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B2B vs. B2C Marketing – The Difference and Why It Matters

B2B and B2C are terms coined and popularized by the worldwide web for commerce and e-Business sales.  Although the marketing programs are the same for each type of business (Internet/direct marketing, advertising, public relations, word of mouth and alliances), the purchase motivation is different and they have different needs when it comes to the information that they need in order to make the decision to purchase.

B2B is contemporary shorthand for a longtime sales practice called business-to-business while B2C represents business-to-consumer. In essence, B2B deals primarily with other businesses, not the general public, and B2C provides products and services directly to the end user. The initial step in establishing marketing strategies for both B2B and B2C is somewhat similar. You have to identify first who your target customer is then figure out why this particular customer needs to hear your message. From there, the marketing activities diverge.

Below is the summary of the key differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing. Your marketing plan has to take account and consider these differences to ensure you are developing the right types of activities intended for your particular market.

B2C – Businesses that Sell to Consumers

  • Product driven
  • Maximize the value of the transaction
  • Large target market
  • Single step buying process, shorter sales cycle
  • Brand identity created through repetition and imagery
  • Merchandising and point of purchase activities
  • Emotional buying decision based on status, desire, or price

The B2C category has expanded greatly in the late 1990s with the growth of public access to the Internet. It largely equates to electronic retailing and its main objective is to aggressively convince prospective buyers to shop. B2C companies employ different  marketing campaigns for publicizing their goods and services. This would include coupons, vouchers, email blasts, banner ads, limited edition offers and the likes to entice their target market to buy. These campaigns are much shorter in duration thus the urgent need to secure the customer’s interest very quickly. The path to purchase must be short and simple – just a few clicks from email receipt to order confirmation. Any more than a couple of clicks and the customer is likely to abandon the shopping cart. The call to action must be obvious and the offer enticing. As such, email campaigns often highlight special deals and discount that can be used both online and in store. They can also be informative especially if the aim is to build the brand and enhance customer loyalty. Loyalty is an important aspect in B2C marketing. This proved very true for companies like Amazon, Best Buy, and Staples. They combine good customer service and education on their product and services thus their customers keep coming back.

B2B – Businesses that Sell to Businesses

  • Relationship driven
  • Maximize the value of the relationship
  • Small, focused target market
  • Multi-step buying process, longer sales cycle
  • Brand identity created on personal relationship
  • Educational and awareness building activities
  • Rational buying decision based on business value

The sales cycle in the B2B world is often much longer and more complex. It mainly maximizes on the value of relationships. A B2B company needs to focus on maintaining communication and building relationships. Marketing activities involving lead generation that can be nurtured during the sales cycle can be used to attain this goal. B2B features a multi-step buying process that needs more than one person to decide on the purchase thus B2B companies employ marketing to educate its target audience. Take for example in an email campaign, your objective is to drive prospects to your site to learn about your products and services. B2B newsletters therefore must be direct and professional and should encourage the audience to bite into your call to action. The content must be straight to the point, should have contact information for offline communications and the landing pages are easy to navigate and utilize. It must contain information on features, benefits, and possibly pricing. In the B2B sales cycle, email campaign is usually the first step towards a series of integrated touch campaign that may include telemarketing, direct mail, and personal follow-up by sales representatives who will thoroughly discuss business details and move the prospect on the next step of the sales cycle. In B2B, “content is king” for marketing paraphernalia. Media coverage of your products and services also helps in delivering your message across your target audience.

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