7 Key Differences Between B2B & B2C Marketing That Companies Must Heed…& 1 Vital Similarity

As a B2B focused organization, your marketing and sales efforts can sometimes feel as complex as your production process.

While there are a number of differences when it comes to B2B versus B2C marketing, the most important thing to remember is that it all begins and ends with people making a purchase decision.

When you understand these 8 principles, your marketing will become much more streamlined and effective.

1. The Buyer or Decision Maker

If you know your b’s from your c’s, this difference is the most obvious. Business-to-business marketing (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing target completely separate entities: personal and professional.

B2C marketing could focus on:

  • the couple buying an appliance.
  • the college kid who needs new sneakers.
  • the mother purchasing a playset.

On the other hand, B2B marketing may speak to companies who are purchasing:

  • office furniture.
  • bathroom supplies.
  • computers for their employees.

2. The Scale of the Decision

Young female weighing her decisions with a balance scale illustrated above her.

Making decisions at scale takes an entirely different approach. The bigger the purchase, the more money is at stake. Thus, more research is needed.

Companies take their time and avoid impulse buys. They use logic and reason, and though emotion is a factor, they need to rationalize their purchase to themselves and, in many cases, to their team. In comparison, individual customers usually rely less on logic and more on emotion.

3. The Number of People Who Have to Say “Yes”

When making purchases for a company, most everyone answers to someone else. There may be a lead decision maker or buyer, but the larger the organization is, the less likely it is that decisions will be made autonomously. Your marketing has to catch someone’s eye initially, but it also has to convince at every level.

In contrast, buying a pair of sunglasses or a new toaster requires no committee or authorization form.

4. The Conversion Timeline or Sales Cycle

Two men in suits shake hands in front of large windows.

The time from when someone is introduced to your product/service to when they make a decision matters because it translates to how quickly you can see sales. And that window of opportunity is much longer when it comes to B2B versus B2C purchases.

Businesses often use long-term planning, which means your marketing should nurture them toward a purchase over time. You have to be patient and persistent.

However, individuals may be ready to buy in a matter of minutes...if your marketing can convince them quickly, that is.

5. The Marketing Message

Your marketing campaign message is built around your product/service, and is presented differently in B2B versus B2C marketing.

You will need to do a more thorough job of convincing B2B than B2C, but both start with the words and images you communicate with, as well as the voice, tone, and personality of your brand.

6. The Return on Investment (ROI)

Man in suit reviewing an ROI chart on tablet.

Businesses are more likely to think about the bottom line (initial cost, ROI, ongoing costs, etc.) when it comes to their purchases when compared to individual customers. Your B2B marketing needs to convey that your products/services are a good return on investment both now and into the future.

If you’re a B2C marketer, you may or may not need to make this a priority depending on the cost/investment level of your goods.

7. The Relationship

Spending thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars doesn't happen in just a few clicks. It takes a relationship to close a B2B sale.

Now more than ever, customers want to feel a connection to the companies they buy from, and your marketing is essential to building trust. Think about the long-term benefit of sales that come in 2+ years after successfully creating a strong connection.

B2B and B2C: The Crucial Overlap

Three signs reading B2B? And B2C? In front of black background with one sign that has a lightbulb illustration.

Whether you’re talking about business-to-business marketing or business-to-consumer marketing, there’s one crucial aspect that you can’t overlook: You’re still selling to people. There may be a corporate office and chain of command, but at the end of the day, there’s a human factor.

Strip away the differences and that’s what you’re left with. You still need to address their pain points, highlight your benefits, and appeal both to their logic and emotions.

Your B2B Versus B2C Marketing Strategy

Two chalkboard signs that read B2B vs B2C stand in front of blue wood background.

Are you selling directly to consumers or businesses? Your marketing strategy will look different depending on your answer. Companies generally require more time, more information, and more interaction, while individuals tend to rely more on emotion and may make impulse buying decisions.

But let’s not forget that we are marketing to people, whether in a B2B or B2C context...

The world of marketing can be complicated. However, when you consider that you’re selling to people in every instance, you can find a way to speak directly to them and convince them that you have just what they’re looking for.

See more posts about Marketing Communications

About the author:

Jennifer Fietz

As a client strategist at Imaginasium, Jen is always eager to dig in and get to know our clients’ challenges, their customers and their markets. She thrives on solving the tough problems, working side-by-side with our team and our clients to find a unique and effective way to move their business forward. Jen is driven by results and works tirelessly to make sure any solution we propose is fully aligned with a client’s business and strategic goals. As much as big-picture strategy energizes her, Jen is most passionate about building strong relationships with our clients. Her deep experience in multiple B2B and B2C sectors forms a strong foundation for valuable, long-term partnerships that consistently help our clients uncover new opportunities.