There are considerable differences between marketing to a business and marketing to a consumer. Although you are still selling a product or service to a person, experience shows that the difference between these two types of markets are important for developing robust marketing strategies.
On one hand, B2B and B2C marketing are both about people: even when dealing with a business, sales and marketing are still largely dependent on human relationships, feelings, thoughts and behaviour. On the other hand, there are different factors that affect the decision-making process of B2B and B2C markets that must be considered in any marketing strategies.
The easiest way to explain this is that a business-to-business transaction often takes more consideration. B2B buyers tend to be more concerned with profits, cash-flow and revenue. Success in business is the ability to make a profit. Price, or more specifically, value is a key driver of business decisions.
When you are thinking about B2B marketing, it is important to focus on the logic of the product or service: the features and the benefits become paramount.
Conversely consumers are more often swayed by trends, fashion and opinion. While price is still a factor, it has a different function in the decision-making process. If I think I can afford something that I want, price is less important in my decision-making than the other reasons why I want that product or service. In that regard, it’s easier to consider buying a Ferrari than a Toyota. They both provide the same essential function, but do so at considerably different prices because of status, trend, fashion and opinion.
What Is B2B Marketing?
Understanding these nuances, what is B2B marketing? B2B marketing is about meeting the needs of other businesses, though ultimately the demand for the products made by these businesses is likely to be driven by consumers in their homes.
Businesses do not purchase products for pure indulgence. They buy them with the ultimate aim of adding value in order that they can move the products down the supply chain until they finally reach the final end user (usually us, the consumers). In that regard, B2B marketing has to take into consideration different motivations and drivers. Compared to a typical consumer purchase, decisions about products or services for use in business usually:
- Involve a more-complex value proposition than a typical consumer purchase.
- Have higher transaction values.
- Are made by a group of people.
- Take much longer to reach.
There are many consumer purchases that include these decision-making factors such as buying a house or car. However, generally speaking, B2C depends more on branding, advertising, promotions, and so forth to spur sales, which are often made “anonymously” and impulsively—as opposed to the hard business calculations and personal business relationships that drive B2B marketing strategies.
In our experience, there are three major differences in B2B marketing:
1. Purchasing Motivation
Whenever I’m asked “What Is B2B marketing?”, this is probably the most important factor that I try to get across. Organisations marketing their products or services to other businesses have to focus on the practical benefits of their products. You are marketing to an entire chain of command: from the user through to the ultimate decision-maker. The person charged with the authority to order your product or service needs to be able to easily convince their boss that the product they purchase makes financial sense. As a result, your marketing must take into consideration a range of different audiences and communication messages.
2. Length of Marketing Period
B2B marketing is often about long-term marketing efforts: your target audience are not necessarily ready to buy when you contact them. You may get a connection when the company is not ready to purchase, but must maintain that relationship until funds are freed up for the purchase. Much of B2C marketing is based on the concept of scarcity. If customers don’t “act now” they’ll miss out on something great. In B2B marketing, the focus should be on nurturing relationships and keeping in contact with your prospective buyers so that they’re thinking of you when they are ready to purchase.
3. Communication Delivery Methods
While both marketing efforts involve social media, B2C marketing interaction is more often directed at consumers and not conversational in nature (with the exception of social media), such as print ads, billboards or TV commercials. B2B marketing is all about relationships. Because when you sell a business, you sell more than one unit, you sell numerous units, it’s important to maintain direct one-on-one contact with perspective customers. B2B is more about targeted marketing practices: lead generation to selected audiences, communication channels that are niche and specific to your market and cost effective to allow you to practice lead nurturing tactics and keep in touch with your prospects regularly.
If you consider these three characteristics when asking what is B2B marketing for your organisation, it will help consolidate your planning and strategies.