Pop quiz: what makes Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing different from Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing?

Well, a couple of important differences that come to mind are the length of the sales cycle and the complexity of the transaction. A B2B transaction typically takes a long time (usually many months), while a consumer purchase, even the purchase of a large-ticket item such as a car or major appliance, can often be completed in the course of an afternoon. The length of the B2B transaction means that you have to invest a significant amount of time and money working with each prospective buyer before you can hope to see a sale.

Another big difference is the ability to identify an individual buyer –  as a B2B seller, you generally have relationships with individual buyers in a way that B2C marketers can never hope to match.

However, the World Wide Web and social media are giving rise to a merging of the ways B2B and B2C marketers address their audiences. It’s important to understand these trends and, for starters, we recommend you think about 2 key elements:

  • How to identify the audience for your marketing message
  • How to craft the right message for each member of that audience

Important trends

It used to be that, as a B2B marketer, you could clearly identify and target a specific buyer within an organization and could engage in a “high-touch” relationship. By contrast, reaching an individual consumer out of the millions who might be interested in a particular product was impossible, in practical terms. But things are changing – B2B prospects can now be more anonymous, while B2C marketers can have a much more personalized interaction with their customers.

Previously, in order to learn fully about a product or service, a B2B customer would have to contact your business, alerting your sales team to swing into action to try to reel in the deal. Now, B2B buyers will most likely get much of their information from your website. So they can get much closer to making a decision without you knowing about them or their interest. 

On the B2C side, personalization software that tracks website visitors across sessions allows your business to interact with consumers in a way that is analogous to the “high-touch” relationship typical of a B2B transaction. Marketing automation software can ensure that each consumer receives a series of marketing messages that are appropriate to the interest he or she has shown in a particular offering. Many companies now run Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as monitoring and responding to social media references to their products or services. These kinds of technologies are allowing the development and maintenance of longer, deeper customer relationships that were previously possible only in a B2B context.

Taking action

Whether you are a B2C or B2B marketer, in order to successfully craft the right message for your online visitors, it is important to learn as much as possible about them and show you’re ready and able to communicate with them about their needs.

Things to consider in terms of understanding your audience and crafting the right message:

  • Be sure to provide information on your website that addresses the needs of a range of visitors, from first-time browsers to sophisticated prospects who are closer to making a purchase decision.
  • Tempt your website visitors to provide some basic information about themselves in exchange for access to a white paper, brief e-book, or video on a topic that is likely to be of interest.
  • Use website analytics to understand your visitor flow. Take advantage of popular pages; fix problem pages where visitors disappear or don’t seem to know where to go next.
  • Use personalization software to follow your visitor behavior across sessions to get a much more detailed understanding of their needs. 
  • If you have not already done so, engage your audience via social media – start with Twitter and a business page on Facebook, and don’t forget LinkedIn!
  • Invite your visitors to sign up for a periodic email newsletter.
  • Write a blog. Invite comments (which you should moderate for spam), and respond to them.

The bottom line is there are distinct differences between marketing for B2C versus B2B that are intrinsic and are unlikely to disappear completely. But thanks to the Web and social media, the differences are diminishing as marketers of all types learn new ways to take advantage of emerging technologies to engage with prospective customers. Whether you are marketing to consumers or businesses, it’s important to keep up with these trends. If you don’t, your competitors surely will, and will reap the benefits at your expense.

Have a Pawsitively Tail Waggin’ Good Day!

P.S. Ruff Haus Design is a results focused brand consulting company located in San Diego, CA. Let us help unleash your brand image, connect with your customers and gain their loyalty.

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