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November 7, 2022
What if there was a speaker that could detect real marketers who know what they’re talking about—and those that didn’t?
Well, Logitech thought of just that in their 2018 ad campaign for the Business Speak (BS) Detection Speaker. Unfortunately, the ad was an April Fool’s joke, and the product doesn’t actually exist.
But it highlights an issue in the marketing industry especially. Some people are full of BS or “Business Speak” which doesn’t really mean anything at all. They throw around buzzwords without fully understanding what their saying. We all know the type.
And as marketers, we have all heard the term B2B and B2C marketing thrown around a lot. At the surface level, the difference is clear. But in practical application, it gets more complicated than that.
First, let’s debunk the stereotypes, then we can talk about the real ways in which they differ.
There is a stereotype that B2B is boring. It’s mundane. It’s dull. And because of that, some people in the industry say that historically B2B marketers lag behind B2C marketers. Even in a 2015 study by the Content Marketing Institute, B2C marketers said they felt were more effective than their B2B counterparts.
The idea behind this myth is that selling to a business has been the same for decades because businesses don’t like change. But, as we’ll explain, that’s not always true.
More recent data in 2021 from McKinsey shows that B2B marketers actually pick up some trends sooner than B2C marketers. For example, B2B companies are increasingly invested in analytics and automation tools to streamline their processes.
So, is B2B really that boring? In some ways, it can be. But that’s an oversimplification that neglects to consider that B2C can be boring too. How often do you see a humorous ad for a toilet brush or nail clippers? We’d venture to guess never.
Now, there are some key differences between the two audiences, but the old differentiators are starting to wash away. Like with anything, marketing isn’t black and white. Plus, new trends are out there appealing to both audiences which we’ll discuss later.
When it comes to B2B and B2C marketing, you’ll find lists of 10 or even 12 differences between them. However, we’d say there are about 4 major ones worth noting. And even these can have their exceptions depending on the industry.
When it comes to B2B marketing, the sales cycle is typically much longer than it is for B2B. For B2B companies, the sales process can take a lot longer due to the slow nature of bureaucracy. There are forms, paperwork, approvals, meetings, and budgets that executives need to work with before they can swipe the company credit card on a new software tool.
For example, a survey from 2018 found that acquiring new customers takes, on average, at least 4 months for 75% of B2B companies. Meanwhile, a B2C sale can occur in a matter of minutes after a quick Google search or Facebook ad.
In practice, this means that patience is essential for B2B marketers. And of course, following up is a need for every lead.
Another key difference is the customer journey. If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, you might shop online or walk into a store. If a business is looking to upgrade its internal phone systems, you’ve got compare options.
A lot of B2B marketing happens on platforms like LinkedIn for example. In fact, Hootsuite found that for organic marketing campaigns, 93% of B2B content marketers use LinkedIn. Meanwhile, only 4% of B2C marketers think that LinkedIn is a useful place for marketing.
The customer journey may start in different ways, but even so, there is overlap here too. Luxury brands have started looking at LinkedIn as an opportunity, so more B2C brands may follow suit in the near future.
Another big difference between B2B and B2C companies is the amount of money they have to work with. Businesses are often far more willing to shell out more money for products or services than your average consumer—especially since company purchases are something they can write off.
And the budget difference could even be on the increase. For example, in a recent survey from 2021, 74% of B2B marketers expect their budgets to increase in the coming year. Of course, for luxury B2C brands, this difference fades away, but on average it’s safe to say there is a difference worth nothing.
It’s no surprise this also plays out in the Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) too. As a result, B2B companies have a high CPA than B2C companies on average.
Finally, your B2B and B2C audiences can differ in a lot of ways. B2B isn’t as cut and dry; it’s a lot more complicated since there are multiple stakeholders in the buying decisions. You’re not just selling to one person—you’re selling to an entire department.
The B2B market size is also much smaller, so that impacts your campaign size as well. Think of it this way. There are billions of people looking to buy clothes, whereas there are only 300 million businesses on the planet. Break that down by industry, and the pie gets a lot smaller.
So, when it comes to applying your B2B marketing strategies—the stakes are a lot higher.
Now, one thing not everyone discusses as much is what they have in common and how in more recent years especially—the two audiences are actually merging.
Let’s consider using a typical Facebook ad strategy to sell office supplies. One of the best times for ads for B2B marketers is during the work week. But with Covid-19, many office workers have more flexible work schedules and are online at different times than before. We’ll need more data to see how this plays out, but remote work is certainly going to continue to impact B2B marketing.
And in a lot of ways, it already has.
Take Loom for example. It’s a B2B SaaS tool that allows you to easily record your screen and share feedback with others. The tech company gained steam at the right time just before the pandemic. While their early users were B2C, it’s now being adopted by companies all over, so it has a B2B audience too.
What’s fascinating about this is that it didn’t penetrate businesses through B2B marketing initially. They used another strategy entirely. They built their client base with a B2C model, and over time, expanded into B2B markets.
So, then what’s the word for that? Well, Loom is one of the few companies getting into the new B2C2B model. And it’s a trend that we suspect will continue, especially for SaaS products that want to get their foot in the door with employees first.
As you can see, B2B marketing and B2C marketing are different—but not as different as marketers want you to think. Beyond that, there are always exceptions to the rules even when we do pinpoint the differences.
And it’s important to remember, even in B2B marketing, you’re still selling to a person at the end of the day. All marketing still needs to factor in the human element.
Now more than ever, the two models are also merging as our home lives and work lives are melded together in new, unexpected ways. Soon, there may even be a B2C2B2CB model (okay maybe not).
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