Both Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing involve selling products to people. However, while B2B and B2C marketing may seem similar, there are a number of key differences between the two, eight of which we explore here.
There is more at stake in B2B transactions, compared to B2C
B2B transactions often take more time, involve more people, require more decision-makers and are more expensive than B2C purchases. This is because B2B marketers need to prove that their purchase has a return-on-investment (ROI), while in B2C marketing the job is done once the purchase is made. ROI is the financial benefit received from an investment. Companies want to get some of the money they put into the purchase back. In marketing, this means that effective marketing will make up some of the money the company put into the campaign.
B2B marketing is logical, B2C marketing is emotional
When you market to a B2B client, it is important to streamline the process to minimise cost and time constraints. On the other hand, when marketing to consumers, you want to focus on the benefits they will experience if they purchase the product. This is why B2B marketing is often based on logic, while B2C marketing is emotion-driven.
When marketing to B2B clients, it is important to focus in-depth on how that product will save them time, money and resources. However, consumers want to see right to the point and will be put off by a lengthy, detailed promotional message. Hence, with consumers, it is important to keep the marketing message short and to the point. The easiest way to do this is to make the message one that provokes an emotional reaction for the consumer. This encourages them to find the product emotionally appealing and to buy it on this basis.
Although both B2B and B2C clients want to receive high-quality customer service, in B2B marketing, customer service happens before the purchase takes place. In B2C marketing, however, customer service is the start of establishing customer loyalty. In B2B marketing, customer service comes into play before the first purchase even makes place and begins with the first contact established between the client and the company, regardless of who makes the first call.
B2C clients want to use their first purchase to establish a relationship with the company based on trust so that they know who they are dealing with. Customer service is therefore important to both B2B and B2C clients but comes into its own at different stages of the marketing and purchasing process.
A strong brand is an important aspect of the marketing process but B2B and B2C clients place different levels of value on branding.
For B2B clients, a strong brand will encourage them to consider the value of a product but will not be their primary motivation for them to pick that product over others. However, a strong brand will encourage a B2C client to buy, remain loyal and even pay a higher price for a product. This is because the B2B purchasing process is more rational and logical than the emotion-driven buying process used by B2C clients.
Long versus short decision-making process
B2B clients take more time to make decisions than B2C clients. For this reason, companies need to spend more time and resources establishing a relationship with a potential B2B client. This is because B2B clients often need to see a formal proposal before committing to a purchase. Also, B2B clients will often think about potential purchases several weeks or months before they might need the product. On the other hand, B2C clients tend to make in-the-moment purchasing decisions as their need is immediate, not something they might need to potentially account for in the future. Once again, this difference emphasises the fact that B2B purchasing decisions are logical, while B2C ones are emotionally driven.
The number of stakeholders involved
There are more stakeholders in the B2B marketing and purchasing process compared to B2C. B2C usually involves one person or contractor, while B2B involves a group of purchasers, all of which must agree to the purchasing decision being made.
To market B2B, it is often necessary to speak to multiple stakeholders and identify the key decision-makers before making a sale. On the other hand, B2C marketing and purchasing usually only involves one decision-maker. It is therefore much easier to establish an emotional connection with the purchasing party.
The pool of leads
B2B marketing involves a smaller number of leads than B2C marketing. Chuck Cohn highlights the difference by citing the example of Amazon, a B2C company that sells to millions of consumers across the globe. Therefore, B2C marketing can be directed at a large pool of people. On the other hand, a B2B company may manufacture a niche product needed by a small group of companies. Consequently, the B2B marketing audience is far smaller than that of its B2C counterpart.
The type of product knowledge
Finally, B2B purchasing requires a different kind of knowledge than B2C marketing and purchasing. in B2C, the primary concern is to explain why your product is better than the competition. On the other hand, selling B2B requires a deeper technical understanding and a knowledge of the benefits the product will bring to the company. This is because B2B purchasers need to know more about the product in order to justify why the product has been purchased.