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.