B2B vs. B2C Marketing_Lydia's Marketing Blog

This post answers (at a high level) the frequently asked question about the difference between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing.

That said, what is common (or should be) to both B2B and B2Cs is a strategic foundation and SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), which then informs the company’s:

  • Unique value proposition
  • Differentiating brand story and message
  • Target audience (including various segments)
  • Marketing/sales strategy and roadmap

Let’s assume you have a company that sells Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) with a licensing fee (like Microsoft Windows) to mid- to large-sized companies. It’s obvious this selling scenario would be different from selling to an individual, but what’s not always obvious, are industry trends and buyer insights that inform the company’s marketing and sales approach.

Most strategic principles apply to both B2B and B2C marketing, but examples of areas that can be especially important in B2B are as follows:

1. The target audience

An important strategic element in B2B sales is the buyer’s journey and the likely players in the process. Seldom are B2B buying decisions made by a single person. In addition, different people in the organization may play a role at different times to solve the business problem, and therefore multiple people with different influencing power can be a target for a brand’s message.

For example, a certain team may be responsible for making the business case for new solutions, which means they are an audience a brand needs to appeal to. These folks may likely pay attention to messaging that helps them with their research and analysis process.

Implications of this reality:

Buyer Personas:

  • Due to the various influencers and decision-makers, it’s a good idea in B2B to develop strategic personas about critical targets one wants their message to reach. Strategic marketing is about getting in the heads of the target audience; to truly understand and think like them. Developing buyer personas helps with this.
  • Different people in the B2B buying process have different pain points and reasons to care about a brand’s value proposition. Having a simple grid that outlines pain points and motivations unique to each persona, i.e. a “picture” of all possible audiences, is a helpful tool in B2B. This is not easy but it’s worth it.

Messaging and Tactics:

  • Once buyer personas are developed for a company’s target audience, it’s a good idea to map those to messaging. For example, an engineering team may care about functional details and want to see demos and technical information; whereas, the leadership team may want information about costs, ROI analysis and a solution provider’s credibility within the industry.
  • It also makes sense in B2B to take buyer personas into account when deciding marketing investments. For example, a company may want to invest in: 1) Thought-leadership tactics to build broad awareness (industry articles, blogging, media pitches, analyst coverage); 2) Webinars and Meetups to educate and engage end-users; 3) Executive roundtables and conference speaking engagements to build confidence among financial decision makers.

Getting Found and Social Selling:

  • The B2B buying process often starts long before relevant players engage with a company directly, so it’s important that a brand “shows up” when folks within an organization are searching for information or solutions.
  • Some may think Inbound Marketing does not have a place in B2B, but there is much evidence of its benefit. For example, according to ITSMA’s How Buyers Consume Information Survey, B2B buyers are looking to many different resources to inform their decisions, with solution provider websites as the primary source. This same study also indicates more executives are spending time consuming content online (6.5 hours per week) — all the more reason to ensure one’s brand is getting found and noticed so that communication and social engagement can begin early.

2. The sales process

The B2B sales process is rarely linear, i.e. a company can oscillate from…

B2B sales process example_Lydia's Marketing Blog

In addition, the process can take a while because B2B purchases often involve significant financial investment and as stated, competing and shifting priorities (this is common even in smaller companies).

In B2B it’s about building relationships with as many constituents as possible to show value (as an individual advisor as well as a brand). This is obviously very different from a consumer technology purchase.

Implications of this reality:

Strategic and data support for the sales team

  • Marketing teams in B2Bs could help sales reps “insert” their value in a prospect’s buying process. The more rainmakers there are and the more a sales team is focused on a strategic, consultative, social approach to selling, the better. In B2B it’s about helping the sales team demonstrate value to each buying influencer or decision maker.
  • Sales people in B2Bs are being invited to buyer conversations, but are expected to play the role of consultant, with education and unique perspectives. Keeping this in mind, a B2B marketing team could add value by supporting the sales team with insights and data in a regular basis, so they can better prioritize and be more knowledgeable about the market opportunity, industry trends, buyers, competition and their prospect universe.

Content mapping

Related to the implications above, B2Bs can be more effective by developing communications strategies and content mapped to different buyer personas and places in the funnel, for example:

  • For thought-leadership and education to build awareness — articles, blogs, webinars, speaking engagements
  • For technical detail and how-to information once someone becomes a lead — interactive videos, webinars and workshops
  • For examples and proof of the company’s value proposition to engage qualified prospects — interesting case studies and success stories touted by the press; proof-of-concept proposals

Lead nurturing and marketing automation

  • Consider: In B2B, 95% of qualified prospects are not yet ready to talk to a sales rep* and on average, nurtured leads may provide a 20% increase in sales opportunities vs. non-nurtured leads**.
  • As previously mentioned, the B2B sales process is rarely linear, therefore an important investment consideration for a B2B marketing team may be lead nurturing and automation infrastructure to ensure the team can score and actively engage leads coming into the funnel. Check out Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing for more information.

These are just some examples, but you get the idea — B2B selling is complicated, and the marketing team’s role to help drive sales can be very different from the role it would play with a consumer brand.

*   Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch; author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale
** DemandGen Report