John Armstrong is Director and co-owner of the printwear and branding specialist Custom Planet. Here, he explains what small business owners need to know about the differences between B2C and B2B marketing.
Whether your company sells B2C, B2B, or to both kinds of customers, it can be difficult to know exactly how to get the most from your marketing efforts. This can be particularly challenging for companies that sell a wide range of products that appeal to a whole host of different audiences.
What works for one set of customers is almost certain to fall flat on the other so, to help you succeed, here’s Small Business Advice Week's breakdown of the need-to-know differences between B2C and B2B marketing.
Where you find your customers
You may have an excellent product that solves one of your target audience’s biggest problems but, if they never find out about it, your business is unlikely to succeed. Finding where your ideal customers spend their time (both online and off) is therefore the first step in any successful marketing campaign.
This is the first big difference between B2C and B2B marketing — the two sets of customers spend their time in completely different places. For the highest possible return on your marketing efforts, you must define exactly where and how your ideal customer spends their time.
As an example, while Instagram is the perfect social media platform for a lot of B2C retailers, a B2B business is going to have a lot more success connecting with their customers through one of Rival IQ’s picks of the best social media channels for B2B marketing. While there may not be the quantity of users on these channels, a B2B business is much more likely to establish a relationship with a potential customer here than on a platform mainly populated by teenagers.
For the best results, it pays to not only know where your customers spend their time, but also how. Going back to social media, you should know when your target audience is most likely to engage with your posts so they have the maximum impact.
For example, if you’re selling B2C and your target audience is professionals in their 30s, your posts are likely to have the biggest impact on an evening, when your customers have finished work and are checking their personal social media accounts. Experiment with different times and then schedule your social media posts in advance with an app like Buffer or Hootsuite to see the biggest possible return on investment.
What your customers respond to
Your job isn’t done once you’ve found your target audience — the next step is to know how to engage them. There’s a big difference between B2C and B2B marketing and, if you don’t understand the subtleties, your sales are likely to falter.
As Hubspot explain in an excellent blog post, the main difference between the two audiences is that B2B purchases tend to be driven more by rationality. Impulse buys are extremely rare in B2B markets, as the sales process is often lengthy and complicated. Furthermore, the person making the purchase needs to fully justify the investment to those who hold the purse strings.
With this in mind, seeking to educate your audience through detailed content marketing pieces and a clued-up sales team can be exactly what it takes to send B2B customers through your sales funnel.
B2C customers, on the other hand, are often looking for deals and entertainment. Their purchases are also commonly triggered by their current emotional state (as anyone who’s done their weekly food shop on an empty stomach will know).
It’s also crucial that you think carefully about what your marketing materials say about you. If you are looking to work with businesses, you need to present a clear and concise message as to why they should use you. Above all else, these customers are interested in professionalism and quality, which you should instil across all of your B2B marketing for the best results.
To target B2C customers, focus on the product you’re offering rather than who you are as a company. For example, our customers looking for T-shirts for a stag or hen do aren’t interested in our reliability or our proven track record — their only concern is the price and the turn-around time. If we marketed to them the same way we market to our B2B customers, we wouldn’t still be in business today.
Keep these two major differences between B2C and B2B marketing in mind to ensure you have the biggest return on your marketing efforts. At Custom Planet, we have both B2B and B2C customers and I've found that, by tailoring your marketing to your specific audience and sending it out through all of the right channels, it will have the biggest chance of making an impact and increasing sales throughout your business.
The creation of the internet is perhaps one of the greatest things that has happened in recent history. It’s crazy to think that the first web page created on the World Wide Web was 27 years ago in August, 1991 where most people didn’t even know that the internet existed. Nowadays, life without the internet for most people is unimaginable. So, with over 4 billion internet users globally, where does your small business fit online?
For small entrepreneurs, the web is a great tool to grow your business. If you can leverage the unlimited power of the internet, you can open doors to reach a huge audience and promote your product or service at a minimum cost. In order to give yourself the best chance at online success, Small Business Advice Week has taken a look at some key ingredients to making your business thrive online.
Solve your customers’ problems
Although your main goal for your website may be to achieve sales, this should not be the only focus. In order to stand out from the crowd, and to provide value to your customers, your website should have the purpose of solving your customers’ problems or providing them with the solutions to their needs.
Whatever the products or services that your business offers, many customers may require help when deciding whether to proceed with your brand or go elsewhere. With so much choice available out there, you’ll need to ensure you are providing the best service to your customers. Consider creating a blog on your website to capture their attention. You can use this as a place to include fresh new content regularly regarding your products or services, as well as unique news or updates about your brand. The best business blogs answer the common questions their customers have which is helpful to the reader. This may help the customer finalise their decision to transact with you as well as help them understand more about your brand.
To be even more helpful to your customers consider adding a FAQs (frequently asked questions) page to allow visitors to find answers to all their questions in one place. Not only will it make things easier for your customers but it could also save your company time and resources as only those more unusual questions will need to be answered by a member of the team. FAQs are a valuable way of learning where the content of your website is falling short and thus act as a great way of giving you new ideas for content. If, say, a high volume of customers are looking up a particular question, you could create a blog post around that question to provide useful information.
