At heart, B2C and B2B marketing share plenty of similarities. After all, marketing basics are timeless: You want to convince prospects you have the solution to a serious problem or the answer to a burning question. And then, you want them to take action!
Of course, that’s easier said than done – but inbound marketing has the techniques you need. When you understand the fundamentals of inbound’s permission-focused, relationship building approach, it’s easy to see how it applies to both types of markets.
The Major Differences Between B2C and B2B Marketing:
In B2B, Many People are Involved in Buying Decisions
B2C sales tend to be relatively simple. There’s one major decision-maker, the consumer. His or her spouse might be involved, depending on the nature and size of the purchase. All in all, however, the decision comes down to a single person’s assessment of your value.
Not so when it comes to B2B marketing – not by a long shot.
For small purchases, some employees may be left to their own discretion, but even this is relatively rare. In large enterprises where every penny must be accounted for and approved, B2B sales become far more complex – turning into multi-person consensus sales.
If you are marketing a product or service that appeals to many parts of an organization, you need to know how each one will interact with or use the product. For example, if you're selling time tracking software, it needs to be simple enough to implement fast (IT) while providing the information needed to maintain attendance and other policies (HR) and guiding strategic personnel decisions (executives).
In B2B, High-Value Sales Tend to Take Longer
Research has shown that, across many business categories, B2B sales are taking longer. Though most companies operate on a tight quarterly schedule, they do tend to invest more time analyzing problems and comparing solutions – that leads to a consideration phase that could take months.
To remain competitive, B2B-focused companies need to ensure they remain “top of mind” while decision-makers deliberate. This means having a proactive digital strategy that encompasses Web content, social media, and direct follow-ups at the right time.
The more thought your prospect devotes to your brand, the more likely you are to get the sale.
In B2B, Results Sell More Effectively than Emotions
This isn’t to say that emotions don’t sell at all.
B2B decision-makers are affected by emotion: Typically, they feel some anxiety around the problem they are trying to solve, the deadlines involved, and the potential consequences if they can’t deliver. They address these feelings by looking for concrete proof of results.
Emotions also play a rule in situations where your B2B solution can provide greater prestige for your buyers, improve their customers’ feelings about them, or strengthen relationships between them and other teams or departments they must collaborate with.
For most B2B situations, the best way to use these common emotions in your marketing materials is to tie them to concrete examples. Case studies and testimonials that resonate with the prospect’s situation can create a positive emotional response.
Compared to B2B marketing, B2C consumers make more of their decisions based on how a product makes them feel. Consumer products are associated with lifestyles or worldviews much more closely than B2B products are.
In both cases, though, the would-be buyer has to know, like, and trust you!
In B2B, Deep Marketing Materials are Essential to Success
In B2B marketing, expect your prospects to slice and dice your products at the deepest levels they know how – especially if they are technical experts buying hardware or software that enables their work. You need to have materials that will answer every possible question they have.
What’s the best way to facilitate this meeting of the minds? Real feedback from customers.
At each stage of the marketing process – and after the sale – you should have plans in place to get key information from your prospects. This helps you shape the users’ experiences with your product, how they feel about your brand, and whether they’ll come back in the future.
To help your B2B customers with their deep dive, be sure to create:
- Whitepapers that fully explain why your solution is superior to others on the market;
- Thought leadership content such as interviews with your firm’s experts and leaders;
- Case studies that demonstrate how your product delivers bottom-line value to buyers;
- Specification sheets and other documentation to answer technical questions;
- Product videos and recorded demonstrations, with live demonstration options if possible.
B2B marketing presents some unique challenges, but the inbound philosophy gets you off on the right foot. Start your marketing with deep understanding of your prospects. From there, infuse everything you do with real customer value – while learning more about them at every step.