Apart from knowing that the target audiences are different, the average business professional may not know the differences between business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing. That said, there are definite nuances and characteristics of B2B marketing that are different from marketing to a general consumer.
For example, differences are reflected in marketing spend. A study by Deloitte published by the Wall Street Journal shows that B2C companies spend more on social media than B2C, but B2B spends more money on marketing training and analytics, possibly due to the fact that B2B industries are often more intricate and require more professional training and product support.
The average marketing budget across all companies in the study was about 8 percent. With almost a 1/10th of a company’s entire budget going toward marketing, it pays to know the difference between B2B and B2C to make sure the resources are well spent.
Below are some of these differences and how they can impact your marketing strategy.
Target audience is the most known distinction factor between B2B marketing and B2C marketing. But this difference isn’t as simple as it may seem. Many marketers believe that reaching a B2B customer means reaching them at their place of work, through something like an email blast or even traditional direct mail campaign.
However, we have seen significant brand awareness and audience reach through digital strategies like content marketing and social media.
Just because the buyer at a target company is not active on social media for professional reason, doesn’t mean that the decision-makers aren’t using it. With the majority (almost 80 percent) of adult internet users in the United States using Facebook, it is possible to reach your decision-makers when they’re using Facebook, even though it’s for personal use.
You simply have to create content and ads that are of interest to your target audience, no matter where you find them.
Another major difference is voice. For B2C, brands may be able to go with a more casual voice, a little more down-to-earth or one that speaks directly to the customer. Conversely for B2B, it usually takes on a more professional tone that is focused on the results the product or service can give to a company, not an individual.
While both B2B and B2C marketing can focus on their target audience’s pain points to make an impact, the decision-maker for the B2B company is focused on services and products for their company. A consumer is interested in products and services for themselves and their family. Thus, the way a product or service is described is going to be completely different.
As a result, voice in B2B social media or other digital marketing strategies should cater to more results-oriented language, and less about capturing interest in a comedic or heartfelt way, which B2C commercials like the Charmin bears or Swiffer do on a regular basis.
Often because of the industry, the terms and phrases in B2B are often more complex than B2C. After all, Draino likely isn’t going to explain how each chemical in their product works to clear drains to the average consumer– they just want to know that the product is going to clear their drains.
But B2B often isn’t the same. Most B2B buyers are looking for products or services that will integrate with their existing processes and solve whatever company issue they may be having.
For instance, a pipe manufacturing company would need to disclose the exact measurements and materials of their pipes, as potential customers would need to know if they will fit with the other materials they are using.
Perhaps the insulation might not react well with that type of pipe material or they need a custom diameter for a special project. Whatever the case, B2B is usually a lot more technical than B2C.
As a result, it’s important for B2B marketers to ensure they are getting the right information out to their audience. Being too vague will likely mean that your target audience isn’t going to seriously consider your products or services or feel confused about what exactly is being offered.
You’ll also notice that a lot of times branding for B2C is a lot more colorful and quirky then branding for B2B counterparts. While it’s not a bad thing for B2B companies to have quirky or colorful branding, it may affect the way that your target customers evaluate your expertise.
Usually in technology, it’s a lot more acceptable to have more colorful or creative branding, designed to influence impact or organizational values. But when it comes to something more straightforward, like capital business loans, having a funny mascot or hot pink as your primary branding color may not go over so well.
B2B branding can be unique, just not too flamboyant that might make customers confused about what is being offered.
While business and healthcare have their own restrictions in the B2C world, there are often several more restrictions or legislation for B2B companies, depending on their industry. Some industries have regulations where they can’t say things in a marketing or advertising context, leading to a lot more creativity when it comes to promoting a B2B company that has restrictions on what you can and can’t say.
This is also the case for companies that serve customers globally. Regulations in communication and product requirements post another challenge B2B marketers must consider when branching out strategic marketing initiatives to regional audiences.
There may also be more disclosure required when two businesses work together, especially if there is greater risk to stockholders. These potential regulations or disclosures will vary by industry and company, but are important to keep in mind (and to check with applicable legal departments!) when crafting a B2B marketing strategy.
