B2B Versus B2C Digital Marketing
Every business focusses on Business to Business (B2B) and / or Business To Consumer (B2C or D2C – direct to customer) oriented marketing. Most businesses will define as one or the other, i.e. as a business selling to other businesses or directly to customers. Obviously, whomever your customer base is has massive implications for identifying and targeting audiences in your marketing strategy.
Ecommerce can cater to both target audiences, for instance, given how many people now work from home, other office equipment sellers may be finding new audiences among office employees working remotely. Similarly, SaaS software or domain flipping businesses may serve both businesses and individuals.
Priorities for B2B versus B2C Advertising and Marketing
B2B and B2C business digital marketing strategies differ in a number of ways. Variables will differ in significance, such as:
- buyer motivations
- decision-maker numbers involved in a buying decision
- sales volume and / or value.
These are key considerations for developing and deployment of your organisation’s marketing strategy, alongside how much resource you can invest in your campaigns and your hoped for returns on ad spend (ROAS).
A few shared objectives for B2B and B2C businesses will be:
- High-performing marketing strategy that results in boosted revenues
- Lowered cost of customer acquisition
- Continual campaign optimisation according to data feedback loops
- Incrementally improved profits from campaigns.
However, audience engagement techniques will differ according to your target audience. Marketing strategy focus must be appropriate to your business model. A rough framework for developing your digital strategy might look like this, for instance:
Arguably, there are five key areas of digital marketing campaigns that demand different approaches from based on the different attitudes and needs of business purchasing decisions and individual or family buyers.
Relationship building is key to digital marketing needs to accompany person-to-person real-world connection and rapport building, alongside intensive attention to detail in your online presence to out-compete other B2B marketers. Building lasting personal relationships with your stakeholders is essential for longevity. Established, trusting relationships can result in those all-important referrals from business colleagues.
Your brand messaging should not only increase a potential customer’s knowledge about your product, but it should also re-assure prospects that your company is the go-to authority in your industry because your proposition offers cost-effective added value for your customer or client.
Transparent, honest relationships that build confidence and are meaningful directly impact your bottom line and ensure loyal customer retention.
Your data is essential intel into your markets. Leverage existing customer data and industry benchmarks to build depth and breadth of insight into your target audiences. In particular, your KPIs should adequately reflect customer experience of your online marketing efforts. Work with marketing professionals who can optimise customer relationships and user experience (UX). This supports happy customers, who enjoy buying from you, recommend you to others and return to buy from you again. In turn this lowers your marketing cost significantly and improves profitability.
B2C relationships are also characterised as ‘transactional’ in ways similar to companies who serve business customers, but with the added emotional impact required for successful marketing campaigns that get under the skin of the viewer, inspire aspirations or generate comfortable familiarity.
It is essential for B2C businesses to really understand customer motivations, so that your campaigns stir new or pre-existing desire from customers seeing your ads online. Narrative scripting should be simple, direct, incite emotion and use well-researched keywords associated with your product lines; this is the secret to the art and science of a compelling ad.
Consumers are concerned with quality, value, and price points more so in some senses than business customers, albeit value and quality are universally demanded. Your customer’s journey should smoothly transition them from initial interest through to willingly contributing to online ratings. Your customer should enjoy buying from you and their experience should be memorable. You can achieve that valued experience through personalisation of email campaigns, opportunities for meaningful interaction on social media, excellent customer service, and regular on-going contact through newsletters linking to topical and valuable blog posts.
This brings us to data, the objective proof of success in your digital marketing efforts. Keep an eye on your competitors’ performance in your niche, to inform your campaigns, tweak or pivot as necessary. Obviously, metrics arising from campaign launch should be tightly monitored too, ensuring that split-tests generate data to continually improve performance.
Business customers will have a selection of key purchasing decision-makers, meaning that your sales process will take longer and communications may become more complex. It is important that your Customer relationship management (CRM) systems capture contact details of each of these key personnel, in order to ensure that communications with them remain consistent for speedier processing.
Stakeholders involved can include the following:
- Finance and Procurement department heads: international, national, regional, directors and managers must be assured of the business case and risk analysis.
- IT departments must be confident of equipment compatibility with existing infrastructure.
- Customer service, or other operational teams may be the end-users of the solutions under consideration. There needs to be confidence in the capacity to use the new equipment, or in accompanying usage training or support systems.
- HR teams may be concerned that proposed solution will be of value for employees in terms of labour-saving value, which frees staff up for more rewarding work.
Each decision maker in the chain will need to understand the features of the item which may be purchased, along with the benefits to them and the whole organisation. Without buy in, there may be sabotage to the process. This is why marketing content should target all identified stakeholder ‘pain and pleasure’ points. Depending upon the channels preferred, those messages may highlight different features and benefits; alternatively, video campaigns, for instance, can address the potential questions of all concerned.
When selling directly to your ideal consumer, you have a potentially overwhelming selection of mass communication channels to share your message. You may actually want to target different customer segments, with tailored messages, using their preferred platforms for shopping. Speaking to each directly via different methods enables you to compare results and hone your strategy for maximised profitability.
Wherever you are advertising, the decision-making process is simpler than marketing to a set of business stakeholders; most likely you are speaking to an individual and at most, a family. You can harness data from previous sales of your product or service to inform priorities in terms of brand messaging, images and channel of communication. Clarity of message and call to action help the customer transition smoothly from an idea to action. Audiences should consistently be clear about their next step towards buying, checking out and the after-sales review process.
The B2B sales cycle is, as we have seen, elongated according to the number of decision-makers involved. Given that the end-user who actually wants or needs your product is unlikely to be the same department that is paying for your solution, you must be prepared to regularly check in with the key decision-makers to find out where there may be any wrinkles to iron out. This consistent communication also demonstrates your commitment to their satisfaction with your service when timed appropriately.
