When formulating your digital strategy, it is essential to determine whether you are marketing for a Business to Consumer (B2C) or a Business to Business (B2B), and understand the nuances between them. It is to your benefit to be a flexible and agile marketer in an industry that is constantly changing; especially when it comes time to applying marketing theories, newly released product features and general best practices to your holistic, cross-channel marketing strategy.

The main difference between B2C and B2B sales cycles is the length—influenced by the consumer’s decision-making process.

B2C: The sales cycle is typically short and relatively straightforward, and the strategy is to establish a transactional relationship with your ideal audience to align with their more immediate buying decisions. The goal of B2C marketing efforts is to drive consumers to your website for sales conversions.

B2B: The sales cycle is longer and more complex, where the focus of your marketing initiatives is to impact and influence the research, decision and buying stages of your ideal target audience.

Let’s dive into the necessary elements of planning a programmatic campaign and explore how the strategies differ for B2C and B2B brands.

Audience Strategy: Who are you trying to reach?

Identifying who your target audience is will set the tone and framework for the remainder of your campaign planning. You can have a proven strategy and eye-catching creatives, but without conducting market research, it will be very difficult to achieve success. Keep your consumers’ journey in mind every step of the way to level up your targeting approach.

Factors to consider for B2C target audiences:

  • The consumer journey is relatively straightforward
  • The consumer has control and will decide on their own whether to purchase a product or service
  • The purchase could derive from a well-thought-out, research-backed decision, or it could be very sporadic and abrupt, an emotional-based decision

Most effective strategies to consider: Leverage retargeting to remind consumers, who have previously visited your website, of your brand and offerings that originally sparked interest. Dynamic retargeting is also a very effective tactic as it satisfies a user’s craving for that personalized touch when they see an ad.

Factors to consider for B2B target audiences:

  • Consumers need to first be aware that a problem exists or that there is a more effective or efficient solution
  • As their next step would be to research and explore the solutions that exist—B2B target audiences are very niche and specific
  • For marketers, the tricky part is not only identifying who those decision makers are within the organization but also finding ways to connect with them

Most effective strategies to consider: Utilize 3rd-party data partners to leverage their account-based marketing (ABM) targeting capabilities and their custom segments to target by job title, employment, or seniority that would benefit from your B2B product or service. Alternatively, intersecting 3rd-party audiences by occupational segments with custom segments of users actively reading topics related to your business online can help you reach that niche audience.

Funnel Strategy: Identify where your audience is located in the sales funnel.

Not all purchase decisions are strictly linear in nature, and by understanding how to execute a holistic full-funnel strategy, you can locate where your ideal audience is in your funnel—making a substantial impact on setting yourself for success.

Considerations for B2C:

  • Identify the top decision maker(s) or influencers for your product or service—this is where your marketing efforts should have the most impact
  • Ensure your audience receives a holistic experience throughout their entire purchasing journey is critical. As your prospects navigate through your sales funnel, they will conduct their own research about the brand and its suitability through product reviews and comparing your products with your competitors
  • Stay relevant and enhance the customer experience with a personalized and seamless check-out process—this will give you a competitive edge

Considerations for B2B:

  • Programmatic advertising can offer an abundance of benefits for B2B companies throughout the funnel—especially in a macro view of the upper- and mid-funnel
  • Invest in nurturing and building a relationship with your audience by generating highly relevant and informative content. This can help provoke ideas on how your solution offering can benefit and have a pivotal change in their business
  • The conversion stage of the funnel in a B2B environment comes in two-folds: soft and hard conversions. A soft conversion can be defined as a download of an eBook, white paper or case study, registering for a webinar, or requesting a demo, whereas a hard conversion will be the contractual agreement of a sale

Keep in mind, today’s consumers are in charge—they are in control of where, when and how a product or service is purchased. B2B advertisers that apply proven B2C strategies often create a pigeonhole that is hard to reverse. This is because they have identified their top 1-2 target audiences of who they anticipate will be interested and heavily invest in only lower-funnel tactics. As every B2B company structure is different when it comes to making business decisions, on average it can take up to 16.7 weeks and 6-10 decision makers to proceed with selecting a B2B offering to test.

Creative and Format Strategy: Capturing the attention of your audiences.

With so many touchpoints throughout a buyer’s journey, it is crucial to execute a holistic multi-channel approach and ensure your brand is present at every step. Identify where your audience is consuming content and use that insight to determine which format to leverage, and to align your objectives with your funnel and audience strategy.

A noticeable difference between B2C and B2B programmatic formats used is native—nearly 50% of media dollars are invested in native for B2B upper-funnel tactics. With a longer sales cycle, there is a need to share content such as a blog post to engage consumers in their research stage to guide them towards product consideration.

B2C Creative Considerations:

  • Leverage creative messaging that is fairly broad and easily understood by a wide range of consumers—usually price-driven
  • Use language that drives an immediate sense of urgency
  • Examples of a call to action (CTA) include: “buy now” or “shop today”

B2B Creative Considerations:

  • Creative messaging should speak to B2B professionals that are more benefit-driven rather than price
  • Use language that encourages the users to start the process of discovering or learning more about your brand and offering
  • Examples of research-focused CTAs include: “explore now,” “learn more,” or “start now”

Solution Strategy: Determining when to supplement a 3rd-party study.

Supplementing your campaign strategy with a brand lift or sales lift study helps illustrate the effectiveness of your advertising initiatives. By measuring the impact of each channel on a variety of post-exposure success metrics, marketers can bridge the online and offline communication gaps.

  • For B2C brands it is possible to supplement a brand lift, sales lift or footfall attribution study with any campaign to connect the dots between online and offline consumer activities
  • For B2B brands with no tangible product, brand lift studies can go a long way in determining if your targeted audience is resonating with your offerings

Campaign planning differs for B2C and B2B brands, making it essential to align your marketing strategy. If it works for a B2C campaign does not mean it will for B2B. Understanding the sales cycles, who the audience is and leveraging the appropriate tone of voice and language in the creatives can help you better resonate with your consumers and clients.

Read more: B2B vs B2C Marketing: Nine Key Differences