Longer Sales Funnels
Sales funnels and buyer purchasing journeys are entirely different for B2B and B2C organizations. For B2C, a customer can see a post about a sale on shoes and go directly to the store or website and buy the pair that they’re looking for.
Often times, B2B is not such a short process. Because products and services are often more intricate or widespread, it takes a longer time for someone to turn from a prospect into a lead into an actual paying customer.
According to Bizable, the average B2B marketing funnel breaks down like this: a user goes from awareness to interest, then evaluation to commitment, to finally completing the sale.
The B2B marketer has the chance to engage with the customer at almost every step of this buying process. Marketing materials and campaigns, like paid ads, can often be this first step that makes a user aware of a company. As they move into interest and evaluation, they will often download a white paper or study from the company’s website. Some even attend a free product demo or webinar about the services or products they are interested in.
Finally, these actions take them into the commitment and sale phase, as they often talk to a customer support member or salesperson that can answer their questions and outline their contract or purchase. There is often a proposal involved at this stage that the client has to review and approve before work can begin. At this stage, marketers can work with sales and support to create a robust FAQ or knowledge base that employees and potential customers can access. This can cut down on the time between evaluation and commitment.
B2C customers follow similar steps in their own purchasing funnel, but the way they find information and make decisions is often self-guided and on a shorter timeline, according to TrackMaven. For instance, instead of running through a demo from a salesperson, they will likely read online product reviews to learn others’ experiences with the product or service.
Because the B2B buying cycle requires a greater relationship with customers throughout the buying process, there are more opportunities (and challenges) to consider in a marketing program. Every angle must be considered, in order to be effective.
A Focus In-Person Events
One such angle that may be more relevant in B2B than B2C are in-person events, such as expos, tradeshows, or conferences. Most B2B marketers are involved in the ongoing planning for in-person events for their company throughout the year. Many brands have entire trade-show teams that plan several appearances at events around the country or world, often spending thousands of dollars at a single event.
This is for good reason: in-person professional events hold a lot of potential for B2B companies: it puts them directly in front of customers that they may have not been able to reach in the past.
In-person events take up about 18% of an average B2B marketing budget, according to reports. This is the biggest share of B2B marketing budgets on average. Regularly attending trade shows and expos can introduce B2B companies to qualified leads that they may not have a chance to be in front of otherwise, thus leading to constant spend annually for in-person events.
While Chief Marketer reported that B2B marketers are planning on increasing their digital marketing budgets, nothing competes to in-person events where B2B companies have the opportunity to network and create relationships with potential clients or industry colleagues.
In-person events have an additional benefit: they allow companies to see what their industry competitors are offering as well as an opportunity for potential partners that offer complementary services.
The Importance of Building Connections
Because the sales cycle is much longer in B2B, relationships and building personal connections take on new importance, according to Salesforce. Many B2B companies become successful when they start to receive a steady stream of referrals from their current and past customers. B2B contacts often trust referrals from people they know directly, whereas B2C relies heavily on online reviews.
According to Influitive, 84 percent of all B2B purchasing decisions start from a referral. Alternatively, BrightLocal reports that 88 percent of B2C customers report trusting an online review as much as they would a review or referral from someone they know. Setting up a referral program and regularly staying in contact with your network can help marketers and sales teams continue to grow their business and meet revenue goals.
Because of this, social media and content marketing is often used by B2B companies to stay in touch with their current or past customers, to keep them top-of-mind for another project or a referral. While B2C is a lot more successful at driving direct revenue from social media, B2B should be more focused on social networks to grow awareness and trust from their existing and target customers.
Finally, while word-of-mouth is often enough to keep businesses operating, it is still important to focus on how digital marketing can help in building trust, growing exposure, and helping leads in the purchasing funnel convert into a paying customer.
Taking your business into the digital age through modern branding, an optimized website, and a regularly updated social media presence can help better distribute your available sales streams.
If you are unsure about how to structure your marketing budget, Marketo has a good high-level B2B budget that can help you allocate your funds into the right areas. You can also contact us to learn how to best allocate your available marketing budget into the right digital strategies that will get results.