Your marketing strategy must accommodate the demands of each of the stakeholders involved, be those unforeseen distractions that slow down the decision, or absences, due to holidays, family responsibilities, sickness and training. These are the realities of B2B sales.
Your CRM systems will help you track where the decision process is held up and help you manage timings of communications to ensure you maintain that delicate balance between considerate supplier and desperate salesperson. Such semi-automation software tools also help your identify high-quality leads, store customer information for repeat and cros-selling, plus identify opportunities for innovation.
A purchasing decision for a B2C customer is a matter of minutes when they are reacting, for instance to display ads, following research on a search engine. Compare this with, for instance, regular engagement over days, weeks or months via social media. Each sales cycle supports your sales-funnel and demands a variety of communication routes to keep prospects warm if not buying in real time response to your display ads.
Personal decisions can be impulsive, or require nurturing. The ideal is for B2C marketing to capture attention and drive sales in the shortest amount of time, however for turnover consistency, or boost activity at key times in your business, such as stock clearances.
Often your customers will seek third-party recommendations, so although the buying cycle is considerably shorter than B2B, it may also involve multiple sources of data e.g. ratings research, seeking crowd-sourced opinions from family and friends on social media, or real-time chat with staff connected to your website chat-bot.
Your customers will take different routes to find your products and services. Your job is to regularly test new channels and techniques, based on sound data and evidence.
Making a compelling and logical business case for your product or service is essential in B2B selling. Inevitably your array of stakeholders will have different priorities and motivations in relation to your offer. You may need to repeat messaging over time, as customers may need several exposures to the benefits you can supply before they make the mental connections with their departmental, or overall business interests.
B2B sales cycles are longer and your focus needs to be on building long-term relationships. Your marketing content must demonstrate the longer-term value of your product that serves their business objectives. B2B buyers are motivated by both the features and benefits of your product or service. Emotional appeals are less relevant in this relationship. Purchasing from you will involve systematised planning and considerations of return on investment (ROI). This investment case will be at the heart of your campaigns and communications with your prospects.
The emotions of your ideal customer will be a primary driver of their buying into you and your offer, be that fear of missing out, saving money, keeping up appearances, lifestyle aspiration, or something else.
Your marketing strategy should have researched the different motivations of your customers, even for one product, so that your targeting is optimised. Connecting with customers where they are, then inspiring them to buy your product, followed by galvanising next steps involves complex analysis of pre-existing customer data, alongside comparison with competitor performance and even reaching out for collaborations with influencers, to reach new customers.
While the features of your product are important, these can be displayed visually, accompanying images and scripts that demonstrate how your particular solution can improve their lives. Your call to action may include incentives to buy now, through coupon codes, or time-limited price reductions. These have been proven to improve sales, when not overdone.
Advertising and Communication
For B2B brands, the development of trusting, transparent and accountable relationships is paramount. Lead generation and brand recognition are the lifeblood of your sales machinery, leveraging appropriate advertising channels and tools. These vary from business to business and sector to sector.
It goes without saying that ‘the more rods in the pond, the more fish you catch’ as a rule. However, the formula for successful advertising and marketing investment lies in thorough research and preparation of your campaigns, or partnering with the right digital marketing agency. (Sometimes a tough call!)
Branding as an authority in your industry takes time and demands a library of campaign material on which you can call to deploy campaigns quickly, according to key points in your sales cycle. Social media platforms like LinkedIn for content marketing year round, for instance, helps to establish your senior teams as thought leaders in your niche. Similarly, social media and blog publishing boost your organic SEO. These, however, need to be accompanied with paid ad campaigns on search engines, shopping platforms, or via video in order to boost revenues and provide strong returns for reinvestment and innovation.
At the outset of any campaign a B2C brand needs to build brand awareness into their advertising strategy. If budgets are constrained, then reach will be to the low-hanging fruit and gaps in competitor markets. With more budgetary flexibility, based on returns on your initial investment, you can expand reach and test strategies against each other.
Some paid channels deliver faster, such as Shopping platforms, like Google, Pinterest and search engine display ads for Google, Microsoft, YouTube and elsewhere. Observe competitors in your niche and look for those ads that reappear time and time again and variations on themes; this informs your own messaging. Use your existing customer data to optimise messaging to inspire purchases and loyalty. Your B2C branding will confirm credibility and authority, while inciting an emotional connection with the content of your campaigns.
Story-telling resonates with customers, whose decisions will be based on how strongly they can relate with the narrative being shared. Your preferred channels will depend upon budget, expertise and where your customers tend to come from. We understand that the range of digital media tools available can seem over-whelming, from social media marketing, Google ads, shopping channels, video, influencer marketing and more. These can also be combined with traditional media campaigns to stay in the front of your audience’s mind in thinking through buying decisions.
Whomever, It’s How You Manage Your Marketing
Whoever your audience is, business or consumer, thorough research and planning, together with timely and effective deployment are essential to achieving successful returns on investment. Consistent lead generation and audience building are the lifeblood of your business; without predictable returns, it becomes impossible to plan and keep driving progress for your business.
At the heart of your campaigns, evidence-based customer experience together with creativity and authenticity will generate campaigns that speak to the needs of your customer. The difficulty, as we see daily, lies in the detailed decisions possible from a multitude of strategies and methodologies.
New marketing projects demand fresh thinking, review of previous performance, an understanding of what your audience wants and how to reach across the divide to build those digital bridges to your sales teams.
Whether you are a B2B or B2C business, we can help you fill in the gaps in your strategy and make recommendations for moving beyond where you are now, to build in longevity. Whatever your current dilemma, our array of friendly specialist digital marketing experts will help. No strategic marketing questions are too silly and you have only growth to gain from asking.