.
Is There Another Marketing Strategy?
While it seems clear that B2B and B2C marketing strategies are incredibly different, is there another way we can look at marketing to close the gap?
It turns out there is, and it’s called Human-to-Human (H2H) marketing.
Human-to-Human (H2H) Marketing
Coined by Brian Kramer, H2H marketing emphasizes authentic, human-to-human communication. Here’s how it works:
- Authenticity Over Stiffness: Replace inauthentic, rigid marketing messages with genuine, conversational communication.
- Care About Your Audience: Show genuine care for your audience. Treat them as individuals with unique needs, not just sales targets.
- Professional Yet Approachable: Maintain professionalism while remaining approachable. You can be results-driven and people-driven simultaneously.
- Results and Relationships: Prioritize both results and relationships. While outcomes matter, building strong connections with your audience matters more.
What Are The Benefits of Human-to-Human Marketing?
It’s all well and good seeing that there’s an alternative marketing strategy, but does it work? From my experience, I’ve found that H2H marketing has several advantages, including:
- Effectiveness: Authenticity resonates with audiences, making your marketing more effective.
- Enjoyable Creation: H2H marketing is fun to create because it allows you to be yourself.
- Forgiveness for Imperfections: Audiences are more forgiving when they sense your good intentions.
- Professionalism: Being authentic doesn’t mean sacrificing professionalism; you can strike a balance.
Some of the most successful marketing campaigns, whether in the B2B or B2C realm, have seamlessly blended professionalism with authenticity and a genuine focus on people.
The B2B vs. B2C marketing debate doesn’t have to limit your marketing strategy.
Instead, consider adopting H2H marketing, which prioritizes authentic, human-to-human communication.
Remember, regardless of whether your business is targeting businesses or consumers, marketing is ultimately about connecting with people and addressing their needs. So, break free from the confines of B2B and B2C, and start marketing like a real person.
If you’d like to read more about marketing, I’ve written a complete guide to creating a marketing strategy here, and you can check out my 10 unique marketing ideas here.