Ensure a smooth user journey
As a small business competing with multiple other businesses online, it is critical that your website design is built with the user in mind. It should be easy for your customers to navigate through your site, find what they are looking for and, ultimately, to transact with you. Here are a few important things to consider when in ensuring a smooth customer journey online:
Allow your customers to communicate with you
It can be relatively easy to include a free contact form plugin to create a simple form to include on your contact page. A contact form allows the user to directly ask your business any question. You could include additional drop downs regarding the reason for their contact such as: general enquiry, make a change to my order, or leave some feedback to help you understand better the customers’ contact request.
Once a customer has made contact it’s imperative to respond to them promptly. People always make a mental note of how long a company takes to get back to them, so it is vital to respond quickly as you have a huge opportunity here to communicate directly to the client and convert a potential lead.
You can also engage with your audience via your blog by including a comments section. Once again this gives you the opportunity to connect with the user and a chance to increase loyalty and sales.
Use email marketing to turn website visitors into buyers
A survey carried out amongst 1,000 online businesses showed that email marketing consistently delivered the highest return on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel. With so many users active on the internet, it’s never been easier to connect with your target audience through this channel.
When you promote an opt-in list on your website, the customers who have signed up have given you permission to send them emails. This means you are giving those customers something they want and opening the door to engage directly with those customers. Within the emails you can provide your latest offers and promotions as well as including tempting calls to action or even a link straight to checkout. You can provide useful information for the customer and, due to the immediacy of emails, you can quickly start seeing results and sales, especially for those 24 hour flash sales.
Most email marketing software allows you to track open, click-through and conversion rates so you are able to see how your campaign is performing or whether it needs to be improved. You can usually immediately change the content in your emails, whereas with other campaigns, such as print or broadcast advertising, it may be trickier to change the content quickly.
Watch Your Expenses
Many small business owners sometimes feel that by throwing money at a problem, it will eventually go away. This can lead to spending far too much money, or wasting money in the wrong area of their business and, as a result, face their expenses creeping up to unsustainable heights.
Any business needs to accurately track their expenses and always be prepared for any unforeseen charges. This might be a sudden surge of business and high demand of your products requiring you to stock up quickly with the inherent expense that this demands. As a small business you cannot afford to miss out on any potential customers due to your product being out of stock. Liberis small business funding can ease any cash flow issues in the short term, however, you should also be prepared for those lower performing months.
If you haven’t already appointed an accountant, or you are not looking to invest in accounting software, managing the expenses yourself is relatively straightforward whilst you are building your business. Begin by creating a simple spreadsheet with a list of your revenue in one column and your expenses in the other: be thorough and ensure that you are including every single cost including salaries, rent, rates and insurance. When your revenue exceeds your expenses column, you are making money. This seems rather simple but it will provide you with a basic visual aid to track your finances.
This is a great conundrum for many business owners – who should I follow on Twitter? Everyone, no-one or a select few, and how do I select these few? Many have mixed feelings towards Twitter as a business platform, you either love it or hate it. But, if you're a small business owner who finds Twitter a waste of time, perhaps it's because you aren't following the right accounts?
Small Business Advice Week has selected ten twitter accounts will provide great tips, insight to the business world and keep you updated on the latest business news.
Before we get into the Twitter accounts all small business owners should follow, there is one very important factor to remember before starting your business Twitter venture. Do NOT follow everyone back. Twitter isn't about getting as many followers as possible, it's about the customer engagement.
If the company is relevant or you're interested in their information and tweets, then give them a follow. Even following your 'competitors' business account has plenty of benefits. Or if you don't want them to know you're following them, you can create a private list in Twitter where you can keep tabs on what they're doing, without following them.
Plenty of useful blogs posts and YouTube videos on how-to-guides on different areas in business.
Forbes has some of the most influential posts and with almost 15 million followers, you can't go wrong with following this account. A trusted source across all areas, it's a great resource to learn about the wider world of business.
If you're a start up business or an experienced one, Entrepreneur is a great source and provides really reliable business news and tips.
No matter your thoughts on the Walt Disney Company, they have a lot to teach all business owners, especially with their near monopolisation of the entertainment industry. This particular account follows Disney news and trends.
This account is for the local business owners. Four Square are also very strategic with their twitter posts which is an example to follow when using Twitter as a business platform.
This account might be for the more techy business owners, as it keeps you in the loop and updated with the latest apps for your business. But this has fantastic crossover opportunities, as technology is always changing how business is done. No matter what your business is, you do rely on technology, and you can always make changes to make your business more efficient.
Ann Handley is considered one of the most influential women in the marketing world. Her company Marketing Profs offers great training and fantastic marketing tips!
One of the towering giants of the business world, the Wall Street Journal contains vital information for any business, big or small.
This twitter account is keen on stimulating small business growth, by tweeting about small business program news, insights, resources, advice and more.
The Small Business Advice Week twitter is a great place to go for info on small business, and to keep up with what we're doing.
This list of twitter accounts to follow is a great start to beginning your twitter journey to seeking out fantastic advice and tips, whilst learning effective ways to use twitter for your own small business.