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B2B vs. B2C Marketing – What Works Best on the Dance Floor?

Marketing a product to an individual consumer rather than to a business is often a very different proposition. Or is it? The growth of digital media means that there is an increasing number of channels and methods from which to choose. So how should marketers approach the task of engaging and winning customers? It’s a bit like learning a dance.

Comparing B2B vs. B2C marketing

The differences between B2b vs. B2c marketing
The differences between B2b vs. B2c marketing

Businesses that Sell to Consumers

The challenge of B2C marketing is to build product awareness and convert browsers into buyers.  As it’s usually a ‘low involvement’ purchase, say to buy a confectionery bar, thus marketing campaigns must capture the consumer’s interest immediately.   Typically mass promotion activities like tv and press advertising are employed.  In addition, special offers such as discounts or vouchers ‘activate’ the purchase. The challenge is therefore to establish an effective one-step routine.

In the online world, an email or search marketing campaign is required to get consumers to click and buy. The email or advertisement will take the consumer to a website landing page that sells the product. Purchasing must be simple and easy, for example, by integrating the shopping basket and checkout page. Requiring more than a couple of clicks risks the customer shopping elsewhere.

Businesses that Sell to Businesses

The goal of B2B marketing is also to convert prospects into customers but the purchase is usually more considered.  More decision makers are usually involved and the challenge is also to engage and educate the target audience and build relationships. To succeed a B2B company must generate and nurture leads over a more elongated period. A careless or quick step could mean a lost partner (or customer).  The challenge is to establish an effective multi-step relationship building routine.

In the online world, an email campaign or online advertising campaign can drive prospects to a website but is less likely to achieve an immediate sale.  The eventual goal should be to secure a meeting with a sales representative to discuss the customer’s businesses requirements in more detail and guide him, her or them to complete the sale. By providing information about the products and services, benefits, features, possibly pricing, and also contact information reassures customers and wins trust.  Conceiving marketing activity as one of several  steps in a longer, integrated, multi-step campaign is more likely to persuade. Consider awareness and relationship building via direct mail, newsletters, video promotion, webinars, virtual exhibitions, conferences or live events and also social media such as Twitter or Linked In .

Marketing Inspiration

While there are differences in B2B vs. B2C marketing, the principles about engaging and building customer relationships remain the same. At the outset understand the customer journey from the customer’s point of view.  Also understand the sources of information and the selection criteria that the customer uses, and the triggers and barriers to building awareness and relationships, through to the sale. At each step along the journey, consider how the experience that your brand delivers is different or better than your competitors. And if is no different and better, then work out what improvements to make.

If you are a B2B marketer learn how to dance the marketing 2 or 3 step. If you are a B2C marketer, while you may have mastered a 1 step routine, a 2 or 3 step routine may enhance your ability to build stronger customer relationships.  Determine the right messages, media and timing to attract and engage customers at each step on the journey. In so doing you will thus be better able to invest your resources where they really make a difference.

Additional reading

1. How B2B customers search for tech solutions, Tenfold.com

Guy is a leading UK marketing consultant with a background at major brands and in the media. He is Founder of The Marketing Directors, a successful research and marketing consultancy working with aspiring and global brands in the UK and beyond. He is co-author of The Marketing Director's Handbook with Tim Arnold.

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