Marketing is marketing, right? Well… not really. Although marketing for B2B (business-to-business) and marketing for B2C (business-to-customer) are both about attracting the attention of certain audiences, they require different tactics, metrics and priorities.
The way you win the attention and budget of companies differs from how you convince consumers to buy from your business. This means you can’t expect to use the same marketing playbook for these two audiences.
However, the difference between B2B marketing vs. B2C marketing is narrowing, and previous no-gos for B2B marketing – like emotional storytelling and humor – are proving to bring great results.
Here are the key differences to be aware of and the best practices to follow for B2B vs. B2C marketing.
What’s the difference between marketing for B2B and B2C?
B2B has longer average buying cycles
While B2C customers are more likely to make impulse buys, B2B purchases typically require more thought. According to Step Change, a B2B sales cycle for smaller deals often falls around 3 months. For larger and more substantial sales, a B2B sales cycle is more likely to fall between 6 to 9 months.
Because B2B buying cycles can be so long, B2B marketers need to keep pipelines full of leads as they slowly nurture the right ones to becoming customers.
B2B has longer and bigger contracts
For B2B companies, Average Contract Value (ACV) is a popular metric to track – especially for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. B2B and SaaS companies tend to have bigger ACV value, often charged for long contract durations.
In B2B sales, it’s common for deals to be discounted for annual contracts – or even contracts for 2 to 3 years or more.
You can be more educational in B2B marketing
B2B sales and marketing frequently involve taking on the role of a consultant or trusted advisor. Educational resources like reports, ebooks and whitepapers are common in B2B marketing, with 81% of B2B companies also using blogging as a content marketing tactic.
Similarly, sales demos typically involve understanding a prospect’s current business processes and advising how to improve them. Questions about your prospect’s business pain points and objectives are closely tied to a won deal.
B2B marketing needs to reach several stakeholders in the same company
The average number of stakeholders involved in a B2B purchasing decision is 6.8, according to sales expert Brent Adamson. This means that B2B marketers and salespeople don’t just have one audience to attract, convince and convert – it’s multiple people.
Tailoring your strategy to several stakeholders is important for B2B companies, more so than B2C companies. It’s also a big part of account-based selling, a targeted way of listing your ideal customers and pivoting all of your sales and marketing towards them.
As a starting point, complete Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas for each stakeholder you need to reach:
B2C marketing uses more visual content
45% of B2C marketers believe visual content is their most important type of content.
That’s not to say that visual content isn’t important for business-to-business marketing: it is. 51% of B2B marketers prioritize creating visual assets as part of their content marketing strategy. The use of videos has surged, as have infographics: they are now used by 65% of B2B marketers.
But on the whole, B2C marketers are still more reliant on visual content than their B2B counterparts. 11% more B2C marketers than B2B marketers say visual content is the most important type of content today.
What’s similar between B2B and B2C marketing
Emotion and storytelling are important for all businesses
It’s time to bust a myth: B2C marketing isn’t more emotion-driven than B2B - at least not anymore.
Research conducted by Gartner with Google and Motista with over 3,000 B2B customers found that any given brand has emotional connections with between 10% and 40% of consumers. Of the B2B brands they studied in detail seven surpassed the 50% mark, and no brand was below 40%. On average, the study’s B2B customers were significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.
This shows that B2B brands using conventionally B2C tactics like storytelling and emotional campaigns are being rewarded for it.
Mailchimp is one brand questioning the traditional B2B playbook, especially with their recent “Mailchimp Presents” videos on the top fold of their homepage. Can you understand what their product is from the first glance at their website? Nope. But they go beyond their product to something more memorable, giving a hint of what the company is like beyond the popular email marketing software.
Brand recall is equally important
As the way people choose to consume content changes, your business’s job is to meet your audience where they want to be – whether it’s Facebook, Medium or AMP pages on your site. A top marketing goal should also be to increase brand recall and make people intentionally want to visit your site.
To measure the power of your brand recognition, keep an eye on the number of “branded searches” you get in Google, or queries containing just your brand name.
To increase brand recall, your brand needs to be about something bigger than just your product and service. It needs to leave so much of a lasting impression that your brand name comes up as the obvious answer when a customer experiences the pain point you solve. If you have a sore throat, you buy Strepsils.
Customers want you to speak their language
Whether B2B or B2C, your customers want you to speak to them in a way they understand, relate to and respond to. As part of your persona development project, in which you identify the key types of people you’re selling to, Econsultancy recommends asking:
Does a customer use slang and emojis? Are they a lover of hashtags? Taking this kind of information into consideration can help brands to hone and refine their communication style to mirror how customers speak.
Take a look at Drift’s homepage for a great example of human-to-human interaction from a B2B SaaS brand:
You can use the same marketing tactics for B2B and B2C
Many of the same marketing tactics are powerful for both B2B and B2C, including SEO, content marketing, social media and paid advertising. The way you use each tactic comes from a 360-degree understanding of who you’re marketing to, what messaging they respond to, and how and where they want to engage with your brand.
Regardless of whether your company is B2B or B2C, you’re selling to a specific group of customers. How these individuals respond to a marketing tactic is the most relevant measure of how successful it is, not the traditional B2B and B2C playbooks.
No matter whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, you need to leverage your customer data in order to create the best possible marketing strategy. But this data is not only collected through your marketing apps - you’ll have valuable information coming in from all over your app stack.
To get the most out of your customer data, keeping your tools in sync is key. With PieSync, you can sync contacts between all of your favorite cloud applications and spend less time buried under spreadsheets or wrestling with data that doesn’t add up. Get started with a free trial now.