Is there still such a visible difference between B2B and B2C marketing, and the general approaches these two industries have towards communications? While both of them intend to attract their audience and build a relationship with sales growth in mind, there are interesting distinctions to make when it comes to audience drivers and approaches to content, but also in terms of purchase process and length of the chain. Indeed marketers don’t take as much time to reach their prospective customer from B2B to B2C. This is explained by the number of layers within the decision making process and how many individuals it involves to reach an agreement on the purchase of a B2B product or service. A common belief would be that such technical limitations do not – or in only rare cases – exist in B2C, as the purchase happens much more quickly and within one or a few days (length varies, depending on the product purchased). So what issues do B2B and B2C marketers really face? Are they similar or are they completely of different scales? Our experts answer our questions.
1) Differences at first sight: Lasting impact vs. emotions
One of the most striking differences between B2B and B2C marketing is still the approach companies have towards promoting their product or service. Investing in marketing seems more obvious for a B2C brand than for B2B firms, which can possibly be explained by the differences in evaluating results. As Ryan Gould, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing explains, companies should view marketing as a capital expense and not as an operating expense: ‘When done right, marketing has a direct and lasting impact on an organization. Unfortunately, we often see companies take marketing too lightly’. For Gould, B2B marketing is about much more than quick lead generation: it should be used to build, grow and nurture relationships with prospective clients. ‘It is critical to look at the infrastructure, programs and activities that are directly responsible for developing these business assets as an investment’, he adds.
But starting a marketing campaign may not have the same meaning for B2C companies, as audiences are not driven by the same elements. We spoke to Tabara N’Diaye, Sales and Marketing Manager at Cocktails in The City, who explained: ‘B2B are B2C marketing have similar goals but we’re communicating to two very distinct audiences. B2C marketing is more emotional and focuses on the benefits of the product whereas B2B is more logical and focuses on the knowledge and return on investment.’ B2B and B2C marketing then focus on different aspects of a campaign, delivering information to an audience in contrasting ways. Indeed the B2B purchase process (and length of the chain) makes communicating through the funnel more challenging for B2B marketers, as the information gets ‘paused’ and analysed at different levels of the chain.
2) Technical differences between B2B and B2C marketing: Mapping & measuring
One technical difference between B2B and B2C marketing is in the way it is measured, valued and analysed. Setting up sales goals and KPIs are much more straight-forward in B2C than in B2B, which makes the operation trickier for B2B marketers, but just as crucial. Combatting these difficulties can be helped by a tailor-made reporting system, and by establishing the right tools, metrics and even dashboards to measure success against KPIs. As Ryan Gould puts it, ‘many great marketers and professionals fall into paralysis by analysis by focusing on lower level priorities and metrics. Top-level alignment of metrics to goals is critical in keeping all eyes on the prize and establishing how success will be measured globally.’
When it comes to success measurement and reporting, B2C marketer Tabara N’Diaye, has noticed a technical change in the past few years: ‘The lines between the two are definitely blurred nowadays. Quantitive and qualitative data are invaluable when targeting both audiences.’ This lies in finding out the reasons for purchase. A common cliche would be to think B2C marketers spend less time trying to understand their audience because the purchase process is quicker. She adds, ‘As a B2C buying decision is more emotional towards the product, understanding lifestyle and market segmentation to really target your message is key. We spend quite a lot of time trying to understand our audience and create a profile so all our content is bespoke and something they are effectively going to engage with.’ Finding out a customer’s real time steps through the sales funnel is as much of a key for B2B marketers as it is for B2C marketers. ‘Mapping the customer journey is crucial, as well as finding the various touchpoints at which the interactions with our product happen’, adds N’Diaye. But marketing managers for both sectors ask themselves the same questions: Where do people hear about them? Which channel did they use? When did the customer make the purchase and why?
3) Are B2B and B2C marketing professionals facing similar issues?
When asked the biggest issues they face as marketers, our B2B and B2C experts have different experiences. ‘Guarantees are a tricky thing’, says Gould. ‘Most B2B marketers struggle with providing guarantees and agencies are no different. The typical B2B buyer’s journey contains a number of variables that are difficult for an agency to control. Add in the usual struggles most organizations face with marketing and sales alignment and you have recipe for unpredictable success.’ Another issue can be found in content marketing. In an interesting paradox, while B2B marketers focus on providing informative content to promote their products or services, B2C marketers might just be struggling with too much of it. Tabara N’Diaye explains: ‘The abundance of information is sometimes problematic. Before making any purchase, people will read reviews and check the product on Google. Customers make less and less impulsive decisions, and we interact with an informed audience who will gather more and more information about our product as well as its competition before deciding to make a purchase.’ Is the B2C sales funnel getting longer?
There are still striking differences between B2B and B2C differences, although the issues faced by marketers might get similar in the near future, with ever-changing technology and ways to communicate. While the sales funnel looks like it is getting more complex in B2C since the arrival of micro-moments and the abundance of information available to the customer, B2B marketers are still – in a world where the importance of B2B marketing is proven over and over again – testifying to the underestimated value of a lasting relationship with prospective customers.