B2B vs. B2C Marketing: How We Need to Evolve

October 04, 2016   /   by  Diane Callihan

B2B Should Become More P2P

Let me say this upfront: we LOVE our B2B clients. But rightly or wrongly, there’s a perception out there that B2B companies are more conservative, less flexible and not as people-friendly as their B2C counterparts.

I think this stereotype was created, in part, by how B2B companies have historically marketed themselves. The right marketing can help change that perception.

Let’s start by understanding some key distinctions in how B2B vs. B2C marketing is understood, and then explore some common ground they can or should share.

Common Distinctions (and Possibly Misconceptions) about B2B and B2C

  1. Motivation—The B2B audience is more likely to seek expert solutions (rational drivers), while the B2C audience is more swayed by getting a good deal or personal happiness (emotional drivers).
  2. Content—B2B content is expected to be detailed, longer pieces that prove a company’s expertise, whereas B2C content tends to be short, snappy and sharable. B2B content may also be more formal and business-like in tone, while B2C can be more casual and humorous.
  3. Buying Cycle—In general, B2B marketers have to deal with a longer buying cycle, while B2C buys are often immediate – or at least shorter. B2B companies have a longer chain of command to deal with on both sides of the sale, and their sales contract may last for months or years. This is why lead nurturing is so important to B2B companies. A B2B purchase may also be a greater investment than a typical B2C purchase, so the decision to buy is often weighed more heavily.

The Human Touch

Here’s the thing though, folks, whether your company is B2B or B2C, we’re all moving towards marketing that is more P2P (person-to-person).

And not to pick on the B2B space, but an article that came out in Entrepreneur Magazine earlier this year argued that what the multi-trillion-dollar B2B industry often lacked was “humanity.”

SparkPay, the ecommerce arm of Capital One, wrote:

People don't buy from businesses. People buy from people. Unfortunately, the human touch is often ignored in B2B ecommerce.

So there may, in fact, be some things that B2B marketers can learn from B2C tactics.

  1. Be rational AND emotional. All marketers should work to combine both types of motivation into the selling of their products and services. Thinking and feeling are intertwined. Your business may be the most logical choice, but if someone doesn’t like your salesperson, for example, it’s unlikely that you’ll win the sale.
  2. Lighten up. The author of the Entrepreneur article argues that B2B marketing tends to be overly formal. Businesses imagine they are talking to stuffy corporate stereotypes instead of real, live people. While B2B companies do need to establish their expertise, they don’t need to produce dense, jargon-packed content to do so. Tell a story. Use testimonials or case studies about real people whose business has improved thanks to what you do. That has power.
  3. Branch out. B2B companies have historically been a bit more conservative, and therefore, slower to embrace new marketing channels. Make sure your site is responsive and optimized for mobile, try PPC, retargeting or social media advertising, or see how you can incorporate more video into your marketing. Work to put a human face on what you do, and reach people wherever they are.

    And please, it’s time to move away from the stock photography of people shaking hands or someone holding a globe. Photos of business people all wearing suits no longer reflects the culture of most industries. Be real. People value authenticity.

  4. Drill down to what your buyer really cares about. I hate to break it to you, but it’s doubtful that your prospect really is passionate about some software or whatever you’re selling. The prospect cares about how your product will impact his or her life. Will it help them be respected, appreciated, get a raise or a promotion? Will it solve a problem that is making their job more difficult? Your message needs to focus on your prospect – not your company and not your products or services.

At Roger West, our people are the real deal. Whether your company is B2B or B2C, we can help you better reach, engage and inspire people. Call us and speak with a fellow human at (800) 237-5969. Let’s Talk.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.