Many people think marketing is marketing. Well, it isn’t – not really. There’s business to business (B2B) marketing which is when businesses sell to other businesses. And there is business to consumer marketing (B2C) which is where businesses sell to the consumer. And even though both encompass similar types of activities there are big differences when you market on either side. Here’s a wander through some of the differences and similarities between the two:


Usually a fast sales cycle (as short as an impulse buy at the cash register) that involves only one or two people. Much of B2C marketing is outbound marketing that is blasted to the general public through specific channels that are known to contain their audience. For example, think of the commercials that show during children’s programs compared to commercials shown in primetime. Other outbound marketing would be things like newspapers, radio, direct mail, billboards, etc. It’s the ‘volume’ of the message these days that gets the attention. So often you might see interruption-based messaging, linear strategies (one thing leads to another thing, etc.), and you’re continuously paying for ad space.

This doesn’t mean B2C doesn’t also use inbound marketing because they do. But in B2B marketing it’s a main channel. B2C uses a lot of video. Which is usually fun and entertaining. Reserach shows most people would prefer to watch a video than read a report – although a video of someone reading a report to me wouldn’t be enticing. Thankfully, video platforms such as Vimeo and Vidyard encourage their customers to create engaging and entertaining content. And many commercials are now also found on line through YouTube.

Sample ad: John Lewis Christmas ad for 2016

B2C ads are usually in public places or publications where large audiences can see them. The Kitkat bench below is a particularly clever ad that targets people of all ages that are in or passing that area. As consumers get bombarded with more ads, marketers need to be creative in how they reach their audience. Identifying their moment of intent and the moment right before that intent will help target other future purchasers in moments of susceptibility. ‘Moment marketing’ is becoming more popular where marketers focus on moments of immediate attention around in-time experiences and trending topics/news stories to build desire within the consumer.

B2C ad for KitKat


Typically, these are larger purchases that have a longer buying cycle involving more people (sometimes a committee). B2B marketing has good results with inbound marketing tactics because it’s based on trust and earned interest. B2B has the best success with inbound marketing. Inbound marketing Using more permission-based concepts that encourage buy-in and relationship building to guide the prospect through the sales cycle.

B2B ads are more challenging to find as they aren’t necessarily targeted at me. I found this clever video for the B2B Marketing awards which is geared towards B2B marketers.

Sample ad: B2B Marketing Awards ad from 2010

But other print ads are similar to the following. They would usually accompany a call to action encouraging a download, phone call or some other specific action.

B2B ad for Mack truckThese B2B ads target a specific audience and/or industry that would identify with the ad content on some level. Like most ads, you have limited time to make a connection with your buyer and a lasting impact. The Supply Chain ad speaks to the typical linear process and possibly manual labour of the industry in previous years – I believe this ad is a few years old.

Context is also key. The ad could be placed in an industry publication, online searches for industry search terms, banner ads on Association websites, etc. The key with B2B is you really have to know where your audience spends their time. A park bench just wouldn’t cut it.

B2B ad for supply chain

B2B InfographicI’m adding this as a clever addition of a B2B marketing ad using popular trends to make an impression on their target audience. This info-graphic draws an amusing parallel between ‘Moving your business to the cloud’ and ‘How to survive a zombie attack’. Both are intimidating and possibly dreadful – I’m sure! But the use of a popular channel (info-graphics) to engage B2B prospects is a growing trend. I’m seeing better and more engaging campaigns as a result of B2B marketers drawing inspiration from their B2C counter parts.

Some businesses operate in both B2B and B2C, such as banks. But even though companies might do both types of marketing, each campaign is specific to a target audience. For example, a B2B ad wouldn’t run to a general audience as it would be considered a waste of money. It would run at a targeted audience (likely industry, role and geography specific) in order to ensure that every view would be counted as a prospect. However, B2B buyers could possibly feel more confident with the product/service if they see public popularity with the brand.

Either Or

Its the target audience that will dictate the type of marketing (B2B or B2C). But it’s up to the marketer to come up with clever and creative ways to reach that audience and encourage an action – whether that is to purchase, click, call or download.

I personally like the challenge of B2B marketing, but it can sometimes lack the creative brilliance of B2C. Sometimes.



Carolyn Bergshoeff is the founder of WindWater Marketing, a small business marketing firm based in Toronto, Canada. She works with many B2B clients (and a few B2C) who want to increase their reach and generate leads. For more information, visit or email