There is an interesting dynamic in the marketing world. Everything that appears to be B2C marketing is just called “marketing.” At Bop Design, our issue with that is that marketing consumer products or services is not the same as B2B marketing. When people outside of B2B companies ask us, “Isn’t it all the same?” we understand their confusion.
In this article, we take a close look at B2C vs. B2B marketing to understand what makes them different.
Short Answer: Yes and No, But Mostly No
B2C vs B2B Marketing: Isn’t it all the same? The short answer is yes and no, but mostly no. We’ve heard speakers at conferences say that B2C and B2B marketing is all the same. It’s all about creating a human connection and appealing to the end user’s emotions and needs. While we do agree with this general statement, there are a lot more intricacies that differentiate B2B from B2C and impact strategic planning for marketing professionals.
What Makes B2B Marketing Different
End User (Often Multiple People at a Company)
One of the first major points of differentiation for B2C and B2B companies is the end user. For B2B companies, there is almost always more than one end user. Yes, B2C can include multiple users of a product or service, but typically it’s one main user. This is often not the case for B2B.
For businesses marketing to other businesses, there may be one decision maker (although rarer), but that individual is making a decision that affects not just them, but other personnel in their company. In fact, the decision to purchase a product or service from a B2B company often affects not only various people within an organization but several different departments and different levels of management. For this reason, the buyer persona for a B2B marketing campaign needs to include various profiles.
In addition to having a variety of end users, B2B products and services often have a variety of use cases. This means that the product or service is utilized differently by job function, department, and even job title. For example, an active user of insurance software may be completing day to day tasks and harnessing the full functionality of the software, whereas an executive at the same company may be a more passive user who is mainly running reports or completing approvals within the same software. Understanding all the use cases of the software is critical for the B2B marketing company to ensure they properly position the product and provide the necessary resources for all users.
The Sales Cycle Is Longer
We aren’t talking about a week or two to make a decision. For many B2B companies, the sales cycle is often 6 weeks to a year. This longer sales cycle is due to a variety of reasons:
- The product or service is complex or has a lot of moving parts
- It’s not a decision made lightly
- It requires extensive research and comparisons
- The decision relies heavily on proof (case studies/results)
- Budget or attaining budget can be a factor, for example, the prospect may need to wait a few months before moving forward to acquire budget approval
- Often, multiple decision makers/buy-in is required to move forward
Due to this longer sales cycle and influencing factors, it’s crucial that the B2B marketing strategy identify and address all stages of the buying cycle. For example, case studies may be critical to providing to build credibility and earn a pitch call with a prospect, while a white paper may be essential for getting the C-suite to consider changing from an existing product or service to a new product or service.
The Product or Service Is More Expensive (Investment)
In our experience, B2B products and services tend to be more expensive and require a larger investment. Yes, B2C products can be expensive (right now a Lexus 570 SUV retails for $77,780), but in comparison, B2B products and services are in a whole different range of prices (varying from $5,000 for a product to $100,000 for a yearly service subscription). Due to the required investment (of money, time, resources, personnel), B2B branding and marketing efforts must continually build and uphold value. The brand’s value proposition must continually be front and center and always reinforced.
The Relationship Is Longer
Using the same B2C example, a Lexus can be bought today and sold tomorrow. However, for B2B products and services, due to the ramp up, onboarding, and implementation time involved, it’s stickier to get out of a product or service. Think about trying to change software providers for a loan funding company. It’s attached to the customer relationship management software and affects billing, sales, customer service and numerous other departments.
What differentiates B2B from B2C is that the relationship for a B2B company and a client is often much longer. This quality of B2B products and services means that a B2B marketing strategy should consider the client-vendor relationship as more of a partnership. It’s not service-delivery, it’s a partnership that is cultivated to last a long time. B2B marketers fail when they don’t treat the client as a partner.
There Can Be More to Lose
As a consumer, a personal decision you make only affects your usage (or your family’s). However, a professional decision you make at work can affect how your peers view you and how your boss views you and your performance. There is more on the line when it comes to making decisions. The new HR vendor, software provider, or manufacturer you choose can accelerate your career and add value for the company or can (worst case) cost the company business and possibly your job. B2B marketers understand that there is a lot on the line for prospects and clients, and as business partners, they strive to make their clients successful.
B2B Marketing Is Not the Same as B2C
As you can see, B2B and B2C marketing are more different than they are similar. When enlisting a partner to help with your B2B branding and marketing strategy, it’s essential that you work with people who understand what makes B2B different.
Check out B2B Marketing Agencies: How to Choose the Best Fit article for more tips on agencies.