Our Knowledge

Buying or consuming. Are b2b and b2c marketing techniques so very different?

Historically there has been a real division of thinking around b2b and b2c marketing. And why wouldn’t there be? You’re talking about a company spend versus persuading you or I to hand over our credit card.

But when you remember that most companies in the UK have less than ten employees and that many of those will be owner managed, the picture starts to look a little different.

Add to this that corporates and even the public sector have long since torn up the blank cheque. Now their spend – whether on raw materials, advertising or people – is under scrutiny and more transparent than ever.

There will always be some essential differences between the two disciplines – b2b
marketing is less spontaneous, will be aiming at specific target markets, delivering more
complex value propositions, require more data, have higher value products and need to
crack a group of decision makers, rather than one. B2b aims more at brand awareness
and lead generation; b2c at customer loyalty, love and engagement.

Yes, b2b and b2c marketing are both about people and about human relationships. But
just as you wouldn’t talk to your mum in the same way that you’d address your boss there are also differences in the way you approach your strategy and your delivery particularly in areas such as:

Language – consumers want to fall in love with a product so you can be emotive, amusing and create a buzz around your product. B2b buyers will be reassured by the logical terms and technologies they know and are accepting of – industry standard acronyms, rating marks etc.

Detail – while the b2c customer wants to be happy with their purchase and have fun with it, perhaps sharing their photos and experiences, the b2b buyer needs to have all the facts and figures at their disposal. If they are bringing this into the business they have to own it, understand it and be 100% confident that this is the right choice.

Buying chain – the b2b buying process will pretty much always be longer. The need to share responsibility for the purchase, do the research, go through a procurement process, Q&As, testing; it all takes time. Consumer relationships will be much quicker to be sparked and require far less persuasion, evidence or guarantee. Consumers might even like the idea of taking a bit of a gamble on something they don’t know. It’s all part of the pleasure of purchase.

Relationship building – the b2b crowd wants a meaningful relationship with a brand, a business or a product. For consumers that may be more of a one off, although every consumer marketer worth his or her salt should be trying to keep a communication link going with their customers – for their reviews, recommendations, shares and potential repeat custom.

Content creation – budgets, resources and creativity traditionally have hindered some b2b marketers from creating what they considered to be really valuable content. B2c teams may have a bigger budget, bigger teams and bigger and better ideas.

And content is exactly where we really have the biggest opportunity to blur the divide between these two disciplines.

What I love so much about content marketing is the extent to which it disrupts these general rules. Traditionally lengthy, technical and (dare we say it) boring content was the domain of b2b while b2c was snappy, colourful and to the point. Why? It doesn’t need to be and it is finally changing.

Yes, I may have a new cooker and love how great it makes my kitchen look. Apart from turning it on and off I really won’t read up much more on it. But now that I have it maybe I would like to peruse some blogs about how to style up my kitchen and maybe some of Nigel Slater’s ideas for kitchen suppers. I might even want to use the cooker’s app to control it remotely.

And if I’ve bought 30 new cookers for my chain of hotels around the country as well as knowing exactly how efficient it is, how to use every last money and space saving functions and how easy it is to clean, it would also be worthwhile my reading a blog about a trend for healthier afternoon teas so I can look to update what I offer my guests. Or to know more about other catering equipment that I might be interested in, perhaps tried and tested by other hoteliers.

And we need to consider format too. Take a retailer like John Lewis who has fully embraced social media, blogger relations and outreach. But as well as their carefully curated online content they haven’t forgotten the power of the glossy magazine for their audience – a magazine that may sit on the table at home for months acting as both an enjoyable leisure activity and a friendly, no pressure way to tell you about all they have to offer.

Any business will only be successful if they understand what their markets need in order to make a decision.

Both disciplines have a lot to learn and gain from each other.

And we’re still talking people to people at the end of the day, whether they need teapots or turbine engines.

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