We’re all bombarded with business-to-consumer (B2C) advertising messages, day in and day out. And while some of the B2C strategies and tactics we’re all familiar with can be adapted to business-to-business (B2B) marketing, many can’t. The return on investment on a $1 million Super Bowl ad, for example, would disappoint most B2B marketers. And that’s due in part to the differences between B2B and B2C audiences.
Understanding these differences can go a long way toward helping manufacturers and other B2B marketers develop an effective marketing program.
Smaller universe, multiple decision-makers
Most B2B marketers’ audiences are much smaller (dozens or hundreds of companies) than a typical B2C marketer’s audience (thousands to millions of individuals). And when selling to any given company, you’ll likely need to persuade a team rather than one person. Therefore, your marcom strategy should address a B2B audience that consists of multiple influencers and decision-makers (e.g., specifiers, buyers, project managers, end-users, etc.) with varying needs and concerns. Buyer personas can help ensure that your messaging addresses the unique concerns of each audience member. (Reminder: buyer personas represent your company’s ideal customer and can be critical to the success of your content creation, customer acquisition, and customer retention processes.)
(Mostly) the facts, ma’am
B2B audiences tend to be more rational and pragmatic than B2C audiences when it comes to making buying decisions. The B2B audience is looking for results and will need to be convinced of the positive ROI of their purchase. Real-world examples, customer testimonials, calculators, etc., can help. Of course, some emotional messaging can be appropriate, as we’ll discuss shortly.
Due to the B2B buyer’s need to do their due diligence, crunch the numbers, and develop trust in you as a supplier, the B2B buying cycle is much longer than the B2C cycle. That means you’ll want to nurture prospects with relevant, ongoing touchpoints (think emails, social media, newsletters, and phone calls) that keep your brand top-of-mind.
Go ahead, get into the weeds
Members of your audience will want to be well educated about the product or service they’re seeking, and what makes your offering better than the rest. Content marketing can provide them with educational resources that also position your organization as a trusted industry thought leader. A B2B audience will appreciate detailed, in-depth content, such as case studies, white papers, and blog articles, in a way that a B2C audience typically will not.
Relationship marketing is key
B2B audiences will be more concerned than a B2C audience with a supplier’s values, reputation, track record, and long-term reliability. Your branding should inspire trust as well as distinguish you from the competition. Unlike B2C audiences, a typical B2B audience will be seeking a relationship with a supplier rather than a one-time transaction. Once the first sale is made, don’t underestimate the value of relationship marketing in increasing revenue over time.
People are people
All of this said, there are some ways in which the B2B and B2C audiences are similar. Even if ‘B2B’ technically refers to one business selling to another, there’s no ignoring the human factor. B2B buyers will respond to ‘emotional’ messages that promise to enhance a reputation, lead to a promotion, reduce job-related anxiety, minimize wasted time, and so on. (This Harvard Business Review article outlines subjective buyer values and emotional concerns in addition to the more pragmatic).
It’s well worth understanding the ways in which B2B and B2C audiences differ as you develop your marketing strategies and tactics. Once you do, you’ll find that for far less than that $1 million Super Bowl spend, you can create a strategic marketing plan that gets results.
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