B2C marketing is marketing that targets individual consumers as customers (business-to-consumer marketing) rather than targeting other companies as customers (B2B or business-to-business marketing).
● Ultimately, there are many similarities between B2C and B2B marketing models because both involve marketing to human beings. It’s the way that B2C marketers and B2B marketers engage with their targets that’s just a bit different.
● Because of the varying customer-base sizes of B2B and B2C companies, the type of technology and tools used to market to customers and track key customer information is typically different.
● For B2C marketers, a big challenge is always staying current with — and ahead of — customer behavior predictions. B2C is fast-paced and market changes can happen overnight.
Kevin Lindsay is director of product marketing in Adobe’s Digital Experience (DX) business and has been a leader in product marketing for Adobe DX for over ten years. Kevin focuses on optimization, personalization, digital asset management, and customer journey management.
Q: What do the terms “B2C” and “B2B” mean?**
A: “B2C” stands for “business-to-consumer.” It’s a type of business model geared toward individual buyers. This is the most common type of business model, most likely because consumers are easier to market to on a broader level than business stakeholders. The brands that most people are familiar with and interact with on a daily or weekly basis are probably B2C, but a brand doesn’t have to be popular to fall under this business model.
“B2B” stands for “business-to-business” and is a type of business model that targets other businesses and business stakeholders as buyers. An example of a B2B business would be a content marketing agency that creates promotional social media content for other companies. Most people aren’t as familiar with B2B brands.
Some B2C companies also use a B2B business model, marketing to both consumers and company stakeholders. Adobe — a company that develops products for both consumers and business decision-makers — is a prominent example of a company using both business models.
Q: What is the difference between B2B and B2C customers?
A: B2C customers are usually called consumers. A consumer is an individual that purchases goods and services for their needs and wants. Any time someone purchases something for themselves, their family, or a friend — whether it’s a package of cookies or a sports car — they are a consumer.
For B2B companies, the term “customer” is more complicated. They are still targeting buyers, but these buyers are specific decision makers within a company and are usually classified by their role — like CMO, CEO, and CFO, to name a few. In the end, it’s not the people themselves that B2B marketers market to — it’s the company.
Ultimately, there are many similarities between B2C and B2B marketing, because both involve marketing to human beings. It’s the way that these two types of marketers engage with their targets that’s a bit different.
Q: Are there any B2C characteristics that don’t transfer to B2B?
A: Typically, B2C purchases are much smaller investments than B2B purchases because a B2B purchase is for an entire company. A B2B buying journey is also typically longer than a B2C buying journey, requiring multiple steps and several different decision makers. B2B marketing also puts an emphasis on company-client relationships, which isn’t usually necessary for B2C marketing.
There are some larger consumer purchases — like computers, home appliances, and cars — that might involve a longer decision-making process and be similar to a B2B buying journey. For example, when you're shopping for a mortgage, you transition from awareness, through application, to qualifying for the mortgage, and through all the other steps until you finally sign for your home. This type of long buyer’s journey is very typical for B2B companies.
But the difference between B2C and B2B isn't just how long the buying journey is or how large the transactions are. Another key difference is the type of technology and tools marketers use to target customers and keep track of key customer information. Because of varying customer-base sizes, B2C and B2B business models will employ different technology. For instance, smaller B2C businesses might not use any analytics, while large businesses may have advanced analysis technology for many aspects of their business.
Q: What are some challenges with B2C marketing?
A: For B2C marketers, a big challenge is always staying current with — and ahead of — customer behavior predictions. B2C is fast-paced and market changes can happen overnight. They can shift the tide of what's popular and what's not.
It’s important for B2C marketers to be nimble and to use tools that can help them be more responsive to those market shifts. One thing that can help is using data to fill in the information gaps. However, keep in mind, while some data will be insightful, some might only show correlations and speculations. Marketers should be able to discern between relevant, slightly relevant, and irrelevant data trends — understanding which are causal and which are merely coincidence.
Q: Are there any B2C marketing strategies that you wouldn’t use for B2B?
A: There is no clear-cut answer to this question because most tactics work for both types of business models. Both types of business models care about the customer experience and will use numerous types of strategies to gain potential customers and retain current customers. Both B2C marketers and B2B marketers will use things like search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, digital marketing, and other types of marketing efforts.
Sometimes, you might not be able to tell the difference between the business model being used for marketing campaigns. For instance, a wealth management company might target Adobe employees through a social media brand awareness campaign. Depending on whether they want the individual business of each employee or the business of Adobe as a company, this could be either B2C marketing or B2B marketing — because the same messaging might work for both business models.
The reason why most tactics work for both B2C and B2B goes back to the fact that B2B decision-makers are also consumers. But a key difference might just be in tone — professional versus non-professional. B2B brands would want to maintain a tone that’s a balance of professional and friendly. This is very different from B2C, where brand interactions can be very casual — when occasions call for that — but still conducive to strong sentiments and consumer relationships.