What are the differences between B2B and B2C marketing?

The other day I had an interesting conversation with someone about marketing strategies and tools. One of the things that we talked about were the ways in which B2B and B2C marketing differ. My initial response was that the main difference was the fact that in B2B, the focus is primarily on generating high quality leads that the marketing team can pass on to the sales team. As a result, B2B marketers always keep an eye on visitor companies and form submissions, whereas B2C marketing teams need to appeal to a largely anonymous crowd.
Let’s look at some additional differences between B2B and B2C marketing, while acknowledging that we’re speaking in very broad terms.

Driving forces
One of the points that seems to come up in most discussions about B2B versus B2C is that when targeting businesses, your campaigns need to focus on logic, whereas when your audience consists of individual consumers, their decision to make a purchase is more based on their emotions. I can certainly see many cases in which this is accurate. After all, a person who is buying a product or service for their company needs to be able to demonstrate good judgment and due diligence. He or she needs to provide a number of arguments, most notably, solid ROI calculations, to justify their decision. “I really like those guys” or “This seems like a neat idea” likely won’t cut it. What that means for B2B marketers is that there’s a real opportunity to present a list of arguments (in whatever medium works for you and your audience) based on facts. B2C marketers, of course, can also benefit from this approach to varying degrees based on the nature of their products (for instance, when you’re selling solar panels, you want to make sure that you can prove to your target audience why they are a great long-term investment), but logic is not always the driving factor in the decision making process. Instead, with a lot of consumer products, such as clothing, for instance, it’s more about the audience envisioning themselves owning the product and the way it makes them feel, which is why aesthetics and rich media content are so important.

Sales cycles
Making a purchasing decision for a business often involves multiple steps, which may include test drives, demonstrations, competitor analysis, extensive product research, ROI calculations, and legal review, to name but a few. The sales cycle can be quite extensive, which is why it’s important for B2B marketers and sales reps to keep nurturing their leads. A lot of B2C marketers, on the other hand, don’t have to worry about following up with individual prospects, because a lot of times, purchasing decisions are being made instantaneously. And if they’re not, targeted ads to remind individuals of the items that they recently looked at can be extremely persuasive. In addition, B2C marketers should strive to make it as easy as possible for consumers to make purchases directly via social media channels in order to capitalize on the single-step process.

Decision makers
Again, the number of decision makers largely depends on the nature of the product, but generally, B2B marketers know that a lot of times, it’s critical to build relationships with multiple individuals in a company, such as end users, a technical manager, and a CTO. As a result, different types of marketing collateral needs to be produced for each group. On the other side, in the B2C world there’s often only one decision-maker, which is the consumer himself, and perhaps a parent or spouse. B2C marketers will focus on very specific personas for different products and design their campaigns accordingly.

Conversion points and analytics
One thing that all marketers, whether they’re B2B or B2C focused, have in common is that they always strive to become more effective. That’s why analytics are a marketer’s best friend. Analytics data that both camps are interested in may include new and repeat visitors, bounce rates, and, of course, social analytics such as engagement, shares, followers, clicks, etc. But while B2B marketers might pay a lot of attention on lead conversions (“How many anonymous visitors to a specific page filled out a form and identified themselves, so that we can now track their behaviour on our site?”), B2C marketers may be more interested in the overall number of clicks and direct conversion into sales. Most B2C marketers will not track an individual’s paths through their website. Instead, they are more focused on attracting as many visitors as possible and monitor sentiment towards their brand.

At the end of the day…
As you can see, there are several key differences in the ways that B2B and B2C marketers approach their campaigns. However, at the end of the day, successful marketing is about connecting with humans, finding the best mediums, the best messaging, and the best rhythm for your target audience, and providing them with what’s valuable to them.

What do you think are the main differences between B2B versus B2C marketing?

Here’s an article to an additional resource.


Kat is the CEO of Spectate. Her goal is to empower users to create and manage their web content and to provide them with the tools to become even better content marketers. Connect with Kat on Google+!

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  1. Marcelo April 17, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Hi Kat.

    Great article. Thank you for sharing.

    You wrote “(…) Most B2C marketers will not track an individual’s paths through their website (…)”. Don’t you think it is changing now? Talking about analytics, marketers could study consumer’s paths to find out which paths lead more to conversion?

    • Kat Liendgens April 18, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      Hey Marcelo,
      I agree that it’s tremendously important to look at trends and identify your marketing personas’ paths through your site. I think the difference here between (most) B2B and B2C marketers is that B2B often look at each individual prospect’s path whereas B2C marketers, since they often deal with large groups of anonymous visitors who don’t readily identify themselves on their site by filling out a form, tend to look at overall trends. What do you think?