As far as epic rivalries go, whether B2B marketing is more difficult than B2C marketing is up there with Coke Vs Pepsi, Mercedes Vs BMW, Liverpool Vs Manchester United and Godzilla Vs King Kong.
But is one really tougher than the other?
To be honest, the untrained person may not even acknowledge any difference between the two disciplines. This is not the case at the marketing coalface, where beleaguered teams struggle with data, technology, budgets, new channels, new strategies and so on. Or, simply trying to justify all the expensive things they need to do to other departments who think marketing is all about emails and tweeting.
Not only is there a lot more to it than that, there are distinct differences between how B2B and B2C marketing is approached.
Here are some of the things that set the two apart for you to come to your own conclusions…
The buying cycles are different
You average consumer is looking for gratification to satisfy their more immediate needs and B2C marketing tends to reflect that. Generally, B2C marketers want to sell lots, and often.
B2B sales, on the other hand, tend to have a much longer decision-making process, which can take weeks if not months. Potential customers need to be identified and nurtured – at many different stages - with a brand's customers counted in the dozens or hundreds rather than hundreds of thousands.
On the flipside, while some B2C cycles can be completed in minutes – meaning there’s always a need for more – a B2B contract with a customer can last years.
The number of stakeholders involved
While there is a degree of thought that goes into, say, buying a tube of toothpaste – for example, choosing the brand you like and whether it’s for sensitive teeth – it’s likely to be a decision made by a single person.
For a company selling technology or a logistics service or whatever, there is likely to be numerous key stakeholders involved and decision-makers to satisfy before as purchase is made.
This will be reflected in the construction of B2C and B2B buying personas (which tend to be individual and collectives respectively), and the understanding of their different motivations.
The brand – customer relationship
With a longer buying cycle and so many so many people involved in a sale, B2B marketers work to foster and maintain close relationships with their customers.
Marketing content created for them needs to be personalized to meet their needs at different stages of the customer journey. These prospects want to receive knowledge and assurance to help them process what will be a rationally thought-out decision.
Trust is key and marketers need to be able to give the right answers in order to gain it. As such, it might be a surprise to learn that B2B marketing is often the more personal.
Customers for B2C brands, on the other hand, want marketing that evokes an emotion, entertains them, offers status or value for money. You might spontaneously decide to visit McDonald’s (or maybe even buy a Rolex) but you’re unlikely to invest in a contract for a piece of business software on a whim.
Delivering a good online experience
Creating an exceptional web experience has traditionally be seen as much more important for B2C retailers, particularly to meet the ever-growing expectations from customers. This has led to the introduction of sophisticated online personalisation and real-time strategies, the need to become omnichannel and more.
However, so convenient are many of these experiences – recommended products or content, live chat, consistent messaging across channels, engaging customers of social media, and so on – the B2B world is increasingly expected to catch up.
Connecting with customers
The point of connecting with customers – usually the ‘brand awareness’ stage of Marketing – is where B2C and B2B marketers share a lot of common ground.
For example, the need for websites and content to be optimised for search engines, for interested prospects to be retargeted with appropriate and eye-catching adverts. For budgets to be put aside for PPC campaigns, events, media advertising, positive PR and the rest.
Getting people interested in the first place, improve company perception, boosting brand affinity and reaching new audiences is the goal, no matter whether you’re trying to attract venture capitalists or someone looking for a new pair of shoes.
“People selling to people” might seem like an overused phrase but whatever you’re in the business of selling, this is essentially what marketers need to remember.
If you do not agree, I’ll happily hear your thoughts on who you think has it toughest…
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