Businesses typically fall into one of two categories: B2B or B2C
- B2B stands for business-to-business, meaning they typically sell to other businesses
- B2C stands for business-to-consumer, meaning they typically do business with individual consumers
So, why does that matter to marketers? Well, as any good marketer understands, knowing your audience is critical to crafting a successful marketing strategy. In turn, knowing if you’re targeting an audience with B2B or B2C buyers will impact your messaging and approach.
We’re here to break down the differences and similarities between B2C and B2B customers.
What’s the difference between B2B and B2C marketing?
The most important differences to consider are:
- Relationship expectation
- Buying process
- Number of influencers in the purchasing decision
Whether your business is selling products or services, it’s important to understand the relationship expectation of your target audience. Most B2B companies prefer to have some sort of relationship with their suppliers, be it long-term or short.
The benefit of having a relationship between buyer and seller is that the companies can better understand each other’s specific needs. Among other things, this allows the supplier to bring innovative ideas to the customer, which increases its value to the buying organization. This also allows for better support of the purchase so that businesses can feel good about their return on investment.
Typically, the B2C customer doesn’t put as much weight on the relationship, but this isn’t true across the board. In fact, brands that are successful in connecting with consumers typically are the most successful; think lifestyle brands like Athleta, Nike, and Lululemon.
So while it’s true that B2B businesses typically prefer to have a relationship with their suppliers, it might also benefit B2C brands to invest in relationship building if they’re in the right market.
The Purchasing Process
Another difference is the buying patterns. Buying cycles vary widely for potential customers in each group. While B2C customers might be able to purchase more frequently, B2B companies may only make purchases once a year, or even less frequently.
B2C audiences tend to be a bit more impulsive, and they can make decisions relatively quickly. Perhaps they find a product, browse a few reviews and look at a brand’s social media channels, and they are prepared to buy.
B2B buyers, on the other hand, have a lot of proverbial hoops to jump through (see below). There are budgets to review, procurement departments to consult, timing to coordinate, and more. To make a long story short, the B2B process generally requires more persistence and relationship building (see above).
People Involved in Decision Making
The final way that B2B and B2C audiences differ when it comes to making a buying decision is the amount of people involved. As we touched on above, B2B buyers have multiple parties to consider (and sometimes convince) when purchasing.
There are multiple levels of an organization who have a stake in the decision, and it’s not uncommon to need to align decision makers at each. Sales teams and business marketing professionals will commonly have to convince multiple people in the organization that they are the right vendor. Since vendors need each party to understand how their products or services will benefit them, this means multiple marketing strategies need to be crafted to reach those decision makers.
On the other hand, B2C buyers aren’t indebted to corporate red-tape. In the end, they control their pocket books and can make the decision to purchase on their own. If they feel that browsing a brand’s social media channels and checking out a few reviews online is enough, they typically don’t have to convince anyone else before making their purchase.
In what ways are B2B and B2C marketing similar?
Marketers may be surprised to learn that both sets of buyers actually have a lot more in common than is typically thought. After all, the core considerations of purchasing decisions remain intact. B2C and B2B buyers both want to know:
- Is this something that I or my organization needs/wants?
- Am I getting good value for the cost?
- What will this purchase do for me (and/or my organization)?
Sure, there are nuanced differences in the purchase process of each buyer, but, at the end of the day, business marketers are still trying to reach people with their messages, so marketing strategies and tactics should appeal to an audience’s pain points and needs.
How does a purchasing decision reflect on me?
All decision makers, B2B and B2C alike, consider one question above all else: how will this purchase reflect on me individually? It’s easier to see how this applies to B2C buyers since the clothes they wear and the cars they drive are obvious examples of the image they want to portray publicly.
But B2B decision makers actually have the same considerations. If they bring a smart, cost-effective solution to the table and it produces a good ROI, they know it will reflect positively on them. And they know if they bring in a vendor who’s not a good fit, they will look bad in front of peers, and that’s something no one wants. So in this way, B2B audiences are also susceptible to outside influence.
So what does this mean?
The biggest takeaway here is that at the end of the day, you're marketing to people. And people, regardless of who they’re purchasing for, typically have common concerns when it comes to purchasing decisions. Will I get a good return on investment? How does my purchase reflect upon me? Am I confident this product or service is what I need?
If your marketing strategies and tactics address those questions, you’re likely in good shape. But don’t forget to consider the nuances associated with your decision makers, regardless of whether they are in theB2B or B2C space. If you strive to ease their purchase process, you’ll be well positioned to earn their business.