B2B marketing is marketing that targets individual companies and their decision makers as customers (business-to-business marketing) rather than targeting individual consumers as customers (B2C or business-to-consumer marketing).
● Most of the time, B2B and B2C marketers employ the same tactics using the same components, but they often talk about them using different names, such as when B2B marketers refer to customers as leads, contacts, or accounts.
● Sales cycles are typically much longer in B2B, and more people are involved in the purchase decision, compared to a B2C purchase. As a result, B2B marketers must use a different set of tactics to acquire, convert, and retain customers.
● B2B customers are also consumers and they bring B2C expectations into a B2B setting.
Mitch Folks manages go-to-market strategy for multiple Adobe Experience Cloud products, including Marketo Engage, Adobe Experience Platform, and others. He is responsible for analyst relations strategy, competitive intelligence, and demand generation content for these products. Mitch has over 10 years of experience in marketing consulting and leadership.
Q: What is the difference between B2B marketing and B2C marketing?
A: Most of the time, B2B and B2C marketers employ the same tactics, using the same components, but they often talk about them using different terms, or approach them a little differently.
For example, B2B buyers are referred to as leads, contacts, and accounts. Whereas, in B2C marketing, they’re usually called consumers. Even though both types of marketing target people, B2B and B2C marketers refer to them differently.
They also refer to keeping or attracting customers differently. B2C marketers commonly call it “customer retention,” whereas B2B marketers often call it “lead generation” or “nurturing,” or “lead or account nurturing.” An example of lead nurturing is sending emails on a regular cadence to a specific individual. Account nurturing, on the other hand, is about the company individuals work for. A B2B marketer might use content marketing strategies for five different decision makers within the same company, but the real customer is the business, not the people you’re contacting.
Q: What is the difference between a B2B and B2C buyer's journey?
A: There are a few key differences between a B2B and B2C buyer's journey, or customer journey. For one thing, B2B sales cycles can be much longer than B2C. Also, B2C customers buy products more frequently, so there might be a few more purchasing decisions.
There are also differences within the buyer's journey — in how marketers engage customers or how frequently. For example, B2B customers probably aren’t receiving a ton of promotional push notifications about B2B products, but B2C customers probably are.
Marketing efforts and tactics for B2B and B2C also differ. For instance, event and webinar marketing is a very specific B2B marketing tactic. If you are a marketer for a B2B marketing agency, you might launch a webinar to show off your new customer experience platform. In contrast, if you were a marketer for a B2C retail brand, you know your customers probably wouldn’t care to watch a webinar about your new shoe line.
B2B and B2C sales teams also behave differently because of the varying number of people involved, amount of buying power, and size of deals and offers. When we talk about sales in the B2C world, we’re talking about the people selling your products in stores. In the B2B world, sales teams have to be a little more proactive. They have to reach out to potential customers and convince them to purchase. This is one of the reasons why B2B has a longer sales cycle.
Also, because the B2B customer journey is long and complex, there are typically more people involved — oftentimes, there are multiple buying groups within one account. In a B2B setting, you might be trying to convince three different departments in the same company to buy your products.
Q: Is there a difference between B2C and B2B customer expectations?
A: B2B marketers often forget that B2B customers are also consumers first. Just like anybody else, they go to the grocery store, they shop retail, and they use social media platforms. People functioning in the role of a business buyer often carry those consumer expectations into their B2B buying experiences, blurring the line between B2B customer expectations and B2C customer expectations. This is something that B2B marketers need to stay aware of. Regardless, for both industries, expectations are high, and both B2B and B2C marketers have to account for that in their customer experience strategies.
Q: What’s the difference in how B2B and B2C marketers create awareness of their brands and products?
A: Spreading awareness for B2B is much tougher because a B2B customer base is much more specific than a B2C customer base.
The concept of targeting an audience that’s a good fit for your product is the same for both B2B and B2C. The difference is that on the B2B side, your target audience is made up of stakeholders who choose whether or not to buy a product for the whole business — a purchase that could potentially bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for your company. These stakeholders could be the CEO, CMO, CIO, or other company roles. And if you don’t impress each particular decision maker, you lose all of that revenue at once.
But in B2C, to spread brand awareness, you can use a social media marketing campaign, search engine optimization (SEO), or other strategies to present your product to millions of people. These potential customers hold various types of jobs and are probably a less specific demographic. And you may only need ten or twenty thousand of those people to actually buy your products to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
Q: How do B2B and B2C use data and analytics differently?
A: With B2B marketing strategies, your brand could potentially connect with multiple people within one organization. From a data and analytics perspective, B2B companies would segment different types of decision makers, marketing to certain segments more heavily. Depending on the segment, the necessity for analytics varies. This brings up something called account-based marketing.
To better understand account-based marketing — and why sometimes, analytics is unnecessary — let’s say you’re a big B2B digital marketing agency with a huge enterprise customer. Within this enterprise, your marketing team will keep track of 3 different tiers of targeted account lists. The first tier is going to be a very small set of accounts, maybe 20 to 50. These are going to be high-strategy accounts designated for the most direct marketing. Your marketing and sales teams will work together to heavily and personally market to these accounts. Because you’re marketing so directly to these people, you most likely don’t need to run an AI model around them. You already know who they are and that they’re a good fit. At this point, you just need to continue earning their trust.
The second tier consists of hundreds or thousands of accounts. These are accounts that you still know are a good fit for your brand, but are not as important, so you won’t give them as much personal attention as your first-tier accounts. In this case, you might run some analytics on these accounts to identify the ones that have a higher probability of buying your products. The same goes for your tier three accounts, which is an even larger group that would need even more analytics to find the potential customers.
Q: Is B2B a more difficult business model than B2C?
A: They both have their challenges and there’s a different buying process for B2B and B2C.
For B2B, it might seem like there’s only one specific team of buyer personas in your target audience — at first. Then you realize that they’re one of three teams of decision makers in a company whose door you’re knocking on. And this discovery can go on until you’re looking at thousands of B2B buyers within the company you’re targeting. Meanwhile, your sales team is using content marketing to reach out to all those previously mentioned tiers of people.
One of the hardest parts in B2B marketing is that the same person might not be behind that same door when it finally opens. People leave their jobs, which means you could spend six months trying to convince the CEO to use your product for his company, and then find out that he’s stepping down — and you have to start all over. When you look at it this way, B2B can be much more complex, and much higher risk.
But B2C isn’t easy either, for a whole other list of reasons. People might not want to buy your products, or your mom-and-pop shop could get run out of business by newer, trendier companies. Even larger B2C businesses can struggle to hold on to their customer base with shifting trends and expectations. Both models have their own challenges and opportunities.