Many people think b2b marketing and b2c marketing is the same thing. You know, ads, social media, events, etc. They all do the same tactics. Well, it isn’t the same- not really. So what is b2c marketing? What is b2b marketing? I’m glad you asked.

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:

What is B2C Marketing?

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 social media platforms, newspapers, radio, direct mail, billboards, podcasts, etc. It’s the ‘volume’ of the message these days that gets the attention e.g. multiple touches before they will engage.

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 too, which is usually fun and entertaining (yay!) 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.  And many commercials are now also found on line through YouTube and watched for entertainment!

Sample ad: Budweiser 2020

B2C (non-video) 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

Another common piece of b2c is experiential marketing that encourages you to explore the brand or product through a fun experience. Thsi is a huge field with a lot creative variables to explore.

Check out this ad that ran for one day and dispensed free beer to anyone who wanted to pour thier own pint! Thanks, Carlsberg!

Experiential marketing example

But the big fish in b2c marketing is social media with more platforms incorporating ecommerce functionality. Customers can purchase directly from the app on their phone making it a trackable platform for sales and marketing effectiveness. More recently, less curated accounts are proving to be just as effective as those polished, professional one. Go figure! Social media is an excellent way for small business to reach out to new customers, offer enticing deals to get them to engage ASAP thus ading them to a, more easily implemented, re-marketing campaign.

Reaching out to consumers directly can also be done through direct mail (coupons), cross promotions, YouTube (commercials), sponsorship, and more.

What is B2B Marketing?

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.  Inbound marketing uses more permission-based concepts that encourage buy-in and relationship building to guide the prospect through the sales cycle. However, it’s important to keep top-of-mind that buyers are people too! So maybe b2b should shift to b2p (business to people)! Successful lead generation usually involves a piece of content that answers a potential buyer’s question or helps solves a problem they are struggloing with. The best content type for opt-ins with a b2b audience is still the whitepaper but video is a very tight second so…take your pick! However you slice it, online is leading the charge in b2b marketing tactics. It’s easy for smaller b2bs to find prospects and take a piece of mindshare.

If we move into ads, the playing field changes as ads are more costly but could prove a good investment for small b2bs. B2B ads are more challenging to find as they aren’t necessarily targeted to me. I found this clever video for the B2B Marketing awards which is geared towards B2B marketers.

Sample ad: Slack 2020

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 – keep in mind that 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 B2B marketing infographic as an example of using popular trends to make an impression on their target audience. It 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 proven tactic. Business to business decision-makers are not boring people. They like clever pitches and attractive marketing just like any consumer. Drawing inspiration from B2C counter parts is a popular and effective tactic for inspiration.

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 (or as close as possible). However, B2B buyers could possibly feel more confident with the product/service if they see public popularity with the brand. B2b marketing should explore brand marketing to answer this question.

Social media is a requirement for any b2b as it’s guaranteed that their prospects are spending time there. Choose your channels based on where they are. LinkedIn is a common choice from it may be a good idea to ask a few of your existing clients where they spend their time. Their answers my surprise you. I had a client that would have put money on Twitter being their client’s top choice only to find out it was Pinterest! Once you have yur channels selected, make sure you are making sure your brand can fit in. The b2p (business to people) vibe here is crucial! It is absolutely possible to sell through social media as a b2b but more often you’ll focus on list building, brand loyalty, and brand recognition. Social media is more difficult to measure because it provides a lot of intanglibles but don’t be fooled by the ‘fun’ of it. It’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool if you’re using it correctly – which can take a while to figure that out. You may also find that your brand on social media is a bit more relaxed than on your website and that’s okay too. However, make sure this is a strategic move that is planned out and not as a result of your social media person’s personal voice.

B2B ads on social media are incredibly common now as targeting is made easier than display ads.

B2B social media ad

B2B also often does ABM or Account Based Marketing to reach multiple decision-makers in one high-value company account. ABM keep sales and marketing aligned and helps focus resources on higher-value accounts this helps streamline the sales cycle and deliver a consistent customer experience.

Branded podcasts are the latest marketing to hit the b2b sector. As a client of mine said, “the barrier to entry in podcasting is low, but the bar of quality is high” – or something along those lines. If you’ve ever heard those podcasts from small businesses where they aren’t really planning their episode or actually producing it then you’ll know what I mean. b2b branded podcasts are a high-calbre content podcast.

It’s the target audience that matters

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. The important thing is to track the numbers and connect them to growth and revenue!

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